Carlo Ancelotti has revealed that Gareth Bale will make his Real Madrid debut against Villarreal on Saturday, although he wouldn’t say whether it will be as a starter or as a substitute. Bale is finally able to step onto the pitch for Madrid after a protracted transfer saga throughout the summer followed by the recent international break. After missing almost all of pre-season, Bale got some valuable playing time as a second-half substitute for Wales against Serbia on Tuesday and Ancelotti believes that, while not at full fitness, the attacker is ready to play.
"He will travel with the team and he will play,” he said, according to Marca. “I don't know if he will start, but he will definitely take part. I don't know if it will be from the start; I still have to make that decision. But he's going to play."
"He's missed out on a normal preseason, but it is not the time to push him out of the team. He's going to train and play at the same time. He's fine. He's very excited and very motivated. His fitness isn't perfect, but it's not bad.”
There has been much speculation as to which position Bale will take up, but on that subject Ancelotti was clear. "He will play on the right flank,” he stated.
Ancelotti has also confirmed that he will hand a debut to another big-money signing, Asier Illarramendi. The €30 million signing from Real Sociedad has struggled with injury since his arrival, but, with Xabi Alonso still unavailable, Illarramendi will start.
“Illarramendi has worked very hard, he is intelligent and he will also play against Villarreal,” Ancelotti said. “He will play from the start."
Real Madrid, which will be without the injured Marcelo, have started the season with three straight league wins. Surprisingly joining them with that perfect record is their next opponent. It has been quite the return to the top flight for the Yellow Submarine after their one season in the Segunda Division. Things did not go so well for their Mexican duo on international duty this week, though, and Javier Aquino and Giovani dos Santos will both be looking to put Mexico’s two defeats behind them.
D: Mario, Musacchio, Dorado, Costa
M: Aquino, Trigueros, Bruno, Cani
Real Madrid (probable)
D: Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Nacho
M: Khedira, Illarramendi
Di Maria, Isco, Ronaldo
Prediction: Villarreal will be in a confident mood and should give Madrid a good test on Saturday. Madrid threw away far too many points on the road against teams they will have expected to beat last season and they will not want to do that early on in this campaign. The arrival of Bale could have a motivating impact on Angel di Maria, but also on Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese star is not one to be upstaged, and he will be eager to remind everyone that he remains the dominant figure in the side. That should help ensure an away win.
Villarreal 1-3 Real Madrid
Where to watch: The match will kick-off at 4 p.m. ET and will be shown on beIN Sport. A free live stream will be available on beIN Sport Play.