Bale's influence grows, but his Atletico record needs improving

The Welshman has been impressive this season, but Saturday's derby poses him a challenge: he's only scored once versus Atletico Madrid in 13 appearances, and won just three times.

Gareth Bale llega al derbi ante el Atlético en el mejor momento de su carrera y con un reto: no ha sido capaz de marcarle al Atlético ni en el Calderón ni en el Bernabéu.
Denis Doyle Getty Images

Gareth Bale arrives at this weekend’s Madrid derby in one of the best moments of his career having pulled the cart for the BBC so far this season. The Welshman has netted seven times, the same as Cristiano and one less than Morata, the club’s top scorer. But beyond goals, the performances of Bale during this campaign reflect the massive progress he’s made and have seen him position himself as the future of Real Madrid.

13 games v Atleti, just 1 goal 

With greater influence comes greater expectation, and the derby against Atletico on Saturday presents Bale with one of his biggest challenges yet. Atleti are the team that Bale has faced most in his whole career (13 games: that’s more than the 11 times he’s played Fulham), yet he’s only managed to score against them once. That strike came in the 2014 Champions League final in Lisbon, meaning he hasn’t found the net at either the Calderón or the Bernabéu.

Gareth Bale celebrates scoring Real Madrid's second goal in extra time during the UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid

His overall win record against Diego Simeone’s side doesn’t make for great reading either. In those 13 matches, Real Madrid have won on just three occasions, losing five and drawing four.  Bale though seems better placed now than ever to do some damage to Real Madrid’s local rivals.

Bale's influence grows 

At 27, Bale looks to have matured his football, adding a better comprehension of Los Blancos’ style to his formidable individual qualities. He showed as much in Real Madrid’s last LaLiga game against Leganés (his best performance of the season) when he led his side’s attack, scored two goals and was at the centre of everything. And with a total of 10.4km, he also covered more ground than any of his teammates.

It is clear to see that Gareth Bale is now ascending to the Bernabéu throne, and games like the one on Saturday will only help make his coronation more definitive.