Real Madrid defender Dani Carvajal could make a full return to fitness against Atletico in the Madrid derby this Saturday, just six weeks after contracting a condition he says he feared could have ended his career.
Carvajal, 25, was diagnosed with a viral pericardium infection in September and hasn't played since. He spoke to Spanish daily Diario Madridista (h/t AS) and conceded the initial news left him wondering if he'd have to retire:
"[You think,] 'Imagine if it's more serious'; you even start to consider the possibility that it could become something chronic and that you'll have to give up playing, given that there have been other such cases. But throughout, the doctors told me not to worry, that it [the infection] is common and that I should be relaxed."
It was suggested Carvajal could have made an even earlier recovery from the illness, and while those hopes were wide of the mark, manager Zinedine Zidane described his joy to have the player back, via Yahoo Sport UK:
Yahoo Sport UK @YahooSportUK
Zinedine Zidane is happy to have Bale and Carvajal fit to face Las Palmas tomorrow #RMCF 📺 https://t.co/UFubgWF7kW2017-11-4 16:12:58
Asked for his current status ahead of Saturday's trip to Atleti, Carvajal said: "In principle, I have the medical all-clear to play, so I shouldn't have any problems."
A viral pericardium infection causes an inflammation of the lining of the heart and can develop into more threatening cases if left untreated, but Carvajal was fortunate to catch it in its early stages.
The right-back elaborated that this recovery period in particular went by "very slowly" due to the fact he had to keep his heart rate down and was inactive for much of it, meaning he's bound to be lacking in match fitness.
In that regard, he explained that the international break was used as an opportunity to bring his fitness levels back to normal, meaning a start against Los Rojiblancos may be within reach.
Achraf Hakimi has filled in on the right side of defence while Carvajal has gone about his recovery, and while the Moroccan youngster has impressed, Marca's Chris Winterburn recently touched on the defensive help Real require:
Chris Winterburn @cmwinterburn
@aPeanut20 Yeah, Real Madrid are missing key players in defence, Carvajal, Varane and Navas. However, there are real problems there at the moment.2017-11-1 21:40:02
Both sides sit on 23 points apiece heading into Saturday's showdown at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, eight points off leaders Barcelona, meaning while it may only be November, each team will view this as a six-pointer.
There would be no better occasion for Carvajal to make his return than in a derby collision against Atletico when points are so direly needed, with the defender looking to move past a difficult patch in his career.