Gareth Bale ready to make Real Madrid debut
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Gareth Bale is ready to make his debut for Real Madrid following his world-record transfer when the Spanish club visits Villarreal on Saturday.
The match at El Madrigal Stadium comes three days before Madrid travels to Turkey to play Galatasaray in its Champions League opener.
“We have to wait until the match day to see whether I’m picked or not,” Bale said Thursday. “But hopefully I can get my fitness up straight away and get a place in the team.”
Bale practiced for the first time with Madrid on Wednesday, the day after making his first official appearance this season as a substitute for Wales in a 3-0 loss to Serbia.
Madrid said forward Cristiano Ronaldo was the first to greet Bale on his arrival to the club’s training facilities.
“He’s a nice guy,” Bale said. “He made me feel welcome just like everybody else did. They made me feel settled straight away, and I’m just looking forward to getting on the pitch and doing well.”
Bale will likely still need time to get fully fit after not playing during the drawn-out negotiations with Tottenham that ended in Madrid breaking its own transfer record for Ronaldo with a 100 million euro ($132 million) payout for the Wales winger.
Madrid has won its first three games of the Spanish league season, but it faces a Villarreal which has also made a perfect start in its return to the topflight after one season in the second division.
“This is a chance to show that we can compete with anyone and fight with a team like Madrid,” Villarreal captain Bruno Soriano said. “Last season we dreamed of playing against teams like this. Now our chance has arrived and we want to play a great match.”
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti will still be without injured midfielder Xabi Alonso and will now also be missing defender Marcelo after he picked up an injury with Brazil. Madrid midfielder Asier Illarramendi could also make his debut after recovering from injury.
Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad also play on Saturday to warm up for their Champions League openers.
Barcelona hosts a Sevilla side looking for its first win of the season.
“Playing against Sevilla is always special for me,” said defender Adriano, who joined Barcelona from Sevilla in 2010. ”(Coach Unai) Emery’s teams always give us a hard time, home or away. This time will be no different.”
Lionel Messi has scored a league-leading five goals in two appearances to have the Catalan club in first place on goal difference. He also scored two more goals for Argentina in the past week.
Barcelona hosts Ajax on Wednesday in the Champions League.
″(Camp Nou) is one of the toughest grounds to visit in the league, but we are going there with hope that we take away a positive result,” Sevilla midfielder Jairo Samperio said. “We can’t try to fight them for possession of the ball. We have to be well positioned in defense and look to hit on the break, that’s their weak spot.”
Atletico hosts a frisky Almeria side looking for its fourth win in as many rounds. It then welcomes Zenit St. Petersburg in its return to the Champions League on Wednesday.
Sociedad, meanwhile, visits Levante before the Basque club plays Shakhtar Donetsk in Europe’s top tier club competition on Tuesday.
On Sunday, it’s: Granada vs. Espanyol; Getafe vs. Osasuna; Malaga vs. Rayo Vallecano; and Real Betis vs. Valencia.
Athletic Bilbao inaugurates its new San Mames Stadium against Celta Vigo on Monday, while Valladolid plays at Elche.