Real Madrid's defence has been hit with a blow after France international Raphael Varane suffered an ankle injury. Los Blancos manager Zinedine Zidane could struggle to adequately fill the void at the back.
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Tests Show Ankle Issue For Varane
Friday, April 1
Real Madrid's official site reported tests showed a muscle injury in the defender's left ankle. No timetable was provided for his return to action, and the club noted "further developments will be monitored."
Varane has been rather inconsistent since he joined the Liga giants, but this season represented a change. The 22-year-old has finally emerged as a regular at the heart of the Madrid back four, and he's been particularly impressive since Zidane succeeded Rafa Benitez.
Varane has provided pace and dynamic athleticism along with imposing physical power—both on the ground and in the air. His partnership with Spanish veteran Sergio Ramos, who has also had his injury woes, has been a formidable one at times this season.
Los Merengues were breached just three times during the group stage of this season's UEFA Champions League, thanks largely to this pair, per the tournament's official site.
Sadly, this isn't the first time injury woes have blighted Varane's career and development in the Spanish capital. Back in late-November, a damaged thigh muscle kept him out for three weeks, according to Reuters (h/t the Guardian).
Coping without the pacy centre-back presents a familiar dilemma for Los Blancos. It's not as if the squad is without options, it's just those options aren't exactly convincing.
The obvious choices are experienced Portuguese defender Pepe and Spaniard Nacho. Both are robust in the tackle and comfortable on the ball.
Yet neither is particularly quick, nor are they assured in one-on-one situations at close quarters. Unfortunately, Madrid's other options are just as suspect.
Among them is former Porto full-back Danilo, who could be moved into the middle. He's solidly built and good in the air, but he isn't a natural centre-back.
Real's ability to chase down leaders Barcelona and keep pace with neighbours Atletico Madrid in La Liga will be tested without Varane. So will their attempts to capture an 11th Champions League crown.
Varane has been delivering on his tremendous physical talent, but this latest problem is a worrying reminder of his fragility.