Spain may have been given a rather short straw in Netherlands and Chile in their World Cup draw, but that shouldn't give them cause for concern. The pressure is on the rest...
Those of us who support lowly clubs can find it difficult to imagine the fuss made over two defeats suffered by a goliath. Will this weekend's Copa offer some respite?
There has always been an assumption in the Spanish football media that its readers have an advanced knowledge of the world of medicine. A term such as "leg injury" would never be used to describe the plight of a player. Instead, it is a type 15 contusion of the "upper rhesorial, spinalogical, ephemora range." A detailed graphic of the exact nature of the knack would also be published in the paper to help everyone diagnose over a morning coffee what remedy would be required to fix the issue.
Over the past week in the downtime of the international break, a huge amount of time has been spent by all and sundry in Spain discussing whether Gareth Bale is suffering from a hernia or merely a spinal disc protrusion, and what kind of treatment would be required to cure the problem. Marca claimed the former whilst a strong rebuttal from the club corrected the paper, after they suggested Bale may require surgery.
Fernando Hierro claimed that he had the same problem and played until retirement at 37. Chris Coleman blustered that his international charge, who spent the interlull training with Real Madrid, will not be any value as a player until the beginning of next year. "You are bonkers, crackers," scoffed the Welsh manager on the idea of Bale starting a match without a proper preseason under his belt.
Former Wales and Real Madrid boss, John Toshack, told a Spanish radio station that he had no idea what was going on with the €100million man. "Something doesn't add up. If we analyse what is happening, it's odd. It is not normal that it takes so long to get started," mused Toshack.
In theory, the root cause to Gareth Bale's troubled start at Real Madrid that has produced just three appearances is a fairly simple one. Bale arrived with a few knocks and bumps and a complete lack of match fitness after a non-existent pre-season with his club. Carlo Ancelotti is well aware of this and told Italian paper 'Corriere delle Sera' that "we are taking advantage of the international break to get him into shape and playing again."
The big question though is why Real Madrid have been forcing Bale into action again and again, causing relapses that has hampered the process of getting the footballer fit. Bale began his first league game against Villarreal having played for Wales a few days previously and after just a couple of training sessions with the club. Since this point, again and again, the forward has been thrust into action when clearly not ready.
A more efficient strategy would have been to publicly write off the first two months of Bale's time in Madrid and focus on nudging the forward back into shape. After all, if you have a player worth €100million who is going to be around for five years, why risk ruining him over the first five weeks?
Of course, the answer is a fairly simple but also very speculative one and goes to the heart of a familiar theme at Real Madrid. José Mourinho aside - who clearly did whatever he wanted - how much freedom does any Madrid coach have in terms of choosing his squad or buying and selling players?
In recent years, Manuel Pellegrini had Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder sold from under his Chilean nose and without consultation to ruin a campaign's preparations. And there is now the idea that Florentino Pérez has been similarly forceful with Ancelotti, ordering the coach to play Bale come rain, hail or knacked back.
Bale's 'official' injury at the moment is a muscle strain picked up originally in the warm-up against Getafe, a match where he was in the starting line-up, before the problem was aggravated in a league clash the following weekend against Atlético Madrid.
The talk now is whether Bale is in better shape after two weeks off from duty with club and country and will be able to see some minutes in a home clash against Málaga this weekend, or whether he will be held back for a midweek Champions League meeting with Juventus or even next weekend's Clásico.
However, despite these encounters being rather important for a team that is not playing well at all at the moment, compounding the disastrous way Bale's situation has been handled by forcing another premature return to action would be yet another mistake.
But money talks at Madrid, and if the club has signed a player for such a huge amount of cash, tied in with an awful lot of sponsorship deals to help pay the fee, then the likelihood is that Bale will be trotting out against Málaga on Saturday afternoon, potentially with a corset under his shirt.
Although this can only lead to more personal pressure on the player, with critics suggesting that the former Spurs man is the new Jonathan Woodgate in terms of injury problems, financial pressures often hold more sway at a club where the Galacticos must always be on display.
Tim Stannard - follow him on Twitter
The fake letter from Perez complaining about faulty goods is hilarious (google it), that said I do wish Gareth every success in his future career, afterall he's pretty much funded our new squad. Perez and Real Madrid on the other hand, they really are poisonous and it is rather amusing that it hasn't yet worked out as planned.- markofaspur