Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane will call on his players’ versatility to fill the void left by Gareth Bale after confirming the Wales forward would be out for “quite a while”.
The European champions announced on Thursday that Bale would undergo surgery on an ankle tendon injury he sustained during Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Sporting CP in the Champions League, with the prognosis for his problem normally meaning up to a four-month recovery period.
Zidane is already without Toni Kroos and Alvaro Morata through respective foot and hamstring injuries, although Casemiro and Pepe are back in training and available to face Sporting Gijon on Saturday.
“It’s quite hard to see those injured players miss out,” said Zidane, whose LaLiga leaders travel to Barcelona for the first Clasico of the season next weekend. “We do everything in our power, but sometimes that is not enough. Things happen when you play.
“We know we are doing things well. It is upsetting when you see a player out injured – our latest injury for example, Gareth Bale. He is going to be out for quiet a while.
“We are going to maintain our focus on Saturday’s game, which is a tough game after two demanding outings.
“Sometimes you may think we might change formations or what our plans are, but we have a set idea and a lot of versatile footballer who can play in many positions That’s the benefit of having great players.”
Zidane was asked whether delaying Bale’s surgery until after El Clasico was a possibility and he confirmed taking such a risk was never realistically on the table.
“We looked at all the options, we spoke to all the best doctors and they all agreed,” he explained.
Bale’s anticipated lengthy absence could create more first-team opportunities for James Rodriguez, the Colombia playmaker who has found himself on the margins at the Santiago Bernabeu of late.
James was an unused substitute against Sporting CP despite the stricken Bale and has only played 29 minutes in LaLiga since his last start versus Villarreal on September 21.
Asked whether he would leave Madrid if he was in James’ shoes, Zidane replied: “No, what a question.
“It’s not true that he’s not playing at all. I’d stay here at the club, a great club, and he will play.”
Zidane added: “A player of his standing, of course he wants to play more, but it is down to me to decide.
“I know he is going to be an important player for Real Madrid. He hasn’t been playing recently because others have come in and done a very good job.
“There’s not much more to say – you look at the rest of the footballers and they are playing very well too, but James is a key player.”