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SPORTS

Hazard, Asensio back for Real return against Eibar, says Zidane

FOOTBALL By Reuters | June 13th 2020
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Real Madrid v Eibar - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - April 6, 2019 Real Madrid's Marco Asensio in action during the match REUTERS

Real Madrid’s joint-record signing Eden Hazard and Spain international Marco Asensio are both fit for the team’s first La Liga match in over three months against visitors Eibar on Sunday, coach Zinedine Zidane has said.

Hazard injured his ankle for the second time this season in February and was expected to miss the rest of the campaign after surgery but the competition being halted by the COVID-19 pandemic gave him extra time to recover.

Asensio meanwhile had missed the entire campaign since rupturing knee ligaments in pre-season and has also benefitted from the long pause in action.

“The good news is that they both have had time to prepare like all the other players, Asensio is training normally, so is Hazard, they are both available and that’s great news for us,” Zidane told a virtual news conference on Saturday.

Zidane’s side are involved in one of the closest-run La Liga title races in recent memory, trailing leaders Barcelona by two points with 11 games to go as they look to overhaul the Catalans to win their first league crown since 2017.

The match with Eibar will also be Real’s first La Liga game at the 6,000 capacity Alfredo di Stefano stadium, where they have chosen to play their final home fixtures of the campaign in order to accelerate renovation works to the Santiago Bernabeu.

That decision was taken because the games were expected to be played behind closed doors and, while fans may now be able to return from June 29, Zidane said the team would still complete the campaign in the tiny stadium at their training ground.

“The Di Stefano is our stadium until the end of the season and we’re delighted to be playing there. The pitch is the same size, we’ve trained there and we’re ready to play there,” he added.

“I don’t like playing without fans but that’s the situation we’re in and we’ll adapt to it. But no-one can take away our excitement about playing and we’ll make just as big an effort on the pitch.”

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