Benitez hopeful Bale, James will be fit for Madrid’s derby


Madrid (AFP) – Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez is upbeat that Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez could be fit to face local rivals Atletico Madrid next weekend.

Benitez’s squad has been ravaged by early season injuries with Bale, Rodriguez, Danilo and Sergio Ramos all certain to miss out when the league leaders host Malaga on Saturday. However, he is hopeful that some of his star names will be fit for the crucial clash at the Vicente Calderon on Oct. 4 and could even be ready in time for Madrid’s Champions League visit to Malmo on Wednesday.

“I am very cautious, but they are recovering well. We will see how they are once they begin to train with the team next week,” Benitez said on Friday.

“Some of them could be ready by Wednesday and others for the game against Atletico.”

Madrid moved to the top of the table for the first time this season after they took advantage of Barcelona’s 4-1 thrashing at Celta Vigo by beating Athletic Bilbao 2-1 on Wednesday.

Los Blancos lead Celta and Villarreal on goal difference, a point ahead of Atletico and Barcelona, having scored 14 times and conceded just once in their opening five games.

“The numbers are good, but the race is not won on the first corner,” warned Benitez.

“If we force situations at the moment to have good numbers we would be making a mistake. The point of having good numbers is to get to the end of the season with the chance to win all the competitions.”

There could be one particularly important statistic that is surpassed at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday, though, as Cristiano Ronaldo is just two goals away from equaling Raul’s 323-goal record as the club’s top goalscorer of all time.

Ronaldo has avoided Benitez’s famous rotation policy despite failing to score in four of Madrid’s five games this season. However, the former Liverpool and Chelsea boss insisted that is due to the World Player of the Year’s importance to the team rather than him wanting to avoid any confrontation with the Portuguese.

“The most important player in the team is the one that can score goals. That is why I try to keep him on, to have more time on the pitch because he is so good. I like to see him score goals.”

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