Sore calf cuts short Bale's return from injury

Real Madrid will once again be without Gareth Bale for this weekend's match against Athletic Bilbao, although manager Zinedine Zidane says the latest setback is only a "niggle".

Gareth Bale has felt soreness in his calf muscle and will now not be risked for Real Madrid's away match against Athletic Bilbao   -  Getty Images

Gareth Bale's Real Madrid comeback this week has proved to be shortlived after head coach Zinedine Zidane confirmed the Welsh winger has complained of soreness in his calf muscle and will now miss Saturday's La Liga match against Athletic Bilbao.

Read: Five things to look out for in La Liga this weekend

Bale had not featured since scoring in September's 3-1 Champions League win at Borussia Dortmund due to calf and groin injuries. He, however, made a much-awaited return in Tuesday's Copa del Rey fourth-round tie against Fuenlabrada.

It proved to be a dazzling cameo, with the Wales star creating both goals for Borja Mayoral in an otherwise laboured 2-2 draw that closed out a 4-2 aggregate win against Madrid's third-tier opponent.

But the 28-year-old, who has been hampered by fitness problems over the past two seasons once again felt soreness in his troublesome calf muscle and Zidane is not willing to take any undue risks.

"It's nothing serious, it's just a niggle and when it's a little niggle we just don't want to risk anything," Zidane told a pre-match news conference. "I can't tell you exactly when it happened, [some time] on the day of the game, when he suddenly stated having pain.

"At the end he started feeling a little bit of pain in the bottom of the calf and that was it."

Although he played down the severity of the injury, Zidane was unable to offer guarantees that Bale will be available for next weekend's match against Sevilla, which is Real's final La Liga match before departing to the UAE for the Club World Cup.

Read: Zidane not annoyed after shock draw with Fuenlabrada

"It depends on him, definitely. I can't give you a date. I just hope he's ready for next week," he said. "The problem with Gareth is that he has to be 100 per cent fit to play. He can't feel small niggles.

"He's a very powerful, strong player and when it's something in his calf, as it has been, it's something complicated and we recognise it as a problem."

Zidane added: "We try to be positive with him. It's a bad moment right now but things will get better. We just have to help him and make sure he gets back to fitness. We can't forget that he's a very important player for us.

"When he's fit he's a great payer so we have to be patient. I believe in Bale, we all do. We're always supporting him and we hope that things will go well for him quickly."

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