Real without injured Ramos against Shakhtar

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MADRID, Oct 20, (AP): Sergio Ramos is out of Real Madrid’s opening Champions League match against a Shakhtar Donetsk squad depleted by the coronavirus.

Real Madrid’s Marcelo (front), and Cadiz’s Filip Malbasic fight for possession during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Cadiz at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium in Madrid, Spain on Oct 17. (AP)

The captain is nursing a left knee injury and did not practice with the squad on Tuesday. He took a knock on the knee on Saturday in the first half of the 1-0 home loss to Cádiz in the Spanish league and was substituted at halftime. “We don’t want to take any risks,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said on Tuesday, a day before the team hosts Shakhtar. “He hasn’t been able to practice normally.”

Three days after facing Shakhtar, Real Madrid have their biggest match of the season so far – the clásico against Barcelona at Camp Nou Stadium on Saturday. Ramos has been key for Madrid recently, in defense and in attack. He was among the team’s top scorers after the league resumed last season, helping to lead Madrid to their first Spanish league title in three years. The 34-year-old defender was suspended from the Champions League match against Manchester City last season, when Madrid were eliminated in the Round of 16. Zidane still won’t be able to count on Eden Hazard because of a lingering muscle injury.

The forward has yet to make his season debut for Madrid. “His injury was worse than expected,” Zidane said. “We hope that he can come back soon and that he can play the whole season with us.” Other players not included in Madrid’s squad for Wednesday’s game because of injury included Dani Carvajal, Martin Odegaard and Álvaro Odriozola. Shakhtar were in Spain without several players who were not fully fit after going into isolation because of positive COVID-19 test results. Coach Luís Castro said several players did not make the trip to Madrid. “Of course (Ramos’ absence) can affect them, but we can’t really compare,” Castro told the Spanish daily Marca. “We had some 10 players who may not even be able to play 20 minutes. We played our last match with seven Under-20 players.”

This game will be at the 6,000-capacity Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium at Madrid’s training center as renovation work at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium remains ongoing. Also, fans are not allowed into matches because of the pandemic. Madrid, 13-time Champions League winners, couldn’t get past the Round of 16 in the last two seasons. The other Group B teams are Inter Milan and Borussia Mönchengladbach, who meet in Italy on Wednesday. On the eve of a Champions League match between Olympiakos and Marseille, the prime minister of Greece reversed a government decision on Tuesday to allow a limited number of fans back into soccer stadiums.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a statement the pilot scheme would have “sent the wrong message to members of the public.” The reversal came after the government announced late Monday that it would begin allowing fans back into stadiums, capping attendance at 10% capacity with a maximum attendance set at 3,500. The scheme was due to start with Wednesday’s Champions League match at Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus, before being extended to other European and domestic matches.

The prime minister said the decision was taken after “taking into account that there has been an increase in (COVID-19) cases all over Europe” and the “need to avoid any public gathering with a strict observance of health rules.” Greece is battling a surge in infections. Piraeus and the rest of greater Athens are currently at the second-highest stage of pandemic alert, with capacity restrictions on public transport and early closing times for bars. Olympiakos canceled their earlier ticketing announcement after the the statement from the prime minister’s office.

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