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REAL MADRID

Real Madrid-Ajax: Nacho and Vallejo could be centre-backs

Real Madrid-Ajax: Nacho and Vallejo could be centre-backs

Kiko Huesca

EFE

With Sergio Ramos suspended for Tuesday's Champions League second leg, fellow defender Raphael Varane's fitness is now a concern.

Real Madrid's 3-0 loss to Barcelona has left coach Santiago Solari with more to worry about than just Los Blancos' elimination from the Copa del Rey.

Ramos out of Ajax second leg, Varane now a concern

Raphael Varane suffered a badly gashed and swollen knee in the defeat, caused in the process of scoring an own goal to put Barça 2-0 ahead. The defender, who subsequently took to social media to show off the damage, was able to finish the Clásico, but on Saturday has another in which, with Nacho suspended after his red card against Levante, he'll presumably also have to play.

Varane posted this image of his badly gashed knee after Wednesday's Clásico loss.

And all this comes in the week before Madrid host Ajax in Tuesday's Champions League last-16 second leg - leading 2-1 from the opener earlier this month - in a game in which the tournament holders' season is basically at stake.

Alarm bells will be ringing at Madrid, because Solari knows he'll be without Sergio Ramos against the Dutchmen, with the club captain banned for the return (and, in the wake of UEFA's decision to add a game to his suspension for forcing a yellow card in Amsterdam, the first leg of a potential quarter-final, too).

Varane's condition was being closely monitored when Madrid returned to training on Thursday, and the Frenchman will undergo a pre-Clásico fitness test on Friday. If his knee is still troubling him when Ajax visit the Spanish capital, Solari could have to name a central defensive partnership of Nacho and Jesús Vallejo.

Nacho-Vallejo pairing not seen in over a year

Nacho and Vallejo are a highly uncommon pairing. Indeed, the last time the Spaniards featured together was in January 2018, in a 2-2 Copa del Rey draw at home to second-tier Numancia. Vallejo's most recent appearance for Madrid came in the Champions League, in a 3-0 defeat to CSKA Moscow at the Bernabéu in December.