Zinedine Zidane faces a major headache over his back-line when Real Madrid visit Deportivo la Coruña on Wednesday night (26 April) after Sergio Ramos was sent off during Sunday's 3-2 defeat to Barcelona. Raphael Varane and Pepe missed El Clasico due to different injury concerns and it is still uncertain whether the France international will arrive in time to play at Riazor.
Varane began the current campaign as Zidane's favourite to partner Ramos in the heart of the backline, with Pepe and Nacho serving as back-up. However, the Frenchman has failed to complete a game since suffering a grade-two muscle strain in his left hamstring during the 2-1 defeat to Valencia on 22 February.
Real Madrid revealed last week that the defender was back in training as Los Blancos began the preparations for the hotly-anticipated El Clasico against Barcelona. However, Zidane eventually considered that the clash with the Catalans still came too early for Varane and left him out of the squad alongside Pepe.
Nacho and Ramos consequently formed the heart of the back-line against Barcelona but the captain will be unavailable to face Deportivo after being shown the red card in El Clasico for a two-footed tackle on Lionel Messi.
Zidane will thus need to decide whether is worthy to to risk Varane on Wednesday night or covering the role with a midfielder like Casemiro or a player from the academy.
The Real Madrid boss dropped a hint at his plans by promoting Alejandro Salto from the second team to complete Monday's training session alongside the rest of the available first-team players.
"Real Madrid began to prepare for the league game against Deportivo, which they will play on Wednesday at the Riazor Stadium (9:30pm CEST). Ball work was the focus of the session which saw the players who had disputed more minutes in el Clásico train at a lower intensity. Cristiano Ronaldo, Asensio, Casemiro, Marcelo, Keylor Navas and Modric worked on the pitch and in the gym, while Ramos, Bale, Nacho, Carvajal, Kroos and Benzema trained inside the facilities," the club confirmed.
"Zidane called up Enzo, Valverde, Salto and Achraf from the Real Madrid Castilla squad for a session based around possession and pressing, ball circulation, finishing and matches on reduced-sized pitches. Pepe continues his recovery process."
Meanwhile, Real Madrid are waiting on results of a scan on Gareth Bale's latest injury blow. The Welshman was forced off earlier in the first half against Barcelona after having missed the previous two games due to a muscle injury.
However, Zidane defended his decision to start him in El Clasico, hoping he could recover in time for the Champions League semi-finals against Atletico Madrid.
"He said he was fine and eager to play. I don't regret it." Zidane said in the press conference after the 3-2 defeat to Barcelona. "I'm disappointed for him because he wanted to play and this is something we can't control. Tomorrow we'll have a look and see what injury he has and I hope he'll not be out long."