Raphael Varane
Raphael Varane is yet to play since the defeat to Valencia. Getty

Raphael Varane has taken a step towards recovery from a hamstring injury after Real Madrid confirmed the centre-back returned to the pitch to undertake some light training on Friday (10 March). The France international is still expected to miss Sunday's encounter with Real Betis but should be back soon to help his teammates in their tussle with Barcelona for the La Liga title.

The defender is yet to feature since suffering a grade-two muscle strain in his left hamstring during the 2-1 defeat to Valencia on 22 February.

Meanwhile, Pepe sparked concerns about his participation in this weekend's encounter with the Andalucian side after missing the Thursday workout – just two days after helping his side secure qualification to the Champions League quarter-finals by completing the full 90 minutes in the 3-1 win over Napoli.

However, Real Madrid now played down injury concerns after revealing that the Portugal international returned to training on Friday to prepare for the visit of Betis, while Fabio Coentrao continued his recovery in the gym.

"The team have completed their latest training session ahead of the game against Betis. The biggest news to come out of the session was the presence of Varane, who took to the pitch for light running and specific individual exercises as part of his recovery process.

"The rest of the group, with the inclusion of Pepe alongside the academy's Enzo [Zidane], completed a series of sprints, possession and pressing exercises, one-on-ones and several small-sided matches. Coentrão continued his work using the indoor facilities."

Zidane is expected to have three absentees – Varane, Coentrao and the suspended Gareth Bale – ahead of the game with Betis, in another crucial weekend for the fate of La Liga.

Barcelona are currently one point ahead of Zinedine Zidane's side at the top of La Liga table after winning their last six league games. They will visit struggling Deportivo la Coruna on Sunday in flying mood following their historic 6-1 comeback victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the second leg of the Champions League last 16.

However, Los Blancos still have one game in hand to turn the situation around, and later in April they will host Barcelona in a Clasico that is expected to be decisive in the battle for the title.