Zidane defends Bale amid injury criticism

By PA Sport Staff

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has launched a strong defence of Gareth Bale following criticism of his latest injury.

Bale limped out of Wednesday’s 3-1 Copa del Rey victory at Unionistas, in which he scored the opening goal, with an ankle knock which has ruled him out of Sunday’s Primera Liga clash at Valladolid.

Zidane has confirmed the injury “isn’t serious, it’s a slight sprain”, and that the Wales captain should return to training on Monday.

Bale has scored over 100 goals for Real, but also struggled with injuries. (Nick Potts/PA)

During his pre-match press conference, however, it was asked of Zidane whether it was more a case of Bale not fancying playing.

Although the relationship between Zidane and Bale has not always appeared the most harmonious, on this occasion the former World Cup winner was quick to protect the winger.

Zidane replied: “You’re entitled to think what you want but when I’m with the player, I’ve spoken to him, he wants to be available, he wants to be with the team, he wants to play.

“The other day he picked up a slight injury. It’s not much, but the doctor has said it’s three or four days, and that’s good he’ll be back soon. Hopefully he can get back in the side and play.”

Bale (left) has received the support of Zidane. (Nick Potts/PA)

As to why he defends Bale, Zidane said: “He scored the other day. I’m always going to do that with my players, not because I need to.

“They train every day, they work hard. There’s a good vibe here and every single player wants to do the best they possibly can for the Real Madrid badge.

“It’s true he’s had a few injuries but you can’t do anything when a player is injured but be patient.”

Zidane, meanwhile, has dismissed reports linking him with the job of France manager.

Zidane won the World Cup with France in 1998. (Adam Butler/PA)

“I’m currently at Real Madrid and am really happy here,” confirmed Zidane. “I’m not interested in other people’s comments, it’s more about what I feel.

“I want to improve as a manager, to evolve, develop, by doing a job I love. I played for many years and now I’m lucky to be a boss, to be managing a great team.”

Real are on an unbeaten run of 18 matches in all competitions, suffering just one defeat this season in LaLiga in which they trail leaders Barcelona only on goal difference.

Aside from Bale, Zidane continues to have Eden Hazard and Sergio Ramos sidelined with their own ankle problems, while two players departed on loan this week in centre-back Jesus Vallejo and full-back Alvaro Odriozola to Granada and Bayern Munich respectively.

Valladolid go into the game on the back of an eight-game winless run in LaLiga, while they suffered a surprise Copa Del Rey exit to second-tier Tenerife in midweek.

Coach Sergio Gonzalez is adamant his side are “not in a delicate, dark or pessimistic period but rather one of concern for the bad run”, and sees no reason why they cannot beat Real, despite the absence of striker Stiven Plaza (hamstring).

Speaking at a press conference, he said: “It is fortunate that we face Madrid after such a disappointment (against Tenerife) because it is an extra motivation playing such a strong team.

“Why can’t we win? Football is about growing and bouncing back from disappointments.”