By Albero Pinero
Gareth Bale will miss Real Madrid's Copa del Rey clash against Espanyol on Tuesday evening as a result of a minor calf injury, with Carlo Ancelotti refusing to risk the Welshman ahead of Sunday's Liga clash against Athletic Bilbao.
The 24-year-old has been a big part of Madrid's revival in recent months and the Italian will be desperate to ensure the €100 million man is fully fit as los Blancos look to maintain their hunt for the title.
Bale has already found the net eight times in La Liga, as well as racking up eight assists - a remarkable tally given that the winger has played only 921 minutes so far, meaning he has been involved in a goal every 61 minutes.
|BALE VERSUS MESSI IN LA LIGA|
Messi impressed in Barcelona's win over Malaga at the weekend, notching up one assist as he guided his side to a comfortable win, but is still three assists short of Bale's eight, while they have both found the net on eight occasions.
Like Bale, the 26-year-old has missed a number of games due to injury this term, yet the prolific forward has actually been on the pitch for over an hour more, playing 985 minutes to the Welshman's 921.
Admittedly, the Barcelona man has been the more efficient of the two in all competitions, but there's no denying Bale's impact domestically has been immense, even if his performances in January have been slightly disappointing compared to his excellent figures over the entire 2013-14 campaign to date.
Although Bale sits third in the Madrid goalscoring charts, he has created more goals than any of his team-mates, and featured in just 55 per cent of Madrid's games since making his debut against Villarreal (1433 out of 2610 minutes), a number that will drop further following his absence against Espanyol.
These figures mean Bale is only Madrid's 12th most-used player so far this season, behind players such as Marcelo, Isco, Alvaro Arbeloa and Dani Carvajal, who have all missed plenty of action, too.
The winger featured for the full 90 minutes on just nine occasions, six of which have come in La Liga, making his performances all the more remarkable.