Cristiano Ronaldo is set to miss Saturday’s derby against Atletico Madrid the Estadio Vicente Calderon with a thigh injury, and now looks a serious doubt for Real Madrid’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Borussia Dortmund next Tuesday.
AS claim that Ronaldo began Wednesday’s shock 4-1 first leg defeatin Dortmund with a muscle problem in his left-thigh suffered during the warm-up, and was hampered throughout the 90 minutes. While Madrid have not commented publicly on the injury, the Portuguese has reportedly begun an intensive physiotherapy programme with the aim of returning for the hoped for remontada (comeback) against Jurgen Klopp’s side at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
In a further injury concern for Madrid boss Jose Mourinho, full-back Alvaro Arbeloa has aggravated his back injury and will miss both the Atletico and Dortmund games. On-loan utility man Michael Essien is back however, giving Mourinho the option of returning Sergio Ramos to central defence next week, perhaps in place of Pepe, who suffered badly against Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski at the Westfalenstadion.
The Portuguese coach is expected to reach deep into his squad for the game against Atletico, with youth teamers Casemiro, Nacho and Alvaro Morata all tipped to start. Club captain Iker Casillas could also make his first appearance since January, while Angel Di Maria, Raul Albiol, Ricardo Carvalho and Jose Callejon are also options for the game.
Such an under-strength Madrid XI could give Atletico a chance of a first derby win since 1999, something which has not gone unnoticed at the club which celebrated its 100th birthday on Thursday.
Colchoneros captain Gabi, speaking to reporters before that event, said he would not complain should some of Madrid’s stars sit out Saturday’s game.
“Any player at Real Madrid has the quality to win a game like this,” Gabi said. “Any of the players in their squad have that. But those like Cristiano or [Mesut] Ozil give them the most points. If [Jose] Mourinho thinks he should not play them, well, all the better for us.”
Atletico youth product Gabi, 29, has been on the losing side in many Madrid derbies, but over that time his side have rarely been challenging their city rivals in the La Liga standings so late in the season. He said now could be the time to end the years of hurt for his club.
“There are 14 years of motivation,” he said. “They are a special opponent, for everything that is generated around these type of games. Of course it is an opportunity. We have not come into a game so equal for a long time. We are at a very high level, and we dreamed of arriving at this game in this situation. The whole team has done enormous work. We have talked for a long time about how to to win a derby, and now it is up to us to do it.”