Real Madrid’s Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo / AFP PHOTO / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU
Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane hopes Cristiano Ronaldo will shrug off a foot problem in time to lead the European champions’ bid to overcome a Copa del Rey deficit at Celta Vigo on Wednesday.
Zidane’s squad, down 2-1 from the quarter-final first leg at home, has been hit by a series of injuries with Marcelo and Luka Modric joining Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez, Dani Carvajal and Pepe on the sidelines after limping off in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Malaga.
Ronaldo also suffered a blow to his right foot at the weekend, but Zidane expects the World Player of the Year to feature as Real aim to keep their quest for a first ever treble on course in Galicia.
“It is something that has bothered him until now, but he is fine. It is just a knock,” said Zidane on Tuesday.
“He will be with us tomorrow.”
After a glorious 2016 for club and country, Ronaldo has endured a frustrating start to the new year.
The Portuguese has scored just once from open play and was even jeered by sections of the Santiago Bernabeu crowd on Saturday.
“We all want the same thing, which is to do our best to win things,” added Zidane.
“Whistles have always been heard in this stadium and others, and that isn’t going to change. The only thing I will say is that we need the fans on our side.”
Zidane admitted his annoyance at the crowd’s reaction and the number of injuries that have blighted Madrid throughout the season, despite tasting defeat for the first time in the campaign just nine days ago at Sevilla.
However, the Frenchman challenged the less heralded members of the Madrid squad to take their chance to shine at Celta Vigo.
“It does annoy me that some players are out, but we can’t do anything about it,” he said.
“Throughout the season players will get injured and now we have to continue with those that are ready.
“It is a difficult, but great game to play. Now and again we also like to come from behind in these types of games.”
In contrast to Madrid’s ailing squad, Celta should be well rested to spring another surprise after coach Eduardo Berizzo made eight changes from the side that won at the Bernabeu last week for Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Real Sociedad.
“The game on Wednesday has a real importance,” said Berizzo.
“It is a game of life or death and to prepare for that game it is necessary to hand a rest to those that have accumulated many matches.”
– Barca in command –
The other three quarter-final ties to be completed this week look far more predictable.
Barcelona ended a 10-year wait for a victory away at Sociedad thanks to Neymar’s penalty last week to carry a 1-0 lead into their second leg at the Camp Nou on Thursday.
The Catalans have also been afflicted by injury with Sergio Busquets set to miss the next few weeks due to ankle ligament damage.
Andres Iniesta and Rafinha are also doubtful, but Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar are expected to start again up front after all three scored in Sunday’s 4-0 rout at Eibar.
Sociedad may also have their La Liga visit to the Bernabeu on Sunday in mind as they chase Champions League football.
Atletico Madrid have the healthiest lead of all as they carry a 3-0 advantage into their second leg at Eibar on Wednesday.
And Alaves are on course to reach the last four for just the third time in their history as they welcome second-division Alcorcon with a 2-0 first-leg lead on Tuesday.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Alaves v Alcorcon (1815)
Eibar v Atletico Madrid (1815), Celta Vigo v Real Madrid (2015)
Barcelona v Real Sociedad (2015)