Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho faces defensive problems after Raphael Varane was ruled out of Friday's Copa del Rey final against Atletico Madrid with a serious knee injury.
Varane suffered the problem in what had seemed an innocuous-looking challenge with Wakaso Mubarak during the early stages of Saturday's 1-1 Primera Division draw at Espanyol, and had to be substituted.
While Madrid did not immediately confirm the extent of the injury, Varane tweeted on Sunday that he would need an operation. He was reportedly flown by private jet to France for the operation to be carried out on Monday.
"I am sad," he said. "The tests done today revealed an injury in the meniscus. I need to have an operation as soon as possible."
The development further complicates Mourinho's selection plans for the clash with Atletico at the Bernabeu.
Varane's most obvious replacement, Pepe, has not featured since criticising his boss's treatment of Iker Casillas on May 4, and was again left out of the squad on Saturday.
Sergio Ramos is expected to be available for the final but has not played since the Champions League exit to Borussia Dortmund in late April because of an unconfirmed muscle problem. Full-backs Alvaro Arbeloa and Marcelo are also sidelined.
Raul Albiol and and Ricardo Carvalho are Madrid's other senior centre-backs, and both played the full 90 minutes at Cornella-El Prat on Saturday.
Madrid C defender Diego Llorente, 19, was on the bench, but Mourinho chose to bring on midfielder Xabi Alonso and reshuffle his side when Varane limped off.
The coach told reporters on Saturday that he was confident his squad was deep enough to cover any absentees.
"We have alternatives," he explained. "[Centre-back] is a position for which we have people who are playing well, and that is good.
"We are obviously sorry that [Varane] cannot play in a match that everyone wants to play, but there is no need to make a drama about it because we have solutions."
When asked whether Pepe was being punished for speaking out of turn in public, Mourinho said that, as long as he was Madrid boss, he would choose the team.
"It was my decision and that is it," he said. "I am the coach. I do not have to justify anything. From the first to the last day, I will always be the one to decide.
"Sometimes I can share the reasons for my decisions and sometimes not, I will take that option. On Friday, you will see who plays and it will always be my decision and responsibility."