Gareth Bale has handed Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane a major boost by returning to training ahead of the visit of Barcelona on Sunday (23 April). The Wales international is on course to return to action in El Clasico, but the game will probably come too early for Raphael Varane and Pepe.
Bale, 27, has missed Real Madrid's wins over Bayern Munich and Sporting Gijon after being forced off with a calf injury during the first leg of the Champions League quarter finals against the Bundesliga giants on 12 April.
"Gareth has worked very hard to return after three months on the sidelines. He returned with a lot of enthusiasm but now he has some niggles. I hope it is nothing and that in a few days he will be back with us," Zidane confirmed on Monday ahead of the Champions League clash. "[On Tuesday] he is not going to play because we do not want to risk him but I hope that in a few days he will be back. He has worked hard and deserves to be with us in the last part of the season."
Real Madrid have now confirmed the news after reporting the former Tottenham Hotspur star was back in the workout with the rest of the available teammates on Thursday morning as Los Blancos begin the preparations for El Clasico.
"Zidane's squad carried out their first training session since qualifying for the Champions League semi-finals and now turn their attention to the game against Barcelona. Bale rejoined the group, in a session in which the starting eleven from Tuesday's game carried out drills using the ball, before training using the indoor facilities," Real Madrid reported, before adding that Pepe and Varane were continuing their respective recovery processes on their own.
"The other players warmed up before taking part in rondo-style drills, before playing a game on a reduced-size pitch. Zidane called on the Castilla players Tejero, Lienhart, Quezada, Salto and Enzo. Pepe continued his recovery process, while Varane trained alone out on the pitch."
The return of Bale to training does not mean he will be ready to play the full 90 against Barcelona. Yet, barring a setback, the news from Real Madrid is a positive as there are still three days left for the star to recover full fitness.
El Clasico is expected to be decisive in the battle for La Liga as Real Madrid are currently three points ahead of Barcelona at the top of La table with one game in hand.
The Catalans, who on Wednesday night were knocked out from the Champions League quarter-finals by Juventus, cannot afford a defeat to Los Blancos as they only have six games to turn around the current situation.