Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has played down injury concerns over Gareth Bale after the Wales international was replaced in the 88th minute of Sunday's (26 February) 3-2 victory over Villarreal. Zidane confirmed that the former Tottenham Hotspur star "picked up a knock", but eased fears ahead of a crucial week for Los Blancos in their La Liga title race with Barcelona.
Bale, 27, had only returned to action for Real Madrid in the match against Espanyol on 18 February. He scored once after spending three months on the sidelines due to a serious ankle injury and subsequent surgery.
The Welsh galactico also played some minutes in the recent 2-1 defeat to Valencia, and was handed his first starting appearance since the blow at Villarreal.
Los Blancos desperately needed a win against the Yellow Submarine after Barcelona temporally took the La Liga box-seat with a victory over Atletico Madrid.
Bale was crucial in Real Madrid coming from 2-0 down to get the three points at Villarreal, scoring the goal that inspired the comeback.
However, the former Spurs hero set alarms bells ringing at the Bernabeu, being forced off just minutes after appearing to land awkwardly on his ankle.
Regardless, Zidane suggested after the game that the substitution was just precautionary.
"He's just picked up a knock, that's all there is to it," Zidane said in the press conference.
The news should be a boost for Real Madrid fans ahead of another crucial week for in the La Liga title race with Barcelona as Los Blancos face Las Palmas on Wednesday before a weekend trip to Eibar.
Meanwhile, Villarreal – and subsequently Barcelona fans – hit back at the referee's decision to give Real Madrid a penalty at 2-1 when Bruno handled the ball in the area.
Villarreal believes that the midfielder had no intent to touch the ball but Zidane disagreed.
"The [Real Madrid] players have said that it was a handball. I didn't see it from where I was and I'll never interfere with refereeing decisions," Zidane said. "He awarded it and that's that. We performed much better in the second half than we did in the first. We got into more scoring positions and ultimately we come away with three points against opposition that can make life tough for you. We're happy to have taken three points against a great side."