FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Sevilla v Real Madrid - Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Seville, Spain - September 22, 2019 Real Madrid's Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard and Sergio Ramos during the warm up before the match REUTERS/Marcelo Del Pozo/File
Real Madrid will still be without their two most expensive players Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard for Saturday’s derby at home to Atletico Madrid as Zinedine Zidane’s side look to cement their new-found status as La Liga title favourites.
Hazard has returned to training this week for the first time since hurting his ankle against Paris St Germain on Nov. 26 but was left out of the squad for the derby after Zidane said he would take no risks with the Belgium international.
Bale has trained all week after recovering from a slight ankle injury and his absence seems to be another sign he is no longer a first-choice player for Zidane, despite the Frenchman insisting earlier that the Wales forward was in his plans.
The absence of Bale and Hazard has barely affected Real’s form, however: they are unbeaten since October and have won six of their last seven games, their only draw being in the Super Cup final against Atletico which they won on penalties.
“There are many reasons behind it but I would highlight how hard we have worked and the belief we have in what we are doing,” Zidane told a news conference ahead of the derby.
“Tomorrow we have another game and we’re going to have to prove ourselves once again.”
Real are top of La Liga with 46 points from 21 games, three ahead of Barcelona, while Atletico are fifth on 36 points.