Gareth Bale faces a huge week as he bids to prove that there is life after Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid. He returned to the starting line-up as Madrid lost to Sevilla, with Atlético Madrid in LaLiga coming up, before they visit CSKA Moscow in the Champions League. The 29-year-old is the favourite with many sites in the UK to score the first goal in each of those games following an impressive start to the new season.
The Welsh forward has bagged four goals in six appearances this term, before being rested for last Saturday’s scrappy 1-0 league victory over Espanyol. Unlike former boss Zinedine Zidane, new manager Julen Lopetegui appears to value Bale’s contribution to the team and he’s being rewarded for that faith.
Bale’s current situation is in stark contrast to the one he thought he was facing after bagging two goals in last season’s Champions League final against Liverpool. Seemingly unloved by Zidane, the former Tottenham star admitted that he was thinking of leaving the Bernabeu. However, Ronaldo’s announcement that he was moving on followed by Zidane’s resignation changed the landscape for Bale. Lopetegui made it clear that he would play a key role this season and he has been true to his word so far.
Both Bale and the rest of Real Madrid’s players are eager to prove that their three Champions League successes in the last three years were not just about Ronaldo’s contributions. While the Portuguese was the difference-maker in many games, the current team may become a more rounded unit in his absence.
Bale has already made his mark this season, but his biggest problem over the coming months will be avoiding the injuries that have plagued much of his career. If he can stay fit there is no reason why the Welshman can’t help Madrid topple Barcelona in the race for the La Liga title.
Los Blancos will also be eager to win the Champions League for the fourth year in row and odds of 8/1 to lift the trophy could look generous if Bale can continue his excellent form for the club.