Real Madrid forwards Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema will sit out Saturday’s trip to Real Sociedad through injury but coach Zinedine Zidane is hoping they will be fully fit in time to face Manchester City next week.
Ronaldo was ruled out of Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg against City with a thigh injury while Benzema had to be replaced at half-time at the Etihad Stadium with a hamstring problem.
Neither will face Sociedad, where title-chasing Madrid will look to claim a 10th successive Primera Division win, but Zidane is keeping his fingers crossed for next Wednesday’s second leg against City.
The Frenchman said at Friday’s pre-match press conference: “I hope Ronaldo and Benzema are with us on Wednesday and at 100 per cent.
“Hopefully they can play with zero risk. I don’t want to take any chances. I can’t say what possibility they have of playing. I hope both are at 100 per cent, but I cannot guarantee anything.
“Tomorrow other players are going to play. It’s an important game because it’s better to go into Wednesday’s match with a good result.
“I’m concerned by injuries because every time there’s an injured player it’s difficult. But the most important thing is that they recover completely, because we cannot take risks with Cristiano or Karim or anybody.”
With Ronaldo and Benzema absent, Madrid are shorn of all but one of their star-studded ‘BBC’ strikeforce, but the remaining member, Gareth Bale, could face Sociedad.
Bale has struggled with injuries during his time at Madrid but he is in a 19-man travelling squad and Zidane is not thinking about wrapping the Welshman in cotton wool.
“If Gareth is well tomorrow he’ll be there. We’re going to select the team I think is the best to win,” he said.
Madrid, who earned a goalless draw in Manchester, head to San Sebastian having closed the gap on joint-leaders Barcelona and Atletico Madrid to one point on the back of their phenomenal winning run.
With two games to go after this weekend there is all still to play for in the Primera Division, and Zidane is determined to keep minds focused on the task at hand.
“The idea is not to think about Wednesday. We know there are three league games left and we cannot slip up,” he said.
“We’re only going to think about tomorrow’s game and to do our best to win it.”
Sociedad have slumped to 11th place after picking up just one point from their last three games, but they are already safe from relegation and have no chance of finishing in the top six.
However, that does not mean La Real will be taking it easy against Madrid, and midfielder Asier Illarramendi is determined to put one over his old side this weekend – even if he still wants them to win the title.
He told a press conference: “Of course I want Madrid to win the league, but I don’t want them to win here.
“It looks difficult for Madrid to win the league, but I’d like them to do it.
“It’s true that we aren’t playing for anything, but it’s a very nice game. It’s against Madrid, who are playing for a lot and you’re not going to be lacking in motivation.”