Real Madrid will get their first indication of whether €100-million ($133.1-million) was money well spent when world record signing Gareth Bale makes his debut in Saturday’s La Liga match at Villarreal.
Real coach Carlo Ancelotti said Bale, whose pre-season was disrupted by protracted negotiations over his move from Tottenham Hotspur, would not necessarily start the game at the Madrigal but would feature at some point and would likely be deployed on the right.
The Wales winger played the final half hour of Wales’s 3-0 World Cup qualification defeat at home to Serbia on Tuesday, his first competitive action since July, and trained with his Real team mates for the first time on Wednesday.
“I think everyone knows his pre-season was not normal but his physical condition is not bad,” Ancelotti told a news conference. “Tomorrow he will travel with the team and he will play.
“I don’t know if he will start but he will definitely play some of the match.
“I don’t think now is the right moment to leave him out of the team.
“He is going to work (on his fitness) and play at the same time. He is very excited and very motivated.”
Real have won their opening three La Liga matches under Italian Ancelotti, who replaced Jose Mourinho at the end of last season, but a number of players returned from international duty with injuries and are unavailable for the Villarreal game.
Ignacio Fernandez, who debuted for Spain in their friendly against Chile on Wednesday, will fill in at left back in the absence of Brazil’s Marcelo and Portugal’s Fabio Coentrao, Ancelotti said.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Isco had recovered from minor problems and were available, he added.
The former AC Milan, Chelsea and Paris St Germain coach was also quizzed about the departure of Mesut Ozil to Arsenal on the final day of the transfer window.
The wisdom of selling the Germany playmaker has been questioned as he was one of Real’s most creative players and had developed a highly effective partnership with Ronaldo.
Ozil said he moved to London because he realised Ancelotti did not have sufficient confidence in him.
“It’s clear that no player would leave Real Madrid if he didn’t want to,” Ancelotti said.
“We have played three games and he started two of them but with the arrivals of Bale and Isco the player thought he had a lot of competition and asked to leave.
“It was a technical decision and we are not lacking in anything. In my opinion it was a good offer and everyone is happy. Lots of luck to Ozil.”
Barcelona centre back Carles Puyol returned to training with his team mates on Friday as the inspirational club captain continues his recovery from knee surgery.
Puyol had an operation to remove a cyst from his right knee in June, the latest in a string of injuries, including two operations on the same knee, a fractured cheekbone and a dislocated elbow.
He missed Spain’s triumph at Euro 2012 and was left out of their squad for the Confederations Cup in Brazil and made only 13 appearances for Barca in La Liga and four in the Champions League last season.
The imminent return of the shaggy-haired 35-year-old to competitive action will help ease pressure on the Barca defence after their failed bid to sign another central defender in the close season.
“We are at the end of Puyol’s period of recuperation,” coach Gerardo Martino told a news conference on Friday.
“The team is getting its captain back and we have the centre back we wanted.”
There was more good news on the injury front for Martino on Friday when Sergio Busquets was declared fit by medical staff and included in the squad for Saturday’s La Liga match at home to Sevilla.
The Spain midfielder missed the world and European champions’ World Cup qualifier against Finland last Friday and Tuesday’s friendly against Chile with a muscle problem.
Argentine World Player of Year Lionel Messi and Brazil forward Neymar were both in good physical condition after returning from international duty on Wednesday, Martino said.
“Messi and Neymar had very long journeys and we have to assess their fitness for the match, but physically they are fine,” the Argentine added.
Spain forward Pedro is being rested and will not feature against Sevilla.
Barca have six matches in 19 days starting on Saturday, including Wednesday’s opening fixture of the Champions League campaign at home to Ajax Amsterdam.