Zinedine Zidane will not rush Gareth Bale back from ankle injury
By AFP & Jack Wilkinson
Last Updated: 30/01/17 8:12am
Zinedine Zidane says he will not rush Gareth Bale back from a long-term ankle injury after Real Madrid extended their lead at the top of La Liga.
The European champions, who have a game in hand, moved four points clear of Barcelona and Sevilla with a 3-0 victory over Real Sociedad at the Bernabeu on Sunday
Bale has been out since undergoing ankle surgery after suffering ligament damage in November and is not expected to return before March.
However, Zidane hopes to have Luka Modric and James Rodriguez back for Real's next outing at Celta Vigo on Sunday.
"Our idea is to have Luka back next week. We will see (how he is) on Tuesday and the same goes for James," the Frenchman said.
"Gareth will take a while longer. He is now on the training pitch in boots which is a good sign, but we have to take it slowly."
Bale is expected to miss the first leg of Real's Champions League last-16 tie with Napoli on February 15, with the Welshman possibly making a return for the return leg on March 7.
Before Sociedad's visit, Madrid were beginning to miss Bale's presence as they won just one of their last five games.
That run included a Copa del Rey quarter-final exit at the hands of Celta Vigo, but Zidane admitted that could prove to be a blessing for his injury-hit squad.
"It is what it is. We can't think about the Cup anymore because we are out," he added.
"We would have preferred to still be in it, but we have to think positively and we are going to have a full week to prepare first for La Liga and then the Champions League."
Madrid enjoyed a dream weekend as all of their title rivals slipped up.
Barca were held 1-1 at Real Betis, whilst Sevilla were reduced to 10 men after just two minutes before losing 3-1 at Espanyol.
"It gives you more motivation when you see your rivals slip up," Zidane said. "It gives you even more desire to do well. We were watching the games all day.
"The most important thing, though, is what we do and we can be happy with our performance. We got three goals and three more points."