Real Madrid have a little more than week until their first Champions League Round of 16 fixture against Serie A side Atalanta, but they must already prepare to face the high-octane attacking side without one of their best defensive players.
Dani Carvajal’s had injury issues over the past several years, and while he was mostly healthy in the 2019-2020 season, Carvajal’s dealt with nagging muscular issues this year. Madridistas were happy to see him back in the lineup against Valencia on Sunday, but that was short-lived. Before 30 minutes had expired, the star right back had to be subbed off with a reaggravation of his injury.
According to a report from Tomas Gonzalez-Martin of ABC Deportes (article in Spanish), Dani Carvajal will miss the fixture against Atalanta on Feb. 24 as a result of this injury.
Via a tweet from Madrid Xtra, Real Madrid have not lost a single game with Carvajal in the starting XI this season. But in the 19 games in which he has been out, Los Blancos have won just nine of those matches.
His impact on Real’s defense is profound. Prior to this injury, Madridistas were discussing the impact of Atalanta losing Papu Gomez. But now that Atalanta are through to the Coppa Italia Final without the current Sevilla playmaker, the focus is squarely on how Los Blancos will cope without the world’s best big-game right back AND without captain Sergio Ramos next Wednesday night.
Ramos’ impact would usually overshadow any other absence, but Carvajal’s injury might be the bigger deal, given how well Raphael Varane and Nacho Fernandez have been working together in central defense. Of course, the injuries in defense aren’t the only ones Los Blancos are dealing with. Fede Valverde has been out, and forwards Rodrygo Goes and Eden Hazard are, like Ramos, long-term absences.
Without Carvajal available, the focus turns to Lucas Vazquez, who was good against Valencia and was even better in his last Champions League outing vs. Borussia Monchengladbach. But Atalanta’s Robin Gosens is going to be one tough matchup for the Galician winger defensively. And if Vazquez has a glaring weakness, then it is, as Shakhtar Donetsk and Athletic Club exposed, his understandable lack of 100 percent comfort as a right back.
Real Madrid have shown a lot of character this season, and their response in the first leg against an aggressive, high-flying Atalanta side will be vital.