Real Madrid were successful in keeping the pressure over FC Barcelona by easily overcoming the challenge of Malaga at Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday. It was a lucky day for Carlo Ancelotti as he had the luxury of having a full strength squad available for selection. However, the joy of Mr. Ancelotti did not last long as two of his most important team members, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale, secured an injury and Madrid are already on a back foot ahead of arguably the season defining clash against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.
Apart from FC Barcelona, no other team has haunted Real Madrid like Diego Simeonea s Atletico Madrid in past couple of years, both in Spain and in Europe. Real Madrid did overcome the challenge of Atletico Madrid in May last year, in the final of UEFA Champions League, but ever since this game, the Rojiblancos are unbeaten against Los Che in seven games, winning four in process.
Real Madrid did managed to avoid any embarrassment at Vicente Calderon in the first-leg of their Champions League clash, but, considering the team strength (and mental attitude) of Atletico Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti needed a fully fit squad to overcome their challenge.
Both the former Tottenham Hotspur players started the game against Malaga on Saturday. But Gareth Bale went down after playing for just two minutes and was withdrawn shortly afterwards with a calf problem. Later, after almost 60 minutes, midfielder Luka Modric was withdrawn with a suspected ligament damage in his knee which could keep the Croatian international out for the rest of the season.
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti confirmed the bad news after the game. “Modric has a knee injury and Bale has a calf problem,” Ancelotti said, “We are going to assess them in the coming days. They are not completely ruled out. There will be tests over the next few days and we will make a decision.”
Luka Modric missed four months, between November to March, due to an injury. The winning streak of Real Madrid came to an end in December and they badly struggled for form till the return of Luka Modric in March. The midfield of Los Blancos looked out of ideas on many occasions during this period and it also proved the importance of Luka Modric to this Real Madrid squad.
Midfielder Isco has performed exceptionally well in the midfield for Real Madrid this season and Ancelotti is certain to use the youngster against Atletico on Wednesday. However, the combination of Isco, Kroos and James Rodriguez has not done any a wondersa for Real Madrid yet and Diego Simeone would certainly try to expose its weaknesses on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the injury of Gareth Bale is certainly not as damaging as that of Modric as the current form of the Welshman is not very encouraging. Youngster Jesse has made a return from his long-term injury now and he looks capable enough to replace the Welshman against Atletico Madrid.
The first leg between Real Madrid and Atletico ended as 0-0 draw at Vicente Calderon, which means that Los Blancos had a greater chance to make it to the semis. But, these two injuries has certainly increased the hopes of Atletico and the tie looks evenly balanced at the moment.