Cristiano Ronaldo is set to miss Real Madrid's crucial trip to Eibar on Saturday (4 March) alongside the suspended duo of Gareth Bale and Alvaro Morata. The news is a major blow for Los Blancos as Barcelona moved to the top of the table on Wednesday (1 March), following Zinedine Zidane's side surprising 3-3 draw against Las Palmas.
The Ballon d'O winner also scored a late brace in that game to save a point for Los Blancos - helping them to come back from 3-1 down, despite playing with 10-men during much of the second half following Bale's dismissal.
However, the 32-year-old Ronaldo missed the team's recent workout due to a fitness problem and will be unavailable to help Real Madrid when they visit the seventh place of La Liga on Saturday.
"He wasn't feeling 100% and that is why he did not train today. All of the game are important, but the key thing is that the players do well, so now we have to see what we're going to do with Cristiano," manager Zinedine Zidane had said in the press conference ahead of the game before deciding to leave him out of his 19-man squad to face Eibar.
The news is a particular setback for Real Madrid in their intense battle with Barcelona for the La Liga title, but also a concern for the Champions League, as the trip to Eibar will come only three days before the second leg of the last 16 at Napoli.
Bale, Morata, Raphael Varane and Fabio Coentrao won't travel to Eibar either because of different issues. The former Tottenham star was sent off against Las Palmas for shoving Jonathan Viera shortly after half-time while Morata saw his fifth yellow card of the season during the game. Meanwhile, the France centre-back remains on the sidelines after having already missed the last two games due to a hamstring injury.
Karim Benzema is thus expected to recover his place in the attack against Eibar while the likes of James Rodriguez and Lucas Vazquez also have a chance to return to the line-up to cope with the big absences of Ronaldo and Bale.
Meanwhile, Modric and Casemiro should also start after being rested against Las Palmas. Zidane, in this sense, insisted that he has full faith in all the members of his squad and will keep rotating his players despite the recent bad run.
"I have 24 players and my message has always been the same since I arrived: everyone is important. I am not going to change. I have to make decisions and some players will be left out and others on the bench," the Real Madrid boss said. He believes that the rotations will be key to keep battling with Barcelona for the La Liga title until the end of the season.
"If we want to win La Liga we cannot drop points, playing every three days we will need to rotate. I am not going to disregard anyone, I am satisfied with all of my players, whatever happens between now and the end."