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Champions League: Benitez to rest stars for Malmo visit

Rafa-Real-Madrid1Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez admitted he will rotate his squad for the visit of Swedish champions Malmo on Tuesday with Madrid already assured of their place in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.

Madrid’s better head-to-head record against Paris Saint-Germain means the 10-time winners will finish on top of Group A no matter what happens on matchday six. And with a crucial league clash away to Villarreal to come on Sunday, Benitez hinted that the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema could be set for a rest.

“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.”

Madrid could be handed a big boost for their trip to El Madrigal at the weekend as captain Sergio Ramos returned to training on Monday. Benitez insisted the Spanish international, who has suffered with a recurring shoulder injury for the past three months, wouldn’t feature against Malmo but should be fit to lead the side against Villarreal.

“He is improving, but he is not in the squad for tomorrow,” Benitez added. “Of course I won’t rule him out against Villarreal. He has trained today with the team and therefore I think unless something strange happens he will be ready.”

Norwegian wonderkid Martin Odegaard will also not be included in the squad as Benitez confirmed Marcos Llorente will be the only youth team player involved. Odegaard, 16, has made just one appearance with the Madrid senior team since his high-profile signing for the club in January.

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