It’s not been an easy ride for Gareth Bale since his eye-popping world record £86m transfer from Tottenham to Real Madrid.
But from the moment the lad from Cardiff was asked about pinching free-kicks from Ronaldo at his first press conference, to the time a minor training ground tackle with the Portuguese superstar was shown on TVs the world over, the former Spurs man must have known it was never going to be.
Nonetheless, his tactic for avoiding the media hullabaloo would have been simple – get on the pitch, play his football, and show Madrid just why they paid all that money.
Unfortunately for Bale, due to a number of niggling injuries and resulting fitness issues, he’s barely managed to get past step one. After a dream debut in which he scored in a draw at Villarreal over a month and a half ago, he has made only two further substitute appearances in the league.
His time in the famous white shirt of Madrid adds up to just 125 La Liga minutes. In that time, Ronaldo has scored eight goals in nine games, fellow new boy Isco has charmed the Madridistas and Angela Di Maria has starred in Bale’s favoured right wing position, notching seven goals.
Bale has also made a couple of substitute appearances in the Champions League, and it was his 25 minutes cameo, on for Karim Benzema, in a 2-1 win over Juventus midweek that appears to have encouraged boss Carlo Ancelotti to start him in the big one this evening.
Hints in his latest press conference suggest that the Italian boss is looking to unsettle Barcelona with the attacking three that developed against Juve, with Bale and Di Maria flanking Ronaldo, and Frenchman Benzema starting from the bench.
And while Bale is unlikely to last the whole game, his eagerness to finally stamp his mark on Madrid, and in the best way to possible with a goal in the Clasico, make him a great punt at 9/1 to score the opening goal. Never shot-shy, he’s also a good shout at 8/1 to finish the game as the player to have registered the most shots on goal.
A win for Madrid at the Nou Camp (available at 10/3) would bring them level on points with their rivals, with the team from Cataluña (priced at 3/4) looking for their first win over Los Blancos in five attempts.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.