Zinedine Zidane has confirmed Gareth Bale is still absent for Real Madrid’s home meeting with Sevilla on Sunday, placing the Welsh star’s availability for the Champions League final in further jeopardy.
Although there are still three weeks until the big showdown with Juventus in Bale’s hometown of Cardiff, the former Tottenham man has been missing since last month with a calf injury and Zidane would be reluctant to risk him unless he proves his fitness in one of Madrid’s three remaining league games.
That prospect currently looks remote, with the French boss striking a far from encouraging tone as he revealed: “We are taking it day by day with Gareth.
“He is not back with us yet and still has some problems. I don’t know when he’ll be back but I hope it will be soon.”
Another player absent through injury today is Pepe, meaning that the veteran Portuguese defender has probably already played his last game at the Bernabeu ahead of his expected departure from the club this summer.
The 33 year-old will be out of contract and although his future has not been confirmed, it is thought to lie away from Madrid amid reports of big-money offers from clubs in China, the United States and Italy.
And Zidane hinted that Pepe’s time with the club is indeed coming to an end, saying: “He’s had a tremendous career.
“He’s been here for ten years and done fantastic things. I don’t know what he’ll do next year because I’m only thinking about this game, and he won’t play because he’s bothered by pain in his ribs.”
After today Madrid’s remaining league games will be played away from home, with Wednesday’s trip to Celta Vigo followed by a season finale at Malaga next weekend.
If Zidane’s team collect seven points from those three games they will definitely be champions, but despite the proximity of the prize the French coach confirmed he will continue his long-standing rotation policy by making several changes from the team which started against Atletico in midweek.
One player who could be rested is forward Karim Benzema, whose brilliant piece of skill to tee up Isco’s tie-winning goal against Atletico has been showered with lavish praise in the last few days.
The Frenchman has been criticised for his lack of goals in a season which has seen him register just nine league goals in 27 appearances, but Zidane made it clear that he focuses on his compatriot’s other qualities.
“I’m more interested in how he associates play with his teammates, because we’ve got a lot of other players who can score goals,” Zidane said.
“I didn’t need to see the Atletico game to know what a great player he is.”