Real Madrid: Gareth Bale not expected to start in El Clasico?

Real Madrid right winger Gareth Bale failed to impress in his substitute appearance at Valencia, and it’s unclear if he’ll be in the starting lineup against FC Barcelona on Wednesday.

FC Barcelona tied to Real Sociedad 2-2 on Saturday, but Real Madrid failed to take advantage of La Blaugrana dropping points against Martin Odegaard’s side. Los Blancos barely escaped the Mestalla with a 1-1 draw against Valencia, courtesy of a last-gasp goal from Karim Benzema that was created by a desperate Thibaut Courtois header.

Right winger Gareth Bale featured in the Valencia game as a substitute, playing the final 20-30 minutes as youngster Rodrygo’s replacement. While Rodrygo struggled to get into the game against Valencia’s compact home defense, Bale was even worse, and he didn’t look 100 percent.

Bale has been suffering from a hamstring injury lately. Although he was in the squad against Club Brugge, Bale didn’t play a single minute. He likely received a cameo appearance against Valencia despite not being 100 percent as a way of gauging his fitness before El Clasico.

Zinedine Zidane has hoped to have Bale in the lineup against Barcelona, as his star power and experience could be critical, especially with playmakers Eden Hazard and Marcelo definitely out of the match due to injuries.

However, MARCA’s Felipe Olcina writes that Bale is “unlikely” to play in this all-important fixture against first-place Barcelona, simply because he hasn’t played enough recently to show that he’s fit enough for the game.

At less than 100 percent, Bale probably isn’t a better option than Rodrygo in the starting lineup. While Rodrygo had a rough outing against Valencia, he was excellent in mid-week against Club Brugge in the Champions League, scoring a classy goal on the volley in the 3-1 win.

Bale could still start, and even if he doesn’t, he can make a difference off the bench. But Real Madrid need Bale to be healthy and at his best soon, since they have suffered without the Wales international looking comfortable on the ball or decisive in the attack. His quality is undeniable, but injuries have prevented Los Blancos from seeing his true talent on the pitch.