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May 14, 2013

Ozil set to return for Copa del Rey

Real Madrid playmaker Mesut Ozil looks set to return for Friday's Copa del Rey final, but defender Sergio Ramos faces a race against time to be fit for the clash with city rivals Atletico at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

Ozil, who injured an ankle in the 4-3 La Liga win over Real Valladolid on May 4, now looks set to come straight back into the side for the 'derbi' final. Gonzalo Higuain has also recovered from a minor knock.

However, Ramos' continuing absence from full training, along with the serious knee injury suffered by Raphael Varane in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Espanyol, means coach Jose Mourinho has selection issues in central defence ahead of the game.

• Blog: Curse of set-piece gives Atletico chance

Madrid released a statement via the club's website on Tuesday morning, giving details of the current state of affairs.

"The blancos squad completed at the Ciudad Real Madrid its second training session to prepare for Friday's Copa del Rey final," the club statement read. "Jose Mourinho counted on 22 players divided into two work groups ahead of the decisive clash at the Santiago Bernabeu. Under the orders of Rui Faria [were] 18 [outfield] players, including the newly recovered Ozil and Higuain.

"Ramos and Marcelo continued their recovery programmes, while Varane, who yesterday had surgery on his right knee, has begun his process to return to the pitch."

Ramos has not played since picking up an unidentified 'muscle problem' during Madrid's Champions League exit to Borussia Dortmund on April 30. With Pepe apparently ostracised for criticising Mourinho's lack of respect for goalkeeper Iker Casillas, Raul Albiol and Ricardo Carvalho are currently Madrid's only fully fit centre-backs.

Full-back Alvaro Arbeloa is also a doubt for Friday's game with the back problem, which saw him miss the weekend's trip to Espanyol.

Sami Khedira sat out that game too, but he has returned to training this week and should be available. With Luka Modric having started 12 of Madrid's last 15 games, and Ozil again fit, Mourinho's midfield selection decision looks to be a choice between Khedira and Angel Di Maria. Although Higuain scored his side's only goal on Saturday evening, Karim Benzema is set to come in up front.

Meanwhile, the decision for Varane to have his operation in France has been criticised in the Madrid media, with AS pointing out that, since 2008, Marcelo, Pepe, Higuain, Kaka and Ruud Van Nistelrooy have all travelled outside Spain to undergo procedures. Only Casillas has stayed at home during that period, when he had treatment on a broken finger in Madrid in January.

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