REAL MADRID

Real Madrid attempt to keep Gareth Bale away from friendlies

With El Clásico and the Champions League quarter-finals to come, Los Blancos are fearful the Welsh forward might pick up another injury while on international duty.

Gareth Bale is smack bang in the middle of another storm. This time Real Madrid are putting pressure on him not to join up with the Wales national team for the next international break for fear he might tweak his soleus muscle injury again just ahead of El Clásico and the Champions League quarter-finals. There are reports from the British nation that Chris Coleman will have a final conversation with Zinedine Zidane today. The Welsh manager intends to include his star player in his squad for two upcoming friendlies against Northern Ireland (24 March in Cardiff) and Ukraine (28 March in Kiev). But the ex-Fulham coach will assure the Frenchman that he won’t overexert the Madrid forward. Bale won’t play the entirety of the Northern Ireland game but will play a role in front of his home fans. That match against Michael O’Neill’s side will be Wales’ last on home soil before the European Championship gets underway. After that it’s highly unlikely the 26-year-old will travel to Ukraine. His wife is expected to give birth for a second time on 29 March.

Los Merengues’ mistrust is understandable. Bale has suffered six soleus injuries since joining the club in 2013, one of which he picked up while on international duty, when he played 90 minutes against Andorra in a Euro qualifier. Madrid have a tricky fixture list straight after the upcoming break. First they take on Barcelona at the Camp Nou (2 April) and then the Champions League quarter-finals begin (5-6 and 12-13 April).

Bale’s last injury came against Sporting (17 January). He returned to action on 5 March against Celta. With 281 minutes of playing time clocked up since Zidane’s arrival, the Welshman has only featured more than Jesé (275), Nacho (208), Mayoral (199), Arbeloa (90) and Casilla and Yáñez.