El Clásico: Real Madrid - Barcelona: injured and suspended players
Both Real Madrid and Barcelona have suffered their fair share of injury problems this season and both will be missing at least one key player in El Clásico.
There has been no escaping injuries during a season which has been compressed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Real Madrid and Barcelona have both had spates of players out with muscular injuries but happily, will go into tomorrow’s Clásico with a relatively clean bill of health compared to other moments during the campaign.
That said, neither Zinedine Zidane nor Ronald Koeman will be able to field their strongest XIs in Valdebebas. The good news is that both teams are suspension-free.
We take a look at the situation for both sides on the eve of the game.
Zidane’s Madrid have had three days to recover from their Champions League quarter final first leg against Liverpool – they won Tuesday’s game and didn’t lose anyone to injury although Barcelona, who played on Monday, will have had more time to rest.
Zizou will be without both of his first-choice centre-backs. Sergio Ramos sustained a Grade II sprain to his left calf muscle during post-match warm-down exercises after Spain’s World Cup qualifier against Kosovo on 31 March – a game he only played the final five minutes of. The captain still faces another three to five weeks on the sidelines and so he will sit out the Clásico and the return leg against Liverpool.
Raphaël Varane, who usually partners Ramos in central defence, tested positive for Coronavirus on the eve of the Liverpool game and keeping in line with LaLiga protocol, must self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days and pass a negative test before he can return. Against Barça, Zidane has no options but to deploy Nacho and Militão as his two centre-backs, as he did earlier this week against Liverpool.
Right-back Dani Carvajal is still fighting his way back to full fitness after suffering an injury to his right thigh muscle, also affecting the tendon, in the Week 23 visit from Valencia. He is still training apart and whenever Zidane has been without Carvajal, he usually drops winger Lucas Vázquez back to fill in.
Eden Hazard returned to full training but was omitted from the squad list for the Liverpool game. His season has been dogged by injury problems and Zidane won’t want to risk bringing him back prematurely. He had an outside chance of starting on the bench but in the end Zidane decided to leave him out of the list.
Madrid don’t have any players who are unavailable through suspension. Nacho is on four bookings and managed to keep on the right side of the referee in the last league match, against Eibar.
Ronald Koeman has less selection problems to think about. His main concern going into El Clásico was just the player who revels in encounters with Real Madrid, Gerard Piqué. Piqué has been out nursing Grade II sprain to the lateral internal ligament in his right knee. He picked up that injury in the Copa del Rey meeting with Sevilla on 3 March but it was related to the previous one, a torn ACL which he suffered in November’s clash with Atlético. He had been following a conservative, non-intrusive treatment plan for three months but returned to the team too soon. Koeman won’t want Piqué to aggravate his knee by risking him against Madrid – especially with the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Club the following weekend. Whether he plays or not, Piqué will likely be part of the travelling party.
Like Piqué, Sergi Roberto is also back to full training with the squad and he too is only just returning after a long lay-off. He ruptured his right hamstring at the end of the Atleti game and hasn’t played in four months. Both were given the medical all-clear on the eve of the game and are in Koeman's 23-man squad.
Long-term casualties Philippe Coutinho (meniscus), Ansu Fati (meniscus) and Neto (ankle) will remain in Barcelona.
Antoine Griezmann missed Thursday's session but had a good excuse - he was given paternal leave for the birth of his daughter, Alba. It will be business as usual from today when he is expected to take part in Barça's final training session before they set off for Madrid.
On a positive note, Miralem Pjanic and Ronald Araújo are both now over their respective ankle injuries although Koeman will likely plump for Óscar Mingueza to partner Clément Lenglet and Frenkie De Jong in a three-man central defence against Madrid. De Jong and Messi are just one yellow card away from completing a cycle but escaped going into the book in the last league game, against Valladolid on Monday.