MADRID (Reuters) – Real Madrid forward Eden Hazard will start at home to Cadiz in LaLiga on Sunday, manager Carlo Ancelotti has said.

It will be the first time the Belgium midfielder has been in the starting lineup since Real’s 2-1 home loss to Sheriff Tiraspol in the Champions League on Sept. 28.

Ancelotti said Hazard’s selection has nothing to do with Real missing six players due to a COVID-19 outbreak nL1N2T121M at the club.

“He will start but not because of the players that won’t be available. He worked well, did not change his mentality.” Ancelotti told a news conference on Saturday.

Hazard, who has yet to finish a game this season, has not started a LaLiga match since a 2-1 win at Valencia on Sept. 19.

“He kept his motivation, trained well and deserves to play.” Ancelotti added as the runaway league leaders prepare for the trip to third-bottom side Cadiz.

“The first part of the season has been bad for him because it has been a very good for Vinicius Jr and (Karim) Benzema… and I preferred to have (Marco) Asensio and Rodrygo on the right up front (and) interchange between them.”

Asensio and Rodrygo are among Real’s six first-team players who tested positive for COVID-19 this week along with Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Marcelo and Andriy Lunin.

Modric, who tested positive on Wednesday, was negative on Friday but will stay in quarantine until he has no symptoms.

“Modric is a little tired, he had fever (and) won’t play. We still need to evaluate his situation…” Ancelotti said, explaining that his son, Real’s assistant coach Davide, the seventh case at the club this week, is “well and at home”.

Ancelotti said Benzema, who was still nursing a left leg muscle injury, is “feeling very well and will play” on Sunday at Cadiz, who have had only two wins this season.

Real are eight points clear of second-placed Sevilla, who have a game in hand, and nine in front of Real Betis.

(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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