Vazquez latest setback for Madrid ahead of Liverpool match

Lucas Vazquez's absence compounds the problems for a Real Madrid defence already without centre-backs Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane for the Liverpool encounter.

Lucas Vazquez had to be replaced near halftime during Real Madrid's 2-1 win over Barcelona in the 2020-21 La Liga on Saturday (File Photo).   -  Getty Images

Lucas Vazquez has become the latest injury setback for Real Madrid ahead of facing Liverpool in the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals, leaving coach Zinedine Zidane with few options at right-back.

His absence compounds the problems for a Madrid defence already without centre-backs Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane. Eden Hazard also wasn't included in the squad for Wednesday's match, when Madrid will try to defend a 3-1 aggregate from the first leg and return to the semifinals for the first time since it won the final against Liverpool in 2018.

Vazquez had to be replaced near halftime during his team's 2-1 win over Barcelona on Saturday in the last 'El Clasico' of the season in the 2020-21 La Liga. The club said tests on Monday showed that the versatile Spanish player has a sprained crucial ligament on his left knee.

Madrid did not say how long Vazquez is expected to be sidelined but it is unlikely he will play again this season. The injury happened after he collided with Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets as both of them slid to try and reach a ball near midfield.

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Vazquez had been key for Madrid recently while playing right-back as a replacement for Dani Carvajal, who remains injured and also won't make the trip to England. Álvaro Odriozola is the backup right-back who replaced Vazquez in the Clasico, but he too has been marred by injuries this season and only played in a few games.

Zidane in the past improvised with Nacho Fernandez as a right-back, but he will likely be needed as a central defender again to play alongside Éder Militao because of the absences of regular starters Ramos, who is injured, and Varane, who is recovering from coronavirus.

Midfielder Federico Valverde also left the game against Barcelona because of a physical problem but he was included in the squad for the match in Liverpool. Hazard has been practicing with his teammates but still isn't fully fit to play. “We’ve reached the limit physically,” Zidane said after the Clasico.

The injury for the 29-year-old Vazquez, who has spent most of his career with Madrid, comes just as his contract with the club is set to expire this season. He set up Karim Benzema's opening goal against Barcelona on Saturday.

Madrid has won six games in a row in all competitions and is unbeaten in 13 consecutive matches. But the defending Spanish league champion trails leader Atletico Madrid by one point with eight outings to go.