Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has confirmed he will not risk Cristiano Ronaldo for the Liga game with Rayo Vallecano on Saturday (23 April), but hopes to have the Portuguese star available for the Champions League semi-final first leg with Manchester City. The French boss has also left Casemiro out of his 18-man squad – alongside the injured Dani Carvajal – but Gareth Bale is ready to return after the Welshman overcame a muscular strain that saw him miss the win over Villarreal. Pepe, meanwhile, also returns to the list after the centre-back was rested against the Yellow Submarine.
Los Blancos face another massive test in their hopes to win La Liga after having won their last eight games to close the gap with leaders Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the top of the table to just one point, with only four games left. Yet, the French boss is expected to rest some key players as the visit to Rayo will come only three days before their trip to Manchester City. He has thus left Casemiro out of his 18-man squad along injured duo Cristiano Ronaldo and Dani Carvajal, while it is still uncertain whether Bale will be in the starting line-up.
The boss said Ronaldo wanted to play the game despite his injury, but Zidane has decided to avoid any risk, hoping to get him back for the visit to the Etihad Stadium.
"He won't be with us tomorrow. He's had an ultrasound and an MRI scan. It's nothing serious, but he's got a strain and he can't play tomorrow. We'll monitor it in the coming days. He always wants to play. If you play him tomorrow, it could work out, but he's staying at home and we'll see on Tuesday," the Real Madrid boss said in a press conference.
"From time to time you need to rest, but to have a player who always wants to play, help the team, and want more... it's fantastic for a manager. There's a lot of good to come from this knock. He knows he can't play tomorrow, even if he wants to. He is focused on Tuesday's match. Even if tomorrow was a final, I don't think he'd play, it'd be a big risk".
Zidane insisted CR7 remains untouchable amid suggestions claiming that Zidane should rest him more over the course of the season in order to avoid these kind of injuries ahead of the crucial last weeks of the campaign.
"[He is] untouchable because of what his numbers show. He deserves to be untouchable. We need to be talking to the players contasntly, considering that sometimes a player needs a rest. He gets a rest when he doesn't play, and he does it brilliantly, perfect."
Meanwhile, the Real Madrid coach confirmed Bale has recovered from the muscular strain he suffered against Getafe, but refusing to confirm whether the former Tottenham star is ready to play the full 90 minutes.
Zidane said: "Bale is fine, he's better, and training well. He looks fully recovered. The plan is to have him available and we'll see tomorrow."
Real Madrid humiliated Rayo earlier this season with a 10-2 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu. Zidane, however, refused to take anything for granted as their rivals are in desperate need of a positive result from the game to avoid relegation, sitting just three points off the drop zone having taken seven points from their last four games.
"It's a difficult game, on a small pitch," Zidane claimed. "We're up against a team who know how to play, who like to play, and put you under a lot of pressure at home. We know what it's like and it's going to be another very difficult game, especially early on. We're focussed, we're going into it well, on a good run of form. We have to keep thinking that they are three important points and we're going to work and fight".
"We don't have a worse run-in. They are difficult games, three away and one at home. At home, we've got Valencia, who are a good team and are playing very well. There are four games and we know what we have to do to have any chance. We will try and win our four remaining games to give ourselves that hope".
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