May 19, 2018 / 10:37 PM / a month ago

Soccer-Zidane lauds resurgent Bale but gives no clues ahead of final

MADRID, May 19 (Reuters) - Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane praised Gareth Bale for his fine turnaround in form after the Wales forward scored in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Villarreal but said he did not field the Wales forward as a trial run for the Champions League final.

Zidane has rotated his squad heavily in order to keep his side fresh for the final against Liverpool on May 26 but he started an almost full-strength side for their final La Liga fixture, even though nothing was riding on the game.

Although he rested goalkeeper Keylor Navas in order to hand a debut to his son Luca, Zidane fielded an otherwise first- choice side against Villarreal, starting Bale alongside Cristiano Ronaldo at the expense of Karim Benzema.

Bale has been left out of the starting line-up in five of Real’s six Champions League knockout games but has made a convincing case for a starting berth against Liverpool with a sparkling run in which has scored four times in the last three league games.

“He has never given up and right now he’s scoring a lot. I’m very happy with his role in the team at the moment and what he has been doing for us,” Zidane told reporters.

“Nothing his changed in him, if there’s one difference it’s the goals that he has been scoring recently.”

Bale suffered a series of muscle injuries in the first half of the campaign and played only five times in La Liga until January.

He has stayed injury free since and finished the campaign as the team’s second top scorer in the league behind Cristiano Ronaldo, with 16 goals, seven more than third top scorer Isco and despite only starting 20 games.

Zidane, however, said his starting line-up against Villarreal is not any indication about what team he will pick against Juergen Klopp’s side in Kiev, where Real will be bidding to become the first team since Bayern Munich in 1976 to win the European Cup three years in a row.

“We’re ready and we don’t have any injuries which is the most important thing. We’re ready to play our final and that’s all, I’m not going to talk about formations or the team I will pick,” the Frenchman said. (Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond)

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