Pepe Set to Miss Rest of Real Madrid Season With Rib Injury

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Saturday's Madrid Derby may well prove to be Pepe's last appearance in a Real Madrid shirt.

The Portuguese defender sustained two broke ribs during the 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid, and with reports in Spain linking him with a big-money move to the Chinese Super League in the summer, his illustrious 13-year-long playing career with the Spanish outfit may well have come to an abrupt end. And at a crucial juncture in the season.

With the club's first LaLiga title in five-long years hanging in the balance, and an always-welcome European title up for grabs, the battle-hardened defensive stalwart is set to miss a helter-skelter end-of-season run-in, which includes a Bayern Munich double-header immediately preceding a kinda-must-win installment of El Clásico.

After breaking the deadlock against the Rojiblancos with a thumping header, the 34-year-old was forced off shortly afterwards following a nasty collision with the provider of his second goal of the season, Toni Kroos.

In a time-unspecific medical report, published on Saturday evening, Real Madrid acknowledged that "[Pepe] has been diagnosed with fractures to his 7th and 8th left ribs. His recovery will continue to be assessed."   

The loss of the 79-time capped Portugal international sees coach Zinedine Zidane's defensive reserves plunge to critical levels. With Raphael Varane already out of commission for at least another month, Zizou is down to just two center backs: Sergio Ramos and Nacho Fernandez.

Although playing a more minor role than in past years, Pepe's 13 appearances this season have coincided with the Real Madrid side of the scoreboard remaining static for every 91 minutes on average.    

Nacho has occupied the heart of the Merengue back-line alongside nailed-on-starter Ramos more than anyone else this term. Up until this point though, Zidane has shown a preference for Pepe over the Spaniard when it comes to the Champions League, most notably in Real Madrid's round of 16 encounters against Napoli.