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Saturday, 16 December 2017

Zidane struggling to shore up Real Madrid defence

AFP , Thursday 7 Dec 2017
Zidane
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane watches his team during the Champions League (Photo: AP)
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Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane admitted injuries will force him into patching up a makeshift defence for Saturday's visit of Sevilla after Raphael Varane joined an increasing list of absentees.

The French international limped off holding his left leg as Madrid edged out Borussia Dortmund 3-2 in a Champions League thriller on Wednesday.

However, with the defending champions already having secured their place in the last 16 of the Champions League behind Tottenham Hotspur in Group H, Zidane was more concerned with how Varane's absence could affect a busy end to the year for Real.

After Sevilla, Zidane's men jet off to Abu Dhabi for the Club World Cup before hosting Barcelona in the Clasico on December 23.

Saturday is the French coach's primary concern, though, with Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal and Casemiro all suspended, while Jesus Vallejo is also sidelined by injury leaving Nacho as Real's only fit centre-back.

"With Rafa he has done some damage to himself, but we will see tomorrow when we do the scans as always," said Zidane.

"He won't be there Saturday that is for sure. We have to look for solutions."

Real have precious little room for error as they already trail La Liga leaders Barca by eight points.

And further forward, Madrid could again be without Gareth Bale due to a calf problem.

"I feel for the injured players, today it is Rafa but that is why we have a squad," added Zidane.

However, the French coach didn't rule out the possibility that the latest spate of injuries could force the club to reinforce the squad come January.

"We have the possibility (to sign) from January 1 and we will see what happens in these 30 days."

Injuries aside, it was another enjoyable Champions League night for Real as Cristiano Ronaldo set yet another record in the competition.

The Portuguese, who is expected to pick up his fifth Ballon d'Or on Thursday, fired a spectacular effort into the top corner to become the first player to ever score in all six group games in the one season.

Ronaldo's European form – he has nine in the Champions League in total – is in stark contrast to his struggles in La Liga, where he has scored just twice in 10 appearances this season.

"We wanted to end the group phase well with a win. I scored a great goal and got the record as well which is important, so I'm very happy," said Ronaldo.

Madrid could face the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, Manchester United or Liverpool in Monday's last-16 draw.

However, Ronaldo believes the 12-time winners are capable of an upturn in form in the new year to carry them to a third straight Champions League title.

"It is obvious that I like playing in this competition a lot, but the most important thing is to be able to get into the next round once more," he said.

"Hopefully Real Madrid can win it for a third straight year."

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