Club World Cup: Problems grow again at Real Madrid | Sports| The USA Print

Thibaut Courtois, sore this Sunday in Mallorca during the warm-up.

Thibaut Courtois, sore this Sunday in Mallorca during the warm-up.
Thibaut Courtois, sore this Sunday in Mallorca during the warm-up.JUAN MEDINA (REUTERS)

It seemed that Real Madrid had straightened its figure after a very erratic start to 2023, but the last few days have put it on another curve: eight points behind Barcelona in the League, hit by the Vinicius case and the infirmary in a new upturn. Thibaut Courtois, Karim Benzema -who has already missed 11 games this season-, and Éder Militão did not travel to Rabat this Monday for the Club World Cup semifinals this Wednesday (8:00 p.m., Telecinco) against the Egyptian team of Al Ahly. Sources from the white club specified, however, that none of the three is ruled out for a hypothetical final, which they would play on Saturday (8:00 p.m.) against the winner of Flamengo-Al Hilal (Tuesday, 8:00 p.m.). On the horizon for all of them is the clash at Anfield against Liverpool next Tuesday, February 21, in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16.

If the meringues lost this Wednesday in Morocco, they would still have the commitment for third and fourth place, also on Saturday (4:30 p.m.). These three absences join the already known absences of Eden Hazard (patellar tendonitis in the left knee), Mendy (injury to the semimembranosus muscle of the left leg) and Lucas Vázquez (fibular syndesmosis sprain of the right ankle). On the other hand, the youth squad Luis López, Cañizares (both goalkeepers), the Marvel defense, and the media Mario Martín and Arribas entered the list.

The last to fall was Courtois, who in the warm-up at Son Moix felt discomfort in his left abductor that left him on the bench. This Monday an ultrasound was performed, but to obtain a more accurate diagnosis you must wait for the MRI on Tuesday. For the moment, he stayed at home and, depending on the clinical results, the club will decide if he joins the concentration. Benzema, with a muscular overload, and Militão, with problems in his left abductor, await their turn for the possible final of the Mundialito if his recovery allows it.

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The injury occurs to the goal after a start to the year with several very outstanding performances. In fact, he was the only redeemable for Madrid in some very poor first post-World Cup dates. This is his second stoppage this season. In October he missed six games, including the classic at the Bernabéu, due to a sciatica and a right knee strain, and recovery required injections. His loss brings Andriy Lunin, 23, out of the bottom of the closet again, who in his first two seasons had barely seen him in five games and in this one he already has eight.

Vini’s snow globe

In a moment of doubt, an abrasive calendar and two weeks before the trip to Liverpool, these medical casualties descend to the backbone of a team in difficulties and with the need to lift the Club World Cup if they do not want to see their situation worsen. This Sunday, after several meritorious performances that alleviated the wound in the Super Cup final, Ancelotti’s team once again offered a poor performance that took them away from the top of the League, where the blaugranas maintain a rhythm that has taken them out of the wheel .

Penalized by an own goal from Nacho right at the start and a missed penalty by Asensio in the second half, the Whites couldn’t find a way to bring down a Mallorca team that dominated the game and that other football. Some sports deficiencies that multiplied this weekend with the Vinicius affair, a snowball that has not stopped growing. Due to the wave of insults from the stands (LaLiga investigates racist attacks), and due to very rigorous markings (he received 10 fouls from the vermilions, more than anyone this season in Europe) and even mockery of the rival that has ended up infuriating the Brazilian.

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For months he even seemed comfortable in those skirmishes with the defenders, but in recent months the feeling is that, with the multiplication of the problem, they have taken him out of the lane. All this at a time when, with Benzema injured or far from his version of the Ballon d’Or (he has 13 goals and last season he reached 44), the white attack tends to depend largely on his ability to overflow.

With no time to stop to think about a relentless agenda, Madrid faces the option of a new title with problems in the infirmary, in the league table and with the background noise of the Vini theme.

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