AS THE build-up to a crunch last 16 Champions League second-leg encounter between Real Madrid and Manchester City continues, after several months’ disruption due to the coronavirus, the presence of a single player will be obvious come game time.
Gareth Bale, who has been the one controversial figure in the Madrid make-up, in recent times, has been omitted from the Spanish outfit’s squad to face City on Friday night because he did not want to play, according to manager Zinedine Zidane. Madrid named a 24-man group to travel to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
An eye-raising inclusion was that of captain Sergio Ramos, who is currently serving out a suspension, which means he cannot play in the second leg. Yet still, there was no place for Bale. The Welshman scored twice in the 3-1 Champions League final win over Liverpool two seasons ago but will play no part this time, as Los Blancos seek to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit against Pep Guardiola’s side.
In all competitions, Bale has started just once since February – and has been restricted to 110 minutes combined since Madrid’s campaign resumed in June. But for the upcoming Champions League date, Zidane explained it was [soley] the 31-year-old’s decision not to be involved. “I will explain because many things are said,” Zidane told reporters in a news conference.
“We have a relationship of respect between player and coach, that is clear. The only thing I can say is that he has decided not to play, and the rest is between him and me.”
Another player, Eden Hazard, is part of Madrid’s travelling party, though he has experienced an injury-hit debut season in the Spanish capital. The 29-year-old was out between November and February due to an ankle problem before sustaining a broken ankle bone. Noting his player’s subsequent road to full fitness, Zidane said he is feeling encouraged and expects Hazard to run out soon.
“He has had some discomfort … I think he is much better now – we have had time to prepare for the game and now he is confident,” the Madrid boss added. “I think there was a minor setback after that second injury but now, hopefully, he can play and hopefully there will be nothing there to hold him back.”