MADRID (Reuters) – La Liga leaders Real Madrid will travel to newly promoted Mallorca on Saturday evening with a host of first team regulars likely to be absent through injury.
Real’s start to the league campaign has been blighted by injury problems picked up in the opening two months of the campaign. In addition to Marco Asensio, who has a long-term knee problem, Nacho, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Lucas Vazquez are all doubtful for the trip to the Balearic Islanders.
Mallorca, meanwhile, will be glad of any advantage as they seek to escape the relegation zone, sitting third from bottom after returning to the top flight this season.
Despite the multiple absentees, which leave Casemiro as the only first choice central midfielder available to coach Zinedine Zidane, Real top the table on 18 points. They are two points clear of nearest rivals Barcelona, who face a testing trip to Eibar earlier on Saturday.
A victory for the Catalans would see them top the standings – at least temporarily – for the first time in what has been an indifferent start to their title defence.
Star man Lionel Messi says they are conscious that their goal should be retaining their title.
“The Champions League is something special and we all want to win it, but we are conscious that La Liga is the most important,” he said.
“We never forget about the Liga and the Copa because we are Barcelona and we always aim to win everything.”
The Argentine is fit again after missing the start of the season and admits he needs to adapt as he gets older.
“It’s tough because in your head you’re fine and you think you’re still 25 and can do what you did back then. But your body tells you otherwise and there’s circumstances in which you need to take more care of yourself than before.
“It takes time and you have to prepare in a different way for both training and games.”
Barca will be without suspended duo Gerard Pique and Ousmane Dembele for the trip to the Basque country, where they were held to a 2-2 draw on their last visit in May.
Elsewhere, high-flying Granada host Osasuna on Friday, while Valencia travel to Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
Bottom of the table Leganes, who have yet to win this season, visit Getafe in a Madrid derby on Sunday.
(Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli; Editing by David Goodman)