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La Liga 2016-17: Mateo Kovacic and Alvaro Morata doubtful for Madrid derby after suffering knocks in World Cup qualifiers

Sumedh Pande
11.06K   //    13 Nov 2016, 20:36 IST
OSIJEK, CROATIA - MARCH 23: Mateo Kovacic of Croatia smiles during the International Friendly match between Croatia and Israel at stadium Gradski Vrt on March 23, 2016 in Osijek, Croatia. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
Mateo Kovacic faces a race against time to be fit for the Madrid Derby

November 19 will see two rivals take center stage in La Liga as Real Madrid face Atletico Madrid in the first Madrid derby of this season. Real are currently top of the pile in Spain with a six-point lead over Atletico who are currently in fifth place after starting the current campaign with a string of disappointing draws.

Los Blancos are currently thin in their midfield department as most of their players are nursing injuries with Mateo Kovacic returning to Bernabeu yesterday. It has also been confirmed that Alvaro Morata has suffered a knock during Spain’s clash with Macedonia.

Kovacic had suffered a knock in Real's last league game against Leganes but decided to join his national team. The 22-year-old started in Croatia's World Cup qualifier against Iceland but was taken off at halftime by head coach Ante Cacic. In his place came Luka Modric who himself has just returned after a spell on the sidelines with a knee injury.

Both Modric and Kovacic have been sent back to the Bernabeu as manager Zinedine Zidane will be glad to hear that the doctors in the Croatian camp believe that the latter might still be fine to face Los Rojiblancos. Madrid will be thankful to Croatia manager Cacic who decided to send the duo back to their club to be in the best condition possible and be ready for the Madrid derby which will see them miss Croatia's friendly against Northern Ireland on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Alvaro Morata started for Spain in their qualifier against Macedonia and was unlucky not to score as he impressed for Jules Lopetegui's side. He was subbed off in the 59th minute for Athletic Bilbao's Aritz Aduriz. Spain's four goals came via an own goal from Darko Velkovski, along with goals from Vitolo, Nacho Monreal and Aduriz.

Real Madrid will be hoping to win their first game in the last four attempts against rivals Atletico as manager Zidane is yet to beat Diego Simeone in the league.

Real Madrid legend Ivan Helguera has predicted that Los Blancos will win this season's derby as he said, "It is a very special game. Atletico are one of the most uncomfortable opponents but you know it is very important for the fans to win. I remember a lot of tension in the lead up to the game. I think Real will win this time, they have a good side and are doing well in the league."

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Sumedh Pande
An avid Premier League watcher with specialization in transfer news and post match analysis. Follow European and Indian football with minute attention with one eye on the world of cricket.
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