Gareth Bale is set to miss Real Madrid's crucial La Liga game at Real Valladolid on Wednesday evening, a match Carlo Ancelotti says his side must win to have any chance of winning this season's title.
After a weekend of surprises, Ancelotti's side sit third in the table, although they have a game in hand on leaders Atletico Madrid and second-placed Barcelona, who meet on the final day at the Camp Nou.
Ancelotti told his prematch news conference that Madrid's heavy recent schedule has taken its toll on the team, and that Bale and right-back Dani Carvajal would miss the trip to Valladolid.
However, there was more positive news, with Cristiano Ronaldo set to play despite not taking a full part in training on Tuesday, while Luka Modric should return from his recent absence and Sami Khedira could feature in his first game since suffering a serious knee injury in November.
"Carvajal has an issue, Bale has taken a knock, and they are not available for tomorrow," Ancelotti said on Tuesday. "Cristiano is fine. He was a bit tired, so only did part of the session, but he is available tomorrow and will play. Modric did not train yesterday but did today and should be able to play. Khedira is available and could play part of the game against Valladolid."
In the tightest La Liga title race for many seasons, Ancelotti said Madrid must take maximum points against Valladolid, Celta Vigo and Espanyol and hope that Atletico to slip up either against Malaga on Sunday or on the final day at Barcelona.
"These three games are in our own hands," he said. "Tomorrow is a fundamental game for us. We know if we do not win this game we will lose La Liga. Atletico still have the advantage at the moment. If they get four points, they will win. We need to win our three games and then see what happens. Valladolid are fighting against relegation. They will try and play their best game possible."
Ancelotti dismissed concerns circulating in Spain this week about third-party "incentive" payments being made to motivate opponents of those going for the title.
"I am sure that, at this moment, every team will try to win," he said. "We have had surprising results last week. Levante had nothing to play for but played very well against Atletico. Also, Valencia had nothing in play but were very good against us. That is very good for consistency in La Liga. Every team will fight until last minute, us too.
"I do not understand it -- the players should not need money to be professionals. It is not as serious as paying a team to lose, but players should not need a 'bonus' to win."
He also had no fears that Barca's players could ease off against Atletico on the final day in the hope of denying Real the title.
"I believe Barca will play at their maximum against Atletico," Ancelotti said. "These [end-of-season] games are always played at the same time -- this time too."
Ancelotti stressed that he was not concerned about Monday's much-publicised meeting between Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta and Celta coach Luis Enrique. Madrid play in Vigo on Sunday, and the Marca newspaper has argued that Enrique's first task could be to derail Real's title bid this season.
Ancelotti, though, dismissed the suggestion the pair were discussing this weekend's match.
"I do not know -- I do not see anything in that," he said. "It could be that Barcelona are sounding out a new coach for next year. I do not know their plans -- maybe they talked about the future. But I do not think they talked about the game against Real Madrid. We know very well we will meet a [Celta] team who are playing very well."