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October 22, 2019

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Real depleted for UCL clash

Real Madrid is under pressure, depleted by injuries, and in need of a win in the UEFA Champions League.

Ahead of the team’s crucial match against Galatasaray today, Real coach Zinedine Zidane certainly has his work cut out for him.

Real has yet to win a match in Group A this season. A third straight setback could leave the team in danger of not making it out of the group stage of the UCL for the first time since the 1989-90 season.

Coming off a demoralizing loss to promoted Mallorca in the Spanish league, Zidane needs to somehow put together a squad that is missing Luka Modric and Gareth Bale. Also not making the trip to Turkey are Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio, while there are doubts about Toni Kroos following a long injury layoff.

“We have injured players, it is what it is,” the former France star said. “We can’t change the situation. That can’t be used as an excuse. We have other players in the team and everyone has to show that they have what it takes to be here.”

Zidane used an alternative squad in Saturday’s loss at Mallorca, a result that cost the team the Spanish league lead. Modric and Bale didn’t play and there was hope they could make it to Turkey, but the club said on Sunday they have not yet fully recovered.

If Kroos is able to play, Zidane will likely use him in the midfield along with Casemiro and youngster Federico Valverde. In attack, Vincius Junior is likely to replace Bale alongside Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard, who didn’t play in Mallorca because of the birth of his son.

After a big loss at Paris Saint-Germain and a home draw against Club Brugge, Real is tied with Galatasaray at the bottom of Group A with one point. The Turkish team is ahead on goal difference. PSG leads with six points, four more than Club Brugge.

While Real tries to avert a crisis, bitter rival Barcelona is just starting to hit its stride.

Barcelona was the team facing a wave of injuries early in the season, with players like Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez among those sidelined. But with most of the squad healthy again, Barcelona started thriving, and it will enter tomorrow’s UCL match at Slavia Prague coming off five straight wins in all competitions.

Messi, Suarez and Antoine Griezmann — Barcelona’s much-hyped attacking trio — are finally clicking. They each scored in the team’s 3-0 win over Eibar in the Spanish league on Saturday.

“At the end, the great players always find one another and can feel where the other one will make his run or a pass,” Barca coach Ernesto Valverde said. “They have worked and played well. And this is the reward.”

Barcelona is tied with Borussia Dortmund at the top of Group F with four points, three more than Slavia Prague and Inter Milan.


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