Ronaldo, Bale & Benzema out for Madrid at Sporting
BARCELONA: Real Madrid will have to continue its march toward its first Spanish league title in five years on Saturday without scoring trio Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, and Gareth Bale.
While Ronaldo and Benzema, along with goalkeeper Keylor Navas, will rest when Madrid visits Sporting Gijon, coach Zinedine Zidane said on Friday that an unidentified leg injury will keep Bale from playing.
"We'll have to see what his injury is," Zidane said. "He has some swelling to his soleus. It's a muscular issue on the area he was operated on."
Bale underwent surgery on his right ankle at the end of November, sidelining him until he made a return as a substitute against Espanyol on February 18.
Bale scored latel to seal that 2-0 win over Espanyol, and two games later he struck again to start a 3-2 fightback at Villarreal.
But since then he has been scoreless in six matches, including a 2-1 win at Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday when Cristiano Ronaldo netted both of Madrid's goals.
Bale has seven goals for Madrid in this campaign. Zidane said he wasn't sure if Bale would be ready next week to play Bayern in the return leg of the quarterfinal.
"I'm worried about it because I don't like to see players out injured and all the more so during the run-in," Zidane said. "He was excited (to play) after having spent three months out, but he knows that it's not a serious (injury), it's just a setback.
"We'll be monitoring his progress every day."
Madrid has gone a Spanish-record 53 straight games scoring at least once. It is closing in on Bayern's European record of 61 consecutive games with at least a goal, from March 2013 to April 2014.
Even playing away and without its big guns, Sporting looks like easy pickings for the Liga front-runner.
Sporting is in the relegation zone and five points from safety. It has won just five times in 31 rounds this season, and has scored one goal in its last three games.
Madrid will look to striker Alvaro Morata to lead its attack. Kiko Casilla will be in goal, and little-used midfielder James Rodriguez could also get a rare start.
Madrid leads second-placed Barcelona by three points and has a game in hand on its rival.
Barcelona hosts Real Sociedad on Saturday, its first match since losing at Juventus 3-0 in the Champions League this week.
Ronaldo's absence from the squad means he avoids the risk of picking up a fifth yellow card and thereby miss next round's clasico" against Barcelona due to suspension.