Gareth Bale is set to make his first appearance for Real Madrid in almost three months against Espanyol on Saturday after recovering from his ankle injury.
The Wales international has been sidelined since suffering tendon damage during a Champions League match against Sporting Lisbon in November, an injury that required surgery.
Real Madrid vs Espanyol
Dates:February 18th, 2017
The 27-year-old has now returned to full training, though, and Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane confirmed on Friday the £85million man is set to play some part against Espanyol at the Bernabeu.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Zidane said: “He will be in the squad and the plan is for him to have some minutes. We’re keen and he’s keen as well.
“Bale is a very important player for us. We know the quality and speed that he has, and the damage he can cause the opposition.
“He’s very happy to return to the team, to be with us, and be able to play again.”
Zidane also confirmed striker Alvaro Morata will start the match after appearing as a late substitute in Wednesday’s 3-1 win over Napoli in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
It remains to be seen how many other changes Zidane might make, but the Frenchman admits his star-studded squad leaves him spoilt for choice.
He said: “For me they are all very good, they train phenomenally and it’s difficult to have 24 players.
“They are all important and sometimes we need to freshen things up and rotate. The squad is well prepared for everything.
“But I’m not going to say any more about tomorrow apart from Morata (starting).”
Madrid boast a one-point lead over Barcelona at the top of LaLiga and have two games in hand on all their title rivals.
They are also a massive 17 points clear of this weekend’s opponents, ninth-placed Espanyol, but Zidane is not expecting an easy game against a side who had won three games on the trot before last weekend’s 2-1 defeat to Real Sociedad.
Zidane said: “It’s a team that are coming off some very good results recently. It will be difficult.”
While Zidane is bracing his side for a difficult game, Espanyol’s former Real goalkeeper Diego Lopez has similarly left his team-mates in no doubt just how hard it is likely to be for them to get anything out of the match.
Only Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have beaten Real in a league game at the Bernabeu in the last six years and Lopez, who came up through the youth ranks at the 11-time European champions, has warned his current side they will need to be “perfect” to join that elite company this weekend.
He said on his club’s website: “We must play a perfect match and hope that they don’t have a good day and they aren’t successful.
“We are playing one of the best teams in the world, they are favourites, but we will go out and play our match and see how much Espanyol have grown and what we are capable of doing.
“If we are able to obtain a good result it will be very positive.”