Madrid given striking boost
There was good news for Real Madrid fans on Thursday evening after forwards Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain took a full part in training and should be available for Saturday's La Liga clash with Celta Vigo at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
Benzema limped out of France's 1-1 draw with Spain on Tuesday, while Higuain was substituted with an ankle problem after scoring in Argentina's 2-1 win in Chile. However, both appear to have overcome their respective knocks and are in contention to start against Celta Vigo, who have lost all three away games 2-1 so far this season.
Less positively for Real boss Jose Mourinho, German midfielder Sami Khedira missed training and is unlikely to feature on Saturday, while Madrid's three full-backs were injured on international duty in the past week, meaning Alvaro Arbeloa, Marcelo and Fabio Coentrao, are set for longer terms on the sidelines.
Marcelo was to undergo surgery on his broken fifth metatarsal of his right foot on Friday, with the operation carried out by Dutch specialist Cornelius Niek Van Dijk, who has previously treated Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Robin van Persie as well as many other leading footballers. The Brazilian left-back is not expected to play again this year. Arbeloa and Coentrao are recovering from muscle injuries and should be back next month.
Club captain Iker Casillas said on Thursday that he was sure Mourinho would find the right solutions to ensure the team coped with the absences against both Celta and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League next week.
"We have enough options to cover the absences," Casillas said. "With this 'FIFA virus' there are players from the 'cantera' who are capable of playing in the first team. Mourinho knows them. The boss will find the best solutions possible."
AS reported on Friday that Mourinho could play Michael Essien at right-back against Celta, as he occasionally did at Chelsea, although with Khedira missing the Ghanaian could be needed in midfield. Sergio Ramos looks more likely to again move across, with either Raul Albiol or Raphael Varane coming in at centre-half.
Left-back could be covered by one of Madrid Castilla defenders Nacho, 22, or Jorge Casado, 23, although Marca suggested that winger Angel di Maria may be pushed back to play in defence in a more attacking line-up as Real look to ensure they win to temporarily at least eat into Barcelona's current eight-point advantage in the Primera Division standings.
Should Di Maria be used at full-back, Kaka would likely get another chance to build on his recent good form - which included starts and goals against both Iraq and Japan on his return to international action with Brazil this week.