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Benzema and Ronaldo set to face Valencia

Zinedine Zidane is hoping Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo will play in their last two La Liga games in order to reach the Champions League final in peak condition.

Benzema missed Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over Manchester City which secured Madrid’s place in the Milan final against rivals Atletico, while Ronaldo played having sat out the first leg with a thigh injury.

But Zidane suggested both will be available to face Valencia at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.

He said: “Benzema will be with us, he is ready to play.

“I am not sure how [whether he starts or is on the bench], it depends on how he feels.

“We aren’t thinking about the final, we are thinking about our remaining games in the league.

“When we reach May 14 [the day of their final La Liga game] we will have time to prepare for the final.”

Zidane suggested Ronaldo will not be given any time off either.

“Cristiano will play if he’s well and good,” he added. “He looked in perfect condition to me. The best way to prepare [for the final] is to play the final two games.”

Zidane does have some injury concerns, however, with Keylor Navas, Dani Carvajal and Gareth Bale all missing the Valencia game.

“It is a problem to have injured players,” he said. “We will be patient with the three who don’t play tomorrow.

“Discomfort is normal at the end of the season. Then there is time to recover.”

The race for La Liga is in Barcelona’s hands – they will be crowned champions if they see off Espanyol and Granada – but third-placed Madrid remain in the hunt and Zidane is not giving up hope just yet.

“It’s two games, tomorrow’s will be very difficult. What we have to do is keep winning and then see what happens.

“We know that we are a point behind. I believe until the last second of the last game.”

Zidane reiterated that his future will be determined at season’s end with the result against Atletico likely to shape the decision on whether he stays or goes.

“We have not won anything at the moment,” he said. “We have three games and are focusing only on that.

“It will be at the end of the season that things happen.”

Sunday’s game is set to be long-serving full-back Alvaro Arbeloa’s final outing at the Bernabeu and Zidane was quick to laud the former Liverpool man.

“He’s a big player and a great person. He has always fought for this shirt and has done a lot for Real Madrid,” he said.

“He has won everything in football.

“But the important thing for Alvaro is the game and he knows it. There will be time later for everything else.”

Sat 7 May, 2016
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