Real Madrid are already through to the knockout stage of the Champions league, and that has given manager Rafael Benitez the license to give his key players a breather. Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Kevlar Navas have not been included in the 19-man squad, while Benitez has ruled Sergio Ramos out due to injury.

Ahead of the Champions League’s final group game of the season, Rafael Benitez has decided to rest a few players, with the clash against Villarreal at the weekend, playing on the Spaniard’s mind.

Gareth Bale, who has started just two champions league games this season, is not even in the 19-man squad against Malmo FF. However, Cristiano Ronaldo, the competition’s all-time top scorer with 84 goals – five more than Barcelona’s Lionel Messi – is included in the squad to face Malmo.

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Benitez confirms Ramos blow

While Benitez ruled Ramos out for the match against Malmo, the Madrid-born manager is confident that Sergio will be available for selection at the weekend.

a He’s on the mend but he won’t be included in tomorrow’s squad. I’m not ruling him out for the Villarreal game. I think he’ll recover in time as long as nothing out of the ordinary happensa , Benitez said, as reported by the club’s official website.

Chance to rotate the squad

Although rotating the squad at such a busy time in the football calendar is a good decision, winning is just as important. Real Madrid are four points adrift of leaders Barcelona and a win against Villarreal is a must, given the La Liga’s negligible margin for error. Benitez would know how a good run of form works wonders in terms of confidence and nothing but a victory would be satisfying for Real Madrid against Malmo.