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Zinedine Zidane: Gareth Bale 'Training Well' and 'Important' Ahead of Clasico

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2019

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 26: Coach of Real Madrid Zinedine Zidane talks to Gareth Bale of Real Madrid before he enters the pitch during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Santiago Bernabeu stadium on November 26, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has said Gareth Bale is in good shape ahead of the team's crucial Clasico showdown with Barcelona on Wednesday. 

The joint La Liga leaders will head to the Camp Nou to face off in what promises to be a crucial encounter. The match was initially set to be played on October 26, but it was suspended because of civil unrest in the Catalan capital.

A couple of months on, the significance of the game has arguably heightened and Bale will be desperate to be involved after making his return to the side as a substitute against Valencia on Sunday. Zidane hinted the Welshman may be involved in the encounter on the eve of the game, per Manu de Juan of AS.

"Bale is with us, he is training well," said the Madrid boss. "He is an important player and has always shown that. Tomorrow he will be prepared like everyone, I don't have a doubt about that."

Bale made his first appearance for Madrid since November 30 on Sunday, coming off the bench for the final 21 minutes at the Mestalla. Although he struggled to get up to the pace of the game against Los Che, he was on the field for Karim Benzema's stoppage-time equaliser:

Speaking on Premier Sports, Sid Lowe of the Guardian thinks Zidane will make the decision to start Bale in the Clasico:

Watch El Clásico live on Premier Sports 📺 @PremierSportsTV

🤔 Will Gareth Bale start for Real Madrid in the El Clasico? 🗣 @sidlowe seems to think so 👀 📺 Watch Viva LaLiga on LaLigaTV, via the Premier Player! #ElClasico https://t.co/3TCNyqo39H

As relayed by Spanish football writer Dermot Corrigan, neither Rodrygo nor Isco were impressive when handed a chance at Valencia:

Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan

Zidane going for it with Bale and Vinicius for Rodrygo and Isco - who have both faded out of it almost completely.

Bale has endured a turbulent campaign due to a number of factors, so it would be a big call if Zidane did decide to start him in what is Madrid's biggest game of the season.

After all, there was a spell during the summer when it appeared unlikely Bale would be playing for the club in 2019-20, although a move to the Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning fell through. The Welshman has also suffered with his trademark fitness issues, with a succession of knocks limiting his playing time.

Bale has also been jeered by his own fans, most notably in the 3-1 win over Real Sociedad last month after he brandished a flag suggesting he prefers the Wales team and golf over Los Blancos on international duty:

Watch El Clásico live on Premier Sports 📺 @PremierSportsTV

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿🏌‍♂⚪ 🙈 Gareth Bale is welcomed into the game by whistles from all around the Bernabeu! https://t.co/PSk82cBDQx

Nevertheless, throughout his Madrid career, Bale has regularly produced in big games. He's netted numerous goals in major cup finals and while he may now be a little past his best, the 30-year-old remains capable of deciding a game with a swing of his left foot.

Zidane has a lack of options in the final third too. Not only did Rodrygo and Isco fail to take their chances at Valencia, but he's also without the injured Eden Hazard for the Clasico encounter, not to mention long-term absentees Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez.