Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are ready to return to action for the La Liga game against Villarreal on Wednesday night (21 September) after the duo missed the weekend victory over Espanyol. However, Pepe and Casemiro have been left out of the 19-man squad due to injury, along with long-term absentees Keylor Navas and Fabio Coentrao. Luka Modric and Mariano will also miss the midweek encounter, as the French boss continues the rotation of his squad.
Los Blancos host the Yellow Submarine on Wednesday as the La Liga leaders look to continue their 100% start to the season, three points clear of Barcelona and Las Palmas after four matches.
Zizou has been forced to deal with some major absences in the opening games of the campaign, with all members of his 'BBC' attacking trio – Ronaldo, Bale and Karim Benzema – missing matches with various injury concerns.
Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio led the attacking line, along with Benzema ,in the 2-0 victory over Espanyol on Sunday night after Ronaldo and Bale were ruled out due to illness and injury respectively. The Frenchman scored the second goal of the game following James Rodriguez's opener.
Zidane has now said that rotations are going to be common this season even if everyone is fit. Ronaldo and Bale are expected to return to his starting line-up for the visit of Villarreal, meaning the likes of Vazquez and Asensio could return to the bench.
"They're good. They've trained normally and both of them are 100%," Zidane said in a press conference when asked about Ronaldo and Bale. "We know that it will be another difficult game. We are playing against a side that has not lost yet, they've got very good players. We've not had a lot of time to prepare for the game because we are playing every three days, at the moment it's not important to train, the important thing is to prepare for the games looking at what we want to do. We are ready and we'll see what happens tomorrow".
The rotation policy even stretches to the midfielders. Accordingly, Modric has been left out of the squad to face Villarreal along with Mariano, as Real Madrid have an important trip to Las Palmas at the weekend. Casemiro and Pepe will also miss the game due to injuries.
The Brazilian was forced off in the 19th minute of the victory over Espanyol after he sustained a knock, while Pepe suffered a bruised in his right knee during the game, despite completing the whole 90 minutes. Raphael Varane or Nacho are expected to feature in the heart of defence alongside Sergio Ramos.
"Pepe felt something from the Espanyol game. As he's not right he will rest because we have another game on Saturday. My idea is that the four centre backs all play. We can also use Nacho as a full back. We're happy with the four of them," Zidane confirmed.
Zidane also revealed that the game against the Yellow Submarine will come too early for Navas and Coentrao, with the duo are yet to play a single minute this season due to long-term injuries.
"He's coming along well and improving every day," the boss replied when asked to set a return for Navas. "Every day he's closer. I can't give you a date. He's had a great training session today. It depends on the doctors and how he feels. I don't know when it will be. He's almost ready to be with us".
Meanwhile, speaking about Coentrao, he added: "We have to be patient and take our time. He's happy because he's returned with us and we'll see when he's ready to be called up for the squad."