Real Madrid's Gareth Bale will have 'important role this season' - Zidane
Gareth Bale is being protected from further injury issues by limiting his playing time and will be a vital player in the remaining weeks of the season, according to Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.
Although fit and available again after missing most of the autumn with ankle and calf problems, Bale has started just one of Madrid's last four games in all competitions, and was benched for last week's 3-1 Champions League round-of-16 first leg win over Paris Saint-Germain.
Having rested Cristiano Ronaldo completely for Wednesday's 3-1 La Liga win at Leganes, Zidane told a news conference ahead of Saturday afternoon's home game with Alaves that he was doing what was best for the squad as a whole.
"You would have to ask [Bale] how he feels," Zidane said. "What we aim for with all of them is for them to be good, to train well, to be committed. I want to see Gareth at 100 percent, not to lose him again.
"When we play every three days I look at everything with all the players -- their form, how they are feeling, there are many important things behind decisions. But for sure Gareth will have an important role this season. Today you talk about Bale, everyday it is another player. But I am interested in the squad, not just one or two players."
Zidane also played down reports that midfielder Dani Ceballos was angered by being sent on for just the final 29 seconds at Leganes.
"I did not like what happened and I apologised," Zidane said. "I am happy with him, he is a good kid, hard worker. I remember the game he played in reverse fixture against Alaves, scoring two goals. It's true he has played little, but I am happy with him and he will get minutes."
Alaves have won once at the Bernabeu in their entire history, but they have been in excellent from since ex-Barcelona defender Abelardo Fernandez took charge late last year, and go into Saturday's game on the back of three straight Liga wins.
Zidane said his side were also in decent form: "Twenty-six goals in our last six games is very good. We know they have changed their coach, the squad they have, they never give up. We will have a difficult opponent, but if we play well ourselves we'll have a good chance to win."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan