12 Nov, 08:00
-We've missed having Gareth available, Zinedine Zidane said ahead of his side's fixture against Las Palmas a week ago.
The Wales forward had returned to training the previous week and there were whispers that he may even sneak onto the bench for the visit of the Canary Islanders. Zidane, though, had learned his lesson about rushing players back with Bale and Raphael Varane suffering swift breakdowns after returning from injury prematurely. In any case, there was little to be gained by taking the risk against a side in the relegation places.
Zidane will have been rubbing his hands together at the prospect of having his first-choice forward line at his disposal for two uninterrupted weeks during the international break. The Frenchman has gifted an unexpected boost when Fernando Santos elected to spare Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal's friendlies while Karim Benzema's continuing Les Bleus exile gave the Real boss the opportunity to work with the "BBC" with full focus on the Madrid derby -- a must-not-lose game if not quite a must-win.
Now, Zidane's long vigil to reunite the "BBC" will continue for at least another month after Bale suffered a muscle injury in training on Friday.
It is yet another thwarted opportunity for Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo to address their quickly evaporating reputation as one of the most feared strike formations in the world. Bale had shown flashes of form before he succumbed to another recurrence of the calf issue that has dogged his Real Madrid career Sept. 26 in Dortmund. The Welshman's stunning volley and an assist in the Westfalenstadion hinted at a timely return to something approaching his best, but Bale's stop-start Bernabeu career was summed up when the injury flared again in Germany. He has not featured since.
The last time the "BBC" were together on the pitch was on April 23 when Real fell to a 3-2 Clasico defeat in the Bernabeu. Bale did not last until half-time, limping off to be replaced by Marco Asensio.
Real Madrid has a better win rate without the "BBC" on the pitch and Bale's availability is becoming an infrequent luxury. In total, he has now been absent through injury 19 times during his Bernabeu career, missing 73 games across all competitions.