BARCELONA (Reuters) - Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said he would ease Gareth Bale into action after the injury-prone Wales international returned to full training on Friday, boosting his chances of a return from a lengthy lay off.
Bale has not played a minute of football since injuring his calf against Borussia Dortmund on Sept. 26. Just after returning to full training in November he was dealt another setback by straining a thigh muscle, his 19th injury since joining Real in 2013 for a club record fee of 100 million euros.
“We need to make sure he is 100 percent but I don’t think he will need a lot of time to recover his fitness, he is feeling good” Zidane told a news conference on Friday ahead of Real’s Liga game with Malaga.
“The important thing is that he is with us, that he trains, plays, because that will stop all the negative things happening around him. A lot is said about his injuries, but he is important to us. He knows that, I know that and everyone does.”
Bale has had a nightmarish 12 months with injuries since rupturing ankle ligaments in a Champions League game at Sporting Lisbon a year ago, which required surgery and kept him out for three months.
The winger has had persistent problems with muscle injuries since then, and has admitted in interviews that he regrets rushing back to action after ankle surgery.
“I don’t know when he will play,” Zidane added.
“We’ll see, but he feels good and today he trained without any pain. We know what he can bring to us. He is strong, powerful, very good technically and he works hard. When he has played he has always done well.”
Real, who are third in the Liga standings, have won six out of 10 games in all competitions in Bale’s absence, drawing two and losing two. They face Malaga on Saturday hoping to eat into their 10-point deficit with Liga leaders Barcelona, who meet second placed Valencia on Sunday in a top-of-the-table clash.
Real have faced heavy criticism for falling so far behind their arch rivals after sweeping to the Liga and Champions League double last term, but they did enjoy a cathartic 6-0 win over APOEL Nicosia on Tuesday.
Cristiano Ronaldo struck twice to take his European tally to eight goals this season despite only scoring once in the league, while heavily criticised forward Karim Benzema also got on the scoresheet.
Winger Marco Asensio is injured for the game while captain Sergio Ramos is a doubt after breaking his nose in last week’s goalless derby at Atletico Madrid.
Reporting by Richard Martin Editing by Jeremy Gaunt