Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo will sit out the Copa del Rey match against La Cultural Leonesa to prepare for Saturday’s Clasico at Barcelona.
But Zidane said midfielder Casemiro would return from injury in the last 32 second leg game at the Bernabeu on Wednesday. Madrid are defending a 7-1 advantage, giving Zidane a chance to field youngsters including his son Enzo.
Casemiro broke a bone in his leg at Espanyol in September, and Zidane told a news conference: “He will get minutes. It will be his first game back, and we’ll have to see about Saturday. But he’s ready.”
Ronaldo is one of a number of Madrid players reported to be nursing injury niggles, although he was able to take part in Tuesday’s training session at Valdebebas.
Zidane said: “It’s a game for Ronaldo not to play.”
Castilla youngsters including Alvaro Tejero and Martin Odegaard will be in the squad along with Enzo Zidane, and the coach said: “Those three will be with us. Maybe some others but probably just those three, with the rest being senior players.”
Zidane stressed that he would not focus on the Clasico until the Copa tie was over.
“We must respect the opponent and the fans who will come to support us,” he said. “I have seen many of their games and they are playing well.”
And he brushed aside questions over the allegedly pro-Barca leanings of Saturday’s referee Carlos Clos Gomez.
“I just believe that the referee will be the best so that the game is played well — nothing else,” he said. “I do not believe any referee would help one team or the other.”
Zidane expressed his sorrow at the news of the plane crash in Colombia in which 76 people, including members of the Brazilian football team Chapecoense, were killed.
“It is a tragedy, it is difficult — you can see that everyone is a bit sad today,” he said. “From the club, we want to think about all the families. We are so sorry for them.”
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