Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti believes Gareth Bale is finally ready to show his best form after a series of niggling injuries. The Welshman has started just once since joining Los Blancos at the beginning of September.
Bale returned from a thigh problem to win a penalty in last weekend's 2-0 win over Malaga, but was largely ineffective as a second-half substitute as Madrid beat Juventus 2-1 in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday. However, Ancelotti hinted that he could start in Real's biggest game of the season to date when they travel to face Barcelona on Saturday.
"It is true that he didn't have an easy time (when he arrived), but he has worked hard," Ancelotti said. "We used the period of the international break to improve his condition and now, in my opinion and his opinion, he is ready to play from the beginning. When he begins to play it will be the real Bale."
Madrid come into the game at the Camp Nou boosted, not only by the win over Juventus, but also having cut Barça's lead at the top of La Liga to three points last weekend after the Catalans could only manage a 0-0 draw away to Osasuna.
And the Italian wants his side to be brave enough to take the game to Barça in their own backyard.
"Everyone thinks that Barcelona is the favourite and that is no bad thing for us," Ancelotti said. "The moment is good for us. In the last week we played two good games and we improved in many aspects. We have that to have courage and personality to play football and not just defend and wait for Barcelona. Having character and personality is exactly this, in Barcelona we need to try and play our football."
However, despite recognising the importance of striking an early psychological blow in the title race, Ancelotti doesn't believe that victory at the Camp Nou will be decisive with just under three quarters of the season still to go.
"It is very important of course because Barcelona and Atletico Madrid will fight for the league until the end of the season, but it is too early in this moment to decide the final result."
Xabi Alonso remains the only player unavailable to Ancelotti as he lacks match fitness having not played a competitive game so far this season. However, the Italian confirmed that French defender Raphael Varane is fit and hinted that the 21-year-old will start after shining in the final three meetings with Barça last season.