Zidane confirms Cristiano Ronaldo will start against Valencia. Getty


  • Los Blancos have big chance to increase their gap over Barcelona at top of La Liga.
  • Sergio Ramos, Keylor Navas, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema return to Zidane's 19-man squad.
  • Danilo, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, Marco Asensio and Mariano all miss out.

Sergio Ramos, Keylor Navas, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema are ready to return to action when Real Madrid visit Valencia on Wednesday night (22 February) after the quartet missed the weekend win over Espanyol. Meanwhile, Zinedine Zidane has confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo will start at Mestalla, but refused to reveal whether Gareth Bale will partner the Portugal international in attack following his recent return to action.

Real Madrid visit Los Che with the chance to increase their margin over Barcelona to four points. Zidane's side still have two games in hand and the encounter with Valencia corresponds to match week 16, which was postponed due to their partition in the Club World Cup.

"We know the importance of the Valencia game in terms of the league. We're up against a team that is playing much better lately and getting good results. Winning would mean having three more points, but we're going to have to work hard for it," the Real Madrid boss said in the press conference ahead of the trip to Valencia.

"We'll come up against a good team at a difficult ground. Valencia weren't getting the results before but they are now. My message is always the same. We know the league is difficult. It's February and we're doing OK now, but that doesn't mean anything. Only ourselves and Valencia are playing and it's an opportunity for us to pick up more points, we know the importance of this result on the rest of the league."

Zidane rested Navas, Modric and Benzema against Espanyol with an eye on having them fresh for the trip to Mestalla, while Ramos was unavailable to due to a minor hip injury.

The French boss has confirmed that he will make further rotations at Valencia as the La Liga leaders have another tough excursion to Villarreal on Sunday. However, the quartet are expected to be back in his line-up after having been included in the 19-man travelling squad.

"We are going to rotate players and the games will dictate who we rotate," Zidane confirmed. "I don't rotate players just for the sake of it but because they are all important and because I truly believe that every player can make a difference. This is what I believe and I transmit it to the players. I'm encouraged by what we're doing now and so are the players".

Ronaldo played against Espanyol and will also have a place in Zidane's XI at Valencia, despite the Portugal international being unable to train with the rest of his teammates on Monday.

"There'll be games when we rest him, but for now he's fine and we'll see later. I'm sure he's going to play tomorrow," Zidane added, before discussing where the Ballon d'Or sees his role tactically. "He's played all his life on the wing. That's his position and of course he'll score goals in that position. He can play in other positions because he's phenomenal, but his favourite position and where he scores so many goals from is there."

Bale, meanwhile, returned during the weekend win over Espanyol, coming on in the second half following a three-month spell on the sidelines. However, Zidane refused to confirm whether he is 100% fit to start against Valencia, despite the Welshman scoring the second goal of the game.

"He's good and happy. Physically he's strong and we'll see if he'll play tomorrow from the start or not," Zidane said when asked about the former Tottenham star.

Elsewhere, Danilo is the only player who remain in the treatment room having already missed the last two games. Zidane has also been forced to leave Pepe, Mariano, Fabio Coentrao and Marco Asensio out to make his 19-man squad.