REAL Madrid could be without Gareth Bale for tomorrow’s Champions League trip to Liverpool after confirming that the world’s most expensive player has a muscular injury.
The European champions left the former Tottenham winger out of the side for Saturday’s victory over Levante and revealed yesterday that the 25-year-old has an abdominal problem. Real face bitter rivals Barcelona in El Clasico on Saturday and Bale is believed to have been rested from training yesterday, though they stopped short of ruling out the Welshman.
“After tests carried out on Gareth Bale by the Real Madrid medical services, he has been diagnosed with a muscular injury in the right pyramidalis muscle,” the club said. “His progress will be monitored.”
Bale played the full 180 minutes for Wales during last week’s international break as Chris Coleman’s men drew with Bosnia and beat Cyprus.
The £85m star has scored five goals in 12 matches this season for the Spanish giants, who have maximum points in Group B, having beaten Basel 5-1 at home and won 2-1 away at Ludogrets Razgrad.
Real are unlikely to be short of firepower even if Bales does miss the clash at Anfield: they have scored 32 goals in a sequence of seven successive wins stretching back to 13 September.
Aside from Bale, Liverpool could encounter other former Premier League campaigners in ex-Spurs midfielder Luka Modric, on-loan Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez and free-scoring Cristiano Ronaldo, who has netted three hat-tricks in his last six club appearances.
There will also be a familiar face in the dugout in Carlo Ancelotti, the former Chelsea manager who was in charge of AC Milan when Liverpool came from 3-0 down to win the 2005 Champions League on penalties.
Liverpool emerged victorious from a less significant but similarly topsy turvy match at Loftus Road on Sunday, beating bottom-of-the-table QPR 3-2 with a late Steven Caulker own goal.
Summer signing Mario Balotelli attracted more criticism for his failure in front of goal, but manager Brendan Rodgers defended the £16m striker, who has scored just once in nine outings for the Reds.
“The most important thing for me is his work – the guy’s doing his best, he’s working really hard. It’s just not dropping for him at the moment,” said Rodgers.
“The criticism of him has been unfair. Everyone knows him, he’s a great boy, and I’ve really enjoyed working with him. He wants to improve and be better, but it’s not going to happen overnight.”