Real fans not bemoaning Bale
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.