Raphael Varane & Maxwell
Raphael Varane's return from injury is a boost for Real Madrid boss Rafael Benitez Reuters

Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane has returned to training after recovering from a hamstring injury and could start against Real Sociedad on 30 December. A statement on Real's official website said Varane came through a double training session unscathed on 27 December, lending a much-needed boost to Rafael Benitez.

France international Varane sustained the injury during Real's Champions League victory over Shakhtar Donetsk on 25 November.

However, fellow defender Sergio Ramos and midfielder Toni Kroos are both carrying knocks and are doubtful to feature against Sociedad.

Dani Carvajal is still continuing his recovery from a thigh problem and trained by himself on 27 December.

Benitez is under immense pressure to improve Real's performances and results despite the club's 10-2 rout of Rayo Vallecano in their last La Liga outing.

Dead man walking?

Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague said Zinedine Zidane is the favourite to take over from Benitez at the Santiago Bernabeu if Real's performances do not improve soon.

"It's quite clear that behind the scenes there has been a lot of movement over the last few days and that leaves Rafa Benitez exposed," Balague told Sky Sports.

Rafa Benitez
Benitez is under pressure to improve Real's performances Getty Images

"Benitez, who knows that four of the next six games are at home and victories could change matters, will be in charge for the game against Sociedad but nobody can tell what's going to happen next."

Jose Mourinho has been linked with a return to the Real dugout, but Balague claimed many in the Bernabeu dressing room were against the appointment of the Portuguese coach.

"It's a huge task for Rafa now if he wants to survive," he stated.

"The line coming from the club is that he has to improve results, relationships with the players – everything, really. Every result counts – but also every performance."

Real are third in the La Liga table, two points behind leaders Barcelona who have a game in hand.