Madrid done rotating players as it goes for Spanish title
By TALES AZZONI
MADRID (AP) There is no more rest for Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates.
Zinedine Zidane is done rotating his squad and will use Ronaldo and the rest of the regular starters when Madrid plays at Celta Vigo with a chance to regain the Spanish league lead and move into position to clinch its first title in five years.
A win or a draw in the match postponed from February because of bad weather will move Madrid past Barcelona into first place going into the weekend's final round of matches. Both teams have 87 points, but the Catalan club leads on the head-to-head tiebreaker. Madrid plays at mid-table Malaga on Sunday, while Barcelona finishes its season against eighth-place Eibar on the same day.
"We are prepared," Zidane said Tuesday. "We have two matches to play, two finals, and then it's all over in the league. Everybody is doing very well physically and wishing that the game starts as soon as possible. We are thinking positively and we will give everything we have."
Zidane had been rotating the squad the last few months as Madrid also played the decisive stages of the Champions League. Its latest game in the European competition was against Atletico Madrid in the semifinals last week, when it advanced to the final on June 3.
Zidane kept regular starters such as Karim Benzema, Casemiro and Luka Modric out of the starting lineup against Sevilla on Sunday, when Madrid won 4-1. Ronaldo was in that match, scoring two goals, and he is also going to play on Wednesday in Vigo. The star forward hadn't played in an away match for Madrid since March, against Athletic Bilbao. He was rested in the team's following four away matches in the league.
"Cristiano will be with us," Zidane said.
The game against Celta was originally scheduled to be played on Feb. 5 but was postponed because heavy winds damaged the roof of the Balaidos Stadium, making it unsafe for players and spectators. Vigo authorities at the time accused Madrid of improperly pressuring to play the game despite the security concerns, and the club had to officially respond by saying that it would never want to put the fans' safety at risk.
Madrid wanted to avoid playing Celta so late in the season. There were no other dates to play the match because Celta was participating in the Europa League and Madrid in the Champions League.
Celta, which made it to the semifinals of the Europa League, eliminated Madrid in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey after winning 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and drawing 2-2 at the Balaidos in January. The team is currently 13th in the Spanish league standings.
"It will be a difficult game because Celta has a good team. It's going to be complicated, just like it was against Sevilla and like it will be against Malaga," Zidane said. "I expect to face the same Celta team as always."
Madrid hasn't won the league since 2012 and is trying to avoid its longest title drought since 1981-85. It's longest winless streak since then was when Barcelona won four in a row from 1991-94.
Barcelona is trying to win the league title for the third straight time.
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Updated May 16, 2017