Gareth Bale hopes to return to training this week as he steps up his rehab from an ankle injury.
The Wales forward has been out since November after suffering a “traumatic dislocation of the peroneal tendons” in his ankle during Real Madrid’s 2-1 Champions League victory at Sporting Lisbon.
Bale was operated on in London at the end of November and now, after nearly two months of solo work, he is preparing to return to the European champions' Valdebebas training ground to step up his recovery.
Real Madrid hope to have him working with a ball by February, but are still setting a cautious timetable for his return.
The 27-year-old winger is still very unlikely to recover in time for Madrid's Champions League round-of-16 first-leg encounter with Napoli in mid-February and remains a doubt for the second leg, with early March a more realistic target for Bale as he seeks to aid his side's La Liga push.
Real Madrid were this week struck down by two more key injuries as Luka Modric and Marcelo both went down. While the Croatian midfielder's knock is reportedly not as bad as first feared, left-back Marcelo could join Bale in missing the resumption of the Champions League in February.
Zinedine Zidane is looking to become the first coach to successfully win back-to-back European titles since the format changed in 1992, as well as mounting a title challenge domestically.
Wales manager Chris Coleman remains optimistic that Bale will be fit to feature in the national side’s World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland in March.
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