Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane confirmed Cristiano Ronaldo will miss his side’s visit to Rayo Vallecano on Saturday to ensure he will be fit for their Champions League semi-final, first leg at Manchester City on Tuesday.
The club confirmed on Friday that Ronaldo suffered a thigh strain as he hobbled off towards the end of Real’s 3-0 win over Villarreal on Wednesday.
However, Zidane admitted that he has had to convince the three-time World Player of the Year — who has been an ever-present for Madrid in the league this season — to sit out the trip to Vallecas.
“He won’t play against Rayo. He’ll stay at home and we’ll see for the next game,” Zidane said on Friday.
“He wanted to play tomorrow, but he knows that it isn’t possible. We’ve had to put the brakes on him and he knows his mind has to be on City.”
Zidane admitted after the Villarreal game that he regretted not having rested Ronaldo more in his first few months in charge.
However, he appeared to backtrack on those comments as he rejected suggestions Ronaldo’s injury was caused by fatigue.
“I don’t think he is shattered at the end of the season, I think he is in good shape and it is an anecdote that in one move this type of thing can happen.
“For a coach it is great to have someone who always wants to play. I think about the positives of what Cristiano can always offer the team.”
And Zidane rejected recent comments by Spain coach Vicente del Bosque that coaches are now slaves to the demands of star players.
“He is untouchable because he shows with his numbers that he deserves to be untouchable.
“I don’t share (that opinion), what we have to do is always talk with the players and think that at times they need a rest.”
In brighter injury news for Madrid, Zidane confirmed that Gareth Bale will be fit to face Rayo after missing the Villarreal clash with a minor muscle injury.
“Gareth is fine, he is better, completely recovered and the idea is that tomorrow he will be available for the team.”
A run of eight straight La Liga wins has taken Real to within a point of leader Barcelona and Atletico Madrid with just four games remaining.
On paper, Zidane’s men seem to have the hardest run-in of the three title contenders as three of their remaining games are away from home, whilst the on-form Valencia also visit the Santiago Bernabeu.
And Zidane believes they will need to win all their remaining games to have a chance of landing a first La Liga title in four years.
“We have difficult games, three away and Valencia at home who are a very good team and have played very well lately.
“We have four games and we know that if we aspire to something we have to win the four games that are left.” – Agence France-Presse