Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has launched a strong defence of Gareth Bale following criticism of his latest injury.

Bale limped out of Wednesday's 3-1 Copa del Rey victory at Unionistas, in which he scored the opening goal, with an ankle knock which has ruled him out of Sunday's Primera Liga clash at Valladolid.

Zidane has confirmed the injury "isn't serious, it's a slight sprain", and that the Wales captain should return to training on Monday.

During his pre-match press conference, however, it was asked of Zidane whether it was more a case of Bale not fancying playing.

Although the relationship between Zidane and Bale has not always appeared the most harmonious, on this occasion the former World Cup winner was quick to protect the winger.

"You're entitled to think what you want but when I'm with the player, I've spoken to him, he wants to be available, he wants to be with the team, he wants to play," Zidane replied.

"The other day he picked up a slight injury. It's not much, but the doctor has said it's three or four days, and that's good he'll be back soon. Hopefully he can get back in the side and play."

 Gareth Bale on the bench following his injury against Unionistas CF

As to why he defends Bale, Zidane said: "He scored the other day. I'm always going to do that with my players, not because I need to.

"They train every day, they work hard. There's a good vibe here and every single player wants to do the best they possibly can for the Real Madrid badge.

"It's true he's had a few injuries but you can't do anything when a player is injured but be patient."

Zidane, meanwhile, has dismissed reports linking him with the job of France manager.

"I'm currently at Real Madrid and am really happy here," confirmed Zidane.

"I'm not interested in other people's comments, it's more about what I feel.

"I want to improve as a manager, to evolve, develop, by doing a job I love. I played for many years and now I'm lucky to be a boss, to be managing a great team."

Real are on an unbeaten run of 18 matches in all competitions, suffering just one defeat this season in La Liga in which they trail leaders Barcelona only on goal difference.

Aside from Bale, Zidane continues to have Eden Hazard and Sergio Ramos sidelined with their own ankle problems, while two players departed on loan this week in centre-back Jesus Vallejo and full-back Alvaro Odriozola to Granada and Bayern Munich respectively.