Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has given reassurances over Gareth Bale's game time after he dropped the Welshman to the bench in their 2-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.
Los Blancos triumphed at the Parc des Princes to ensure an aggregate score of 5-2 in their UEFA Champions League last-16 tie, and Bale played a total of 36 minutes across the two legs after being restricted to late cameos in each.
"I'm sure he would like to play more, but we have many games," Zidane said, per Marca's J.L. Calderon. "We will keep doing what we're doing. I think everyone is important, that's how I see it, and Bale is one of those. Don't worry about him not playing this tie because he will play."
According to Sky Sports, he added: "I respect all the players, including Gareth Bale. He wasn't a starter in either leg, but he's a very important player who causes lots of trouble to the opposition. We have to stay united, as we were tonight."
Zidane opted to start Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema up front, with Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio on the flanks.
Managing Madrid's Kiyan Sobhani disagreed with Zidane's decision to bench Bale:
However, the manager's selection proved to be effective as the pair put in strong performances, with Vazquez—having been picked out on the left by a good ball from Asensio—supplying a teasing cross to the back post for Ronaldo to open the scoring after 51 minutes.
ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan and the Guardian's Sid Lowe praised the manager's use of the pair:
PSG managed to grab a fortunate equaliser through Edinson Cavani after Marco Verratti was sent off for confronting the referee over not being given a free-kick, before Casemiro's deflected effort rounded out the scoring.
The Champions League represents Real's only hope of salvaging an otherwise disappointing season; they're 15 points behind Barcelona in La Liga, and they were dumped out of the Copa del Rey in the quarter-finals by Leganes.
Their domestic failings won't matter too much if they win Europe's elite competition for the third year running, but Zidane is hoping their campaign has turned a corner:
"We've had difficult moments in La Liga and Copa del Rey, but it's always difficult to maintain the same level while playing every three days. You can't always win everything, but we're winning now in La Liga and we have to look ahead to our game with Eibar on Saturday."
Bale—who has picked up two goals and an assist in his last three La Liga matches—can and likely will play a significant role in helping Los Blancos finish their La Liga campaign as strongly as possible.
However, if he's to regain a starting berth in the biggest matches, namely those in the Champions League, he'll need to put in performances that make him indispensable to the team.