Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane confirmed on Saturday that his team will be without both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in Sunday's La Liga matchup against Espanyol. Neither winger even made the trip to Catalonia, Zidane said. There is good news, however, as there's hope that the duo will be fit sooner rather than later with their absences seeming to be largely precautionary.
“Cristiano will not travel with us — he has a sore throat, and he will stay at home,” Zidane said via Goal.com. “He is not ready.”
Bale will miss the match due to a hip ailment, which he suffered in a midweek Champions League win against Sporting Lisbon. “He took a big blow to his hip the other day,” Zidane said. “With so many games to play, we cannot take risks. I want to have Gareth at 100 percent for a very difficult game Wednesday.” That difficult game is away to red-hot Borussia Dortmund, so Zidane exercising caution in La Liga makes sense.
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With Ronaldo and Bale not available, the window for meaningful minutes opens up for some of Real Madrid's peripheral players, particularly rumored Inter and Man United target James Rodriguez. Youngster Marco Asensio could deputize in Ronaldo's role and line up against the club where he spent last season on loan. Lucas Vazquez and Alvaro Morata are also options for Zidane to consider in the attack.
Regardless of who Zidane names, Real Madrid will be heavy favorites to get a result even without Ronaldo and Bale around. Of course, we've already seen some crazy La Liga upsets early in the season, so perhaps it's time for Espanyol to step into the limelight.
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James Rodriguez could start against Espanyol. (Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)