A Gareth Bale injury? Real Madrid can handle that. A Cristiano Ronaldo one? Not too sure. The Portuguese star, playing better than anyone in the world right now, is going to be out for three weeks with the thigh injury he picked up against Almeria after everyone thought it was a harmless knock. This kind of injury can mean the end to the title race for Real Madrid, unless the whole concept of this being a one man team is wrong.
So what will Ronaldo be missing? Definitely the match against Galatasaray in the Champions League, which means bad news for Juventus more than anyone else (Real have already qualified to the next stage). From here on out, it depends on how severe it is. The early assessment suggests three weeks out, but clubs often exaggerate on the number of matches a player will actually miss. If this really is a three-week injury, Ronaldo will also miss the match against Valladolid, Olimpic in the Copa Del Rey (which he is suspended from anyway), FC Copenhagen in the Champions League and against Osasuna in the league.
Last season Ronaldo missed four matches, two of them in the season’s garbage time. One ended in a draw, while the other three were victories, including in the derby against Atletico Madrid. On paper, Real Madrid have a good enough team to make it through without their best player, no matter how good he is.
In reality? No doubt there’s plenty of fear bubbling in the dressing room or among the coaching staff. Ronaldo meant that even though 90% of Real Madrid’s matches weren’t the best example of how a championship team can play, they got through because they have the player in the best scoring form in the world.
Now? It’s going to be up to Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Isco and Angel di Maria to fill in the blank. It might mean that Bale will be moved to the left side and play where he prefers, while Di Maria will return to the lineup. Good enough to stay on Barcelona’s tail? On paper, yet, but from what we’ve seen from Real Madrid this season, it won’t be surprising to see the margin become greater than the very hard to bridge six points it already is.