| 18.2°C Dublin

Defiant Ancelotti to keep faith with under-fire Bale

Close

Gareth Bale has failed to score in Real Madrid's last eight matches and has set up just one goal in that time. Photo: Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Gareth Bale has failed to score in Real Madrid's last eight matches and has set up just one goal in that time. Photo: Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Getty Images

Gareth Bale has failed to score in Real Madrid's last eight matches and has set up just one goal in that time. Photo: Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has backed under-fire winger Gareth Bale (right) and will keep him in his starting XI for tonight's Champions League tie against Schalke.

The Welshman has been criticised by a section of Real's fans and the local media for a dip in form, having failed to score in Real's last eight matches - he has set up just one goal in that time.

But Ancelotti has no qualms about starting him in the Bernabeu, where Real Madrid will defend a two-goal cushion, having won the first leg 2-0 in Germany.

"If I had to replace those who were not playing at their best, I would have to change the whole squad," Ancelotti said. "The whole team needs to improve. I'm sure Bale is not happy with what he is doing and he understands that and wants to do better."

Ancelotti is confident his side will rediscover their best form after a disappointing draw against Villarreal and a defeat to Athletic Bilbao in their last two games.

A shortage of goals has been Real's biggest problem, with Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo also struggling.

"I have complete confidence in them (Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo)," the Italian said. "They have given us so much in the past and our identity is not going to change.

"There has been a general drop in form, not just of the three of them, but of the whole team. Right now the team is not helping our strikers much. We are not playing fast, we are passing the ball too much and we need to try to find the right pass to make the most of our strikers' potential."

While Real Madrid have been struggling on the domestic front, victory tonight would see them equal the Champions League record for consecutive home wins (12) and break the record for the most in a row overall. They matched Bayern Munich's competition-best run of 10 straight victories at Schalke.

In tonight's other game, Porto are the favourites to progress after clinching a 1-1 draw away against Basel in the first leg.

Real Madrid v Schalke, live, TV3 and UTV 7.45pm

Porto v Basel, live, Sky Sports 1, 7.45pm

Irish Independent