Holders Real Madrid and city rivals Atletico Madrid emerged from Tuesday’s tempestuous 0-0 Champions League quarter-final draw knowing that Real left back Marcelo and Atletico midfielder Mario Suarez are out of next week’s return leg.
Each picked up a late booking in the clash at Atletico’s Calderon stadium, a repeat of last year’s final and the seventh time they have faced each other this term, that means they will be suspended for the second leg at the Bernabeu on April 22.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone has a much easier task to replace Mario by bringing in Tiago to play in the defensive midfield role alongside captain Gabi.
Marcelo’s absence, by contrast, will deprive Real of one of their most effective lines of attack and Simeone’s counterpart Carlo Ancelotti is likely to be forced to turn to the ageing Alvaro Arbeloa or the erratic Fabio Coentrao to fill in.
Marcelo, a dressing-room heavyweight at the club and an inspirational presence on the pitch, links up well with Cristiano Ronaldo down the left and can send over dangerous crosses for the likes of Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.
He is also adept at dashing inside towards the penalty area and slipping a killer pass through the defence to create a scoring chance for his team mates.
His defensive skills have improved in recent seasons, while Arbeloa and Coentrao are less likely to be able to thwart some of Atletico’s forward forays involving playmaker Arda Turan and right back Juanfran.
Real wasted a host of chances on Tuesday, especially in the first half when Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak pulled off a string of brilliant saves.
“We come away with a bittersweet taste in the mouth because we didn’t get a goal to take a lead into the return,” Real centre back Sergio Ramos told reporters.
“Madrid had control for practically the whole match, though the second half was trickier,” added the Spain international.
“We have to draw positive conclusions. It was a really taxing, intense match against opponents who always make things very difficult, and at a ground that’s always tough to go to.”
Real have not beaten Atletico for seven consecutive matches in all competitions, their worst run against their neighbours in the club’s history.