Both Luka Modric and Gareth Bale came off injured during yesterday’s 3-1 win over Malaga at the Bernabeu. Bale was the first to come off, lasting just five minutes before suffering a calf strain, whilst Modric hobbled off with knee ligament problems. It has emerged that the Croatian will miss the remainder of the season, though Bale should return after a few weeks.
These injuries took the gloss off of another win that keeps Madrid hot on Barcelona’s heels at the top of La Liga, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s 50th goal of a stellar campaign.
With Atletico Madrid coming up in the midweek Champions League second leg, these two injuries came at the worst possible time. Needing to win on Wednesday, a real creative edge has been lost.
Madrid have been rocked by player absences throughout the season, losing the lead in La Liga as a consequence. Sergio Ramos, Pepe, James Rodriguez, Jese and Modric all spent time out that contributed to Madrid losing their rhythm just after the winter break.
Modric in particular was a huge loss. The midfielder is their anchor, spraying passes and dictating play from the centre. Toni Kroos hasn’t been bad but he’s been a shadow compared to Modric, and results had only just started to pick up since his return from a thigh injury.
Only a defeat to Barcelona has come since Modric recovered (he made a brief cameo in the loss to Schalke at the Bernabeu) as Madrid won five in seven. Prior to that, Modric featured heavily in 15 of Madrid’s 22 consecutive wins back before Christmas, and the side has not looked like repeating that sequence.
As for Bale, a man who had looked revitalised after the international break, will miss the midweek game with Atletico and give Carlo Ancelotti a real selection headache. Bale’s place in a 4-3-3 system had suited Madrid all season, yet they may now have to rely on Jese coming in, or reverting to a less attacking 4-4-2.
Also, the injury interrupts what was set to become the Welshman’s first full season in La Liga, one that remains stop-start due to a loss of form and now this calf strain. It will undoubtedly be a massive frustration to Ancelotti and for the world’s most expensive player.
In terms of Wednesday’s game, it remains a must-win, especially as Madrid were unable to hold their league form together in Modric’s absence. It would be wrong to write Madrid’s season off, especially as Barcelona could suffer the same problems in the next month or two, but their chances of winning two pieces of silverware have been dented dramatically this weekend.