'Fifa virus' leaves Real Madrid missing key players ahead of Celta Vigo clash
Mourinho missing key players who picked up knocks with their countries for Celta Vigo clash
Real Madrid are battling an injury crisis ahead of their home clash with Celta Vigo today as World Cup duty threatens their La Liga pursuit of bitter rivals Barcelona.
Madrid coach Jose Mourinho faces the loss of up to seven of the 19 players who went off on international duty after the vital 2-2 draw at Barcelona in their last league game. It is a problem that has left Los Blancos the main victims of what the Spanish press have dubbed the "Fifa virus".
Despite the draw against Barcelona two weeks ago, Madrid still have an eight-point gap to make up on their Catalan rivals, a task made even more difficult by the loss of so many key defenders.
Right-backs Alvaro Arbeloa - injured in Spain's 1-1 draw with France - and Fabio Coentrao are unavailable for a number of weeks, while left-back Marcelo is expected to be out for three months after breaking his foot in a Brazil training session.
Midfielder Sami Khedira and forwards Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain have also picked up knocks, and all could be rested ahead of an important Champions League tie at Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.
Mourinho will have to be creative to fill the full-back berths. Michael Essien has experience on the right, while Sergio Ramos could also be used there, with Raphael Varane or Raul Albiol coming into the centre of defence. Even Varane is in doubt, though, after the youngster picked up a muscle injury while playing for the French Under-21 side.
Another youngster, Nacho Fernandez, could make his first start of the season at left-back.
Leaders Barcelona have few worries as they go to Deportivo La Coruna on the same evening, looking to make it four wins from four on the road.
One player unaffected by the international break was midfielder Andres Iniesta. "I didn't play the full 90 minutes of the two matches with Spain, so I'm in good shape, my [groin] injury is forgotten and we all hope to be fit for the Depor game, which will be complicated especially after the break," he said.
"There's a long way to go, all sides go out to win games, particularly Madrid, who are the current champions and they will want to win the title again, so we can't take the points for granted," he said. "Also, we have to concede that at the moment Atletico Madrid are our closest rivals."