In one foul swoop, Real Madrid lost 34 per cent of their goals last week as Karim Benzema became the latest player to pick up an injury - another body in an already crowded treatment room.
For the trip to Bergamo for their last-16 first-leg clash with Atalanta, Zinedine Zidane could only bring 11 fit senior players along for the ride. What’s more, that squad has just 23 senior goals between them in all competitions this season.
In the past, it is moments like this where you underestimate Real Madrid at your peril. Real Madrid are going to Real Madrid, nick a win here, a last-gasp penalty there. But against a fearless, free-scoring Atalanta, more than one goal may be needed just to stay in the tie.
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Even after losing inspirational skipper Papu Gomez to Sevilla, Atalanta have not lost any of their dynamism in attacking areas. Only league leaders Inter Milan have scored more than the 53 Serie A goals Atalanta have plundered this season.
With nothing to lose, they are likely to stick to their tried and trusted attack-minded game plan against Real who, without the injured Sergio Ramos, won’t be quite as resolute.
The problem, should Atalanta grab that first goal, is just where Real’s goals are going to come from in response. With Benzema becoming the ninth senior player to be ruled out of the Atalanta trip, just who could dig them out of a hole with a goal?
After Benzema’s 12 goals in all competitions, the next highest goalscorer in the Real ranks is defensive midfielder Casemiro, with just six strikes in all competitions.
They have, as Real do, scraped by in recent weeks, winning their last four games despite their injury woes. Last weekend’s laboured 1-0 win at Real Valladolid came about thanks to a goal from the unusually prolific Casemiro.
Mariano will start as the focal point up front in Benzema’s absence, but he is well short of match practice, Marco Asensio has two goals from 30 appearances, as does Lucas Vazquez from 24 games while Vinicius has not scored, in any competition, since October. And that is pretty much it.
Injuries have made a fading force even less of a daunting prospect. Real have not got past the Champions League last 16 since winning the competition for a third time in a row in 2018, going out to Ajax in 2019 and Manchester City last year.
Zidane returned to the club on the back of his former glories, in the hope he can steer Los Blancos to the summit of European football once more. Now, especially up front, he simply does not have the tools at his disposal to do so.
Zidane likened Gian Piero Gasperini's Atalanta side to the Ajax team that took the Champions League by storm two years ago, saying they were "a very attacking team, physically strong and who do many things well".
By taking the game to Real, Atalanta may just have too much for Europe’s most decorated team. Possessing something as simple as in-form strikers, who can score goals, they could edge it. Real often find a way, but this time, with options so depleted, they could be in for a very difficult night indeed.
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