It is a crucial month for La Liga leaders Real Madrid who have their biggest matches of the season lined up in the next two weeks – Bayern Munich and Barcelona.
In the derby clash on Saturday, Pepe, who scored the opening and only goal for Real, suffered two rib fractures in the second half after colliding into teammate Toni Kroos. He will be out for at least a month, missing three of the most important games of the season – clashes against Bayern on April 12 and April 18 and El Clasico on April 23. This comes amidst rumours that his contract at Real is coming to an end and might not be renewed.
His injury has come at the wrong time for manager Zinedine Zidane, adding to their defensive woes as Raphael Varane already sits in the stands with a hamstring injury. Both are expected to miss around a month of football action.
If this was not enough, Pepe’s replacement Nacho Fernandez is only one booking away from a suspension in the league. Between the matches against the German side and Spanish rivals Barcelona, he is also expected to play against Sporting Gijon, a crucial match as Real seek to win their first Spanish league title since 2011-12. The injuries have left Real desperate at the centre, with only captain Sergio Ramos and Nacho to fall back on.
Real travel to the Allianz Arena to meet their former manager Carlo Ancelotti’s side after being held to a draw against Atletico. Bundesliga leaders Bayern, on the other hand, destroyed Dortmund 4-1 on the weekend.
However, there is some relief for the defending champions who do not face injury concerns alone. Defender Mats Hummels’ ankle injury and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s foot injury have kept their medical department busy. While Hummels will definitely be out, Neuer returned to training alongside Thomas Muller on Monday.