Bale integration fears played down
Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti says that Gareth Bale’s recent low-key performances are due to his lack of match-fitness, not any issues adapting to the team’s style of play.
The former Tottenham man’s up-and-down start to his Madrid career has continued this month, with injury again limiting his minutes on the pitch.
Bale returned to the starting line-up for recent games against Osasuna and Espanyol, but the natural left-footer still sometimes looks uncomfortable on the right wing when teammates try to build play patiently against deep-set defences.
However, he can be devastatingly effective when given the ball in space on the break, and Ancelotti told AS that he had no concerns about how the 100 million euro signing (who has not scored since November) was getting accustomed into Madrid’s style of play.
“It could be that [Bale] did not participate much in the last games, but that does not mean he is not integrated in the team,” Ancelotti said. “He had this injury from a bang in training, and for him it is very important to be in top physical condition. It is not a problem of him fitting in, just a physical thing.”
Madrid boss did however suggest that Bale might be following a similar path to Luka Modric, who also took a while to settle after his big-money move from Spurs in summer 2012, but is now proving himself one of Madrid’s most important players in his second season at the club.
“Maybe last year Luka had some problems settling in his first year,” Ancelotti said. “But he has more confidence now, he knows his teammates better. He has more responsibility to play more. He is in a good moment -- but tomorrow he will rest.”
Modric will sit out Wednesday evening’s Copa del Rey last-16 second leg at Osasuna, into which Madrid carry a 2-0 advantage from last week’s first game at the Bernabeu.
Asier Illarramendi is likely to take the Croatian’s place in midfield at the Reyno de Navarra stadium, with fit again Fabio Coentrao -- who has played just 284 minutes for Madrid in all competitions so far this season -- coming in for the rested Marcelo at left-back.
Bale is likely to get another chance to improve his match-fitness, playing alongside newly named Ballon d’Or 2103 winner Cristiano Ronaldo in attack. Isco or Jese Rodriguez could return to the starting line-up, with Angel Di Maria perhaps dropping down to the bench.