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Liga BBVA | REAL MADRID-ATHLETIC

Cristiano set to face Athletic, Essien likely to start on the bench

"Cristiano has to be on his last legs not to play," Karanka said. He also hinted that Essien could be rested for the game due to his absence in Friday's training session.

Cristiano set to face Athletic, Essien likely to start on the bench

Aitor Karanka, José Mourinho's number two, spoke at a press conference held ahead of Saturday's game against Athletic Bilbao. He confirmed that Cristiano would play from the start. "Cristiano has to be on his last legs not to play, and tomorrow you'll see that," he said.

Cristiano Ronaldo suffered a nasty cut above his left eye after being elbowed by David Navarro during last Sunday's game between Levante and Real Madrid. He was given six stitches after the incident but failed to return after the break due to the dizziness. The injury also kept him out of international duty as Portugal played a friendly against Gabón on Wednesday.

Cristiano resumed training on Thursday and also took part in Friday's session; therefore, he will start against Athletic. One player that is likely to be rested is Essien, particularly if Khedira returns. "He's played in all sorts of positions recently and done a good job in all of them. Now is the time for him to stop and catch his breath," Karanka said. Essien, Higuaín and Marcelo didn't train with the rest of the squad on Friday.

Estadísticas AS.com