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It was Bale's decision not to play, reveals Zidane

 

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Watching brief: Gareth Bale has barely featured for Real Madrid since Zinedine Zidane returned to the club

Watching brief: Gareth Bale has barely featured for Real Madrid since Zinedine Zidane returned to the club

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Watching brief: Gareth Bale has barely featured for Real Madrid since Zinedine Zidane returned to the club

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has said Gareth Bale opted to miss tonight's Champions League clash against Manchester City.

Wales international Bale has fallen out of favour at the Bernabeu and featured little in the new Spanish champions' title-winning run-in.

His omission from the travelling party for the last-16 second leg at the Etihad Stadium fuelled speculation over his future this week, but Zidane says that was the player's own choice.

"It was a personal conversation I had with him," said the Frenchman.

"He preferred not to play. The rest remains between me and him but he said he didn't want to play. The rest is a private conversation between player and coach. There is nothing else to add."

Asked if Bale had a future at Real, Zidane said: "I don't know. Now he is a current player at Real Madrid. That has not changed. He is our player. I respect that and I respect him, like everyone else.

"He preferred not to play. That is the only thing I can tell you. The rest of us are all here, preparing for the game. The only thing we are concentrating on is the game."

Meanwhile, former England manager Fabio Capello is backing Manchester City to see off his old club.

Pep Guardiola's side hold a 2-1 lead after a memorable victory at the Bernabeu in February, which ended with additional woe for Real when captain Sergio Ramos was sent off.

Ramos is now suspended for the second leg and Capello feels that could be a significant factor.

"I thought in the last two games they played before the end of the season that Manchester City were on the top of their form," he said. "They are really dangerous when they go forward.

"In the past I thought Guardiola has made some tactical faults in midfield but now, when they lose the ball, they try to recover it. The problem when you play City is how well can you defend against them?

"So, for me, I prefer Man City because, without Sergio Ramos, when you have to defend against City going forward, it will be difficult for Real."

Capello does not discount the chances of the 13-time champions, however.

The 74-year-old, who had two spells in charge at the Bernabeu, said: "Can Real win? It's possible because, for Real Madrid, it's normal to play this kind of game. The pressure will help Real Madrid. They finished the La Liga season brilliantly and they won the title."

Capello sees the game as an interesting clash of cultures.

He said: "The history is Real Madrid. Real Madrid's background is really strong and they are used to playing these games on their way to the final.

"Man City is the new team, new history. I think they have a really important future if Guardiola stays with this team, like (Sir Alex) Ferguson with Manchester United. It will be a spectacular game for me."

Belfast Telegraph