BARCELONA Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said on Friday Cristiano Ronaldo has accepted the need to rest during the season as the prolific Portuguese prepares to sit out a fourth consecutive league away game in missing Saturday's trip to Granada.
Ronaldo has missed eight of Real's 34 league games so far this season in contrast to last year when he participated in 36 of 38, only absent due to a hamstring injury he sustained late in the campaign.
The benefits of playing fewer games this term were evident as the Portuguese forward scored a dazzling hat-trick against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday to take Real to the brink of a third Champions League final, in contrast to the withered state in which he finished last season.
Zidane remarked last year that Ronaldo needed to rest more but it was difficult to convince him to sit out games, but said on Friday the 32-year-old had accepted his new reality.
"I speak with Cristiano all the time and I know him very well. He knows that until now he played 60-70 games a season and the accumulation of all those years meant he needs to rest a little," Zidane told a news conference.
"I'm not the coach that has made him rest, all I know is that players need to rest, especially if they want to arrive at the final stage of the season in top condition."
Real face the already relegated Granada, who have lost their last five games, on Saturday needing a win to stay level on points with La Liga leaders Barcelona, although Zidane is expected to leave Ronaldo out of the squad.
The Portuguese would be suspended from next Sunday's vital league game against Sevilla if booked against Granada.
Real trail Barca in the standings due to their inferior head-to-head record but have a game in hand on the Catalans meaning they will win a first league title since 2012 if they collect 10 points from their remaining four games.
Ronaldo's treble against Atleti followed his five goals in the quarter-final tie against Bayern Munich and Zidane said the player's ruthless display meant he could collect the Ballon d'Or for a second year running, taking him level with Lionel Messi in winning the prestigious individual award five times.
"I think he could win it again, and he deserves all the credit for that," said Zidane.
(Reporting by Richard Martin)