REAL MADRID

Real Madrid without Benzema, Jovic, Ramos, Casemiro for Villarreal as Hazard returns

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has named his 20-man squad for the trip to Villarreal, in which there are several notable absentees.

Karim Benzema has been left out of Real Madrid’s travelling 20-man squad for Saturday’s clash against Villarreal at the Estadio de La Cerámica. The French striker is still carrying remnants of a muscle knock picked up in the 4-1 defeat away to Valencia on November 8.

The fact that the Madrid number 9 spent a significant part of Friday’s training session working on his own was a clear indication that he was not in optimal condition to play. And coach Zinedine Zidane has decided to err on the side of caution with his veteran striker and main source of goals in the hopes he will be ready for Wednesday’s crucial Champions League tie with Inter Milan.

Zidane will also be without second-choice striker, Luka Jovic, whom the club confirmed has tested positive for coronavirus on Friday and is currently following quarantine protocols. That leaves the French coach with Mariano as his only natural centre forward for the clash at Villarreal. The Spanish-Dominican forward, who was unavailable until late October due to tonsilitis and has played just 14 minutes this season, featured for a total of 89 minutes over seven appearances in 2019/20.

Casemiro, Miltao, Hazard

Casemiro and Militao have also had to sit out the trip to Villarreal. The two players have, in theory, recovered from coronavirus, but will have to remain in isolation after their latest PCR tests gave indeterminate results.

Eden Hazard, however, has returned a negative PCR test after he missed the Valencia game due to an earlier coronavirus diagnosis, which has allowed Zidane to name the Belgian striker in his squad for Saturday. 

Ramos out as Carvajal returns

While there had been initial concerns about Raphael Varane after he suffered a blow to the shoulder while he was on international duty with France midweek, the 27-year old defender has been deemed fit to play and will likely be joined by Nacho in the centre of defence in the absence of Sergio Ramos. The captain is set to miss Madrid’s next three games after he picked up a hamstring injury during Spain’s 6-0 win over Germany on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the good news in defence for Zidane is that right-back Dani Carvajal has been able to return to the squad after a lengthy spell on the side-lines. The Spaniard has not played since 30 September and could be thrusted straight back into the action on Saturday.

In the midfield, Fede Valverde will be another notable loss alongside Casemiro. The Uruguayan is not expected to return until mid-December due to a shinbone injury sustained in the Valencia defeat almost two week ago.

Real Madrid 20-man squad for Villarreal clash

Goalkeepers: Courtois, Lunin, Altube.

Defenders: Carvajal, Varane, Nacho, Marcelo, Mendy, Chust

Midfielders: Kroos, Modric, Odegaard, Isco and Aranda

Forwards: Hazard, Asensio, Lucas, Vinicius, Mariano and Rodrygo