Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale has not started a game since September. Getty

Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale leads Zinedine Zidane's 19-man squad to face Numancia on Thursday night [4 January] with the French boss having rested a number of key players for the first leg of the Copa del Rey last 16.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric will stay at home while Karim Benzema and third keeper Luca Zidane also miss out due to injuries.

Los Blancos will visit the second division side on Thursday before resuming their La Liga campaign with a tough game at Celta Vigo on Sunday [7 January].

Zidane has thus decided to rest most of his regular starters for the trip to Balaidos and will make wholesale change in the Copa del Rey clash.

Bale is expected to make his first start since suffering a muscle injury during the Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund on 26 September.

The former Tottenham Hotspur star already played some minutes in the last games of 2017 against Al Jazira, Gremio and Barcelona and Zidane suggested that the Welshman is finally ready to start against Numancia.

"He's fine, he's training regularly and [against Numancia] he'll be with us. The idea is that he get some consistency in the matches," Zidane said when asked about the Welshman fitness in the press conference ahead of the trip to Soria.

Bale is set to lead the attack alongside Borja Mayoral and Marco Asensio with Dani Ceballos and Isco expecting to form the midfield due to the absences of Modric and Kroos.

Zidane has also promoted 21-year-old defender Alvaro Tejero from the second team as captain Ramos has also been rested.

Meanwhile, Zidane has highlighted the importance of the Copa del Rey for Real Madrid amid the cub's failing La Liga title bid.

Real all but said goodbye to their hopes of retaining their title last month after a 3-0 defeat to Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu left them 14 points behind the Catalans.

The cup competition is therefore particularly appealing for Los Blancos this season and Zidane urged his side to not take anything for granted against the second division side.

"We're looking forward to it. That's the most important thing for us. We've got three competitions left to play for and we want to give everything in every match. The cup is back and we're looking forward to the game and hope to make it through," the Real boss added.

"Numancia are doing very well in the league and in the Copa del Rey they've knocked out Málaga, a team from Primera. We will respect our opponent. We know the importance of the first match being away from home and we'll try to put in a good performance and respect the opponent".