Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said Tuesday that Cristiano Ronaldo will start Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal second leg against Manchester City, but Casemiro and Karim Benzema are now almost certainly ruled out,ESPN reports.
Ronaldo has missed Madrid’s past three games with a right thigh-muscle problem, including the goalless first leg at City on April 26.
Benzema, meanwhile, left at half-time of the game at the Etihad Stadium with a similar issue, and Casemiro picked up a thigh problem in Saturday’s 1-0 La Liga win at Real Sociedad.
After reports that Ronaldo had suffered a second muscle injury and rumours of a breakdown in the relationship between Madrid’s star players and the club’s senior medical staff, the 31-year-old Portugal international has undergone an intensive recovery regimen in recent days and again took part in training with his teammates on Tuesday morning.
Zidane said during his prematch news conference that Ronaldo had recovered completely from the injury and there was no risk involved in him playing against City.
“Cristiano is fine — he is at 100 percent,” Zidane said on Tuesday. “He trained with us and will be with us tomorrow. There is no risk. He is training, and he is 100 percent.”
Zidane had previously said that Ronaldo was likely to start last week’s first leg in Manchester, but he stressed that the situation was different this time around.
“It is not just two days, it is a week, and bit by bit he has been recovering,” he said. “He is a player who is like that, who recovers very quickly. He will be at 100 percent tomorrow. “It is always good to have him on the pitch with us. He is an outstanding player, his statistics show that.”
Benzema again continued his recovery indoors without joining his teammates and does not appear likely to be in the squad on Wednesday. “Karim still had his problem today, and we did not want to risk him,” Zidane said.
Casemiro, meanwhile, has become a key player in Zidane’s 4-3-3 system, but his unexpected hip problem could rule him out of the club’s biggest game of the season so far. Zidane did not confirm the holding midfielder’s absence but suggested he was likely to sit the match out.
“With Casemiro, it is not a [serious] injury, but it is swollen and we did not want to risk it,” he said. “We have a big enough squad for others to play. We will try, Casemiro is Casemiro, but other players can do the same work as he does. Whoever plays in that position will do the same work as Casemiro.”
He added: “I would have liked to have Casemiro and Benzema, but it is not like that. Others will play and they will do well.” Zidane rejected the idea that the injuries meant that he might consider changing his system or approach for this game.
“I will not change tomorrow,” he said. “The idea is always the same, and even more so playing at home. We will need to show the intensity that a Champions League semifinal requires.
“When we do not have the ball, we will have to defend well, all together as a team, as we have been recently. Not just the midfield, or the defenders, but everyone must do this work.”