Real Madrid will begin its long spell without Gareth Bale on Saturday when it faces Sporting Gijon just a week before the clasico at Barcelona.
Bale is scheduled to undergo surgery on his injured right ankle on Tuesday in London, and is expected to be out for at least two months.
“Gareth is going to be out a long time, but we have to stay on course and give it our all tomorrow,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said on Friday. “We can’t control these things and just have to hang in there. We have to think that we must keep going and wish him a speedy recovery.”
The Wales winger injured his ankle during Madrid’s 2-1 win over Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League this week. Similar procedures usually sideline players for two to three months.
That will rule him out of the clasico on Dec. 3, and the Club World Cup later in the month.
Bale wrote on Twitter on Friday: “Ankle is feeling ok. I’ll be doing everything I can to get back on the pitch ASAP.”
Bale has seven goals for Madrid this season, forming an ideal strike partner with Cristiano Ronaldo.
Against Sporting Gijon, Madrid will also be without defender Raphael Varane due to a knee knock, Zidane said. But the league leaders will be able to count on defender Pepe and midfielder Casemiro.
“They are fit,” Zidane said.
Madrid hasn’t lost in 30 matches across all competitions. It hosts a struggling Sporting Gijon side that hasn’t won in nine rounds and has won only three times in 42 league matches at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
Even so, Zidane warns that his team is “a bit tired” after playing at Sporting Lisbon and Atletico Madrid in the last week.
“Tomorrow we have a complicated game. It will be tougher than what most people think,” Zidane said.
A win by Madrid would increase its four-point lead over Barcelona before the defending champion visits Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Zidane did not reveal his plans to replace Bale. Forward Lucas Vazquez could be his choice after starting against Sporting Lisbon and Atletico.
Another possibility would be for James Rodriguez to get an increasingly rare chance to play. Once a rising star for Madrid, the Colombia midfielder has become one of Zidane’s least used players.
When asked on Friday if he would seek to leave Madrid if he were in Rodriguez’s situation, Zidane responded that he would stick it out at the European champions.
“He is the first one who wants to play more minutes,” Zidane said about Rodriguez. “Other players are playing well, but he is also an important player for me.”