Real Madrid strikers Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema will miss Saturday’s league match as they try to recover from injuries in time to face Manchester City in the return leg of their Champions League semifinal.
Coach Zinedine Zidane said that neither of his top two scorers was fit for the trip to Real Sociedad, where Madrid needs a win to stay in the Spanish league title race. Madrid trails leader Barcelona and second-place Atletico Madrid by one point with three matches to go.
Madrid hosts City Wednesday after the two sides drew 0-0 in the first leg, where Madrid clearly missed Ronaldo’s spark in attack and where Benzema played only the first half.
“I am worried because each time you have a player injured it is difficult,” Zidane said Friday. “Now the most important thing is that they completely recover because we cannot take risks with Cristiano and Karim.”
Both Ronaldo and Benzema are nursing right leg injuries. Ronaldo missed the away leg at City and last weekend’s league match at Rayo Vallecano, while Benzema came off early during those matches because of a hamstring injury.
Zidane did not specify Ronaldo’s injury, a subject of intense speculation in the Spanish media.
“I can’t give any details because I am not a doctor,” Zidane said.
But Madrid did issue a medical report about Benzema, saying Thursday that the France striker hurt his right hamstring.
Benzema’s league tally of 23 goals is his best since joining the club in 2009, while Ronaldo has 31 to pass the 30-goal mark in the Spanish league for the sixth straight season.
Their absence leaves Gareth Bale – who scored twice in last weekend’s 3-2 win at Vallecano to reach 18 league goals – as Madrid’s main focus in attack against an unpredictable Sociedad side.
Sociedad, which sits in 12th place, beat defending champion Barcelona 1-0 earlier this month to tighten up a title race that promises to go to the wire.
“We know that there are three games left in the league and that we cannot slip up,” Zidane said. “Karim and Cristiano are not going to be with us, but the rest are ready.”
Madrid’s game comes before Atletico hosts Vallecano and Barcelona’s late match at Real Betis, also Saturday.