MADRID: Real Madrid will have to cope without Cristiano Ronaldo if they are to set a club record by extending their unbeaten run to 35 games when Deportivo la Coruna visit on Saturday.
The rested Ronaldo was left out of coach Zinedine Zidane’s squad along with Luka Modric and Karim Benzema with one eye on the Club World Cup in Japan next week.
However, the Portuguese star has also had to refute claims this week concerning his tax affairs that have dominated the headlines.
An international consortium of media organizations claimed last Friday that Ronaldo hid 150 million euros ($160 million) earned from image rights in the British Virgin Islands.
Ronaldo, 31, denies wrongdoing and said after Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Borussia Dortmund that “he who owes nothing isn’t afraid”.
“I am sure that when people speak about these things, it has an effect, but the most important thing is that it is all resolved quickly,” said Zidane on Friday.
“We just want to think about football and winning games.”
Zidane has taken a risk by also leaving out key midfielder Modric and Benzema. Gareth Bale also remains out injured, but Toni Kroos and Alvaro Morata are set for their first starts in a month after returning from injury against Dortmund in midweek.
Deportivo’s last visit to the Santiago Bernabeu was Zidane’s first match in charge back in January and ended in a 5-0 thrashing in favour of the hosts.
However, Deportivo have been buoyed by a surprise 5-1 romp over high-flying Real Sociedad on Monday to register a first league win since early October and move out of the relegation zone.
“I am always optimistic and I am going there with the hope of getting something from the game,” said Deportivo boss Gaizka Garitano.
“We are in the more desperate situation and we are not going to the Bernabeu just to make up the numbers.”
Barcelona can cut the gap to three points before Madrid kick off with victory at rock-bottom Osasuna earlier on Saturday.
After the blow of conceding a last-minute equaliser to Madrid in last weekend’s El Clasico, Barca got back to winning ways with a 4-0 hammering of Borussia Moenchengladbach on Tuesday in the Champions League.