‘Madrid will not rush back Bale’

REAL MADRID coach Zinedine Zidane said yesterday Gareth Bale will only return to competitive action when he is 100 percent fit as the Welshman continues his recovery from a calf injury. Bale has been out since suffering the injury in a 5-1 win against Sporting Gijon in mid-January and has still not returned to full training. Zidane admitted the former Tottenham Hotspur player had suffered a minor setback in his recovery, meaning he will not feature at home to Athletic Bilbao in La Liga on Today and is set to miss next Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg away to Roma.

“He’s feeling better every day but I’m not going to say that he will be back training with us next week,” said Zidane at a press conference yesterday.

“He needs time and we need to be patient because we need Gareth to be 100 percent fit.

“If he is feeling pain then it is to be expected that he might suffer a setback. Gareth is such an important player for us that we are not going to take any risks.”

Bale has struggled with calf problems for the last two years and sports daily Marca reported he could be sidelined for another three weeks yet.

That means Madrid would have to do without Bale for the second leg against Roma at the Santiago Bernabeu on March 8 but also for the derby at home to Atletico Madrid at the end of this month.

Meanwhile, Zidane was slightly more optimistic regarding the fitness of Brazilian left-back Marcelo, who dislocated his right shoulder in last weekend’s 2-1 win away to Granada.

Marcelo will not play against Athletic but Zidane said: “We will see how it evolves. He did a bit of running today (Friday) and that is a good thing for us.

“We will take it one day at a time. He still has a bit of pain in his shoulder and it all depends on how he feels.”

Madrid, who are unbeaten in eight matches, come into the weekend in third place in La Liga, four points behind leaders Barcelona having played a game more. — SuperSport

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