Gareth Bale has been included in Real Madrid's 21-man squad for Saturday's Primera Division game against Malaga, with coach Carlo Ancelotti insisting the Wales winger does not have a serious injury - ``just a muscle strain''.
The world-record 100million-euros acquisition from Tottenham returned to training on Wednesday after having struggled so far this term following a less-than-full pre-season programme, but looks set to take at least a place on the bench this weekend after Ancelotti vowed to give him ``some minutes'' at the Bernabeu.
``He is available for tomorrow,'' the Italian said on www.realmadrid.com. ``The problem with Bale is that he didn't play during the pre-season.
``I have three disc protrusions and they never gave me problems during my career.
``Tomorrow I want to give him some minutes because he needs to play, and do it with the team. Bale has nothing - just a muscle strain.''
While Bale's prospects of game-time appear good, the same cannot be said of club stalwart Iker Casillas.
The goalkeeper has yet to displace Diego Lopez in the league, and, although he started for Spain in their World Cup qualifier against Georgia on Tuesday, Ancelotti has indicated Lopez will remain first choice.
However, Ancelotti spoke glowingly of the 32-year-old at his pre-match press conference on Friday, saying: ``He's a great goalkeeper, very professional. He's helping if he doesn't play. He's a captain. I hope that Casillas stays here with us.
``I need to speak with Iker. It's just a talk and we'll see what happens.''
Another player who was involved over the international break but may not be called on at the Bernabeu this weekend is France centre-half Raphael Varane.
With just two Real appearances under his belt so far this term, one against Levante and the other in the Champions League win over FC Copenhagen, he looked to be getting the better of his knee problems and represented Les Bleus in their 6-0 win over Australia.
But he was not 100 per cent fit in the aftermath and sat out the following fixture against Finland, as well as two training sessions upon his return to Madrid.
He is not thought to have seriously aggravated anything, but Sergio Ramos and Pepe seem likely to resume their defensive partnership to avoid risking the 20-year-old Varane.
Real lie third heading into the weekend, five points shy of rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
Ancelotti's side face a crucial week, following up the Malaga clash with a Champions League game against Juventus and then next Saturday's Clasico against Barca at the Nou Camp, and the 54-year-old urged his players to maintain their concentration.
``The players named for their national sides have returned in good condition.'' he said. ``The team is ready to begin an important week - Malaga, Juventus and Barcelona. The team is focused and we will be trying to win.''
Of 10th-placed Malaga, he added: ``There are no easy matches. After the match against Levante we haven't trained with all the players, but after that match the atmosphere changed. I feel the players are more motivated.
``Malaga is a strong team, with quality, and I expect a good game from Real. This team, with all its quality, has to play better.''
Malaga, meanwhile, have won just once in their last four games - a 2-0 home success over Almeria.
Striker Francisco Portillo knows that their next opponents are hardly the ones a side looking to get back to winning ways would choose, but has called for his team to rise to the challenge.
``Madrid have many players who are global stars but we will not be cowering, let's go to the party,'' the 23-year-old said.
``We look forward to the weekend and we will try to do the right things and get a positive result.
``It's a very difficult place to go and get a result and it is one of the best clubs in the world. We are aware of that but we also know what we have to do and we will give everything in our power to do it.''