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Sunday, 17 January 2021

Real Madrid depleted for crucial Champions League game

AP , Monday 21 Oct 2019
Real Madrid
Real Madrid's Vinicius Jr. celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Osasuna at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019 AP
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Real Madrid is under pressure, depleted by injuries, and in need of a win in the Champions League.

Ahead of the team's crucial match against Galatasaray on Tuesday, Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane certainly has his work cut out for him.

Madrid has yet to win a match in Group A this season. A third straight setback could leave the team in danger of not making it out of the group stage of the Champions League for the first time since the 1989-90 season.

Coming off a demoralizing loss to promoted Mallorca in the Spanish league, Zidane needs to somehow put together a squad that is missing Luka Modric and Gareth Bale. Also not making the trip to Turkey are Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio, while there are doubts about Toni Kroos following a long injury layoff.

''We have injured players, it is what it is,'' Zidane said. ''We can't change the situation. That can't be used as an excuse. We have other players in the team and everyone has to show that they have what it takes to be here.''

Zidane used an alternative squad in Saturday's loss at Mallorca, a result that cost the team the Spanish league lead. Modric and Bale didn't play and there was hope they could make it to Turkey, but the club said Sunday they have not yet fully recovered.

If Kroos is indeed able to play, Zidane will likely use him in the midfield along with Casemiro and youngster Federico Valverde. In attack, Vinicius Junior is likely to replace Bale alongside Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard, who didn't play in Mallorca because of the birth of his son.

After a big loss at Paris Saint-Germain and a home draw against Club Brugge, Madrid is tied with Galatasaray at the bottom of Group A with one point. The Turkish team is ahead on goal difference. PSG leads with six points, four more than Club Brugge.

Healthy Barcelona

While Madrid tries to avert a crisis, Barcelona is just starting to hit its stride.

Barcelona was the team facing a wave of injuries early in the season, with players like Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez among those sidelined. But with most of the squad healthy again, Barcelona started thriving, and it will enter Wednesday's Champions League match at Slavia Prague coming off five straight wins in all competitions.

Messi, Suarez and Antoine Griezmann - Barcelona's much-hyped attacking trio - are finally clicking. They each scored in the team's 3-0 win over Eibar in the Spanish league on Saturday.

''At the end, the great players always find one another and can feel where the other one will make his run or a pass,'' Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. ''They have worked and played well. And this is the reward.''

Barcelona is tied with Borussia Dortmund at the top of Group F with four points, three more than Slavia Prague and Inter Milan.

Joao Felix

Atletico Madrid's Champions League game against Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday will be the team's first without the injured Joao Felix, the 19-year-old Portuguese sensation who was the club's biggest offseason signing.

Felix hurt his ankle in the 1-1 draw against Valencia in the Spanish league on Saturday, a result that dropped Atletico to fifth place after nine matches.

In the Champions League, Atletico is tied with Juventus at the top of Group D with four points.

Lee's tears

South Korea midfielder Lee Kang-in was in tears after being sent off in Valencia's 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

The 18-year-old Lee was shown a red card for a hard tackle about 10 minutes after coming on as a late substitute in the match in Madrid.

''It's tough, he was crying in the changing room,'' Valencia midfielder Gabriel Paulista said. ''He is a kid. He has a lot to learn. We've all gone through this and we need to be able to help him.''

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