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Sports News

Real's Zidane brands fixture scheduling 'crazy'

MADRID (Reuters) - The fixture pile-up affecting Europe’s top clubs is crazy, according to Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane.

Soccer Football - Champions League - Group B - Real Madrid v Inter Milan - Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, Madrid, Spain - November 3, 2020 Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane REUTERS/Juan Medina/Files

Speaking ahead of the Liga champions’ visit to Villarreal -- their first match in a series of 10 across 33 days -- the Frenchman said he was worried about the pile-up.

“All I can say is that I look at the calendar and it’s too much,” he told a news conference on Friday.

“I think of the health of the players and nothing else - and they never stop. I’m not speaking only about my players, but I’m worried for them.

“I don’t want to get involved, at the end of the day there are people there who do the fixtures, but I’m very worried. It’s crazy.”

Zidane will be without captain Sergio Ramos for the visit to second-placed Villarreal, who sit two points above Real having played a game more, after the Spain defender suffered a hamstring injury on international duty, which is likely to rule him out for the next 10 days.

“I can just tell you what I feel (about the situation). We need to try and give the players rest, yes, but we know that not everyone is available so we need to balance that out,” he said.

Ramos’s defensive partner Raphael Varane will have a late fitness test after damaging his shoulder playing for France, with Zidane saying he was “not 100% fit,” while fellow French international Karim Benzema is a doubt after missing training.

Real’s Serbia striker Luka Jovic will also miss out after testing positive for COVID-19 on Friday, the club said.

However, defender Eder Militao, midfielder Casemiro and playmaker Eden Hazard are available after negative COVID-19 tests, having tested positive before the international break.

Defenders Nacho and Dani Carvajal are also in contention.

“We don’t know how fit everyone is, but they’re getting there. Eden and Militao’s situations are a bit different. They trained at home (during self-isolation),” said Zidane.

“Nacho and Carvajal have been with the group for longer and we need the group together because every game is important for us. We can’t rest on our laurels because we’re up against a tough side.”

Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli; Editing by Toby Davis and Ken Ferris

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