Carlo Ancelotti has dismissed the prospect of starting Gareth Bale in the left-back position when Real Madrid host Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League quarter-final first leg tonight.
Bale featured in the position when he first moved to Tottenham from Southampton, and endured a terrible start to his career at White Hart Lane as Spurs failed to win any of his first 24 games for the club.
However, a move further up the pitch coincided with Bale’s rise to the top of the game, and eventually led to the £86m transfer that took him to Spain last summer. But with regular left-back Marcelo ruled out of both legs of the last-eight clash with Dortmund, Ancelotti has dismissed reports that he could consider deploying the Wales international in the back-four.
“Bale at full-back is not an option for us,” said Ancelotti in a pre-match press conference. “We have a problem with Marcelo, but we can cover his absence well with Fabio Coentrao. He is fresh and will replace him without any problems.”
Champions League: The last eight teams standing
Champions League: The last eight teams standing
1/8 ATLETICO MADRID
Best: Runners-up (1974)
Star man: Diego Costa
Overview: Have let their chances of winning the Primera Division slip lately, but they are still having a superb year thanks to the 22 goals of Diego Costa. A 5-1 aggregate win over AC Milan in the last 16 will have done their confidence no harm.
Best: Winners (1992, 2006, 2009, 2011)
Star man: Lionel Messi
Overview: Also likely to lose out to Real Madrid for the La Liga title following a recent dip in form. Kept their European dream alive with relatively straightforward 4-1 win over Manchester City in the previous round.
3/8 BAYERN MUNICH
Best: Winners (1974, 1975, 1976, 2001, 2013)
Star man: Franck Ribery
Overview: Pep Guardiola is hoping to join an exclusive club of coaches who have won the Champions League with two different clubs. Bayern, unbeaten in the Bundesliga, wasted little effort getting past Arsenal in the second round.
4/8 BORUSSIA DORTMUND
Best: Winners (1997)
Star man: Robert Lewandowski
Overview: Defeated by Bayern in last year's final. Some 23 points behind their rivals in the Bundesliga and went down to a disappointing home defeat to Zenit St Petersburg in the second leg of their last-16 tie.
Best: Winners (2012)
Star man: Eden Hazard
Overview: Chelsea surrendered the initiative to Manchester City in the Premier League title race last weekend when they lost to Aston Villa, but few would bet against Jose Mourinho winning a third Champions League trophy after their ruthless display against Galatasaray in the last round.
6/8 MANCHESTER UNITED
Best: Winners (1968, 1999, 2008)
Star man: Robin van Persie
Overview: David Moyes has endured a horrid debut season domestically, but his team gave United fans a night to remember on Wednesday when they overturned a two-goal deficit to progress at the expense of Olympiacos.
7/8 PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN
Best: Semi-finalists (1995)
Star man: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Overview: Deprived of a place in the World Cup, Ibrahimovic will be looking to prove to the world that he is just as good as he thinks he is. PSG's expensively-assembled squad hammered Bayer Leverkusen 6-1 on aggregate in previous round.
8/8 REAL MADRID
Best: Winners (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002)
Star man: Cristiano Ronaldo
Overview: After a 12-year wait, this could finally be the season when Real Madrid finally achieve la decima (the 10th European Cup). Ronaldo is two goals shy of breaking Lionel Messi's record of 14 in one Champions League campaign following his four-goal haul in the 9-2 aggregate win over Schalke.
Bale was jeered during the weekend victory over Rayo Vallecano, as home fans booed both he and Cristiano Ronaldo in a visible outpouring of frustration after back-to-back defeats against Barcelona and Seville.
Bale soon silenced his doubters though with a brace – the second a delightfully fluent move beginning deep in his own half and ending with the winger slotting the ball past goalkeeper Ruben – and Ancelotti has backed Bale for his recent performances after he was criticised for not performing in the biggest games. The Italian did concede that he can be inconsistent at times, but that was a result of his style of apply rather than a reflection of his ability.
“I think it is true he is a little intermittent, but that is a characteristic of all forwards, and especially very quick players,” Ancelotti conceded.
“Players with that speed can't have a continuous influence like other players with different characteristics, like Xabi Alonso. His inconsistency is a physical characteristic of the player, like Cristiano Ronaldo or Karim Benzema. It is not an attitude problem.”
Another to offer his support to Bale was his former Spurs and current Real team-mate Luka Modric, who feels that Bale can be happy with his first season in the Spanish capital.
“I think he is doing very well,” Modric said in support. “He is a very important player for us. I don't think he has been very selfish, I think he has given more assists than anyone in La Liga which says it all.”
Real will be out for revenge at the Bernabeu as they look to defeat the side that knocked them out of the semi-finals last season. A magical four-goal haul in the first leg from Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski sent the German side through to an all-Bundesliga final against Bayern Munich, but the Polish striker is suspended for tonight’s match and will be missing along with five other key first team members.