MADRID — Eden Hazard still hasn’t set foot on the field for an official match. Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez sat side-by-side in the stands while their teammates played in front of them.
Real Madrid and Barcelona, both plagued by a series of injuries at the start of the season, have been having a hard time already this season.
Besides Hazard, Madrid also hasn’t been able to debut newcomers Rodrygo and Ferland Mendy because of injuries, while Barcelona is missing Ousmane Dembele along with Messi and Suárez for the same reason.
Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane hasn’t been able to implement the changes he had promised without Hazard in the lineup.
The Belgian hurt his left thigh in the final practice session before the team’s Spanish league opener two weeks ago, forcing Zidane to resort to old tactics while using players who have been on the team for some time, including Gareth Bale and Francisco “Isco” Alarcón.
Bale was expected to be gone by the time the season started, but the Wales forward has become an important piece for Zidane after the club’s failed transfer attempts.
Bale started in Madrid’s 3-1 opening win at Celta Vigo, playing on the same side of the field where Hazard is expected to occupy when he is back, which likely won’t be until after the international break in about two weeks. Zidane tried to promote a change when he used James Rodríguez in the midfield in the team’s 1-1 home draw against Valladolid last weekend.
The Colombia playmaker performed well in his return after two seasons on loan at Bayern Munich, but he also got injured and won’t be available for Madrid’s match at Villarreal on Sunday. Zidane will likely again resort to a midfield with old-timers Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, with Vinícius Júnior or Luka Jovic joining veterans Bale and Karim Benzema in the attack.