It’s been a long, long two weeks for Real Madrid.
Los Blancos return to action on Saturday lunchtime against Levante in LaLiga and following a two-week break for international matches. The visit of the side from Valencia cannot come soon enough for Julen Lopetegui and his under-fire men.
Madrid’s last outing resulted in a last-gasp 1-0 defeat at Alaves, extending their winless run to four matches in all competitions and, just as alarmingly, stretching their spell without finding the back of the net to a whopping 409 minutes – the second-worst run in the club’s illustrious history.
Those two unwanted statistics have meant for some heavy criticism for Lopetegui and his side, not least the attackers. Gareth Bale has taken the majority of the criticism but most of that has been unfair and unwarranted. The finger of blame from the fans, and the media, often drifts between the Welshman and strike partner Karim Benzema when things are going wrong but the former Tottenham Hotspur men has felt the weight of the pressure this time around.
Having returned to group training this week following his early departure from the Wales squad, Bale is now expected to feature against Levante on Saturday and help end an unwanted early-season blip. Try this betfred sign up promo code to place your bets on the match.
Plenty of that is through no fault of his own. His progress halted by injuries, some serious and others less so, throughout his time in the Spanish capital, Bale has again seen his promising start to the campaign thwarted by a niggling thigh injury, first felt in the 0-0 stalemate against Atlético Madrid and again in the defeat at Alaves after being rested for the Champions League trip to Russia to face CSKA Moscow.
It was Bale’s decision to join up with Wales ahead of their friendly clash with Spain in Cardiff that caused problems. Madrid were reportedly far from keen on seeing one of their main men opt for a return to his homeland ahead of potential international duty and the press, and fans, made their feelings known. The 29-year-old did not feature in either match for Wales but the attacker now returns to Madrid with added pressure on his shoulders.
With Levante visiting the Santiago Bernabéu this Saturday it gives Bale and company the perfect opportunity to bounce back and set in motion what madridistas will hope to be an improved run of results, including next weekend’s huge El Clásico clash against Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
A chance to silence his critics. For a while, at least.
Bale will be well aware of how opinions change in football, not least in the Spanish capital. One week you can be the best striker on the planet, the next ready for the shop window. Now is a chance for Bale to hit the front pages of the Spanish sports press for all the right reasons.
His start to the season has been far from an embarrassment. With Los Blancos opening their league campaign with comfortable victories over Getafe, Girona and Leganés respectively, few missed the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo – who was failing to hit the back of the net in his opening matches for Juventus. Indeed, Bale and Benzema were both finding the back of the net and goalscoring looked to be far from a problem despite the fears following the sale of Ronaldo.
A drop in form has come alongside a dip in performances from all of his teammates – without exception – and the thigh problems have only acted to damped early-season confidence.
Fortunately for Madrid, he is not one to read the press or social media and his talking will be left to the pitch. Should the Welshman bag a couple of goals to help lead his side to a big three points this weekend, all the recent rumour regarding Bale’s fitness and form will be forgotten…for a while at least.