MADRID: Zinedine Zidane remains positive Gareth Bale will feature for Real Madrid again this season despite being diagnosed with the latest in a series of calf injuries on Tuesday.
Bale hobbled off just 38 minutes into Madrid's 3-2 defeat to Barcelona in Sunday's Clasico on his return, having also missed Madrid's previous two matches with an ankle injury.
"He is injured but it is a very small thing and we hope he returns quickly," said Zidane.
"Hopefully he is with us before the end of the season."
Madrid said in a statement that Bale "has been diagnosed with a grade two injury in the calf of his left leg."
Media reports were far more pessimistic on Bale's chances of a quick return, claiming he will be sidelined for around a month.
That would rule the Welshman out of both legs of Madrid's Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid and Real's remaining six La Liga games.
However, should Real see off Atletico in his absence, Bale could be fit in time for a homecoming in the Champions League final in Cardiff on June 3.
Bale has had an injury-ravaged season after suffering ankle ligament damage in November which kept him out for three months.
And Zidane believes it is that injury which is still at the root of his latest problems.
"When you have a long injury layoff, it is very difficult when you return. The recuperation time is not the same," added the Frenchman.
"At the start you are fine and then as you train every day there are niggles. That is what is happening to Gareth."
'Wouldn't change anything'
However, Zidane defended his decision to start Bale against Barcelona ahead of the more in-form Isco and Marco Asensio.
"I would do the same. He was training normally, without any problems and in the end (the injury) happened, which is something we can't avoid."
Immediately after Sunday's game, Zidane lamented his side's naivety in conceding with the last kick of the game to Lionel Messi when a draw would have aided their bid for a first La Liga title in five years.
Yet, he insisted he had no regrets over a first home league defeat of the season that leaves Barca and Madrid locked together on 75 points at the top of the table.
"Both teams played well and in the end they won, that's the end of the matter. It annoys me because I don't like to lose but I wouldn't change anything," Zidane continued.
Madrid still have the upper hand in the title race, though, as they have a game in hand over Barca.
The first of their remaining six league matches comes at Deportivo la Coruna on Wednesday and Zidane called on his players to process their anger positively by bouncing back with three points.
"When you lose you have to accept the criticism. Sometimes it is criticism that generates more desire and anger."
Raphael Varane is expected to return from injury in place of suspended captain Sergio Ramos.
Zidane is also expected to heavily rotate his side for the sixth of seven La Liga encounters in April on top of their Champions League commitments.