Zidane loses Hazard for another month

The latest injury to Hazard is a heavy blow to Real Madrid and its fans and followers. The whole season waiting for him to make this appearance at the business end of the Champions League and it ends up that after 15 minutes against Elche, in his 11th reappearance, he ends up injured. This time for a month. It feels like a curse now. The doctors put it down to his psychological torment, which only makes every new injury worse. At Chelsea he was a fit player, and missed very few games. The same with Belgium. “It’s inexplicable, something’s going on,” said Zidane, who’s waiting for him like the spring rains to team up with Benzema. Nobody else has convinced him up front.

Real Madrid in the Champions League

So Madrid continue to face problems in the Champions League, being pulled along by Benzema who is up front on his own, although he’s backed up by three fine midfielders. But this evening against Atalanta Casemiro is missing. Knowing he’d be out was what led Zidane to try out three central defenders against Elche. The idea being that Sergio, back in the team, should have an easier time of it despite lacking the shield of Casemiro. But against Elche it didn’t work and it’s difficult to know if he’ll be up for trying it again. Just as it’s hard to know who’ll be alongside Benzema up front. There are a number of issues clouding the horizon for Real Madrid ahead of the game, but there is one positive note: the 0-1 scoreline from the first game.

Real Madrid are in touch in LaLiga

In that match Atalanta were unrecognisable, a situation only made worse when they went down to 10 men. Today they’ll head out knowing they’ve got nothing to lose. They are no longer the great surprise of Europe, like last year, and the time spent together has caused some friction, you can see it with Papu Gómez and Ilicic, although they’ve still got enough quality to be fourth in Serie A. Real Madrid now know what they need to do in LaLiga, but their first obligation is to put in a performance in the Champions League that counts as at least decent, and if they get through here, that would be enough. There’ll be time for LaLiga. Atlético are no longer so far ahead, but Barcelona are involved too, with no Champions League commitments - they’ve reduced their gap from nine points and two games in hand to just four. And they have Messi.