Ancelotti: Bale ready to take Clásico by storm

Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti believes Gareth Bale is in prime condition to make his mark on El Clásico when his side host Barcelona on Sunday.

Ancelotti: Bale ready to take Clásico by storm
File photo: AFP

The Welshman failed to make an impact in an unusual position as a false number nine and was substituted after an hour in his first experience of the biggest game in European football as Real lost 2-1 to Barca at the Camp Nou back in October.

However, Bale has since recovered from the injury problems that blighted his first few months in the Spanish capital after his huge summer move from Tottenham Hotspur and has gone on to score 14 goals and provide 17 assists in just 31 appearances.

"In the first game he was switching positions with (Angel) Di Maria at times, but now he is used to playing on the wing and the team is balanced so we won't change that," Ancelotti told his pre-match press conference on Saturday.

"He is in good shape. His physical condition is very important for him and I am sure he will play a great game.

"We haven't done any special work with him to improve his fitness or speed. He just has great genes and has done the same work as everyone else.

"He is in really good condition and we are very happy with him. He had some problems at the start of the season but now he is looking good and we hope that will continue until the end of the season."

Real go into the game full of confidence as they haven't been beaten since that defeat at the Camp Nou nearly five months ago.

A run of 31 games unbeaten in all competitions has seen them open up a four-point lead over Barca at the top of the table, but Ancelotti claimed that that advantage doesn't ease the pressure on his side to win at home.

"A Clasico is always important and always brings pressure. The game is very important for the league and a Clasico is always distinct to the other games.

"Our idea is to be able to show our quality. We are desperate to play this game. We need to do what we have done well up until now which is attacking and defending well as a group."

Ancelotti confirmed that French striker Karim Benzema had recovered from the thigh injury that kept him out of Wednesday's 3-1 win over Schalke meaning he will be fit to start alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Bale in attack.

The trio have managed 76 goals between them this season, but Barca can boast a frightening strike pairing of their own as Brazilian star Neymar looks set to partner Lionel Messi up front for the Catalans.

And Ancelotti said Real's midfield and defence will have to work together to deny the South American duo space.

"It is normal that we have to be very careful with them. It is not an individual's job, but about working together. We have to be very compact."

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Bale absence may boost Real’s Clásico hopes

An injury to Real Madrid's Welsh star Gareth Bale means coach Carlo Ancelotti can play a four-man midfield in a bid to dispute Barcelona’s dominance of possession in Saturday’s star-studded clash between Spain's two richest teams.

Bale absence may boost Real's Clásico hopes
Real Madrid's Welsh forward Gareth Bale may not be missed given the outstanding quality available at the club. Photo: Miguel Riopa/AFP

The most star-studded game in world football will be missing one of its brightest lights at 6pm on Saturday as Real Madrid host Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabéu without the injured Gareth Bale.

It took the Welshman the best part of the three goes at the Clásico to make an impact, but he eventually did so in stunning style with an incredible solo run and finish to win Real their 19th Copa del Rey back in April.

Ajax coach Frank de Boer echoed the thoughts of many when he replied "Bale's absence is a shame for football" when asked for his view on the game after his side had been beaten by Barcelona on Tuesday.

SEE ALSO: Ten things you need to know about Spain's La Liga: The Local gallery

However, as Madrid showed in dismantling Liverpool at Anfield 24 hours later without Bale, Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal, they have the depth in quality to cope even without world-class players.

Moreover, Real boss Carlo Ancelotti will be left with more than just memories of Bale's goal from the Copa del Rey final. Prior to that meeting at Valencia's Mestalla stadium, the Italian had gone nearly 10 years and seven games against the Catalans with three different clubs without tasting victory. 

That night without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, Ancelotti switched to a 4-4-2 formation from the 4-3-3 he has used for the majority of his time in charge at Madrid thanks to having the luxury of Ronaldo, Bale and Karim Benzema in attack.

Even with the famed "BBC", as they have become known in the Spanish press, Madrid were no match for Barça in their two league meetings last season. Barça's numerical advantage in midfield allowed them to dictate the tempo and cut the supply line to Madrid's front three.

At the Mestalla, even without World Player of the Year in Ronaldo, the introduction of Isco as an extra midfielder added the balance that Ancelotti craved.

"If Bale plays or doesn't play, it will change their way of playing a little, but not ours," Barça midfielder Andrés Iniesta said on Thursday. 

"Madrid want to hit us on the counter-attack, whereas we want the ball because that minimises the danger."

However, with four gifted ball players in James Rodríguez, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Isco in midfield, Madrid may be able to turn the tables and use a greater share of possession to minimise the threat of Barcelona's star South American trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and, possibly, Luis Suárez, who is now available after being banned from football for biting an opponent at last summer’s World Cup.

Just like last season it has taken Madrid some time to find the right blend after another busy summer in the transfer market before hitting their stride.

Following their defeat to Barcelona last October, the European champions embarked upon a 31-game unbeaten run before Barça visited the Bernabéu in March.

Similarly early league defeats to Real Sociedad and reigning Liga champions Atlético Madrid have left Ancelotti's men with a lot of catching up to do on Luis Enrique's rejuvenated Barcelona this season. But the win over Liverpool was their eighth straight in all competitions.

That run has included 35 goals, but crucially Madrid's previously leaky defence has also shored up, conceding just once in their last five games.

"We are in good form and showing how strong we are," said captain Iker Casillas.

"Despite the injuries, those that have come in are doing well. That is how we must continue. We need to win, win and win again."