Real Madrid will be without Sergio Ramos when they visit Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday evening, manager Rafael Benitez has confirmed.
The club skipper has not played for the side since dislocating his shoulder in last week’s 4-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk in the Uefa Champions League.
The Spanish defender joins Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Danilo on the growing list of first-team regulars on the sidelines.
“I spoke with Ramos this morning and he is still not comfortable,” Benitez said on Tuesday. “It is practically 100 per cent that he won’t be there tomorrow.”
Real were beaten away to Bilbao last season and are already trailing champions Barcelona by two points; however, Benitez stresses that the midweek game will not serve as “an acid test”.
“Real Madrid lost there last year and it will be important to be concentrated and play with as much intensity as they do,” added Benitez. “It is a game that could allow us to grow in confidence.”
Injuries has forced the Spanish coach into tweaking his starting XI more often in the early days of the season, but wants Cristiano Ronaldo, who is just two goals away from equaling Raul Gonzalez as the club’s joint all-time leading goal scorer with 323 goals, to retain his place in the squad.
“We have one player who is unquestionable and that is Cristiano,” said Benitez. “I speak with Bale in English and he understands what we have to do is be competitive and win. To manage a group with so many good players isn’t easy, but in my conversations with them they know that Cristiano scores 40 or 50 goals a season and that makes the difference.”
The Portuguese superstar has meanwhile played over 400 fewer games than Raul.