Real Madrid v Alaves preview: Zinedine Zidane backs Gareth Bale after recent poor form
Last Updated: 24/02/18 8:07am
Zinedine Zidane insists Gareth Bale "will always be important" to Real Madrid ahead of the La Liga home clash against Alaves, despite leaving him out of three of the last four matches.
The 28-year-old has still scored nine goals this term, but he has struggled to make an impact in recent weeks and has not been on the scoresheet in his last six appearances.
Bale was again omitted for Wednesday's 3-1 La Liga win at Leganes, coming on for only the final 14 minutes. Reports in Spain claimed after the game that he has "run out of credit" at the Bernabeu and the European champions will try to offload him this summer.
But Zidane said: "He will always be important in the team and is in the process of getting himself right. A player always misses out, I am not thinking of one or two but all the players.
"I know that some players are not of interest to you but there are those that train each day, hardly ever play and I am interested in them.
"I see Bale like all of them and I count on all of them. The important thing is that they train well and focused. I want him to be 100 per cent and I do not want to lose him again.
"A lot of things are important and there is a lot also under the surface, but I am sure that he will go on to play an important role."
On Real's recent return to form with four straight wins, Zidane added: "It is clear that we have character, personality and to score 26 goals in six games is very good. We want to continue this good run."
Alaves have also been in fine form, winning three consecutive league games for the first time this season. Victories over Celta Vigo, Villarreal and Deportivo La Coruna have lifted them clear of relegation trouble.
The visitors have picked up 22 points since Abelardo Fernandez took charge to move 10 points clear of the relegation zone.
"We are at our best and we will try to get the three points," winger Ibai Gomez told the official Alaves website. "But we know we are playing a team that is obliged to win all their matches and we must have a positive mentality."
Cristiano Ronaldo and Keylor Navas are set to return after being rested in the midweek win over Leganes but injured trio Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Marcelo will definitely miss out while Sergio Ramos is suspended.
Marco Asensio was absent from Real's training session on Friday morning because he was at the dentist having a troublesome wisdom tooth removed with Bale set to take his place if he is ruled out.
Former Barcelona forward Munir El Haddadi is suspended for Alaves after picking up a fifth yellow card while Hector Hernandez and right-back Carlos Vigaray are both doubtful.
- Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last 11 league games against Alaves, winning 10 as well as the last eight in a row - scoring an average of 3.5 goals a game.
- Alaves have won their last three La Liga, matches but they have never achieved four successive wins in the competition.
- The Basque outfit are one of the three La Liga teams Cristiano Ronaldo has faced at the Santiago Bernabeu and failed to score a single goal against, along with Leganes and Tenerife.
- Ibai Gomez has scored three goals against Real Madrid in La Liga, his favourite rival in the competition along with Girona and Villarreal.