Injuries hit Real, Barcelona
MADRID – An injury-ravaged Real Madrid will visit Villarreal in La Liga on Sunday, looking to bounce back from last weekend’s disappointing home draw with minnows Real Valladolid.
Meanwhile, Barcelona travel to newly-promoted Osasuna without their first choice front line.
Real will likely be without Eden Hazard, Brahim Diaz, Marco Asensio, Rodrygo, Isco and James Rodriguez for the trip east after the latter duo picked up muscle problems this week. Defender Raphael Varane also missed training on Thursday.
Madrid have suffered 10 injuries so far this season, more than any other team in Spain’s top flight and manager Zinedine Zidane was forced to call up a number of reserve team and youth players to make up numbers during Thursday’s session.
Zidane, who returned for a second spell in charge of the club in March, has asked the fans to back the squad, rather than pressuring them to perform.
“I can see the side feel more under pressure given the campaign we had last year,” the Frenchman said. “I can feel it too in the Bernabeu because the fans are thinking this too. This needs to change.
“I know it’s difficult, but I ask that just like when they were behind us and we were winning things, we need the fans to get behind us now.
“It’s not just this, of course. We need to play our part and we will try and do that in the next game.”
Barcelona travel to Osasuna the day before with fitness concerns of their own.
Forwards Lionel Messi, Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez will all miss the trip to Navarre, with youngster Ansu Fati, who at 16 years and 298 days became the club’s second-youngest ever debutant in La Liga last weekend, likely to be included again.
Atletico Madrid, who are one of two sides with a 100 per cent record, host Eibar on Sunday without forward Alvaro Morata but will welcome back Diego Costa after he served an eight-match ban dating back to last season for insulting a referee.
The weekend kicks off as Sevilla, the other team to have won both games, host Celta Vigo before Real Sociedad travel to Athletic Bilbao in the Basque derby. (Reuters)