Before Real and Atletico Madrid clash in the 2014 UEFA Champions League final on Saturday, their respective fans will be sweating over the health of several key stars.
Potential injury nightmares and the future of one manager are the most intriguing storylines ahead of the most significant Madrid derbies in years.
The Fitness of Diego Costa and Arda Turan
Atletico boss Diego Simeone claimed the La Liga title on May 17, but it came at a cost. That cost involved injuries to star striker Diego Costa and clever winger Arda Turan.
A recurrence of a nagging hamstring ailment took Costa off the field early on in the title decider, per the Daily Mail. The nature of the injury presents a dilemma for Simeone.
Keeping Costa immobile this week would seem like the way to go. But staying static before suddenly straining the hamstring contributed to Costa's most recent setback.
Of course, Atletico still need a plan for Costa. The quick and tenacious striker has been prolific in this season's tournament, bagging eight goals in as many matches, per WhoScored.com. He is the one player Real will fear.
But while Costa provides the proverbial "cutting edge," Turan is just as significant to the Atletico cause. A crafty schemer, the Turkish international is a vital cog in Atletico's counter-attack structure.
Football Espana reported that Turan succumbed to a pelvis injury in the Camp Nou:
Just like Costa, he was visibly upset as he left the pitch, per Spanish radio station Cadena Ser program Carrusel Deportivo:
The early signs are ominous for Atletico's star pair. Simeone's team will struggle to create chances without Turan's guile and Costa's bullish running.
Cristiano Ronaldo's Health
While losing Costa and Turan is a tough double-blow for Simeone, being without Cristiano Ronaldo would be catastrophic for Real boss Carlo Ancelotti.
The powerful Portuguese wide forward is the top scorer in this season's edition of Europe's premier club competition. He has struck 16 times in just 10 matches, according to ESPNFC.com.
Ronaldo gave Ancelotti and the Los Blancos hierarchy a scare before Real's final La Liga fixture against Espanyol. He was withdrawn after an apparent injury during warm-ups, according to Daily Mail writer John Drayton.
But the writer points out that Ancelotti was quick to stress the removal was merely a "precaution." That was a smart ploy by the veteran Italian coach, given Real were already out of the domestic title race.
A fully fit Ronaldo can be the catalyst to securing the club's 10th European Cup. ESPNFC reporter Dermott Corrigan cited a report from Spanish newspaper AS, in which Ancelotti expresses confidence Ronaldo will play in the final.
Thibaut Courtois' Future
On-loan Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has been as important to Atletico's rise as any other player. But the young Belgian stopper's future after this final remains unclear.
The commanding 22-year-old continues to wow pundits but still faces a tough task supplanting Chelsea veteran Petr Cech. Courtois has indicated he wants to play regularly, but he won't discuss his future until after the CL final, per Sid Lowe of The Guardian.
Courtois' desire for regular football with the West London club will hinge on how much Cech has left. Still only 31, relatively young for a goalkeeper, the Czech Republic ace remains a mainstay in a stingy defence.
Courtois will want assurances about his role if he is to return to Chelsea this summer. If manager Jose Mourinho can't provide them, expect Courtois to lobby to stay in the Spanish capital for a fourth loan spell.
Carlo Ancelotti's Future
Truthfully, Carlo Ancelotti's future shouldn't be in doubt. No matter what happens in the all-Madrid final, Real are fortunate to have one of the best managers in the game at the helm.
Yet Los Blancos are perhaps the most notoriously impatient and ruthless club in the European game. If Real are beaten by their neighbours, Ancelotti will have failed to capture the two major prizes Madrid pursue every season: the league crown and the Champions League.
That's not something Real usually tolerate. President Florentino Perez would find defeat impossible to accept in pursuit of La Decima, Madrid's 10th European Cup.
The Rossoneri have been linked with a move for the manager who delivered them two Champions League trophies during the previous decade. There has been speculation that Ancelotti could return to Milan if Real lose, though Ancelotti has denied those rumours, per FourFourTwo.
Still, if Real are beaten, expected this rumor to become a lot more prominent.
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