Madrid (AFP) – Gareth Bale made a strong case for a starting spot against Juventus by scoring twice in Real Madrid’s 3-0 victory over Las Palmas on Saturday.
Bale’s double in Gran Canaria served as a timely reminder to coach Zinedine Zidane, with the trip to Turin for the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals to come on Tuesday.
Karim Benzema had doubled Real’s lead before half-time as Los Blancos moved just one point behind second-placed Atletico Madrid, who host Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday. Las Palmas stay 18th, seven points adrift of safety.
The only worry for Zidane was the sight of Nacho hobbling off in the first half, with what appeared to be a hamstring problem.
Bale opened the scoring with a trademark run and finish down the left before Benzema converted one penalty and then generously handed over a second, which the Welshman had earned himself.
The question now is whether Zidane was suitably impressed to pick Bale in Italy.
The 28-year-old also scored against Getafe before Real faced Paris Saint-Germain earlier this month and that was only enough to earn him a place on the bench in Paris, where he had also started the first leg.
Bale has now scored 10 goals in 11 starts since the turn of the year but the suspicion remains that Zidane does not trust him defensively against elite opposition.
Cristiano Ronaldo was rested against Las Palmas, and is sure to return against Juve, while Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asensio and Isco all started ahead of him across the two legs against PSG.
Isco was absent with a back problem following his hat-trick for Spain against Argentina last week, and Sergio Ramos was also spared, after picking up a knock over the international break.
Bale’s first goal arrived in the 26th minute as Luka Modric curved a superb pass inside right-back Michel Macedo, which Bale drove forward before slamming home at the near post.
Benzema tucked his penalty into the bottom corner 13 minutes later and then presented Bale with the ball after his team-mate had been fouled in the area by Ximo Navarro. Bale made no mistake.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Girona’s hopes of Europa League qualification took a knock after they were held to a 1-1 draw by struggling Levante. Athletic Bilbao also drew 1-1 at home to Celta Vigo.