Ancelotti surprised by Bale claims
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has said Gareth Bale does not have a serious back problem and is set to play a part against Malaga at the Bernabeu on Saturday.
While Bale remains less than 100 percent fit after his lack of a full preseason programme, he returned to full training on Wednesday and looks likely to at least be on the bench.
Ancelotti echoed Real president Florentino Perez in dismissing Marca's recent report that the former Tottenham man was suffering from a slipped disc which required an operation.
"It was a surprise as it is not the truth," he told a news conference on Friday. "Bale does not have a problem -- it is just that he did not do a good pre-season and is not fully fit.
"If he had a slipped disc he could not have played over 100 games in the last four seasons. His problem is just the pre-season, but he is training well and he is available, maybe for the full game or part of the game. I want to give him some minutes tomorrow as he needs to play."
Goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who said this week that he would consider leaving Madrid in January if he does not play more, is also likely to be among the substitutes.
Ancelotti said he had had no issues with his club captain, adding: "Casillas is a great keeper, very professional and behaving very well to help the team.
"Although he does not play all the games, he is acting like a captain. We need to speak with Iker, because it is good to talk and understand what is happening. But that is a private conversation -- he has said nothing to me personally."
The Malaga game begins a key week in Madrid's season, with Juventus at the Bernabeu in the Champions League on Wednesday, and the first clasico of the season at the Camp Nou the following Saturday.
"This team -- for the quality it has -- must play better," Ancelotti said. "It is true that we played bad in parts against Levante [before the international break], but we finished the game very well. We must improve defensively, and the tempo of our play.
"I believe the players have believed they have made mistakes in previous games, and I am sure they will be different in the next game. The team has had problems in its play, but has shown its character, experience and personality. So I have confidence."
Sami Khedira, Asier Illarramendi and Isco would start against Malaga in midfield, Ancelotti revealed, but he said Raphael Varane would be rested to ensure he was ready for the Juventus game.
"Varane had a small problem [when playing for France against Australia], but was able to play afterwards," he explained. "Then his knee got a bit inflamed. He cannot play tomorrow, but he has done individual training this morning, and he will play on Wednesday."
The coach said he believed Varane's France international colleague Karim Benzema would benefit from returning to the scoresheet for his country in the friendly demolition of the Socceroos.
"Benzema’s problem with France is over as he scored," he said. "For a forward, scoring goals is very important. It improves the confidence. Karim has arrived here more comfortable, and he could play tomorrow."