Gareth Bale’s chances of being fit for Sunday’s blockbuster La Liga clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona were boosted as he returned to training on Thursday.
The Wales international has missed Madrid’s last two games against Sporting Gijon and Bayern Munich due to a flare up of the muscles around where he suffered ligament damage in his right ankle earlier in the season.
Bale has forced off with the injury in the first leg of Madrid’s eventual 6-3 aggregate win over Bayern just over a week ago.
Madrid host Barca with a three-point lead at the top of La Liga and with a game in hand.
Real coach Zinedine Zidane is reluctant to rush Bale back into action with the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals less than two weeks away.
“When he came back he was desperate to be involved and now he has a small niggle that is preventing him from being fully fit,” Zidane said ahead of the Bayern second leg.
“I hope it is nothing and in a few days he can be with us again.”
A midweek of contrasting Champions League fortunes for both sides can only serve to give both Real Madrid and Barcelona extra incentive going into El Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu this Sunday.
With La Liga leaders Real Madrid advancing to the UCL semifinals, they’ll be spurred on to go on and achieve a Champions League and league double for the first time since 1958.
After Barcelona’s exit from the continental stage, they’ll want to hold onto their hopes of a third successive La Liga title as well as a third successive league and Copa del Rey double (which would be a first in Spanish football).
Apart from its glamour and the prestige that it holds, El Clasico usually gets mass attention as a key fixture in terms of shaping the destiny of the La Liga title, especially when it’s late in the season like this one is.
This is due to the sheer dominance these sides have enjoyed in the league. These old rivals have finished in the top two of La Liga in seven of the last eight seasons, with one of them being the champion in 11 of the last 12 (Atletico Madrid finishing first in 2013-14 providing each exception).