Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari says he will not urge the club’s fans to lay off Gareth Bale when Barcelona visit the Bernabeu on Saturday evening.
The Wales forward has endured a hostile reception from some supporters in recent weeks and refused to celebrate his winning penalty at Levante last weekend, appearing to shrug off team-mates in the process.
That goal came after Bale was introduced as a second-half substitute, a role he has had to get used to since returning from a calf problem in late January.
He was left on the bench again in Wednesday’s 3-0 Copa del Rey loss at home to Barcelona. Ahead of this weekend’s El Clasico, Solari has defended the treatment Bale has received, both from the fans and the club.
“I have nothing to say to the fans,” the Argentinian said at a press conference.
“Everyone knows Gareth and knows what he has given to this club. The fans at the Bernabeu are very respectful.”
On his recent use of the Welshman as an impact player off the bench, Solari added: “Gareth has played every game since he came back and has scored several goals. He has been decisive in previous seasons and in the last Champions League.”
He refused to give any assurances over Bale’s involvement on Saturday.
The boss said his side had licked their wounds after their midweek humiliation and were ready to seek revenge against a team seven points clear at the top of the table and nine ahead of third-placed Real.
“We’re back on our feet, wanting to pick up more points,” said Solari.
“The fixture list and destiny wanted us to be up against the same opponents, again the big Clasico of Spanish football. We’re going into it with the same desire and the same spirit as in the previous match, trying to improve the things we must improve and to maintain the things we did well.”
Real have Isco available again after injury, but Solari declined to say whether he would return to the squad.
Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde warned his team that Real would be out to regain some pride in the wake of Wednesday’s defeat.
“It’s difficult to repeat a result against the same opponent in the space of three days, but we will try to win because the league demands it,” he said.
“When you win, you gain confidence, but when you lose you want to reverse that as quickly as possible, so it will be a tough match.”