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Barca must avoid complacency


Gareth Bale working on fitness

Gareth Bale is currently undergoing a ‘mini-pre-season’ at Real Madrid as he looks to put the fitness issues that have dogged his start to life in Spain behind him.

Gareth Bale is looking to build up his fitness ahead of some tough games for Real Madrid.
Gareth Bale is looking to build up his fitness ahead of some tough games for Real Madrid.

Hunter: Five-point plan

Bale scored on his debut at Villarreal in mid-September, but he has made only two substitute appearances since then, with both Blancos coach Carlo Ancelotti and president Florentino Perez suggesting the problem was more mental concern than a serious physical issue.

The 24-year-old is missing Wales’ World Cup qualifiers against Macedonia and Belgium this week due to a minor thigh injury, which his international coach, Chris Coleman, has blamed on the former Tottenham winger not completing a full pre-season preparation as his world-record transfer dragged on all summer.

Marca has reported that Madrid’s physios have designed an intensive 12-day fitness programme for Bale to complete, which would then have him ready to start the league clash with Malaga at the Bernabeu on October 19, which is quickly followed by Juventus' Champions League visit to the Bernabeu on October 23 and the season’s first La Liga clasico at Barcelona on October 26.

After training on Tuesday evening -- at which the only four senior players were Nacho Fernandez, Diego Lopez, Casemiro and Asier Illarramendi -- the club released a statement saying that Bale, along with Xabi Alonso, was putting in extra fitness work.

“Real Madrid have completed their first training session of the week without 16 footballers who have been called up on international duty,” the statement read. “Carlo Ancelotti took a session at the Real Madrid City in which Xabi Alonso and Bale were also absent as they continue with their recovery programmes. They completed a double session in the morning and afternoon.”

Bale’s injury meant he was also unable to pick up his award as Football Association of Wales player of the year for 2013, which was handed out at a gala ceremony in Cardiff on Sunday evening.

The award, chosen by journalists and broadcasters, covers the period from October 2012 to October 2013. The player tweeted his appreciation of the recognition, while saying he was looking forward to getting back on the pitch.

Wales boss Coleman said on the night of the ceremony that the move to the Bernabeu would be of great benefit in the long term.

“Gareth’s a great player -- and I still think he’s getting better because of his age,” Coleman said. “He’ll only get better working under a manager like Carlo Ancelotti and playing for Real Madrid with players like Ronaldo. He’s serious about Wales -- he’s a Cardiff boy and patriotic -- and what he does for Welsh football is raise the interest in football for our country. He’s brought that for us.”


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