• La Liga

Ancelotti: Bale ready to step in for Ronaldo

ESPN staff
February 6, 2014
The ESPN FC crew debate whether or not Cristiano Ronaldo's actions on Sunday were worthy of a three-match La Liga ban

Carlo Ancelotti says the three-game ban handed out to Cristiano Ronaldo "is not normal" but feels Gareth Bale is ready to step in for his suspended teammate in Saturday's La Liga clash with Villarreal at the Bernabeu.

Spain's competition committee has decided Ronaldo's sending off in the 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao at the weekend warranted a three-match suspension - one for raising a hand during a confrontation with Athletic's Carlos Gurpegi and Ander Iturraspe, and two for a gesture made as he left the field.

Madrid are to appeal that decision and are reported to be unhappy with how the matter has been handled, with referee Miguel Angel Ayza Gamez reportedly allowed to amend errors in his official report prior to the initial hearing.

After Madrid's 3-0 Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg win at home to neighbours Atletico Madrid, Ancelotti told his news conference that the punishment seemed excessive to everyone at the Bernabeu, and the club were hopeful the ban would be reduced when the appeal is heard on Friday morning.

"Nobody is happy with this," Ancelotti said. "Three games without playing is not normal. That is why we have appealed. Three games for what he did is not normal."

Bale had been expected to start Wednesday's match against Atletico but was pulled out of the squad just hours before kick-off. Ancelotti was keen to stress that there was no new injury issue, stressing that he had merely wanted to keep Bale fresh to stand in for Ronaldo on Saturday.

"There is no setback," Ancelotti said. "[Bale] is fine. On Saturday we cannot use Cristiano. With Gareth fresh it could be very good for us, so I preferred to give him a rest. For sure Bale will play on Saturday."

Madrid took control of the Copa tie with deflected goals by Pepe and Angel Di Maria, either side of a neatly taken strike by youngster Jese Rodriguez. Di Maria, who provided the assist for Jese's goal, told Madrid's club website that Ronaldo had done "nothing" to deserve the ban, which is also set to rule him out of La Liga games against Getafe and Elche.

"These things are decided by those that have to decide them," Di Maria said. "We know that he did nothing. He was provoked. The important thing was that he played against Atletico Madrid today and played well."

Luka Modric, who again impressed against Atletico, said former Spurs teammate Bale had been training well this week.

"He trained normally over the last two or three days," Modric told reporters afterwards. "The coach did not want him to force anything today because we have another important match on Saturday and Cristiano cannot play in it. It is important for him to rest because there is no rush."

Jese, who has stood in for Bale on the right wing in each of Madrid's last three games, scoring each time, told his club's official website that he was pleased with his latest strike.

"Di Maria's pass is perfect and [Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut] Courtois did not expect me to hit it first time," Jese said. "It was a very nice goal, a subtle touch. I see my aim of scoring 10 goals this season is possible, and if I get more then even better. I have had the fortune to score against great teams and in great stadiums."

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