Real Madrid’s players will return from their respective international duty for 2014 World Cup Qualifiers. Things have gone well for some, but on an overall scale, things have become terrible for Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid with a very depleted looking squad now.

Spain win against Belarus and draw v France
Spain won their first World Cup qualifier with a 4-0 win versus Belarus in Minsk. Iker Casillas, Alvaro Arbeloa, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos started the game. First three played full ninety minutes while Ramos was substituted in the 70th minute by Raul Albiol. Ramos was supposedly substituted because of an injury but he was able to recover for the next game. With this clean sheet, Casillas set a new record of minutes without conceding a goal to 727 minutes.

Spain’s second qualifier proved to be a tougher task with France visiting Vicente Calderon in Madrid. It finished 1-1 with France’s Olivier Giroud scoring in the last minute to end Spain’s 24 match unbeaten run in qualifiers of World Cup and European Championship and Iker’s clean sheet record as well. Casillas, Alonso, Arbeloa and Ramos started for the Spaniards. Ramos scored in the 25th minute to give Spain the lead. Things turned sour, as far as Real Madrid are concerned, in the 50th minute when Arbeloa was replaced by Juanfran due to a hamstring injury. He will be out for two-three weeks.

France lose to Japan and draw v Spain
France faced Japan in a friendly which ended 1-0 in favour of Japan. Karim Benzema started and played 46 minutes before being substituted, in what was a game to experiment for France manager Didier Deschamps.

Benzema started versus Spain and played 88 minutes. He was replaced by Olivier Giroud who eventually scored for France in the 94th minute. He took a knock to his knee but it doesn’t look like disconcerting.

Germany thump Ireland in Dublin and give up lead against Swedes
Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira started in Germany’s 6-1 rout of Republic of Ireland in Dublin. Ozil scored from the penalty spot and played the full 90 minutes. Khedira played till half time before being substituted due to a hamstring injury.

Germany conceded their four goal advantage to draw versus the Swedes. It finished 4-4 in Berlin in an astounding game. Mesut Ozil played the full 90 minutes and scored the fourth goal for Germany. In the process he has 5 goals and 5 assists for Germany in his last four games. Khedira wasn’t even on the bench for Germany.

Portugal lose to Russia and draw v Northern Ireland
Portugal had a difficult few days with a loss to Russia and then a draw against Northern Ireland. In the process making Bento’s job difficult in their hopes of easy progress for 2014 World Cup. Pepe, Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio Coentrao start for Portugal against Russia but Coentrao was subbed off in the 20th minute due to an injury. Pepe and Cristiano played the full 90 minutes.

Against Northern Ireland it finished 1-1 with Cristiano Ronaldo getting his 100th cap for Portugal. He, thus, became the third youngest player in Europe to reach that milestone. Both Cristiano and Pepe started and played full 90 minutes.

Croatia win against Macedonia and Wales
Luka Modric started in both games for Croatia against Macedonia and Wales. He played 84 minutes in the first game which finished 2-1 in favour of the Croats. In the second game, at home, Modric played the full 90 minutes and helped the team win 2-0 against Wales.

Brazil thrash Iraq and Japan
With Brazil being the hosts of the next World Cup, they could afford to relax for a bit and get their tactics right by playing friendlies. They first took on Iraq in Sweden and beat them 6-0 with Kaka also on the scoresheet. This was Kaka’s return to the lineup after more than two years.

Later in training Marcelo picked up an injury which was so bad he couldn’t even walk to the bench to get some medical help. Later it was revealed he had a fracture in his fifth metatarsal of his right foot needing an operation. He will be operated on Friday in Amsterdam. With FIFA’s compensation scheme for injured players, Real Madrid are likely to earn 574,000 euros for having Marcelo out.

Brazil continued their winning run by defeating Japan 4-0. Kaka was again on the scoresheet courtesy a David Luiz assist. Kaka was later subbed off in the 82nd minute.

Argentina win over Uruguay and Chile
Argentina had an easy time in their South American qualification rounds against Uruguay and Chile. The first game ended a rather comfortable 3-0 for Argentina over Copa America champions – Uruguay. Gonzalo Higuain and Angel di Maria started the game and Higuain was substituted in the 82nd minute. Di Maria went on to play the full 90 minutes and provided two assists in the process.

In the second game, Argentina won 2-1 with Higuain scoring the second goal for La Albicelestes. Both Higuain and Di Maria had started the game. Higuain was subbed off in the 59th minute with an injury which required him to be taken off on the stretcher. He later shrugged it off. Di Maria was subbed off in the 78th minute.

France U21 fail to qualify for U21 Euros in 2013
In the second round playoffs for U21 Euro Championship in Israel in 2013, France were pitted with Norway in a two legged tie. The first one finished 1-0 for France with Raphael Varane playing full 90 minutes and scoring the only goal of the game.

In the return leg, Norway smashed France U21 5-3 and take the tie 5-4 on aggregate. Varane played full 90 minutes in the second leg as well.

Spain U21 qualify for U21 Euros in 2013
Spain U21 won 8-1 on aggregate against Denmark U21 with strong 5-0 and 3-1 wins in both legs. Nacho Fernandes was an unused substitute for Spain in the first leg. Earlier Jese Rodriguez was called up for Atletico Madrid’s Juanfran but Jese was then replaced by Alvaro Morata.

Nacho and Morata were on the bench for Spain in the second leg but didn’t feature in the game.

Russia U21 qualify for U21 Euros in 2013
Russia U21 and Denis Cheryshev qualified for the tournament with a 4-2 win on aggregate. Denis started the first leg which finished 2-0 in favour of the Russians. He played full 90 minutes in the process.

Denis played full 90 minutes in the second leg as well.

Injury status
The hardest hit is our defence with no regular fullbacks available. Higuain and Benzema picked up slight injuries but look like they would be fit in time for weekend clash against Celta Vigo.

Arbeloa will be out for two-three weeks.

Khedira played 45 minutes in the first game and wasn’t even called for the second game suggesting his injury is pretty serious too. Hopefully, omission from the second match helped him relax and be fit for next week’s Champions League tie against Borussia Dortmund in Germany.

Marcelo and Coentrao are the biggest worries. Both left backs pick up long term injuries on the same international break thus proving Murphy’s Law right! Marcelo is out for between two and three months while Coentrao is out for two months.

A big question remains over what should our defensive strategy be for Celta Vigo and then Borussia Dortmund. With Arbeloa, Marcelo and Coentrao definitely out for the near future, should we call up Nacho and Casado from Castilla or play three in defense or make first team squad members play out of their preferred position? Suggestions?