Jose Mourinho must axe Gareth Bale from the Tottenham Hotspur starting line-up after the Wales international offered a wasteful display at home to Ludogorets in the Europa League.
Bale was gifted his fourth start of the Group Stage on Thursday night, having fallen to the bench for Spurs’ 2-0 Premier League win over Manchester City last weekend.
The Real Madrid loanee would have hoped to impress enough against the north London side’s Bulgarian opposition to warrant consideration for this Sunday’s derby clash with rivals Chelsea, but Bale spurned his best chances before being hauled off early in the second half.
Bale had been backed by former Tottenham manager Glenn Hoddle to have a big say at Stamford Bridge this weekend, with the winger tipped to be Mourinho’s secret weapon as the Portuguese tactician continues to gradually integrate him into the first-team fold.
“I’ve got a sneaky feeling that Gareth Bale might have a big say in that game,” Hoddle said on his official podcast regarding Sunday’s top-flight battle at the Bridge. “I think Mourinho might be holding him up his sleeve. That’s the sort of game where you could just see him.
“He played 90 minutes for Wales, and you could see him turning it on in a game like that. It wouldn’t surprise me if Mourinho hasn’t got him earmarked for Chelsea.”
While Bale has opened each of Tottenham’s Europa League Group Stage ties, Mourinho has thus far only opted to name the 31-year-old in one starting line-up for a Premier League match and is yet to allow the four-time Champions League winner to play a full 90 minutes.
Bale’s start in Thursday night’s Group Stage win over Ludogorets saw Spurs’ summer signing enjoy his second-longest appearance of the campaign thus far, with his 68-minutes on the field only bettered by his 78-minute outing at West Bromwich Albion earlier this month.
But he was unable to add a second goal or assist across all competitions, having spurned his best opportunity to fire home when Plamen Iliev saved an effort Bale should have buried while striking his only shot on target, per SofaScore.
Four of Bale’s total seven shots were, in fact, off-target with a further two blocked, while failing to register a single key ball from 24 accurate passes, misplacing all five crosses and his sole attempted long ball.
The £22.5m-rated winger was a dud against Ludogorets in the duels, too, with success in just three of seven ground battles and one of three aerial contests, helping toward Bale losing possession 15 times.
Mourinho needed to see far more from Bale against Tottenham’s Bulgarian opposition to consider starting the Wales international away to his former employer Chelsea this weekend, potentially making him far more of a secret weapon than Hoddle expected.