By Richard Martin
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale has been ruled out of Saturday's La Liga game at Athletic Bilbao, coach Zinedine Zidane said on Friday, after the Wales international picked up yet another injury on his return to action on Tuesday after 63 days out.
The French coach also added that captain Sergio Ramos will play wearing a protective mask after breaking his nose in the Madrid derby a fortnight ago.
Bale came on in the 62nd minute of the King's Cup last-32 second leg match against Fuenlabrada and had an immediate impact, setting up two goals for team mate Borja Mayoral in a 2-2 draw, with Real progressing 4-2 on aggregate.
Any hopes that this would be the start of a comeback from Bale were quickly dashed the following day, however, with reports he had been ruled out of the game with Athletic with another calf injury.
"It's not much, just discomfort, but as he's been out for so long it's difficult, I hope it's just a physical problem and is only discomfort," Zidane told a news conference on Friday.
"He needs to be with the team, train with the team and feel like another member of the squad. We keep telling him this, that this is a tough time for him but he'll come out of it, and we'll keep supporting him until he is better."
Bale played a pivotal role in Real's Champions League wins in 2014 and 2016 as well as winning the King's Cup final against Barcelona in 2014 with a remarkable sprint down the touchline and finish.
However, he missed most of last season's Liga and Champions League double win with a series of injuries.
"We can't forget what he has done for the team. When he is fit he is phenomenal, so we need to be patient with him," Zidane added.
Real are fourth in the league standings but cut the deficit with leaders Barcelona to eight points last week and face an Athletic side in crisis.
The Basque side, the only team along with Barca and Real to have never been relegated from the top flight, are two places above the relegation zone. They are also reeling from a humiliating King's Cup exit to Formentera on Wednesday which lead to their usually loyal fans booing the team off the pitch.
"The atmosphere won't benefit us, their fans will support their team as they always do and even more so when they host Real Madrid," added Zidane.
"It's going to be a difficult game, we're going to have to fight."
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge)