Bale in Zidane’s plans for return against Roma
MADRID – Gareth Bale looks set to reinforce Real Madrid against AS Roma in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at the Bernabeu on Tuesday after a promising return from injury at the weekend.
Real should also have Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Marcelo back after they missed Saturday’s 7-1 rout of Celta Vigo when Cristiano Ronaldo scored four goals.
Bale, who has scored an average of nearly a goal a match in La Liga this season, should help Real keep the Roma defence busy as the Italian side try to come back from a 2-0 deficit in the first leg in Rome two weeks ago.
The Welsh forward tore a calf muscle against Sporting Gijon on Jan. 17 and had a setback during his recovery last month.
However, Bale had scored 11 goals in eight matches in La Liga prior to that injury and showed he could comfortably pick up where he left off.
He struck 14 minutes after coming on as a substitute on Saturday and now has a tally of 14 goals in his 16 league matches.
“Bale looked good, he was happy to play after so long,” Zidane said. “We’ll see… for the match against Roma but I think he’s ready.”
Bale told the club website (www.realmadrid.com): “I’m really happy after several difficult weeks. It’s great to win this way, come back, play and score.”
Kroos missed Saturday’s game through illness, while Marcelo (muscle fatigue) and Modric (ankle) have been out for two league matches.
Striker Karim Benzema remains doubtful with a thigh muscle problem and teenager Borja Mayoral could again stand in for him.
Zidane will want his most experienced players, though, to ensure Real stay in the hunt for an “Undecima” (11th) European Cup as they target the only major trophy they can still realistically win this season.
Roma also boosted their confidence for the task in Madrid with a 4-1 home win over Fiorentina in a key clash for third place in Serie A on Friday, including two goals from their quick winger Mohamed Salah, who played on loan at Fiore last season.
But coach Luciano Spaletti has injury worries. He did not include central defender Antonio Rudiger in a 21-man squad for the trip, while holding midfielder Radja Nainggolan is doubtful with a groin problem and Daniele De Rossi is still unavailable. -Reuters