Julen Lopetegui will have breathed a sigh of relief when Gareth Bale hoved into view at Real Madrid’s Valdebebas training complex on Tuesday.
The Wales forward returned to Madrid after the international break in perfect physical condition with Lopetegui’s side facing a full calendar for the remainder of September of five games in 14 days. On Saturday Madrid make the difficult trip to San Mamés to play Athletic and that is followed by the opening game of the side’s defence of their Champions League crown at home against Roma on Wednesday 19. Three Liga fixtures then come in quick succession, Espanyol (h), Sevilla (a) and finally the Madrid derby against Atlético (h) on September 29.
Bale featured in both of Wales’ fixtures against Ireland and Denmark, finding the net and assisting another in a 4-1 victory over the former then captaining his country for the first time in the subsequent 2-0 defeat in Aarhus. In total he played 164 minutes over both games and reported back to Valdebebas with no injury concerns.
Bale in ominous form ahead of Athletic test
That is good news for Lopetegui, with the Welshman enjoying a flying start to the season. Bale has had a hand in five of Madrid’s 12 goals in the opening stages of the 2018-19 campaign, scoring three and assisting two in tandem with his strike partner Karim Benzema, who has managed five goals already.
Bale has also found the net in 11 of his last 12 competitive games for Madrid, a run he will hope to continue in San Mamés. To date, Athletic’s stadium has defied the number 11, although he did rattle a post with an extraordinary 40-yard effort in 2014-15. Bale has been enjoying away days of late, scoring five in his last four outside the Bernabéu against Las Palmas, Girona, Villarreal and Barcelona.