Gareth Bale is set to make his first appearance for Real Madrid in almost three months against Espanyol on Saturday.

The Wales international has been sidelined since suffering tendon damage to his ankle during a Champions League match against Sporting Lisbon in November.

The 27-year-old has now returned to full training, though, and Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane confirmed he is set to play some part against Espanyol at the Bernabeu.

"He will be in the squad and the plan is for him to have some minutes. We're keen and he's keen as well," Zidane said.

"Bale is a very important player for us. We know the quality and speed that he has, and the damage he can cause the opposition.

"He's very happy to return to the team, to be with us, and be able to play again."

Zidane also confirmed striker Alvaro Morata will start the match after appearing as a late substitute in Wednesday's 3-1 win over Napoli in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Madrid boast a one-point lead over Barcelona at the top of LaLiga and have two games in hand on all their title rivals.

They are also a massive 17 points clear of this weekend's opponents, ninth-placed Espanyol, but Zidane is not expecting an easy game against a side who had won three games on the trot before last weekend's 2-1 defeat to Real Sociedad.

"It's a team that are coming off some very good results recently. It will be difficult," he said.

While Zidane is bracing his side for a difficult game, Espanyol's former Real goalkeeper Diego Lopez has similarly left his teammates in no doubt just how hard it is likely to be for them to get anything out of the match.

"We must play a perfect match and hope that they don't have a good day and they aren't successful," Lopez said.

"We are playing one of the best teams in the world, they are favourites, but we will go out and play our match and see how much Espanyol have grown and what we are capable of doing."

AAP

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