Real Madrid's Gareth Bale fit for Celta Vigo clash - Zinedine Zidane
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has confirmed that Gareth Bale is finally fit to return for Saturday's La Liga game at home to Celta Vigo.
Bale, 26, has missed almost two months of action since picking up a calf injury in January -- when he had been on a fine run of form, having scored 11 goals in his previous eight games.
Madrid have had mixed results during the Wales international's absence, doing well in the Champions League against Roma, but slipping out of contention in the La Liga title race after draws at Real Betis and Malaga as well as last weekend's 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid.
Zidane told a news conference that Bale was now ready to be selected for Saturday's game against Celta, with the Champions League round-of-16 second leg at home to Roma coming up on Tuesday.
"The first thing is that Gareth will be in the squad tomorrow," Zidane said. "That is very good, makes us very happy, the fans too. The important thing is that he is with us, with Real Madrid."
Zidane is sure to make a number of changes from Wednesday's 3-1 La Liga win at Levante.
Left-back Marcelo is also fit again, while fellow defenders Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal return from suspension. However, Toni Kroos is suffering from a bout of flu and Luka Modric remains sidelined with a foot problem.
"Modric will not be in the squad, Marcelo will," Zidane said. "I do not want to take risks as we have Tuesday's game and Luka is not yet ready to play. Kroos is not in the squad tomorrow as he has the flu and is not ready."
Even with Barca 12 points ahead of Madrid in La Liga, Zidane said he would not be resting any players against Celta to prioritise the Champions League.
"I'm focused on tomorrow's game, in our national league, and the players' objective is to win tomorrow's game," he said. "Then we will prepare for Tuesday. Tomorrow is a game to put our best team on the pitch. I do not look to Tuesday yet."
Wednesday's game at Levante was notable for the energetic and committed performances of former youth or B team players Lucas Vazquez, Casemiro and Borja Mayoral, in a match which saw Madrid's players run 116 km in total -- a longer distance than in any other La Liga clash this season.
Zidane praised his youngsters but said he expected all his players to put in maximum effort.
"What I said about Lucas and Borja, I could say the same about them all," he said. "We can improve, without the ball, for sure. But we will do that. They are good physically, the players say they feel better -- thankfully as the coaching staff have changed things. Not that they were bad before. Just that with the work we have done, we are good, and the players feel that."
Players including James Rodriguez and Isco were whistled by an angry Bernabeu during last weekend's defeat to Atletico, with calls also ringing around the stadium for the resignation of club president Florentino Perez.
Criticism from local fans and pundits this week had been expected, Zidane accepted, while adding that he hoped for a positive mood at the stadium against Celta.
"Of course when you lose, it is not nice for anyone," he said. "I accept that. But it will not divert me from our objectives. We are working on this, it needs time. I know when we lose a game, draw two, it is a catastrophe. I knew that, it was like that when I was a player.
"I accept that, but I am convinced about what we are doing. We know sometimes it's difficult, but we want the fans with us. We will give everything for them tomorrow. We need their support."