Friday, 29 April 2016

Zinedine Zidane admits Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema concerns

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane says he is worried about injuries to Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, while declining to comment on local media reports of a split between his players and the club's medical staff.
The two attackers have been ruled out of Madrid's La Liga game at Real Sociedad on Saturday and there are serious doubts as to whether they will be fully fit for Wednesday's Champions League semifinal second leg at home to Manchester City.
Ronaldo had been struggling with a thigh muscle problem in the buildup to the goalless draw against City in Tuesday's first leg and had to sit the match out, with reports suggesting he had suffered another setback beforehand.
Benzema, meanwhile, had to be substituted at the Etihad Stadium with a muscle problem.
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At a news conference on Friday, Zidane appeared to confirm that Ronaldo had picked up a new injury, saying: "He had another thing, but the most important thing is that he has trained today.
"I hope to have them at 100 percent on Wednesday, Cristiano and Karim. That is what I am thinking now, although I cannot assure you of that now. I hope there will zero risk. I do not want to take risks with players."
Both players are reported to have looked outside Madrid's official medical department for assistance with their injuries, with Ronaldo visiting a private clinic accompanied by two external specialists on Wednesday, while Benzema posted a photo on social media showing himself with medic Juan Muro, who was fired by Madrid last summer.
Problems between Madrid's senior players and the club's doctors are said to have been brewing all season, with AS claiming chief of medical services Jesus Olmo -- who is the son-in-law of senior board member Jeronimo Farre -- is unpopular with some of the players.
AS also reported that the club have suffered 26 different muscle injuries so far this season, and its front page on Friday morning carried the headline: "Medical Confusion."
Zidane said there was no issue with the players receiving treatment away from the club, although he declined to offer his backing for Real's medical team.
"It is agreed with the club," he said. "We all try to do things well, the players, everyone who works here. I do not want to go into these things. I am just worried about tomorrow's game -- but of course I am concerned about the players and hope they recover quickly. But I am not going to talk more about this issue."
With three La Liga games remaining, Madrid are third in the table, just a point behind both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, but their title hopes are dependent on both their rivals slipping up.
As such, the Champions League would appear to be their best hope of success this season.
Asked if he felt it would be too risky to start Gareth Bale -- the only fit member of the "BBC" frontline -- against Sociedad, Zidane said: "If Gareth is good, normally he is going to play.
"Karim and Cristiano are not fit, they will not be there. The others are ready to play, we are preparing well."
Jese Rodriguez, who replaced Benzema in the City game, has also recovered a from a knock he suffered during that match.
"[Jese] is ready to play -- he just got a bang," Zidane added. "We will, as always, put out the team that I think right to try and win tomorrow's game."
Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema are both battling to recover in time to face Manchester City.
Since joining Madrid in 2009, Ronaldo has played more games for the first team than any other player, but he has suffered with injury issues towards the end of two of the last three seasons.
There have been suggestions that the 31-year-old is suffering from playing too many games, but Zidane said: "I don't believe so, as he is sufficiently clever and strong to play all the games.
"He has been playing every game for a long time, but he knows himself very well. When there is no game he knows how to rest well, and recover quickly. Other players find it tougher -- I did when I was a player, for example. Everyone is different but he can play all the games."
Real Sociedad are safe in mid-table, but Zidane predicted his side would face a test at Anoeta, where Barca suffered a shock 1-0 defeat earlier this month.
"It is a tough place to go to," he said. "I have seen many of La Real's games. We know it will be difficult for us but if we are all committed, all together, we can get a good result there. The players are not going to relax -- they are very focused on what remains for us this season."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Twitter @dermotmcorrigan.
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