- La Liga
Bale to make Madrid bow on Saturday
Carlo Ancelotti says Gareth Bale is to make his Real Madrid debut on Saturday evening in Villarreal, and is set to play in a wide-right position for his new side.
There has been much speculation both before and after Bale's arrival at the Bernabeu about where he might play in the team, and especially how Cristiano Ronaldo's position in the XI might be affected.
Ronaldo has so far been used in a more central attacking role by coach Carlo Ancelotti - with mixed results. He has just one goal in three La Liga games so far, and media reports in Spain have suggested he would prefer to return to the roving left-wing spot where he so thrived under previous boss Jose Mourinho - but some pundits thought this place had been earmarked for Bale.
- Top Tens: From Michael Jordan to Ian Botham, ESPN takes a look back at the greatest multi-sport athletes in history.
- Click here to read more
Bale himself has already said he is happy to play wherever selected for Madrid, and Ancelotti told reporters after training on Friday morning that this was most likely to be on the right wing.
"Bale will play in a position based from the right," Ancelotti said. "[He and Ronaldo] are two great players. I am convinced that working together will help the team to be better. [Bale] is very excited to be here. He is happy to be at the team he wanted to join. He is a humble player who likes to be with his teammates and be part of the group."
Ancelotti admitted that waiting around all summer for the transfer to be completed had not been ideal for Bale's match-fitness, but said that training regularly and playing some minutes with Wales last week had been useful.
"He will play, but I do not know if he will start the match, or if he plays in the second half," he said. "Everyone knows he did not have a normal pre-season. He trained alone [during August], and he had 10 days training with his national team. He is not at 100 per cent, but he is not bad."
Ancelotti also appeared to suggest that Tottenham might have made even more money if they had been able to sell Bale to another [unidentified] team, but the player himself had only wanted to join Madrid.
"There were higher offers than the one from Madrid," he said. "I do not know what price Madrid paid. But the player wanted to come here, that made the difference."
The international break might have been useful for Bale, but it had caused Madrid big problems at full-back, Ancelotti went on to say.
"We have had a lot of problems with the national teams, three or four players have arrived injured," he said. "Fortunately we have Isco back, but Marcelo, [Fabio] Coentrao and [Alvaro] Arbeloa coming back injured is not good. Countries should be more careful with players, and the communication should be better."
These injuries mean that Nacho Fernandez will play at left-back on Saturday, Ancelotti confirmed - and fellow youngster Dani Carvajal should start on the other side of the defence.
Further forward Ancelotti said that Ronaldo and Luka Modric had also overcome fitness issues which saw them return early from international duty, and that summer signing Asier Illarramendi was now ready to make his Madrid debut.
"Illarra has worked very well," Ancelotti said. "He is ready and will play tomorrow. Cristiano is fine, he has recovered."
Download ESPN's new UK sport app, a fresh and powerful new way to follow your favourite UK sports news, scores and video.