Gareth Bale's calf injury does not worry Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane says he is not worried about Gareth Bale's ongoing calf muscle problems, while confirming the Welsh winger will not feature in Saturday afternoon's La Liga game against Athletic Bilbao at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
Bale was expected to miss about three weeks after limping off after scoring against Granada on Jan. 17, and seemed close to a return in late January when there were positive updates on his fitness on Madrid's official site he was "almost ready".
However, widespread local media reports said last week that the former Tottenham player had suffered a set-back in his recovery, and Marca says it is now unlikely he will face either Roma in next Wednesday's Champions League round-of-16 first leg or Atletico Madrid at the Bernabeu on Saturday, Feb. 27.
Although Bale has suffered five different calf muscle issues since joining Madrid from Spurs for €101 million in summer 2013, the Los Blancos coach told a news conference there was no need to be extra worried in this case.
"When a player is injured you are always a bit worried," Zidane said. "But no more than normal. He is better every day. I will not say he will train with us next week, we talked about it last week, but it is an issue which needs more time. We are relaxed about it. Gareth is really important player for us, so we will not take risks -- I want him at 100 percent.
"If he feels something, we will not risk it. We must give him some more time, and that's it. Nobody is happy to be injured, he wants to play. With Gareth, now after he has had a negative feeling, we must be relaxed with him. But he is fine, his mood is good."
Left-back Marcelo is also an injury concern for Madrid having hurt a shoulder in last weekend's 2-1 La Liga win at Granada, but Zidane said it was too early yet to rule him out of next week's Champions League game at Roma.
"Marcelo is out for tomorrow's game, then we will see how he recovers," he said. "He is getting better, was running today, which is good for us. We will not take risks, but see day by day -- his shoulder is hurting, but it depends on how he feels. Tomorrow you will find out who will play at left-back. I will say that tomorrow Mateo Kovacic will start the game. I will give Isco a rest."
Athletic often trouble Madrid at their San Mames stadium, but have suffered badly at the Bernabeu in recent years - conceding at least three times on each of their last eight visits.
"They are a very strong opponent, very good, a good group," Zidane said. "We know who we are going to face. [Aritz Aduriz] is an important player for them, at dead-balls, crosses. He is 35, but does not seem it."
Amid debate about where to play the Copa del Rey final as Barcelona qualified to meet Sevilla in this year's decider, Zidane said he understood why Madrid fans would not want to see a Blaugrana victory at the Bernabeu.
"That is something for the club to decide," he said. "Every country has its own ideas about this, you know that yourselves. It is normal that Madrid fans do not want the final here, if you ask Barca fans they would say the same. I do not really mind who wins the Copa, I will watch it as I like football, I just hope it's a good game."
Zidane also said he hoped his fellow Frenchman Karim Benzema's legal issues around an alleged sex-tape blackmail of international teammate Mathieu Valbuena would soon be over.
"I am a bit tired of this, and him even more," he said. "He wants to just focus on football, on what he does every day with us. I hope it is sorted soon, I believe it will not be long now."