Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is hopeful his leading marksman Karim Benzema will be available to return from injury in Sunday's huge LaLiga derby against leaders Atletico Madrid.

Benzema is Madrid's top-scorer this season with 17 goals in all competitions but has missed their past three games due to an unspecified knock.

The France international's finishing touch was missed in Monday's 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad, which leaves third-placed Los Blancos five points behind Atletico having played a game more.

"We hope he can be with us, but we have to wait and see because he still hasn't trained with the team," Zidane said.

"We'll assess the situation tomorrow. He's OK. Karim's injury is much better and we'll take a look at him."

In Benzema's absence, Madrid have collected two 1-0 wins plus the 1-1 draw with Sociedad, so his attacking prowess has been missed.

Highly rated 20-year-old Brazilian winger Vinicius Junior came off the bench to rescue a point for Zidane's side against Sociedad, scoring in the 89th minute for his third league goal of the campaign.

"I’m pleased he got the goal," Zidane said.

"We picked up a point and now we have to move on. It's the result of his hard work and effort. That's what we all have to keep doing."

Zidane remains bullish about Madrid's title hopes, with Atletico having stumbled in recent matches, collecting eight points from a possible 15, while they were also beaten by Chelsea in the Champions League last week.

Barcelona moved past Madrid into second with their 2-0 win at Sevilla on Saturday.

Zinedine Zidane held his hands up and accepted his half-time tinkering may have cost Real Madrid in their 1-1 draw at home to Real Sociedad on Monday. 

Madrid were the more threatening of the teams in the first half at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, with Mariano Diaz hitting the crossbar from close range in a lucky escape for the visitors. 

But, seemingly unhappy with his team's performance, Zidane altered his setup at the interval to go with a back three, only for Portu to ghost in at the back post to head in a Nacho Monreal cross in the 55th minute. 

Zidane reverted to a back four soon after and eventually Madrid got their equaliser in the 89th minute through substitute Vinicius Junior. 

But the Frenchman seemingly felt his half-time changes may have backfired. 

Speaking to reporters after the game, Zidane said: "I changed it [at half-time] because I wasn't happy with our pressing. 

"It was those 10-15 minutes and we changed it again and we were better playing a 4-3-3. Our substitutes did well after coming on." 

Zidane was then asked again if he felt he made a mistake with his initial tweaks, to which he replied: "If you've asked me, and that's now three times, then yes, maybe. 

"We had to change things because, after an hour, the team was a bit tired. Sometimes we have to change things. In the end, you try to find things to change the dynamic." 

While Vinicius' late equaliser likely prevented Madrid from suffering a massive psychological blow ahead of a potentially pivotal derby clash with Atletico Madrid at the weekend, in the grand scheme of the title race it did little to improve their standing. 

Either way, the pressure on Madrid going into the weekend is greater than if they had beaten La Real, as they stay five points behind the leaders having played a game more, yet Zidane insists Monday's result changes nothing. 

"We have to remain calm," Zidane added. "We had a good game and we had three or four chances [to score]. 

"Patience, calm and rest. We were up against a team that creates chances against you. We have to carry on. 

"It doesn't change the way we go into the derby. We have to go there to have a great game." 

Vinicius Junior salvaged a point for Real Madrid late on in Monday's 1-1 draw at home to Real Sociedad, though the result does little to alleviate the pressure ahead of this weekend's potentially vital derby clash with Atletico Madrid. 

Zinedine Zidane's men looked to be heading towards a defeat that could have delivered a devastating psychological blow ahead of arguably their biggest game of the season, but Vinicius spared them near the end. 

The hosts had the better of the first half and should have led when Mariano Diaz – again deputising for the injured Karim Benzema – inexplicably hit the frame of the goal, and La Real were emboldened by that as Portu gave them the lead with 55 minutes played. 

That looked destined to be the winner and potentially the goal that ended Madrid's dwindling title hopes, yet Vinicius got them back on level terms with a minute left, albeit they still end the matchweek a further two points adrift of leaders Atletico.

Madrid somehow failed to take the lead in the 23rd minute, as Mariano nodded Lucas Vazquez's chipped cross against the crossbar from point-blank range, with Marco Asensio hammering agonisingly wide a few seconds later. 

La Real goalkeeper Alex Remiro then proceeded to frustrate the hosts, first blocking a Ferland Mendy effort with his foot before parrying Luka Modric's attempt just before the interval. 

The champions were made to rue their profligacy early in the second period, La Real working the ball well to Nacho Monreal on the left and his inch-perfect cross was met by a wonderful Portu header that picked out the top-far corner. 

They should have made it 2-0 soon after but Alexander Isak could not reach Portu's squared pass, and Madrid subsequently wasted a glorious chance of their own – Casemiro heading off target. 

Madrid did eventually restore parity as Vinicius turned in Vazquez's low cross in the dying stages. Still, they remain five points adrift of Atletico having also played a game more. 

Zinedine Zidane insists Atletico Madrid can be caught at the top of the table, with the Real Madrid coach adamant the title is not out of reach for Los Blancos nor Barcelona.

Atletico lead the way in Spain's top flight and until recently looked to be running away with it, but their position has become a little less commanding after dropping points in three of their previous five league games.

A win at Villarreal on Sunday will put Atletico five points clear of Barca once again while still having a game in hand – Madrid, one point further back, will have also played one match more than their local rivals after Monday's visit of fifth-placed Real Sociedad.

Zidane is also seemingly not ruling out Sevilla despite the fact Julen Lopetegui's side lost 2-0 at home to Barca on Saturday, meaning they could end the weekend 10 points adrift of the summit.

While some are framing Atletico's position at the top as the most pressured, Zidane prefers to see it as Diego Simeone's men having an advantage, as the two Madrid giants prepare to tussle next weekend.

"Now the league [title race] is three, tomorrow it will be two and then four again," Zidane told reporters on Sunday." Everyone has their opinion.

"LaLiga is open to all and whoever is ahead has the advantage, but there are many points left and we are going to continue with our business.

"We do our thing. What's going to happen tonight, I don't know, and we don't even have to watch it – I will watch it as a fan.

"There are 42 points at stake and it is our objective is to add the maximum possible points."

Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard returning from injury would surely improve Madrid's fortunes, with the Frenchman last playing on February 14 and the former Chelsea star a month into his layoff with a thigh issue.

While both are getting closer to a return, Zidane still does not have a return date for either.

"Benzema and Hazard are better, but they are not ready," he said. "I cannot give a date, they will recover later than those who have already returned. I can't give an exact date."

Sergio Ramos is another player Madrid have had to cope without recently, with the captain absent since mid-January with a knee injury – not that it has stopped the centre-back dominating many of Zidane's news conferences since.

Ramos' contract is up at the end of the season and it remains to be seen if he will agree to an extension, which, to Zidane's frustration, is becoming a regular topic.

"You always ask me the same thing – he's an impressive man. I want him to get fit, but apart from that, nothing else. Tomorrow we have a game," Zidane said.

Zinedine Zidane accepted injury-hit Real Madrid did not do themselves justice against 10-man Atalanta but was content to come away with a 1-0 Champions League advantage.

Atalanta midfielder Remo Freuler was sent off for a professional foul on Ferland Mendy only 17 minutes into the first leg of the round of 16 tie at Gewiss Stadium on Wednesday.

Lacklustre Madrid dominated possession but had just three shots on target in a drab encounter until Mendy scored his first European goal to win it four minutes from time.

A depleted Los Blancos side, who have the likes of Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard on a long list of absentees, lacked ideas and looked set to fire a blank prior to Mendy's sweetly struck late away goal.

Zidane knows Madrid's fifth consecutive win was not pretty, but he was relieved to take the upper hand heading into the second leg at home on March 16.

The Madrid head coach said: "We didn't play a great game tonight, but I think the most important thing is the result.

"In the end, scoring is what is important to us. We still have to play the second leg, but it's a good result."

The former France midfielder added: "We played against a very physically strong team. Defensively they were good and it's a good result.

"There are many casualties, but we continue with what we are doing well. The players who are here are committed."

Zidane praised Isco, who made only his fifth start of the season - and his first in the Champions League - in a more advanced role with Benzema still sidelined.

"It has been a long time since he played so many minutes and he has done very well in a position that is not his," said Zidane.

"He has played a great game, we know what he can give us and he has done very well. When he plays he gives everything on the field. It's a victory and he's done a great job for over an hour."

Zinedine Zidane has warned Real Madrid that Atalanta could stun them like Ajax did two seasons ago in the Champions League.

Madrid take on the Serie A side in Bergamo on Wednesday, aiming to progress from the last 16 for the first time in three seasons.

Manchester City handed Zidane his first knockout tie loss as Madrid boss in the Champions League last term, while Ajax romped to a 4-1 win at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2019 when Santiago Solari was at the helm.

Atalanta's bold and aggressive attacking play has led to parallels being drawn between Gian Piero Gasperini's side and Ajax – something Zidane addressed at his pre-match news conference.

"They can be [like Ajax]. They're a very attacking team, a team who we know, offensively, are very good," he said.

"They have a lot of players going forward. As a whole, as a team, they're very strong physically.

"I don't really like to compare teams - Atalanta are Atalanta, a specific team with their own style - but I can say tomorrow is going to be a good game of football between Atalanta and Real Madrid."

Indeed, Zidane's main concern will be the starting XI he draws from an injury-ravaged squad.

Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard head the list of absentees, while five players in their 19-man travelling party have not started a competitive game this season.

"We knew from the start of the season this was going to be a very difficult season - for every team, not just for us," Zidane said.

"We just have to concentrate on our own play, on who we are, on what we have been doing lately and nothing more than that. We've prepared the game very well.

"With the difficulties we are going to have, because we're facing a very good side, we will just try to win the game, as always."

He added: "You're telling me about these injuries, but we still have a lot of good players, the players that are here.

"We always step onto the pitch and try to win the game. We never go out to draw. We're never going to be happy with a draw."

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane will not risk playing Karim Benzema against Atalanta if the striker is not fully fit.

Benzema missed Madrid's narrow 1-0 win over Real Valladolid in LaLiga on Saturday due to an unspecified knock.

Los Blancos struggled in the absence of their leading scorer as they managed just two shots on target at Estadio Jose Zorrilla.

However, Zidane will only name Benzema in his travelling party for Wednesday's Champions League last-16 first leg with Atalanta if he can first prove his fitness.

"We will see tomorrow," Zidane said. "I can't tell you right now. We are not going to risk him. If he's not ready, he won't be used."

Benzema was one of nine first-team players missing for Madrid against Valladolid, with the likes of Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal and Eden Hazard also nursing injuries.

But Zidane is unsure how many – if any – of his walking wounded have any chance of returning for the trip to Bergamo.

"The situation is what it is," he said. "There are many casualties. I hope to recover players, but I don't know if that will be next week.

"At the moment there are many casualties, but the players we have are committed and we have to continue with them. It's complicated, but you have to continue."

Despite the growing list of injuries, Madrid beat Valladolid thanks to Casemiro's second-half header to make it four LaLiga wins in a row, the last three of those victories without conceding.

Madrid are now within three points of leaders Atletico Madrid, who have dropped points in three of their last four matches but still have a game in hand to play.

Zidane's men travel to the Wanda Metropolitano on March 7 and the Frenchman wants his side to keep putting points on the board before then.

"There is no need to send a message. It is an important victory. It is the fourth victory and we have to continue our business," he said.

"You have to be happy with the game, with the result and with the clean sheet.

"We are in a good moment and have found some consistency with our results. The whole team defends very well. With the ball we can do things. 

"We arrived well and we have to rest well. We are going to prepare for the game on Wednesday in the best possible way."

Casemiro had missed two glorious headed chances before finding the back of the net with his third, which came via a superb Toni Kroos delivery from deep.

Kroos created four big opportunities in total and had both the most touches (83) and completed more passes (73) than any other player on the field.

Match-winner Casemiro was keen to share the plaudits with his team-mate, who now has five assists in his last five appearances.

"You have to be there to finish it off. But the credit goes to Toni, who always puts them well," he told Movistar. "I had three chances and I had to put away the third one.

"We still believe in the LaLiga title. All games are important. There are 42 points left. There are many points left and we believe in ourselves."

Casemiro's headed goal was his fourth of the LaLiga season - more than any other midfielder in Europe's top five leagues.

However, Madrid may well have been on the end of a shock defeat if not for Thibaut Courtois, the Belgium international making three big saves with the game still all square.

"We know that we are all important," Casemiro said. "Courtois with the stops - I'm not surprised, he always does that. 

"It's was a good goal for me to score. But we cannot speak of a single player today. This victory belongs to everyone."

Zinedine Zidane enjoyed watching Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland in Champions League action, though he refused to be drawn over his preference amid links to Real Madrid.

Mbappe lit up the start of the knockout stages of the European competition with a hat-trick for Paris Saint-Germain against Madrid's domestic rivals Barcelona on Tuesday, helping the French club record an outstanding 4-1 triumph at Camp Nou.

Just 24 hours later, Haaland continued his astonishing scoring exploits in the Champions League, becoming the fastest player to reach 10 goals for one club as he struck twice for Borussia Dortmund in a 3-2 victory away to Sevilla in the last 16.

Both young forwards have been rumoured as transfer targets for Madrid, so it was hardly surprising they were a topic of discussion for Zidane during his pre-match media conference ahead of Saturday's LaLiga trip to Real Valladolid.

Asked for his assessment of fellow Frenchman Mbappe, he replied: "I think the performance he put in earlier this week was marvellous. 

"I loved seeing what he did because we know each other from France.

"It's very good for football, I watched the game as a fan. I had a very good time watching it. He has a lot of good movement, a lot of good play."

French media has claimed Mbappe has been offered a new long-term deal to remain at PSG. The 22-year-old's current contract runs until 2022, which is the same year Haaland can leave Dortmund for €75million (£65m), according to a reported agreement with the Bundesliga club.

Madrid head coach Zidane, however, was not interested in revealing which of the duo he ranked higher.

"Like I said, what I like is just watching football. I just like watching good football, good players on the pitch," he said. 

"Two tremendous players, for now and the future. That's it. I'm not going to say who I prefer over the other. Everyone has their opinion."

The continued rise of Mbappe and Haaland as superstars has led to suggestions they can step in and become the next great pairing, taking over from the longstanding rivalry between Madrid legend Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona captain Lionel Messi.

"They are quality players both of them, just like Messi and Cristiano," Zidane said. "Neymar, all these world class players, they're just like them.

"They're younger, they're demonstrating they are not just players for the future but players for the present."

 

Karim Benzema is out of Real Madrid's LaLiga clash at Real Valladolid and faces a race to be fit for Wednesday's Champions League tie against Atalanta.

Los Blancos' superstar striker did not train on Friday due to an unspecified knock and will not travel to the Jose Zorrilla, where Madrid are looking for a fourth straight top-flight win.

Head coach Zinedine Zidane was unsure if Benzema will return for the last-16 first-leg tie at Atalanta and said he will be re-evaluated later in the week.

"Karim won't be with us tomorrow, he has a little niggle, he has something and he won't be with us tomorrow," Zidane told a pre-match news conference. 

"We hope he's ready for Wednesday, from Sunday-Monday onwards we'll see how his problems evolve and how he's ready for Wednesday."

It is an unwelcome blow for Zidane, whose squad has already been ravaged by injury with Benzema joining Eden Hazard, Rodrygo, Federico Valverde, Alvaro Odriozola, Eder Militao, Marcelo, Dani Carvajal and captain Sergio Ramos on the sidelines.

"I think any injury we get is a hammer blow for us. But of course we know the player Karim is for us, how important he is," Zidane added. 

"But as I said before he is injured, he won't be available tomorrow and we have to do the best we can. 

"We have to think about players who are there and recover Karim as soon as possible. The same goes for all the other players."

Despite the injury woes, Madrid have performed well over the past week in LaLiga and Zidane was asked if he is confident the team can show a similarly positive attitude in Europe.

"It is what it is. Mentally we can't do anything about these injuries. We just want to avoid more injuries," he said. 

"I think everyone here is committed to doing that but so many factors go into this. It's true that lately a lot of players are injured and it doesn't help. 

"We have so many injuries, today we had another with Benzema but we just need to be patient and the players who are available we just need to give it our all, and just hope we are going to recover our players. 

"I know the players want to get back to training and on the pitch. I hope we get all our players back but it's true lately it's become a little complicated, yes."

Zinedine Zidane and Toni Kroos have lamented Real Madrid's growing injury issues after full-back Dani Carvajal limped off in Sunday's 2-0 win over Valencia.

Carvajal was making his first appearance for Madrid since January 2 but lasted just 28 minutes before sustaining an apparent injury to his right thigh.

He has been restricted to 12 games in all competitions this term and is now considered a big doubt for the Champions League last-16 first leg with Atalanta on February 24.

The Spain international joins the likes of Sergio Ramos, Eder Militao, Alvaro Odriozola, Eden Hazard, Rodrygo, Federico Valverde and Marcelo on the sidelines.

Madrid boss Zidane is concerned about the long list of injuries he has had to contend with this term and is unsure why so many players have been ruled out of action.

"There are a lot of injuries," he told Movistar. "I'm worried because when you lose a player it bothers me. It's a relapse [for Carvajal]. 

"I'm sorry for him because he was fine to play and is a very important player to us. But I can't explain all these injuries."

Asked if the packed fixture schedule is to blame, with Madrid playing nine times since the turn of the year, Zidane said: "I'm not going to get into that.

"We already have enough trouble. The calendar is what it is. We didn't have a normal pre-season and there are many injuries. 

"I hope to get my players back but I'm not going to get involved in the rest."

Lucas Vazquez replaced Carvajal at right-back and slotted in seamlessly by teeing up Kroos for Madrid's second, 30 minutes after Karim Benzema had opened the scoring.

Kroos, who scored and assisted a goal in the same Madrid match for the first time since November 2018, joined Zidane in bemoaning his side's injury nightmare.

"It worries us a lot, of course. We are without important players," he said. "Dani has come back from three injuries in a row - it's not right, we don't like it.

"But the others have to do as much as possible. We can't change the situation, just accept it."

Valencia managed just one attempt on target at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano - Maxi Gomez's shot from range - in what was a routine third successive league win for Madrid.

Zidane's men have now kept back-to-back clean sheets and the Frenchman is pleased with the improvement made by his side at the back.

"That much is evident," he said. "We believe a lot in what we do. We are overcoming difficulties and there is a lot left for us to give."

Madrid, who have now gone 13 home LaLiga matches without losing to Valencia, are five points adrift of Atletico Madrid having played two games more than the league leaders.

But two-time title-winning boss Zidane is not yet giving up hope of chasing down rivals Atletico, who Madrid face at Wanda Metropolitano on March 7.

"We are going to continue doing what we are doing," he said. "We are not going to look at what others are doing. Today we played a very good game. 

"They all defended very well without the ball and when got forward we caused a lot of damage. We have to continue in this way."

Valencia head coach Javi Gracia has won only one of his eight LaLiga games against Madrid and took full blame for his side's lacklustre display in the Spanish capital.

"It was a bad game from us," he said. "I do not know if it was our worst of the season but one of the worst. The intention was to be more aggressive, it was very easy for them.

"The coach has the maximum responsibility in everything. This is a step backwards in our trajectory. From the first minute we have not been able to demonstrate anything. 

"We have not seen options to achieve anything positive here. We could not even link two passes"

Zinedine Zidane says coaching France remains a career goal of his but remains confident Real Madrid can achieve "great things" this season.

The Madrid boss has seen his position come under scrutiny this season after some high-profile defeats, but he thinks success in LaLiga and the Champions League remains possible.

Zidane has regularly been linked with managing his native France, with incumbent head coach Didier Deschamps recently tipping him to succeed him in the role.

French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet, meanwhile, has said Zidane would be the first person he would call should he ever need to replace Deschamps.

Ahead of Madrid's home match with Valencia on Sunday, Zidane was open about his aspirations.

"I am passionate about football and you never know about the future," he said.

"My relationship with Mr Le Graet is long, since 1998.

"The national team is a goal, like I said when I started coaching 10 years ago, but now I'm here.

"We will see. My mind is here. I am at Madrid and I enjoy every day."

Zidane added: "We know the pressure that comes with representing Real Madrid. We do our own thing, what we can control.

"We know we can achieve great things and we are going to put all our energy into these two [remaining] competitions."

Madrid are eyeing a fourth win in five matches when they host mid-table Valencia.

But after winning the reverse fixture 4-1, Valencia are looking to complete a league double over Madrid for the first time since 1967-68 season.

To do that, they will need to end a long streak.

Madrid have avoided defeat in their past 12 home LaLiga games against Valencia (seven wins and five draws) since a 3-2 loss in March 2008, and they have scored at least two goals in nine of them.

Real Madrid will "keep on fighting" in this season's LaLiga title race, says Zinedine Zidane, whose side are five points shy of leaders Atletico Madrid.

Atleti's draw with Celta Vigo on Monday gave Madrid the opportunity to make up some ground when they faced Getafe on Tuesday, and Los Blancos cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win.

Karim Benzema's fifth headed goal of the season in all competitions – more than any other LaLiga player other than Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri – put Madrid ahead with an hour played before Ferland Mendy turned home Marcelo's cross.

Getafe were hardly robust opposition, however, with Jose Bordalas' side mustering just one attempt in the entire match. Indeed, Thibaut Courtois did not have to make a save, claim a catch or punch a cross clear.

It is the lowest amount of shots Madrid have faced in a LaLiga match since 2004-05, while have scored just 17 goals in the league this term - their lowest tally in a single season after 22 games played.

Nevertheless, Madrid did what was required of them and moved back into second place, three points above Barcelona and five behind Atleti, though Diego Simeone's side have two games in hand.

Zidane insisted Madrid's focus is simply on taking it game by game as they hope to retain their title.

"It will not change anything, we will do our thing. Our duty is to fight, to continue with our work, without paying attention to others," said Zidane, after seeing his side win back-to-back games for the first time in 2021.

"It's a good win. They are two consecutive victories, we needed it. Also with many injuries. We needed it now.

"I don't think there are Madridistas who think we're going to lose the league. On the contrary, they think we can always change things and that is what we are going to try to do. 

"With difficulties, it is clear, but we continue to do our thing. You have to keep fighting, little by little."

With Madrid cruising, Zidane introduced the lesser-spotted Isco in the 75th minute – the playmaker having not featured since January 23 due to a back injury.

Isco has made just three LaLiga starts this season and has created five chances – registering one assist – across 12 league appearances in total.

"Isco couldn't start," Zidane explained when asked why Isco, who was linked with a move away in January, was on the bench.

"He has only trained once with the team. Then he entered the game a little later. It was just that, because he only did one training session with us."

Zinedine Zidane has denied suggestions he is close to leaving Real Madrid, though offered no guarantees about his future.

Madrid boss Zidane defiantly declared prior to last Saturday's meeting with Huesca he would not throw in the towel after seeing his team beat Deportivo Alaves and lose at home to Levante in his absence due to a positive coronavirus test.

Prior to that, Los Blancos lost in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals against Athletic Bilbao and suffered a humiliating Copa del Rey exit at the hands of third-tier Alcoyano.

Although Madrid came from behind to beat Huesca 2-1 to record their second win in six games, Zidane still faced questions about his future ahead of a clash with Getafe on Tuesday.

When it was put to him his comments last week led to some concerns among fans that he could be on his way out of the club, Zidane replied on Monday: "No, listen, the important thing is the day-to-day work, that's what we're doing. The other day, whatever happened, we're just going to work.

"Everyone is here, we're just going to try to work. And the rest, everyone has freedom to have their opinion, that's normal.

"Everyone can say what they say, but I can also say what we're going to do here: that's work hard, believe in what we're doing and try to recover a bit of confidence and end the season well."

He added: "Why would I abandon Real Madrid? I'm doing what I like here. This is football; there are tough moments, but you just get on with it.

"We are just going to fight and battle, we need to do things properly with this team. Real Madrid is a great club and what you have to do is compete. There will always be changes here.

"We're all in the same boat here. I feel supported by everybody. You have to say what you have to say but we know what we have to do here. We just have to do things well, like we were doing just three or four weeks ago.

"There are difficult moments in a season, you have to accept it, and that helps you in more difficult moments. That's what we want to do, we want to change the situation.

"We've got important players, they're very good, they've won a lot, and nothing is going to stop us working hard for the rest of the season."

However, when asked if he would see out his contract, which runs until 2022, Zidane did not offer a straight answer.

"Well, we'll see," he said. "The important thing is, I said it to the other reporters, we're just focused on this season, the game tomorrow.

"I just focus on the day-to-day, today, tomorrow, the game. As for the rest, I don't know what's going to happen so I'm not thinking about anything apart from the game tomorrow."

Sergio Ramos was at risk of an even more serious injury if he had not gone for meniscus surgery, Zinedine Zidane has claimed.

Real Madrid captain Ramos could face around two months on the sidelines after going under the knife - a considerable blow against the club's fading title defence.

The 34-year-old appears certain to miss both legs of the Champions League last-16 tie against Atalanta and El Derbi against Atletico Madrid on March 7.

Madrid cut Atleti's lead at the top of LaLiga to seven points as Ramos' defensive colleague Raphael Varane scored both goals in a 2-1 comeback win over bottom club Huesca. However, Diego Simeone's men have two games in hand.

"It was important for him to be calm with [the operation]," Zidane told reporters when discussing Ramos after the match.

"It had to be done because he was on the edge. The operation went very well and that is the important thing. He will work from tomorrow to be with us again."

Madrid headed to El Alcoraz with two wins from their six games in all competitions in 2021 and were second-best for spells against their lowly opponents, who hit the crossbar either side of Javi Galan's emphatic 48th-minute opener.

But Varane smuggled home when a Karim Benzema free-kick looped back off the crossbar and the France centre-back was on hand once more to poke in when Casemiro's header was saved, easing the pressure on his countryman Zidane.

"We are happy with the victory. It was a difficult game but we added the three points," Zidane said.

"You have to keep fighting. This [season] is still long.

"It's never easy at 1-0 when your opponent scores a goal. We had minutes of difficulty, but we stayed in the game thinking that it could be changed and that's what we did, with personality."

Raphael Varane was Real Madrid's unlikely hero as he scored twice in a 2-1 comeback win over LaLiga basement boys Huesca.

Under-fire head coach Zinedine Zidane looked to rally his players with a defiant media briefing on Friday but they were often lacklustre El Alcoraz, with Javi Galan brilliantly giving Huesca the lead in the midst of a five-minute spell after half-time where they hit the crossbar twice.

Karim Benzema waged an at-times lone battle to get Madrid back into the match and countryman Varane converted the rebound when his 55th-minute free-kick spun up off the crossbar.

Alvaro Fernandez made a string of magnificent saves to frustrate the tireless Benzema, but Varane was on hand six minutes from time to close the gap at the top of the table to seven points - although Atletico Madrid have two games in hand.

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