Gareth Bale put in one of the finest performances he has conjured up for some time against Malaga, and it comes just at the right moment.
Next Sunday is the Clasico, Real Madrid against Barcelona, and it could decide the fate of the La Liga title.
So far, Bale has struggled to make much impact in Real Madrid's bigger fixtures, not impressing in the previous Clasico and only playing a half of his side's defeat by Atletico Madrid.
Per the story:
For Bale, the most important thing is that he feels increasingly more confident. He is featuring in almost every game without any niggling muscle pains and he aims to continue improving as Real enters the business end of the season.
And it tallies with what we saw at La Rosaleda.
Within a few minutes Bale already had a strong shout for a penalty.
Malaga defender Marcos Angeleri brought the Welshman down inside the box, but referee Martinez Munuera did not see fit to point to the spot.
Bale did appear more confident in his own ability, spraying the ball from right to left on various occasions to open up new angles and taking time on the ball when he needed to.
His crossing was dangerous, with Marcelo going close from one right-foot delivery.
Bale feels he is comfortable on the right-hand side of Madrid's front line.
At a promotional event during the week, he said, as reported by AS:
Last season with Tottenham I didn’t play as much on the left, I was playing more down the middle or on the right – like with Wales. I feel comfortable playing on the right wing, I’m happy there.
It was good work by Bale that helped create the opportunity for Ronaldo's opening goal.
The Portugal striker did the hard part admittedly, cutting in from the right and drilling a hard, low strike beyond the goalkeeper and into the far corner.
He gave Vitorino Antunes one of the toughest evenings he is ever likely to experience.
His manager, Paco, substituted him off soon after Bale had set up Ronaldo.
Asked earlier this week what marks he would give himself out of 10, Bale replied: "I wouldn’t know what to give myself, but I’m happy with how it’s going. I’ve improved a lot and I feel good and I’ve still got margin for improvement."
While he's not wrong, Real Madrid fans will be happy with him if he plays like this again at the Bernabeu next Sunday.
The last game Bale truly starred in was the 6-1 win over Schalke in the Champions League on February 26.
He scored twice and was lauded for a strong display.
But the next game, against Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon, he was anonymous.
Bale ended up getting the assist for Ronaldo's late equaliser, but unlike his one against Malaga, it was totally by accident.
He miscontrolled the ball, and Ronaldo swept it home.
On Saturday night he was far more influential.
To repay his enormous transfer fee, Bale has to produce these sort of performances on the biggest occasions.
And there's no better time to start than the Clasico.
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