Real Madrid travel to Italy tomorrow evening to face Atalanta in the last 16 first leg of the Champions League. Los Blancos won their group in the previous phase of the competition, finishing two points clear of both Borussia Monchengladbach and Shakhtar Donetsk and four points clear of Inter.
Madrid’s form has improved after a shaky start to the season. They’ve won four straight in La Liga and now sit on the shoulder of league leaders Atletico Madrid, just three points behind.
Atalanta sit fifth in Serie A, ten points off league leaders Inter. They came through a Champions League group including Liverpool, Ajax and Midtjylland, finishing two points behind Liverpool, four clear of Ajax and nine clear of Midtjylland.
Madrid are, however, coming into the game with a spate of injuries. They’ll be without key men including Karim Benzema, Eden Hazard and their inspirational captain Sergio Ramos, to name a few. They’re short nine senior players in total.
“I’m not the right person to answer this,” Toni Kroos said when asked about Madrid’s spate of injuries in pre-game comments carried by Marca. “I’m almost never injured and I don’t know what injured players do. I don’t know what they do at home, how they do their rehabilitation. I’m not in their bodies. I know what I do, but I don’t know what happens with them. It bothers us to have so many injuries, of course.”
Kroos was evasive when asked about whether he’d like Madrid to sign Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland this coming summer. “They’re both very good and can help any team,” he said. “The problem is that tomorrow they won’t help me, I’m focused on my game. That’s not my topic, but a question for Florentino [Perez].”
The Germain midfielder was clear about what he and his teammates needed to do on Wednesday evening. Win. “It’s a final for us,” he said. “We know it’s a difficult game and not only because of our injuries. They’re strong rival and know how to play. We have to control the game and dominate the ball. We have to do something offensively, but also defend well.”