By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
Gareth Bale could face a fight to reclaim his place in the starting line-up for Real Madrid when he recovers from injury due to the impressive performances of fan favourite Isco.
Bale's debut campaign at Madrid ended in style as he hit crucial goals in the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals and his second season has also started well enough.
But coach Carlo Ancelotti has had to tweak his line-up in the absence of the former Tottenham man - currently sidelined with a hip problem - and Madrid have improved defensively with a four-man midfield leaving just Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema as the two forwards.
In the meantime, Bale's work-rate and fitness have been questioned by Marca, with the Spanish daily noting that Isco and James Rodriguez covered over 10 kilometres apiece in the 5-0 win at Levante last weekend, while adding that the Spaniard is not afraid to track back and help out with defensive duties. That has not been a feature of Bale's game so far this term and another report spoke of the winger's "low pain threshold" when it comes to injuries.
"Isco has been doing well, there is nothing more to it. Real Madrid are happy with Gareth," a source in the Bale camp told Goal, dismissing talk of a club campaign against the Welsh winger.
However, more fitness problems and a reluctance to help out with defensive work could mean Bale finds himself on the bench when he returns from injury.
"I have always had faith in Isco and he has more opportunities now that Bale is out," Ancelotti said this week.
Bale picked up his injury in training last Friday, but could be back in contention for a starting spot as early as next weekend.