By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Editor
Angel Di Maria is a fighter. The Argentine winger refused to move to Tottenham as a makeweight for Gareth Bale in the summer and now he has vowed not to lie down in competition with the Welshman for a starting spot at Real Madrid. Back to his brilliant best, the 25-year-old has provided a much-needed tonic for coach Carlo Ancelotti - but also a potential Galactico-sized dilemma for the under-pressure Italian.
Di Maria's dynamism helped Madrid ease past Copenhagen in a Champions League clash on Wednesday which had assumed added importance following the derby defeat to Atletico just days earlier. The Argentine set up Cristiano Ronaldo's second goal in the 4-0 win with a remarkable 'rabona' assist, twisting his left leg behind his right to cross for the Portuguese to head home, before netting two great goals of his own. Gareth Bale, meanwhile, watched from afar - injured and, according to Ancelotti, unhappy.
Bale, Ancelotti revealed afterwards, would be back to full fitness after the international break. "He has not been 100 per cent, but after two weeks he will be in top shape. It's normal he is not happy - he wants to play. He is very excited and it's not a problem - now there is time for him to reach optimum fitness and to avoid [further] injuries."
Bale broke down in the warm-up ahead of what was supposed to be his home debut against Getafe recently and was disappointing as a second-half substitute against Atletico at the Bernabeu a week later. Now sidelined with a thigh problem, he will need to work his way back again.
"I am not surprised [at his injury]," Bale's Wales coach Chris Coleman said on Thursday. "We have said all along that it has been tough for Bale because he has had no pre-season and then he's thrown into the deep end."
Ancelotti, meanwhile, is under pressure to select the Welshman, due to the vast outlay of the signing and criticism from the subsequent sale of popular playmaker Mesut Ozil to Arsenal.
Results come first for the Italian coach, however, and at the moment those look likely to arrive with Di Maria in the team and not Bale - at least until the Welshman can regain full fitness and adapt to his new surroundings.
And Ancelotti is a big fan of the Argentine. "He can play in many positions - on the right, on the left or in the centre," the Italian said on Friday. "He is very flexible and that makes him important."
The two (in theory competing for the right-forward role) could conceivably start in the same side, then, but with Ronaldo a fixture on the left and Isco impressing through the middle for Madrid so far in 2013-14, one of the pair is likely to be benched.
On current form, that player cannot and should not be Di Maria. So Ancelotti will have a big decision to make in the coming weeks; under pressure to please the board and under fire for his side's fluctuating form so far this season, the Italian is soon to be faced with a Galactico-sized dilemma: Bale or Di Maria?
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