Below-par Real Madrid held by Betis with Chelsea test to come


Madrid (AFP) – Real Madrid handed the initiative back to Atletico Madrid in La Liga on Saturday by drawing at home to Real Betis, a result that raises doubts about the team’s condition ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League game against Chelsea. 

Eden Hazard was thrown on for the last 15 minutes of the 0-0 draw at Valdebebas in what was just the Belgian’s second appearance in three months but Madrid could not find a way through. 

Atletico are now two points clear at the top of La Liga and can extend that advantage to five by winning away at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday. Barcelona could pull level on points with Real Madrid if they overcome Villarreal. 

Real Madrid struggled for chances and the concern will be that injuries and fatigue are catching up with Zinedine Zidane’s side at a crucial moment in the season. 

They play Chelsea at home on Tuesday in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals and it is unlikely that any of Toni Kroos, Sergio Ramos, Ferland Mendy, Fede Valverde or Lucas Vazquez, all absent due to injury, will be able to start.

Hazard could feature against his former club after coming on for the final quarter of an hour but the fact Zidane waited so long to introduce him suggests he is still not considered match fit, having now played 30 minutes since the end of January. 

After an impressive few weeks in which Real Madrid knocked Liverpool out of the Champions League and became favourites to overhaul Atletico in La Liga, Zidane’s team have now been held to three draws in their last four matches, all of them without scoring a goal. 

Neither team had much success in the first half but the game opened up in the second as the rain poured down and the ball began to skid across the turf. 

Rodrygo struck the bar, his overhit cross almost flying in, before Betis had three chances in 10 minutes, the best of them falling to Borja Iglesias but he hesitated and Dani Carvajal intervened. 

Madrid, though, came again as Luka Modric’s bending effort was saved before Marcelo found space in the box but skewed his finish wide of the post. 

Marcelo and Alvaro Odriozola had come on, with Zidane deploying wing-backs to find a winner, and then Hazard was introduced with 15 minutes left. 

Hazard weaved inside and picked out Vinicius Junior but Vinicius slipped with the goal in sight. Madrid had to settle for a point. 

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