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Real Madrid facing defensive crisis ahead of Liverpool, Barcelona games

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Real Madrid have major problems in defence ahead of their Champions League quarterfinal tie with Liverpool -- and their El Clasico clash with Barcelona in La Liga -- after Raphael Varane tested positive for the coronavirus.

"Real Madrid C. F. informs that our player Raphael Varane tested positive in the COVID-19 test he underwent this morning," the club said in a brief statement on Tuesday.

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It leaves Madrid without their first-choice defensive partnership of Varane and Sergio Ramos, who was injured on international duty with Spain last week, for a week that could define their season.

Real Madrid host Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League tie at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium on Tuesday night, before playing Barcelona on Saturday evening, and then travelling to Anfield for the Champions League return leg next Wednesday.

The news comes days after club captain Ramos was ruled out of the same fixtures after he was diagnosed with a calf muscle problem on April 1.

Ramos was hurt after coming on as an 86th-minute substitute for Spain in their 3-1 World Cup qualifying win over Kosovo.

Varane's positive test leaves the veteran Nacho Fernandez, 31, and Eder Militao, 23, as Madrid's only fit senior centre backs.

Zinedine Zidane's team are also without first-choice right-back Dani Carvajal, while Eden Hazard is back in training after his latest injury setback but not yet ready to play.

Six Real Madrid first-team players -- Varane, Militao, Hazard, Nacho, Casemiro and Luka Jovic -- have now tested positive for COVID-19 this season, as well as Zidane.

Madrid are third in La Liga, two points behind Barcelona and three behind leaders Atletico, with nine games left to play.