REAL SOCIEDAD - REAL MADRID

Real Madrid's title chances rest on Gareth Bale's shoulders

Zidane’s side have key injury worries ahead of this afternoon’s game at Real Sociedad, who are also missing key players upfront.Real Sociedad-Real Madrid live

Not for a long time has a Real Sociedad-Real Madrid game been played to such little fanfare. Zidane’s side have one eye on medical reports and the Champions League, which they believe gives them their most realistic chance of success this season, while La Real are winding down, safe from relegation yet clearly out of the running for a European spot.

Real Sociedad at the end of the match against Villarreal.

Gareth Bale will be the main man today; injuries to Cristiano and Benzema mean that the Welshman will lead Madrid’s forward line in this afternoon’s clash at Anoeta. Zidane did consider resting him given that he could be the only first-choice forward fit for Wednesday’s return leg against Manchester City but his prolific league form, which has seen him score 18 goals this season, seems to have tipped the balance in favour of starting him in an attempt to keep Madrid’s title hopes alive.

Toni Kroos, meanwhile, has been rested and did not travel with the squad, which could open the door to Isco. The man from Malaga has been unused or only made a substitute appearance in the last five Champions League games but has been useful in the league. Just last week he played a key role in the comeback win over Rayo in Vallecas. Pepe and Carvajal are also likely to be rested, while James, Jesé and Lucas Vázquez could all feature.

Sociedad also have problems upfront. Imanol Agirretxe, who started the season strongly with 12 goals before Christmas, has played just 16 minutes in 2016. His substitute Jonathas is now also injured and Carlos Vela is suspended. Asier Illarramendi, meanwhile, is likely to relish the opportunity to line up against his former club.

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Other players aside, Real Madrid have to win today to keep their hopes of a Liga title this year alive, and Zidane and many of Madridistas feel that Bale is their great hope of ensuring they bring back the three points from the Basque country.