The ongoing feud between Gareth Bale and Real Madrid continues to dominate the stage as Los Blancos prepare to resume league duties on Saturday, when they host Real Sociedad.
Having spent most of the summer trying to get the Welshman away from Madrid, Zinedine Zidane was forced to turn to the 30-year-old at the beginning of the season, when injuries decimated his attacking options.
Bale answered the call, scoring twice and providing two more assists in seven games in all competitions but last played for Real on October 5 because of a calf injury.
The Welshman recovered in time to feature in key Euro 2020 qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Hungary over the last seven days, as Wales secured a spot in next year’s tournament.
The Spanish media quickly labelled Bale’s swift recovery as “The Miracle in Wales,” in a thinly-veiled suggestion the Welshman was more interested in playing for his country than for his club.
Instead of defusing the situation, Bale poured gallons of fuel on the flames when he celebrated with a flag reading “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order.”
The wording wasn’t casual. Former Real Madrid player and sporting director Predrag Mijatović suggested in an interview that representing Wales and perfecting his golf swing were more important to Bale than play for Real Madrid.
The motto has since been turned into a chant and into a flag by Wales fans, much to Bale’s amusement and, one would suspect, to Real Madrid’s fury.
The Spanish giants are yet to officially reply to the Welshman but they are unlikely to offer an olive branch, particularly after just last week Bale admitted he preferred playing for Wales.
“I definitely have more excitement playing for Wales,” he was quoted as saying by The Guardian.
“I’ve been with most of the older players since we were in the under-17s. It’s like playing with your mates down the park on a Sunday. With Wales, I’m speaking my own language and feel more comfortable. But it doesn’t change what I do on the pitch. I always give 100 percent on the pitch wherever I am; that’s what I always strive to do.”
The ongoing saga provides Zidane with an unnecessary headache ahead of the game against Real Sociedad on Saturday.
Madrid arrives into the game as joint league leaders alongside Barcelona, with Real Sociedad just two points adrift. La Real has been one of the stories of the season so far, punching mightily above its weight and has enough attacking talent—it is the third-highest scoring team in La Liga after Barcelona and Real—to cause their host problems.
Madrid, on the other hand, arrives into the game on a run of four wins in five games and last conceded a goal on October 19, when it lost 1-0 to Mallorca in its first and only defeat of the season so far.
Another clean sheet and a win would go some way to banish talk of the feud between Bale and the club ahead of the game against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Here’s all you need to know ahead of Saturday.
When and where is the game?
Real Madrid hosts Real Sociedad at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid on Saturday, November 23, with kick-off scheduled for 9 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET).
Real Sociedad won both games against Real Madrid last season, defeating Los Blancos 2-0 in Madrid and 3-1 at home.
The game will be broadcast live on beIN SPORTS.
Live stream will be available via beIN Sports website, and beIN Sports’ digital platforms, as well as via fuboTV.
Real Madrid remained top of the table alongside Barcelona after a 4-0 thrashing of Eibar on the road before the international break, while Real Sociedad fell two points behind Real Madrid after a 1-1 draw at home to Leganes.
Real Madrid will be without long-term absentees Nacho and Marco Asensio.
Real Sociead, meanwhile, will be without midfielder Mikel Merino but Martin Odegaard should be fit to face his parent club.
According to Oddschecker, Real Madrid is a 2/5 favorite, while Real Sociedad is a 6/1 underdog and the draw is at 22/5.