MADRID Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos will be rested for Sunday's game against Alaves as the La Liga leaders try to cope with a gruelling fixture list that will see them play nine games in April.
The defender has scored seven league goals this season, helping Real produce late escape acts against Barcelona, Deportivo La Coruna and Real Betis, and he has played eight full games in the last five weeks, including 90 minutes for Spain against Israel and France.
"He is going to rest and that's all there is to it, he has played a lot recently and every player is important," Real coach Zinedine Zidane told reporters on Saturday.
"We have said that there are no substitutes and no regular starters in our team and that's even more true now because we have nine games in 28 days and that means we're going to need every one. We're all prepared for this final stretch."
Among those games are a two-legged Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich, a local derby against Atletico Madrid and a "Clasico" against arch-rivals Barcelona on April 23 that could determine the destination of the title.
"It's the same as always, every player is vital to us and they know that, there will be some that play more than others but we need every player to work hard and contribute every day from now until the end of the season," Zidane added.
"The fixture pile up won't change our objectives, we know that everything is at stake in this final stretch and we are prepared for the challenges of trying to win the league and the Champions League."
Real are two points clear of Barcelona in the standings and have a game in hand on their rivals in pursuit of their first title since 2012.
They will be without midfielder Casemiro in addition to Ramos as the Brazilian is suspended and Zidane said he was wary of Alaves' record of surprising the big teams in the league after beating Barcelona and drawing with Atletico away from home.
"They have done very good things this season and are a very good side but we're prepared for them, we've had a lot of time to get ready for the game," Zidane said.
(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond)