Zidane sets Napoli clash as possible Bale return date

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The Wales international, who has been suffering with an ankle tendon problem, is back in individual training and desperate to return to action

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane is hopeful Gareth Bale could return from four months on the sidelines to face Napoli in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 clash.

Wales star Bale has been out since suffering ankle tendon damage that required surgery during a 2-1 win at Sporting CP in the group stage.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's LaLiga match with bottom club Osasuna, Zidane was tentatively upbeat over the prospects of the 27-year-old forward featuring amid the typically daunting atmosphere at Stadio San Paolo next month.

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"I think it's March 7 when we play Napoli. Hopefully, it would be great news if he could be back," Zidane said.

"He's training but he's yet to train with his team-mates. He's training well and he's looking forward to returning."

Madrid return to action for the first time in 15 days at Osasuna – an unscheduled break after last weekend's trip to Celta Vigo was postponed due to storm damage and high winds at Balaidos.

The Liga leaders now have two games in hand on their title rivals and, with fixture congestion a concern, the club voiced their displeasure at the decision.

Zidane was keen to move on from the controversy but conceded he and his players would have preferred to be in action against a side that knocked them out of the Copa del Rey last month.

"We always want to play. Fifteen days without a game is quite a long time," he said, with Barcelona's 3-0 win against Athletic Bilbao having closed the gap at the summit to one point during the interim period.

"It's a decision we have to respect and focus on the job at hand.

"It would have been better to have played. Of course, the players like to play – not just to train.

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"We don't know what is going to happen in those two games we've got in hand. We're not even sure when we are going to face Celta.

"We have to focus on Saturday's game. We can't look at the points and imagine three, four or one point more than the others. We have to focus on Saturday."

Madrid's recent injury crisis continues to ease and Zidane confirmed midfielder Luka Modric and full-back Dani Carvajal would be available to face Osasuna following respective thigh and hamstring complaints.

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