109 Champions League quarter finalists threatened by FIFA virus
It's always the case. Clubs have a strong interest and often clash with the national sides when it comes to these games. FIFA can put UEFA in harm's way. This time harm's way comes perilously close to the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals, the first of which will take place on April 3rd.
Between the 22nd and the 28th of March, there will be hundreds of international friendlies taking place all around the world. It's a time in which the muscles and minds of the players from all continents will be tested in a different way. A total of 109 of these players will then be due to feature in the Champions League quarter finals almost immediately after the return to their clubs.
Statistically, it appears unlikely that every single one of them will make it back safely. With only a week to recover, even the most trivial of injuries could throw their participation in the first leg games into doubt.
Worries for Zidane
Real Madrid head the list of teams with the most players at risk. 19 of Zidane's players are away on international duty, while the Champions League is 'los Blancos' final shot at redemption after a disappointing season. The Frenchman will be understandably worried.
Sergio Ramos, Carvajal, Lucas, Isco, Asensio y Nacho, with Spain; Modric y Kovacic,with Croatia; Marcelo y Casemiro, called up by Brazil; Vallejo, Ceballos y Mayoral, with Spain U21s; Keylor Navas (Costa Rica), Varane (France), Kroos (Germany), Achraf (Morocco), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Bale (Wales). These are stars who are at risk of becoming stricken.
Barcelona are next on the list with 16 players off on duty. The LaLiga title is practically in the bag, but as well as a Champions League tie against Roma, they have the added complication of a Copa del Rey final with Sevilla on the horizon, April 21st.
Iniesta, Piqué y Jordi Alba are with Spain. Another three, Dembélé, Umtiti y Digne, with France. Brazil have called up Coutinho y Paulinho and the other national teams as thus: Rakitic (Croatia), Messi (Argentina), Luis Suárez (Uruguay), Vermaelen (Belgium), Ter Stegen (Germany), Yerry Mina (Colombia), André Gomes (Portugal) y Cillesen (Holland).
29 involved for City and Liverpool
15 of the players involved are part of Pep Guardiola's side, with a few of them playing against each other in the game between England and Argentina: Walker, Stones and Sterling against Aguero and Otamendi.
Belgium will be relying on Kompany and Kevin de Bruyne and there are a trio called up to Brazil: Ederson, Gabriel Jesus and Fernandinho. Two will be heading to Germany - Sane and Gundogan - while David Silva (Spain), Bernardo Silva (Portugal) and Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast) complete the list.
Liverpool are not far behind their opponents for the Champions League, as 14 of Jurgen Klopp's men have been called up. Naturally, it is England again who have to most call ups from the 'Reds' with four - Joe Gomez, Henderson, Lallana and Oxlade-Chamberlain - while Andy Robertson and Ben Woodburn will be with Scotland and Wales respectively.
Holland will take Van Dijk and Wijnaldum, while Firmino (Brazil), Can (Germany), Salah (Egypt), Mane (Senegal), Mignolet (Belgium) and Klavan (Estonia) will also be on Klopp's mind.
Juventus, patient zero
Juve didn't have to wait long before two of their players became afflicted: Alex Sandro went down with a muscular injury and Chiellini reported some problems. Both are now doubtful for the Madrid game and have had to return to Turin from their national sides, Italy and Brazil.
Ironically, Alex Sandro is one of the players who has, so far, played every minute in the Champions League this season, along with Cristiano Ronaldo, Escudero and Kolarov.
Juventus' complete list includes three Italians - Buffon, Rugani and De Sciglio - Higuain (Argentina), Matuidi (France), Khedira (Germany), Douglas Costa (Brazil), Pjanic (Bosnia Herzegovina), Betancur (Uruguay), Mandzukic (Croatia), Benatia (Morocco), Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) and Szczesny (Poland). 13 players spread across 11 different countries.
Neighbours, Roma, will not be able to rest either. Pellegrini and Florenzi are with the Italian national side while Fazio and Perotti will be with Argentina. Nainggolan (Belgium), Kolarov (Serbia), Schick (Czech Republic), Manolas (Greece), Ünder (Turkey), Alisson (Brazil), Dzeko (Bosnia Herzegovina), Strootman (Holland) and Skorupski (Poland) complete the list.
Sevilla can breathe
Bayern will say goodbye to 13 players along with both Italian teams, the vast majority of whom will go to 'Die Mannschaft' - the case of Boateng, Hummels, Kimmich, Muller, Rudy, Sule and Sandro Wagner. The others have some very differing journeys: Thiago (Spain), Tolisso (France), James Rodriguez (Colombia), Lewandowski (Poland), Vidal (Chile) and Alaba (Austria).
It is Sevilla who are the least affected by the break in proceedings, with 'only' six of their players leaving Andalusia. Two of them, Banega and Mercado, will be with Argentina. Muriel (Colombia), Kjaer (Denmark), Ben Yedder (France) and Layun (Mexico) are the others.