Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has tried to play down rumours of a rift between his squad and the club’s medical staff in the wake of the latest injuries to sideline Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Los Blancos have been plagued by physical setbacks all season, with a total of no less than 26 muscle strains affecting the squad over the course of the campaign. And although some injuries are unavoidable, the fact that so many have been similar calf and hamstring problems, which can be minimised with the right medical attention, has led to suggestions that poor preparation is to blame.
Earlier in the season, reports alleged captain Sergio Ramos had become so frustrated that he attempted to ban club doctor Jesus Olmo from the dressing room. And now fresh allegations of discord have been issued after Benzema and Ronaldo both opted to seek independent treatment, rather than putting themselves in the hands of the club’s physios in their race against time to recover for Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Manchester City.
Although Zidane attempted to gloss over the reports, his frustration was evident as he said: “This is a matter for the club and not an issue that I want to get involved with. I am focused on Saturday’s game in San Sebastian and don’t wish to discuss this any further.
“But of course I’m worried every time a player of mine is injured and the important thing is that they fully recover. We can’t to take afford any risks with Cristiano or Karim and I just want them back fit as soon as possible. Hopefully that will be for Wednesday.”
Benzema and Ronaldo will both miss today’s testing trip to face Real Sociedad, with Zidane likely to start with Jese Rodriguez in attack for a game his team must win to maintain their La Liga title hopes.
Other than Toni Kroos and his two injured forwards, he has named a full-strength squad and insists his players are continuing to take La Liga seriously rather than shifting their attention to Europe.
Los Blancos need both Atletico Madrid and Barcelona to slip up in their last three games to give them any chance of lifting the title, but Zidane says he has not given up yet.
“We have three La Liga games left and we cannot slip up,” he said. “To keep our chances alive we have to get all nine points and then hope. “I’m not thinking about relaxing in the league and the players showed me throughout the week that they are focussed. I don’t think we’ll have any problems with concentration.”
Hosts La Real recently defeated Barcelona at the Anoeta and also handed Madrid a 4-2 thrashing at Saturday’s venue last season, and Zidane is fully prepared for a challenging encounter.
“We know it is going to be a complicated game at difficult stadium,” he said. “Over the 90 minutes there will be tough moments, but if we defend as a unit and are all focussed we can get a result.”