Rafa Benitez to rest big names as Real Madrid welcome Malmo
By Raz Mirza
Last Updated: 08/12/15 9:13pm
Rafa Benitez will rest Gareth Bale and Luka Modric when Malmo visit the Bernabeu on Tuesday evening with Real Madrid's Champions League progress already assured.
Third in La Liga, Benitez's side will be seeking a convincing performance to appease fans left disgruntled by the recent 4-0 mauling at the hands of Barcelona and the club's disqualification from the Copa del Rey for fielding an ineligible player.
However, they have at least strung together four consecutive victories since their humiliation against Barca and Saturday's 4-1 win over Getafe saw Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo all score in the same game for the first time this season.
Real face a tough visit to Villarreal on Sunday, and having sealed their place in the last 16 as Group A winners ahead of Paris Saint-Germain, Benitez will rest a number of his star names.
Isco is expected to return after serving a two-game La Liga ban, but Bale, Modric and Keylor Navas have all been left out. Sergio Ramos returned to training on Monday after recovering from a shoulder problem, but while the visit of Malmo will come too soon for the Real captain, he could feature at El Madrigal.
"It is a day to rotate, albeit still with the idea of winning," Benitez said on Monday. "We are very satisfied to have qualified as group winners, but we want to keep on winning and manage both things.
"The possibility to win and to change some players so that everyone is in the best condition possible for the game against Villarreal."
Malmo, meanwhile, need to better Shakhtar Donetsk's result in the other game if they are to snatch third spot and a Europa League berth.
With the Swedish domestic season now finished, Age Hareide's side have only played once in the last month, when they went down 5-0 at home to Paris Saint-Germain.
Hareide will be taking charge of the club for the last time in the Champions League after announcing his decision to step down at the end of the year.
And he has taken his side on a warm-weather training camp in Malaga to prepare for the trip to the Spanish capital after their domestic season finished at the end of October.
"The guys need this. Warmth, good plans and a different environment can only make it good for us when we are directing the focus towards Madrid match," Hareide told the club's official website.
Real won the previous match these teams played out during this Champions League campaign (0-2); the only time they have faced each other.
Malmo have lost nine of their last 10 matches played on the road in European competition (W1).
The Spanish giants have won 31 of their last 38 games in the group stages of the Champions League, drawing six times and losing only once (2-1 defeat v Borussia Dortmund in October 2012).
Los Blancos have lost only once in their last 26 home Champions League matches (W22 D3).
Real will top Group A regardless of the result in this game.
Malmo need to better the result registered by Shakhtar in Paris in order to go through to the next round of the Europa League.
Malmo have lost all five of their away games in the Champions League, scoring two goals and conceding 17.