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Gareth Bale set for spell out with calf injury

Reports suggest the Welshman could be missing for at least two weeks.

Gareth Bale is facing another spell on the sidelines through injury as Real Madrid embark on a hectic new year schedule which could make or break their season.

Bale limped out of Thursday’s 2-2 draw with Villarreal at half-time with a calf problem and, following tests on Saturday, Madrid said he had been diagnosed with a “grade 1 soleus muscle injury in his left leg”.

Madrid have not said how long they expect the Wales international to be out for, but reports in Spain suggest he is likely to be missing for at least two weeks.

The 29-year-old has been plagued by injuries during his time in Spain and his latest setback comes at a time when Real will need as many players as possible with the fixtures coming thick and fast.

The draw with Villarreal was the first of seven matches in 23 days for Real, and the next six weeks could prove decisive in the club’s push for honours in LaLiga, Champions League and Copa del Rey.

Coach Santiago Solari said ahead of Sunday’s visit of Real Sociedad: “We’ve got a really busy month ahead of us, because we now have a game once every three days.

“The most important thing is that we keep our energy levels up in the matches and that we start to welcome the injured players back. It’s also important that we don’t pick up any more injuries.

“Footballers aren’t machines. It’s tough when you have to play a game every three days and we have to be ready for that and go out and compete.”

The draw with Villarreal, in a fixture rearranged from December due to Real’s FIFA Club World Cup campaign – a competition they won, left the European champions fourth in LaLiga and seven points behind leaders Barcelona.

Solari hopes they can continue their upward progress and insists he has no doubts about his players’ commitment in the face of a gruelling calendar.

He added at a press conference, as reported by his club’s website: “Our aim is to continue to climb the table after what was a tough start. We’ve risen from ninth to fourth and we’ve still got some ground to make up.

“Nobody is involved in more competitions and has had less of a break than us this season.

“The players give their all and are fully committed. There can be no doubt about the players’ commitment to the shirt.”

Sociedad start 2019 sitting 15th in the table following a four-match losing streak and with a new, if not unfamiliar, coach at the helm.

Imanol Alguacil, the club’s B team boss who also took over for a spell last season, has been re-installed as caretaker coach until the end of the campaign following the Boxing Day sacking of Asier Garitano.

Under Alguacil, Sociedad picked up 16 points from nine games last term to move away from relegation danger and the 47-year-old is eyeing more success at the Bernabeu.

He said in AS: “We all know the potential of Real Madrid, even if maybe they aren’t in their best moment. But they have a great squad, without doubt.

“But I’m clear that we will go to the Bernabeu to win, because I don’t know any other way than trying to win every game.”

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