Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane expects to be without the services of Welsh forward Gareth Bale for a long period of time.
Bale damaged tendons in his right ankle during Tuesday’s 2-1 win at Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League and he will undergo surgery next week in London.
“It’s tough to see a player out injured,” Zidane told a news conference ahead of Saturday’s home game against Sporting Gijon.
“Bale is going to be out for a very long time.”
Bale has been key all season for Real, who lead the La Liga standings and have qualified for the Champions League round of 16.
The 27-year-old has scored seven goals and set up three more in 16 starts in all competitions.
Real are also without German midfielder Toni Kroos, who is out until next year due to a broken foot, and Spanish forward Alvaro Morata who is sidelined with a torn hamstring.
French defender Raphael Varane, who scored Real’s opener in Tuesday’s victory in Lisbon, will rest this weekend as a precaution ahead of next week’s Clasico in Barcelona.
“Varane had a knee problem and we don’t want to risk him,” Zidane said.
“We just need to hold out and wait until they recover. The important thing is that we focus on the things that we are doing well.”
Real are unbeaten after 30 games in all competitions and are four points clear of Barcelona at the top of La Liga.
Zidane’s side has scored a league-high 34 goals and are the only team to have hit the back of the net in every league game this season.
They will be boosted by the return of defender Pepe and midfielder Casemiro from injury.
“The two of them are with us and are available for selection,” Zidane said.
Sporting Gijon are without an away win this season and travel to Madrid languishing in 18th place.
“It’s going to be a complicated game because of the players that we have injured,” Zidane said.