REAL MADRID

Real Madrid: Hazard back for Real Sociedad Copa del Rey tie

After 10 weeks out with an ankle injury, Eden Hazard is expected to return to the Real Madrid squad for Thursday's clash with Real Sociedad.

Real Madrid: Hazard back for Real Sociedad Copa del Rey tie
JAVIER BARBANCHO REUTERS

The wait is almost over. 10 weeks after suffering an ankle injury against Paris Saint-Germain, Eden Hazard is ready to return to action for Real Madrid. Having failed to recover in time to make Saturday's LaLiga derby win over Atlético Madrid, the Belgian looks likely to be back in selection contention on Thursday as Zinedine Zidane's men host Real Sociedad in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey (19:00 CET).

After limping out of November's Champions League draw with PSG, the initial indications were that Hazard had escaped with a minor knock and would only be out for a matter of days. However, more in-depth tests then revealed that the 29-year-old had in fact suffered a microfracture in his ankle - an injury that has since forced him to sit out no fewer than 14 games.

Hazard back in time for promising Real Madrid run-in

In that time, he has missed out on his first Clásico and first home derby, and was unable to play any part in Madrid's Spanish Super Cup win in Saudi Arabia. Despite all that he has missed, though, he is now back just in time for what is shaping up as a hugely promising end of season for Los Blancos, who remain in the hunt on all fronts. They are four games away from lifting the Copa, are top of LaLiga with a favourable run-in, and are preparing for the knockout stages of the Champions League. It's a state of affairs that Madrid have been wholly unaccustomed to in recent seasons.

When Hazard limped off against PSG, Real Madrid's marquee summer signing was just starting to hit his stride after a slow start to life at the Bernabéu, one not helped by a pre-season injury that delayed his competitive debut until mid-September. Between one physical issue and another, he is yet to reach 1,000 minutes of first-team action - he has played 982 - and is now down in 15th in the Madrid participation table, behind even Gareth Bale.

In all, he has made just 13 appearances for Madrid, scoring once (in the 4-2 LaLiga win over Granada) and supplying two assists (one in the same game, the other in the 1-0 Champions League victory at Galatasaray). Such numbers pale in comparison to his figures at Chelsea, but, above and beyond pure stats, the impression he was giving pre-injury was one of a player starting to take off at Real Madrid.

Madrid take no chances over Hazard recovery

On Monday, Hazard completed his third group training session at Madrid's Valdebebas training ground, following a rehabilitation period that has been carefully managed. After several days of individual drills out on the training pitches in January, it was not until the 30th that he rejoined the group, at which point his initial aim of returning for the derby was quickly deemed too risky. "We'll never take any chances," Zidane explained ahead of the 1-0 win over Atlético.

See also: Hazard is the 21st-century Garrincha

Real Madrid sickbay almost emptied

With Marco Asensio making good progress in his recovery from his pre-season anterior cruciate ligament tear, Real Madrid are getting closer to clearing out their sickbay entirely. Indeed, following Álvaro Odriozola's loan departure to Bayern Munich, Asensio has been registered in Los Merengues' Champions League squad ahead of the knockout stages.