Madrid’s defense a major cause of concern for Zidane

February 1, 2018

MADRID (AP) — It’s a good thing for Real Madrid that Levante has one of the worst attacks in the Spanish league.

Madrid’s defense is in tatters again and some regular starters are injury worries for the match on Saturday, meaning coach Zinedine Zidane is becoming increasingly concerned heading toward the Feb. 14 Champions League game against Paris Saint-Germain, the first leg of the last 16.

Madrid did not bring in any defenders when the transfer window closed on Wednesday, leaving Zidane to hope nothing else goes wrong before his team faces PSG’s potent strikers.

It shouldn’t be much of a problem against Levante, which has scored only 18 times in 21 league matches.

Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane have been nursing injuries that could keep them from playing on Saturday. Jesus Vallejo is also unfit, leaving Nacho Fernandez as the only central defender ready to feature.

Ramos returned for the Copa del Rey match against Leganes last week but had to sit out the league game at Valencia on Saturday.

Varane had a knock on his right knee against Valencia. The France international had surgery on the same knee in 2012.

Both players missed training this week but were back practicing with the squad on Thursday. Zidane, though, may want to rest them against Levante.

The coach cannot count on right back Dani Carvajal against PSG because of suspension and may need to move Fernandez into his position.

Achraf Hakimi, who normally acts as Carvajal’s deputy, did not play well in the Copa loss to Leganes. Other possible options for the middle of the defense are midfielders Casemiro and Mateo Kovacic.

The Champions League is the only competition in which Madrid has a realistic chance of winning. It was eliminated from the Copa by Leganes, and is 19 points behind Spanish league leader Barcelona.

Madrid may try to buy players in the next transfer window, and among the club’s reported targets are AC Milan’s Leonardo Bonucci, Atletico Madrid’s Jose Gimenez and Manchester City’s Nicolas Otamendi.

Cristiano Ronaldo trained separately on Thursday, reportedly as a precaution because of a minor muscle ailment, but he is expected to play on Saturday.


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