Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane is set to rest Cristiano Ronaldo for the first leg of the Copa del Rey last 16 match with Sevilla on Wednesday (4 January), even though long-term absentee Gareth Bale remains sidelined. Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Lucas Vazquez and Mateo Kovacic have also failed to make the 19-man squad as the quartet continue their recoveries from respective injuries.
The Champions League winners host Sevilla in their first game of 2017 following La Liga's Christmas break.
Real Madrid beat Jorge Sampaoli's side earlier in the season in the European Super Cup, but Zidane has warned that he expects much bigger challenge this time out. The Europa League titleholders are one of the revelations of the season, sitting third in La Liga ahead of Villarreal, Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid.
"It's completely different. We won that game but that doesn't mean we'll win the game tomorrow. We have to prepare well for the game and we want tomorrow's match to start now," Zidane said in a press conference ahead of the game. "They are competitive opponents, very good and full of confidence. It's going to be a tricky match for us and I hope it will be for them as well. It's going to be a good match and we want to be ready to compete.
"After six months it's good to have some rest. Spending a week with the family is a good thing. We have had a week to work and that is important. We are not going to stop working, but it will be difficult to have a week like this because we're about to start having matches every three days. We will have 20 games in 70 days, but that's what the players like".
The boss has decided to leave Ronaldo out of his Real Madrid squad in order to have him fresh for the La Liga encounter with Granada on Saturday.
Zidane will have to reshape his attack as Bale and Vazquez are both unavailable to face Sampaoli's side. The former Tottenham Hotspur star underwentankle surgery later in November, while the Spaniard suffered a muscular injury during the Club World Cup final win over Kashima Antlers on 18 December.
The Copa del Rey first leg with Sevilla also comes too early for Sergio Ramos and Pepe, as the two centre-backs have struggled with injury in recent weeks. Zidane suggests that Ramos may return to action in time for the La Liga clash with Granada but Pepe could be set for a longer spell on the sidelines after the club revealed he had suffered a recurrence of his problems, being diagnosed with a grade 2 injury to the inner calf muscle of his left leg.
"When you play a final you take a risk. Before the game I thought [Ramos] could play and he played almost all of it. He's now recovered and in good shape. He is not with us yet because he has a bit little left to do, but he's much better and will be with the team soon," Zidane said when asked about his captain.
Raphael Varane and Nacho are expected to lead the back-line against Sevilla, while midfielder Kovacic will also be missing after sustaining an ankle injury during the Club World Cup.
However, Real Madrid boss have plenty of options in midfield as all of Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Isco, James Rodriguez and Marco Asensio have made the 19-man squad. Furthermore, Zidane has promoted young Martin Odegaard from the second team to complete the squad.