Zinedine Zidane hopes Neymar recovers from an ankle injury in time to feature for Paris Saint-Germain against Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie.
Neymar rolled his right ankle in PSG’s 3-0 win over Marseille on Sunday and is an injury doubt ahead of the return leg at the Parc des Princes on March 6.
Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s league game at Espanyol, Zidane told a news conference: “I don’t like players getting hurt. I’m not happy about Neymar’s injury. I hope he can play against us. In the end, players need to play. I’m never going to wish for a player to be absent because of an injury.”
Cristiano Ronaldo heads into the midweek encounter in sizzling form with eight goals in his last four games in all competitions.
“He knows himself well,” Zidane said of Ronaldo. “I speak to him a lot and it’s very important to have Cristiano in top form. He knows that at times he needs to rest.
“The season is long. At the end of the season, there is the World Cup and the players unconsciously think about that. I know that because I’ve experienced that. It’s not negative, it’s just the way it is. A World Cup is every four years.”
Zidane is also happy to see Gareth Bale getting back to his best after the Wales international was on the scoresheet in Saturday’s 4-0 home triumph over Alaves.
Injuries and tactical decisions have seen Bale limited to 1,431 minutes this season, leading to speculation in Marca that he could leave the Bernabeu this summer.
Asked if the player was feeling the pressure, Zidane said: “I see Bale the same. The only thing is that he feels better every day and that is what we all want. We all want to see Bale at 100 percent. He scored on Saturday but the most important thing is his performances and they are good.”
Real have taken 18 points of a possible 21, scoring 29 goals in the process, to climb to third in La Liga, 14 points adrift of leaders Barcelona.
“We want to continue our good run,” Zidane said. “We always need to start from zero. We want to play a good game against Espanyol.”
Meanwhile, with reports that Real Madrid will sign a goalkeeper this summer, Zidane insists he is happy with Keylor Navas.
“We have a great goalkeeper, very professional and very much loved,” he said. “He arrived here because of his worth, he deserves to be here. We are all happy with what we have at home.”
Marco Asensio returns to the squad after missing the win against Alaves following the extraction of a wisdom tooth, while captain Sergio Ramos is back from suspension. Real are still without injured trio Marcelo, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.