Wed | May 24, 2017

While Barca struggle, Real getting better

Published:Friday | February 17, 2017 | 2:00 AM
Real Madrid’s head coach Zinedine Zidane.

MADRID, Spain (AP):

A day after the Spanish rival was demoralised by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, Madrid produced one of their best performances of the season in a victory over Napoli to move closer to a seventh straight appearance in the quarter-finals.

There was more good news for Madrid yesterday, as Gareth Bale practised with the rest of the team and will be ready to make his return to the line-up this weekend after a long injury lay-off.

It means the 'BBC' trio of Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo will be reunited after nearly three months, just in time for the decisive stages of the season.

The forwards will likely be playing together when Madrid hosts Espanyol in the Spanish league tomorrow, when they will have a chance to increase their lead over Barcelona and stay on track for their first league title since 2012.

POSSIBLY THE BEST PERFORMANCE

Madrid, defending their Champions League title, conceded an early goal, but recovered quickly to comfortably earn the victory ahead of the second leg in Italy.

"We put in a great performance, possibly our best," Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said.

Madrid have already won two titles this season, the European Super Cup, in a final against Sevilla, and the Club World Cup in Japan. They have a one-point lead over Barcelona in the Spanish league, but with two games in hand, at Valencia and at Celta Vigo.

Madrid were eliminated by Celta Vigo in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

COPA FINAL

Barcelona will play in the Copa final against Sevilla on May 27 at Atletico Madrid's Vicente Calderon Stadium. They have already beaten Sevilla in the Spanish Super Cup final.

Winning a sixth Champions League title will be a long-shot after the resounding 4-0 loss to PSG in France on Tuesday, a result the prompted criticism of coach Luis Enrique and put in doubt his future at the club.

"We are a team that has showed in past seasons that we know how to come up with good performances," Luis Enrique said after taking the blame for the debacle in Paris, one of the worst in the club's recent history. "We will have a small chance, but it's still a chance."

Barcelona host promoted Leganes on Sunday in the Spanish league, a competition they have won the last two seasons.