Madrid: Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho faces a defensive crisis for his side`s first league match of 2013 with the news that Portuguese central defender Pepe will be out of action for a month.
Pepe will undergo an operation on his right ankle Thursday in a bid to put an end to the problems which have pursued him in recent weeks.
Although he would have missed this weekend`s game against Real Sociedad anyway due to suspension, the injury could not have come at a worse time as his usual defensive partner, Sergio Ramos is also suspended, while Raul Albiol, who would have been a natural substitute, is injured along with left backs Marcelo and Fabio Coentrao.
The absences mean Mourinho will be forced to give a first start this season to veteran Ricardo Carvalho, who will probably partner youngster Rafael Varane, with B-team defender Nacho at left back.
Pepe will have his operation in the Portuguese city of Porto and the club`s main aim is to have him available for their vital Champions League clash with Manchester United in February.
Meanwhile Sunday`s game at home to Real Sociedad will be the first time Real Madrid have appeared in front of their fans since ending 2012 with a 2-3 defeat in Malaga.
That result leaves Jose Mourinho`s side 16 points behind FC Barcelona in the race for the Spanish Primera Liga title, but the standout point of that game was Mourinho`s decision to leave Spain international goalkeeper Iker Casillas on the subs` bench in favour of Antonio Adan.
The decision caused shock among fans and press and has been interpreted as the latest move in the continued breakdown in relations between Mourinho and the Spanish players at the club, although speaking to the press on New Year` s Day, Casillas played down any controversy limiting himself to saying he would do his best to win back his place in the side, something which appears likely at the weekend.
I was very emotional on the podium and I broke down into tears because this was my first Asian Games after missing the two previous Asian Games, partly because of a doping allegation in 2006 when I was innocent.