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Real Madrid boss Santiago Solari has said there are no guarantees Gareth Bale will automatically return to the starting line-up once he regains his fitness.

Bale has missed Madrid’s last six matches with a calf muscle injury, but returned to full training in recent days and is in line to feature in Sunday’s La Liga game at Espanyol.

Madrid broke the world transfer record to sign Bale in 2013, and he has since been part of a side which won the Champions League on four occasions as well as La Liga in 2017 — however, Solari said he will not make any decisions based on past achievements.

“Football is always about the next game,” Solari said, when asked directly if Bale would get straight back in the team. “We will see who plays tomorrow, then the following week.

“The players who are recovering, we want them at 100 percent as soon as possible. Gareth is a very important player for us, a fantastic player, we are very happy to have him coming back.”

Bale’s absence has led to more game time for summer arrival Vinicius Junior and, following Thursday’s 4-2 victory over Girona in the Copa del Rey, the Brazilian has now been involved in eight goals in the competition — more than any other player this season.

“Vinicius’ adaptation has been very quick,” Solari said. “He is still very young — 18 — coming to a new country, new language, new friends, another football culture.

“With the support of the squad, experienced players giving him advice and help, he is showing his talent in each game. We must keep taking care of him so his improvement continues.”

The recent injury crisis at Madrid appears to be clearing up with winger Marco Asensio close to a return after six weeks out with a hamstring problem, while midfielders Toni Kroos and Marcos Llorente made their comebacks off the bench against Girona in midweek.

Goalkeeper Keylor Navas (adductor), centre-back Jesus Vallejo (thigh) and forward Mariano Diaz (back) remain sidelined.

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