Zinedine Zidane will decide on the day whether Gareth Bale is fit enough to try to help Real Madrid improve their stuttering home form against Espanyol on Sunday evening.
Bale capped a fine performance with a brilliant goal in Tuesday’s 3-1 Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund but did not finish the game and has not taken a full part in training since due to a muscle problem.
Zidane says Bale’s injury is not a major one and has not ruled the forward out of the Espanyol match, but insists he will not take any risks with a player who has been plagued by fitness issues during his time in Spain.
The Frenchman told a press conference: “We’ll see tomorrow if he’s involved. It’s a muscle fatigue, it’s nothing serious. But, as always, we don’t like to take any risks when a player has even a small problem. We’ll see how he is tomorrow. He could be available.”
Bale was this week named in the Wales squad for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and the Republic of Ireland.
Zidane said of that: “Regarding the national team, I don’t think there will be a problem between Madrid and Wales. It depends on him, on his state of fitness. We’ll take it day by day.”
Madrid started the weekend lying sixth in LaLiga and already seven points adrift of leaders Barcelona.
That is exclusively down to Madrid’s poor home form this season. In their three games at the Bernabeu, the reigning European and Spanish champions were held to draws by Valencia and Levante – having trailed in both matches – before going down 1-0 to Real Betis in their last home outing after conceding a stoppage-time winner.
Zidane is hoping for better against Espanyol, although he is not expecting it to be straightforward against a side that have taken seven points from their last three games.
He said: “We’re not living in the past. What has happened, has happened, but we can change it tomorrow and that’s what we’re going to try to do.
“They (Espanyol) have players to play well, but in the Bernabeu it’s different. They could sit back or they could come out and play, what we have to do is our work and try to make sure things go well for us from the start.”
As well as doubts about Bale, Madrid could also be without Karim Benzema, Marcelo, Theo Hernandez and Mateo Kovacic.
Espanyol picked up just one point from their opening three matches but look to have hit form now, with their last outing resulting in a 4-1 mauling of Deportivo La Coruna.
Coach Quique Sanchez Flores, a former player and youth-team coach at Madrid, knows his side cannot afford to let their standards slip at the Bernabeu, though.
He said on his club’s website: “I try to convey to my players that it’s a game where you cannot be overconfident, where you need to be very focused, not fall asleep or close your eyes for an instant, because in a very short space of time the game can change.
“We need to be strong, dignified and take advantage of our opportunities.”
Victor Sanchez, Pablo Piatti and Hernan Perez have dropped out of the squad that beat Depor, with Alvaro Vazquez, Naldo and Javi Fuego coming in.