Pique rested against Granada; Ramos out for Real Madrid
MADRID (AP) — Barcelona and Real Madrid will be without some key players when they resume their title race in the Spanish league on Sunday.
Madrid will host Alaves without captain Sergio Ramos, goalkeeper Keylor Navas, midfielder James Rodriguez, and left back Marcelo, while Barcelona will play at Granada without playmaker Lionel Messi and defender Gerard Pique.
All are being rested with the exception of Messi, who is serving a yellow-card suspension.
Madrid is two points ahead of Barcelona and has a game in hand.
“We have nine games in April and that means we’re going to need all our players,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “All my players are important.”
Zidane has all other players available for the match at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, including the offensive trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, and Karim Benzema.
Alaves, which will play the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona in May, is 10th in the league with only one loss in its last six matches.
Luis Enrique will be able to count on forwards Luis Suarez and Neymar against Granada at Los Carmenes Stadium.
“We are resting a player who is vital for us,” Luis Enrique said of Pique. “He was with the national team and has played a lot of minutes. We have an intense schedule of games ahead of us.”
The coach said Messi’s absence “will be good for him” because “he will get some rest.”
Messi was away with Argentina during the international break, although he didn’t play in the team’s last South American qualifier — a 2-0 loss at Bolivia — because of a suspension for insulting a linesman.
Pique and Ramos, starters for Spain, have been exchanging blows through social media and television interviews over which team has gained from refereeing decisions.
Granada has lost four of its last five games and is in the relegation zone.
Barcelona has a six-point gap to third-place Sevilla, which will try to move closer to the top when it hosts relegation-wary Sporting Gijon on Sunday.
Fourth-place Atletico Madrid played at Malaga late Saturday.