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Gareth Bale is looking good after returning to the team against Espanyol

With Real Madrid welcoming back Gareth Bale to the team against Espanyol on Saturday, the options are there again for the ‘BBC’ to line-up together in the weeks to come.  

Real Madrid CF v RCD Espanyol - La Liga Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

As the last of the longer-term injured players to return to the team, Gareth will now be hoping for a continued run in the side for the remainder of the season.

Gareth looked to have come through the match unscathed and as his return was virtually to the week projected by the medical people in mid to late December last year; so it’s a big “well done” to everyone involved.

Although early opinion differed as to when Gareth would be likely to return to the team ranging from an optimistic four to six weeks to the more realistic mid-February to early March, things appear to have gone to plan. The variable would have been Gareth’s fitness levels and particularly his match fitness but it looks as though he’s spent the last few weeks working his socks off.

Like Cristiano in the early part of the season, the public face of Gareth’s recovery has been quite low key. Although Gareth’s rehabilitation hasn’t been kept quite as protected from the media as Cristiano’s was, information about what’s exactly been happening has once again been quite sparse.

Gareth has posted quite a lot on social media during this injury spell, but he’s been clever with it in that although there have been lots of images of him pushing weights and having treatment etc, the actual nitty-gritty of the ankle rehabilitation itself has been kept well in the background.

With the medical team at Real Madrid having received a lot of adverse publicity in recent times, that’s hardly surprising. It looks as though everyone has just quietly got on with the job in hand and now all of a sudden Gareth’s back in the side.

In general, the reporting of longer-term injuries can be less of a priority as far as the media are concerned than focussing on who is going to be fit for the next game; particularly when you have the type of scenarios we had earlier this season when you’ve got half a dozen players on the treatment table and the games are coming thick and fast!

It often the case that unless the team are losing, reporting on the longer-term injuries tends not to happen in as much depth.

To the club’s credit though, both Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane have given regular updates in recent times with regards to Gareth’s general progress and we’ve been able to gather a rough timeline.

Although Gareth didn’t feature against Espanyol until the latter stages, the short spell he had was probably enough to allow him to ease back in to the team on the day.

As always, the next few days will once again provide a good indication of how things are going for Gareth now that he’s back in action. Immediate training post-Espanyol will be a mixture of recovery sessions intermingled with his own specific progressions; and as the next 24 hours unfolds the medical and fitness people will be able to see whether or not there has been any reaction to playing.

As he eases himself back into the regular familiar routine, the only question now will be over the extent of Gareth’s contribution in the next two away games at Valencia and Villarreal; matches which by Zidane’s own admission will be difficult fixtures.

It’s hard to predict what exactly Zidane will do as far as team selection is concerned. He’s already carved a reputation for rotating players as he sees fit and often the starting eleven chosen has varied from that expected. Clearly Zidane takes forward planning into account and picks his team around blocks of matches rather than just looking towards the next game.

This seems to be the pattern with Zidane and there’s no reason to suspect that he’s going to change his way of thinking just because Gareth Bale is fit again. It does, however, provide the option of the ‘BBC’ lining up together again. That’s not happened too much this season so hopefully Gareth will have made a timely return.

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