Xabi Alonso says that Real Madrid's heavy schedule of two games a week in Liga, Copa and Champions League over recent months is likely to blame for Cristiano Ronaldo's current knee problems.
Ronaldo limped out of Madrid's 3-0 Champions League quarterfinal first leg win over Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday, and is now a doubt for Saturday's La Liga game at Real Sociedad.
Los Blancos' talisman has played 21 games in just 13 weeks since returning from his winter break, scoring 20 goals over that stretch but also picking up a tendonitis issue in his left knee which has caused him pain in recent games.
Spain international Alonso told Madrid's club website that he expected Ronaldo to play on Saturday at Sociedad, but that scheduling must have an effect on players' fitness.
"Cristiano did the right thing in coming off as a precaution but I don't think he'll have any problems for Saturday," Alonso said. "He has 48 hours left to recover and I think he could progress well and be ready to play.
"He has a small niggle. It's not surprising that there are so many injuries. We have to be careful with the calendar because everything's very close together. In January for example the cup has a schedule that you don't see in other countries."
Alonso, 32, has suffered injury problems late in recent seasons himself, but says the 4-3-3 formation currently favoured by coach Carlo Ancelotti helped him as he did not have to cover as much ground during games.
"I feel good, now is a time of very intense matches," he continued. "I have to recover well and go into them 100 percent. Not every match is good but I try to stay consistent.
"With the 4-3-3 it's not a question of covering more of the pitch, but being more stationary and supporting those around you. Everyone has to be together in attack and defence."
The former Liverpool player was however criticised for key mistakes in the recent La Liga losses to Barcelona and Sevilla, results he admitted had hurt Madrid’s title chances.
"The teams that beat us were on top of their games, we did not play well and made mistakes that we have paid dearly for," Alonso said. "In La Liga we have lost the lead we had, but you have to keep fighting because there could be surprises.
"Personal performances in those matches affect the team. It was not good news for us, but that's football, we were behind before and we came back."
The former Real Sociedad youth-team graduate said that while his former side were playing really well at the moment as they sit fifth in the table, Madrid's situation meant they needed to take the three points on Saturday evening.
"Anoeta [Stadium] is always tricky, they have been playing well for two seasons and enjoying great results," Alonso added. "People are excited about the team.
"We have to recover as soon as possible because it will be a tough match and we have to win no matter what."