Real Madrid were hit by a further blow during the disappointing 2-1 defeat to Valencia on Wednesday night (22 February) after Zinedine Zidane revealed that Raphael Varane suffered an injury during the game. The news is a worry for Los Blancos ahead of a crucial weekend in the La Liga title race in which Barcelona visit Atletico Madrid while they face Villarreal.
The 23-year-old centre-back was forced off and replaced by Nacho Fernandez in the 73rd minute of the game at the Mestalla. It was speculated Zidane made the change due to Varane's poor performance, with the France international blamed for the two goals scored by Simone Zaza and Fabian Orellana in the first 10 minutes of the game.
But Zidane has since confirmed Varane was actually forced off due to an injury.
"Varane has picked up an injury, he felt some discomfort and that's why we brought him off," Zidane confirmed in the press conference after Real Madrid missed an opportunity to increase their lead over Barcelona at the top of La Liga table.
"We lacked focus when we weren't in possession. Zaza hurt us in that role between the lines. A poor piece of control and they were capable of posing us problems. Such is the way in football, the season is a very long one but we've got to be more alert."
The defender is thus expected to undergo a scan in the coming hours to learn the severity of the injury - with initial reports in Spain suggesting he could be out of action for between two and three weeks due to a torn thigh muscle.
Varane's injury setback is a blow for Real Madrid as they face three La Liga games against Villarreal, Las Palmas and Eibar in the space of seven days. Los Blancos are still one point ahead of Barcelona at the top of La Liga table – and with one game in hand – but another setback on Sunday could dent their hopes to win the title.
Furthermore, should the initial reports be true, Varane could also miss the second-leg of the Champions League last-16 tie against Napoli on 7 March.
The France centre-back has been a crucial player for Zidane during the current 2016-2017 campaign, having formed an impressive partnership with Sergio Ramos in the heart of the defence.
The Real Madrid manager recently got a boost from the return of Pepe after a long spell on the sidelines while he can count on Nacho as backup for Varane.