Gareth Bale scores on Real Madrid return

Wales international is on course to face Ireland in Dublin next month

Gareth Bale, Real Madrid, Espanyol, La Liga

Real Madrid's Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring his side's second goal against Espanyol during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. Bale scored one in Real Madrid's 2-0 victory. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

Gareth Bale has found the net against Espanyol on his return from injury with La Liga leaders Real Madrid, with the 2018 World Cup qualifier between Ireland and Wales just over a month away.

The Welsh winger has been out of action since November 2016 after an ankle injury but had returned to Real Madrid training last Sunday.

Real manager Zinedine Zidane had targeted the March 7th Champions League last 16 return match against Napoli as a potential comeback date for Bale.

But on Friday, Zidane indicated that Bale would definitely would be in the squad to face Espanyol in today's game. 

The Wales international star has clearly made rapid progress and scored his club's second goal as they defeated Barcelona-based Espanyol 2-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu to maintain their chase for the Spanish league title.

Bale was introduced with 20 minutes of the game to go and within 12 minutes of taking to the field, the 27 year old had scored, running in behind the Espanyol defence before finding the net with a precise angled finish from the left channel.

Bale's progress will be of interest to Ireland with Bale and Wales facing the Boys in Green on March 24th in a crucial 2018 World Cup qualifier at the Aviva Stadium.

After starring for Wales en route to a surprise semi final run at Euro 2016, Bale has also played a crucial role for the Welsh in the current World Cup qualifiers, scoring four goals in matches against Moldova, Georgia and Serbia.

Ireland currently lead Group C, with Wales four points behind.