2015/16 has been a season where Real Madrid have suffered. On the face of things the club appears to be in a fairly healthy position compared with other inferior sides but they have failed on a monumental level to live up to their lofty expectations.
12 points behind Luis Enrique's all-conquering Barcelona side, expulsion from the Copa del Rey and a Madrid derby defeat to bitter rivals Atletico on home soil have left the club with only the Champions League as a realistic goal.
Madrid easily moved past Roma in their last-16 encounter of the tournament, with a 4-0 aggregate win, but the most promising factor in the past week was the return of Gareth Bale and he could be a key catalyst for success this season.
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IMPORTANT PART OF THE MADRID SIDE
Zinedine Zidane said at the start of the year that Bale was 'fundamental' to his project at the club, after the Welshman was supposedly angry at the sacking of Rafael Benitez.
The former Tottenham winger flourished in a more central role under Benitez, a position which helped cement his world-class ability during his time in the Premier League.
However, despite a positional alteration, Bale still thrived after Zidane's arrival and once again highlighted the vital service he provides to the Spanish giants - a service he has provided every Madrid manager during his time in Spain.
14 goals and eight assists in 17 La Liga games, with two of those being substitute appearances, loosens the burden on talisman Cristiano Ronaldo and his pace and direct style is a priceless asset to accompany the offensive necessity at the club.
The Portuguese superstar needs support more than ever in his older age, and Bale is the perfect accomplice to help him function at his highest level.
BBC ARE PLATFORM FOR SUCCESS
Ronaldo, Bale and Karim Benzema's attacking trident is something of a huge positive to the club. When all three are performing in the right manner they verge on unplayable.
Of course, Benzema himself is currently ruled out through injury, but if Zidane and his beloved Madrid wish to seek European glory once again, they will need all members of the trio firing.
When they are, they do not fall too far behind the universally acclaimed MSN of Barcelona, which is an achievement in itself. Bale, like Neymar, is the unpredictable member, the one who is capable of producing the spectacular from nowhere, whether it be from a lung-bursting run down the flank or an audacious piece of skill.
To put it simply, Bale's return is a timely boost for a giant who has been sleeping far too often this season. European glory is certainly a realistic aim for the club, but a lot could hinge on the fitness of their Welsh superstar.
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