Real Madrid will welcome back defender Raphael Varane for the semi-final encounter against Atletico Madrid.

Another year, and another Madrid derby to look forward to in the UEFA Champions League. Two of the last three finals have been contested between these cross-town rivals, with Real ending up as victors on both occasions.

For one of them, it will be the third Champions League final in four years, while for the other, an unceremonious swansong. With the first leg set to be played at the Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid start the tie as favourites.

They have received a positive injury update as Raphael Varane is fit and raring to go against Atletico Madrid. Los Blancos have missed the player’s  services for several weeks – bar the solitary appearance against Deportivo – but he is back to full fitness, and primed to retain the elusive Champions League.

However, Portuguese centre-back Pepe continues to be ruled out through a rib injury, meaning Varane should start ahead of Nacho at the heart of defence, alongside club captain Sergio Ramos.

Portugal's defender Pepe (L) comforts Wales' forward Gareth Bale at the end of the Euro 2016 semi-final football match between Portugal and Wales at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais stadium in Décines-Charpieu, near Lyon, on July 6, 2016. / AFP / Francisco LEONG (Photo credit should read FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images)
Pepe and Bale are both ruled out of the first leg, and it will be massive blow for manager Zinedine Zidane. (Photo credit should read FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images)

Speaking to the press ahead of the game, Real Madrid head coach said: “He [Varane] is feeling well and fully recovered. Pepe is still missing. The other three centre backs are all in very good condition. I’m happy to have all three available for this final stretch. We’ve had several games with only two centre backs available and it’s better to have three.”

Zidane will also be without star attacker Gareth Bale, who once again picked up an injury, in what has been a tumultuous campaign for him. Isco is expected to start in his stead, and play alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

Atletico, on the other hand, have massive injury woes as they are bereft of the services of three key defenders. A mainstay in the back four Juanfran has been unavailable since the middle of February, and is yet to recover, three months on.

They will also be without key central defender Jose Gimenez, who was proving to be a quality replacement for the injured Juanfran. However, he picked up an injury against Las Palmas, and will sit this one out. Sime Vrsaljko is also a guaranteed absentee.

This could see manager Diego Simeone play Stefan Savic in an unaccustomed right-back position, while deploying Lucas Hernandez centrally, alongside Diego Godin at the heart of the Atletico defence.

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