Real Madrid: Modric's derby plan
Left out against Osasuna as a precaution, Luka Modric's sights are set on returning from injury in Saturday's Madrid derby against Atlético.
Luka Modric is a key cog in the Real Madrid team, with his central role in Zinedine Zidane's thinking wholly undiminished by the fact that he turned 34 earlier this month. The Frenchman sees the midfielder as a vital influence on Los Blancos' engine room, as a footballer who brings poise and intelligence to the team's play.
Furthermore, his off-the-ball tenacity makes him fundamental to the high pressing that Zidane asks of his side; indeed, the Croatia captain is always among the players who most frequently win the ball back over the course of a game. Having been left out of the squad to face Osasuna tonight so as not to take any chances with his recovery from injury, the former Tottenham man's sights are set firmly on a comeback to action at Atlético Madrid on Saturday.
Modric to push hard to show Zidane he's ready for derby duty
As we all know, Modric was sidelined by a muscle issue a fortnight ago. The Ballon d'Or holder had played Croatia's two Euro 2020 qualifiers without suffering any apparent physical problems, but perhaps paid the price for his exertions on international duty when he pulled up in Madrid's first training session back, and was ruled out with a groin strain in his right leg.
Since then, Modric has worked his socks off - even doing double sessions at the club's Valdebebas base - to return as quickly as possible. Having rejoined group training on Tuesday, his plan is to push hard on Wednesday and Thursday, to persuade Zidane he's fully fit and ready for inclusion in Madrid's squad to face their city rivals.
He loves the derby atmosphere and knows that his team needs his simple, sensible brand of football in such a typically high-octane fixture. The decision now comes down to Zidane. Either way, one thing is certain: the football Real Madrid play always, always benefits when Luka Modric crosses that white line.