Real fans not be­moan­ing Bale

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

MADRID — Gareth Bale faces a race against time to be fit for Sun­day’s po­ten­tially ti­tlede­cid­ing La Liga clash be­tween Real Madrid and Barcelona.

How­ever, many Madrid fans won’t be los­ing any sleep should the Welsh­man miss out as Real has thrived de­spite an­other in­jury-rav­aged sea­son for the world’s sec­ond most ex­pen­sive player.

“There has been no Real Madrid fan seen cry­ing over Bale’s in­jury,” said an edi­to­rial in Madrid sports daily Marca this week.

“Bale’s ab­sence is a so­lu­tion for Real Madrid, not a prob­lem.”

Some of Bale’s ob­vi­ous in­di­vid­ual qual­i­ties have shone through in his four sea­sons since mov­ing to Madrid for a then world record fee of just over $107 mil­lion.

He scored more headed goals than any­one in Europe last sea­son, still pos­sesses elec­tric pace and a deadly left foot.

Still, sta­tis­tics show Madrid has ben­e­fited far more when coach Zine­dine Zi­dane has bal­anced his side with less glam­orous names to work within a more solid struc­ture.

Bale’s in­juries have lim­ited him to just 18 of Madrid’s 31 La Liga games this sea­son, in which the Euro­pean cham­pion has won 12, drawn five and lost once at Va­len­cia.

By con­trast, Lu­cas Vazquez — who cost Madrid a mea­ger $1.2 mil­lion in 2015 — has thrived in Bale’s ab­sence, win­ning in 22 of his 28 La Liga ap­pear­ances this sea­son.

In 13 games with­out Bale, Madrid’s win per­cent­age jumps from 67 to 85 per­cent.

Madrid goes into the Cla­sico set to claim its first league ti­tle in five sea­sons and the first of Bale’s ca­reer.

Real is three points clear of Barca and has a game in hand.

The mas­sive dif­fer­ence be­tween the sides so far this sea­son has been the depth of Madrid’s squad.

While Barca boss Luis En­rique has paid for ro­tat­ing in stun­ning losses to Alaves, Celta Vigo, De­portivo la Coruna and Malaga, Real’s re­serves have at times de­liv­ered even bet­ter re­sults than Zi­dane’s first-choice XI.

The French­man made sweep­ing changes for three of Real’s last four away league games at Eibar, Le­ganes and Sport­ing Gi­jon. De­spite Bale and Cris­tiano Ron­aldo not be­ing in the lineup, Madrid won all three games.

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