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Vázquez latest setback for Madrid ahead of Liverpool match

MADRID (AP) – Lucas Vázquez 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 defense already without central defenders Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane. Eden Hazard also wasn’t included in the list for Wednesday’s match,

when Madrid will try to defend a 3-1 win from the first leg and return to the semifinals for the first time since it won the final against Liverpool in 2018. Vázquez had to be replaced near halftime in the team’s 2-1 win over Barcelona on Saturday in the Spanish league’s last clásico of the season. On Monday, the club said tests showed that the versatile Spanish player has a sprained crucial ligament on his left knee.

Madrid did not say how long Vázquez is expected to be sidelined, but it is unlikely he will play again this season. The injury happened after he and Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets collided as they both slid to try to reach a ball near midfield. Vázquez had been essential 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 also a right-back, and he replaced Vázquez in the clásico, but he has been marred by injuries this season and has only played in a few games this year. Zidane in the past improvised with Nacho Fernández as a right-back. Still, he will likely be needed as a central defender again to play alongside Éder Militão because of the absences of regular starters Ramos, who is injured, and Varane, who is recovering from the 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 clásico.

The injury for the 29-year-old Vázquez, who has played 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 champions trail leader Atlético Madrid by one point with eight games to go.

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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