Champions League

Bale with work to do to repair Zidane relationship

2018-04-25 10:56
Gareth Bale (Getty Images)

Madrid - Gareth Bale's future will come under fresh scrutiny when Real Madrid face Bayern Munich in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday.

Four years ago, Bale was powering through the heart of Bayern's defence at the Allianz Arena before setting up Cristiano Ronaldo to score in a thumping 4-0 victory.

"This is why I came to the biggest club in the world," Bale said, after helping Real reach their first Champions League final in 12 years. "To win trophies and play in massive games."

Bale was then considered Ronaldo's heir and Real's next golden boy but he returns to Munich this week, not only pondering his place in the starting XI but surely at the club at all beyond this season.

Sources have told AFP that while Bale's first choice is still to stay at Real, where his family are settled and he relishes representing the world's most glamorous team, his relationship with coach Zinedine Zidane has become strained.

Zidane has shown himself resistant to grudges, most recently in the case of Isco, who has played his way back into favour following a strong run of form in recent weeks.

But there is a sense his tough, and often contradictory, handling of Bale has not provided the strongest platform for a revival.

The Welshman feels he was unfairly targeted when substituted at half-time in the quarter-final second leg against Juventus and harshly treated when not handed a single minute during the first leg in Turin, despite scoring twice against Las Palmas three days before.

"I am happy for his performance and that's it," Zidane had said.

'A fundamental player'

The previous round against Paris Saint-Germain had offered similarly little room for encouragement.

Bale rebounded from a calf injury with five consecutive La Liga starts but, after being spared the preceding game against Real Sociedad, when the presumption was he was rested, Zidane left Bale on the bench against PSG for the crucial opening leg.

Before the return match, Bale played, capping a lively performance against Getafe with a goal, but found himself again a substitute at the Parc des Princes.

It means of this season's 10 Champions League matches, Bale has started three, sat out four through injury, been on the bench for three and been taken off at half-time once.

"With Gareth I have no problem, he's a fundamental player for us and very important," Zidane said after Real's win over PSG in the last 16.

Bale's build-up to this week's crunch match against Bayern has been no easier to dissect.

When he was among the large group left out of the trip to Malaga, Real insisted the plan had always been to rest those that played against Juve.

But while the likes of Ronaldo, Marcelo, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Raphael Varane returned against Athletic Bilbao last week, Bale was absent from the starting line-up, instead being handed 21 minutes as a substitute.

Zidane is believed to have doubts over Bale's defensive work when deployed wide in a 4-4-2, while the move to try him up front against Juve, instead of the misfiring Karim Benzema, did not even see the second half.

If he is given another chance against Bayern to redefine his role, Bale must take it as there may not be many more to come.

"There are players in good form and playing well," Zidane said earlier this month. "But I have to be ready always to evaluate who are the best players for the team at any given time and I will continue to do that."

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Fixtures
Tuesday, 23 October 2018
AEK Athens v Bayern Munchen, Olympiako Stadio Spyros Louis 18:55
Young Boys v Valencia, STADE DE SUISSE Wankdorf Bern 18:55
Real Madrid v Viktoria Plzen, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu 21:00
Ajax v Benfica, Johan Cruijff ArenA 21:00
Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester City, Oblasny SportKomplex Metalist 21:00
Manchester United v Juventus, Old Trafford 21:00
Roma v CSKA Moskva, Stadio Olimpico 21:00
Hoffenheim v Olympique Lyonnais, Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena 21:00
Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Club Brugge v Monaco, Jan Breydelstadion 18:55
PSV v Tottenham Hotspur, Philips Stadion 18:55
Liverpool v Crvena Zvezda, Anfield 21:00
Barcelona v Internazionale, Camp Nou 21:00
PSG v Napoli, Parc des Princes 21:00
Lokomotiv Moskva v Porto, RZD Arena 21:00
Borussia Dortmund v Atletico Madrid, Signal-Iduna-Park 21:00
Galatasaray v Schalke 04, Turk Telekom Stadyumu 21:00
Tuesday, 06 November 2018
Monaco v Club Brugge, Stade Louis II 19:55
Crvena Zvezda v Liverpool, Stadion Rajko Mitic 19:55
Porto v Lokomotiv Moskva, Estadio Do Dragao 22:00
Atletico Madrid v Borussia Dortmund, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 22:00
Internazionale v Barcelona, Stadio Giuseppe Meazza 22:00
Napoli v PSG, Stadio San Paolo 22:00
Schalke 04 v Galatasaray, Veltins-Arena 22:00
Tottenham Hotspur v PSV, Wembley Stadium 22:00
Wednesday, 07 November 2018
Valencia v Young Boys, Estadio de Mestalla 19:55
CSKA Moskva v Roma, VEB Arena 19:55
Juventus v Manchester United, Allianz Stadium 22:00
Bayern Munchen v AEK Athens, Allianz-Arena 22:00
Viktoria Plzen v Real Madrid, Doosan Arena 22:00
Benfica v Ajax, Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica (da Luz) 22:00
Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk, Etihad Stadium 22:00
Olympique Lyonnais v Hoffenheim, Groupama Stadium 22:00
Tuesday, 27 November 2018
AEK Athens v Ajax, Olympiako Stadio Spyros Louis 19:55
CSKA Moskva v Viktoria Plzen, VEB Arena 19:55
Juventus v Valencia, Allianz Stadium 22:00
Bayern Munchen v Benfica, Allianz-Arena 22:00
Olympique Lyonnais v Manchester City, Groupama Stadium 22:00
Manchester United v Young Boys, Old Trafford 22:00
Roma v Real Madrid, Stadio Olimpico 22:00
Hoffenheim v Shakhtar Donetsk, Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena 22:00
Wednesday, 28 November 2018
Atletico Madrid v Monaco, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 19:55
Lokomotiv Moskva v Galatasaray, RZD Arena 19:55
Porto v Schalke 04, Estadio Do Dragao 22:00
PSG v Liverpool, Parc des Princes 22:00
PSV v Barcelona, Philips Stadion 22:00
Borussia Dortmund v Club Brugge, Signal-Iduna-Park 22:00
Napoli v Crvena Zvezda, Stadio San Paolo 22:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Internazionale, Wembley Stadium 22:00
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