WATCH: Gareth Bale nearing return to action

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However, Zidane has handed a weekend off to a host of other key men as Luka Modric, Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos and Keylor Navas were not included in the Frenchman’s 19-man squad.

Bale hasn’t featured since suffering ankle ligament damage in November and is expected to be eased back into action as a second-half substitute.

“Bale is with us. He will be in the squad and the idea is that he has minutes,” Zidane said on Friday.

“He is an important player. He has quality, pace, we know the damage he can do to the opponents.


“We are happy and he is even more so to get back playing. He is desperate to return.”








Madrid can move four points clear of Barcelona with a game in hand at the top of La Liga should they record a 10th consecutive victory over Espanyol.






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STATS: Zlatan leading the way as United march on

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Super Swede: Zlatan.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s remarkable debut season for Manchester United hit a new peak as he scored his first hat-trick for the team during Thursday’s 3-0 win over Saint-Etienne.

The hat-trick showcased Ibrahimovic’s all-around ability, as he scored a free-kick, a classic poacher’s goal, and a penalty, and it also marked just one more occasion when Ibrahimovic tormented Saint-Etienne. The Swedish striker has now scored 17 goals in 13 appearances against the southern French side.

Ibrahimovic is now up to 23 goals for the season, which is the most anyone has scored for Manchester United since Robin van Persie’s 30-goal season in 2012/13. His three goals also took his tally in Europe this season to five, making him the first United player to hit that mark in a European campaign in five years.

Fellow striker Anthony Martial has been under the spotlight this season, with Jose Mourinho having dropped the Frenchman from his starting XI before challenging the young star to win his spot back. The 21-year-old has seemingly finally received the message, following up an excellent display on Saturday in the Premier League with another good outing in which he terrorized the Saint-Etienne defence.

Thursday night’s game was a memorable occasion for Paul Pogba, who was facing his older brother Florentin for the first time in professional football. Both Pogba brothers could have gotten on the scoresheet, and the Manchester United man came closest, sending a header crashing against the bar and thus continuing his love affair with the woodwork this season.

Jose Mourinho will be especially pleased with his team’s newfound defensive solidity, although Manchester United rode their luck at times against Saint-Etienne. While Thursday’s performance saw some uncharacteristic sloppiness that could have resulted in a goal, United came away with yet another clean sheet, their fifth in a row. It was their third straight in Europe, and, intriguingly, the sixth consecutive clean sheet for backup goalkeeper Sergio Romero, who got the nod on Thursday as David De Gea was rested.

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WATCH: Take on the streets with Nike HypervenomX

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Street football – it’s where legends are made.

In football, even the most skillful players dip into their bag of tricks only two or three times per match, but in street football, players have their array of dazzling flicks and other skills on display all the time.

Stepovers, rabonas, rainbow flicks – train with the Nike HypervenomX and master them all.

It’s time to put on the shoes and take on the streets.


For more videos from Nike Football, check out their YouTube channel, and don’t forget to share with us your thoughts by commenting below, using #360fans on Twitter or getting in touch via Facebook.










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