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Zidane eyes possible Bale return at Napoli

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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.

“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 LaLiga 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.

“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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Football

Guardiola eyes another EPL title over Champions League

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Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola, has said he would rather win the Premier League again next season than the Champions League. (more…)

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Man utd update: Jose Mourinho calls for Wayne Rooney support and hints at Everton title bid

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Jose Mourinho hopes Wayne Rooney will get the reception he deserves when he makes his first return to Old Trafford on Sunday.

And Mourinho says that Rooney is a true Manchester Inited legend in an era when legendary status is handed out far too easily.

He said: “I think that he will get the welcome he deserves. Sometimes the word legend in this country comes too easy, that’s not his case, he’s a real legend, the number of goals, trophies, he’s clearly one of the most important players in Manchester United’s history.

“And I think the stadium will show him that respect he deserves – I hope before the match and after the match – but not during the match.”

Mourinho refused to say whether re-joining Everton in the summer was the best move for Rooney’s career.

He added: “He is an Everton player and I’m not going to speak about Wayne more than I have already.

“He’s a legend of this club, he deserves to be welcomed that way but during the match he’s an Everton player who wants to win the match.”

Mourinho was more forthcoming about the striker who moved in the opposite direction to replace Rooney – Romelu Lukaku who has hit the ground running with six goals in his first six games for United plus four for Belgium.

He said: “I think he has come in the right moment, at a good age, with a good number of years of experience with different clubs in the Premier League.

“He is clearly a player well adapted to the Premier League and with good friends already in this dressing room, with an easy integration into our group.

“And the way the team tries to play has good relation to his qualities as a player. He came at the right moment in his career.”

Rooney will return with Everton in an early season mini crisis after three defeats without scoring a goal, five games in all competitions without a win and manager Ronald Koeman unhappy with their lack of passion.

But Mourinho will not under estimate the Merseysiders who held United to two 1-1 draws last season.

“I’m not going to analyse in that perspective, ” he said.

“They are a team with an incredible investment, a team that wants to play for the title, so I’m sure their objective is the top four.

“They have lots of good players, they are a good team and it will be a very difficult match for us.”

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Real Madrid’s Modric faces perjury inquiry

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Croatian authorities have launched an investigation into the captain of the national football team, Luka Modric. (more…)

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