MADRID (REUTERS) - Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro has defended team-mate Gareth Bale after the Welshman was jeered by sections of the Santiago Bernabeu crowd during Wednesday's 3-0 win over APOEL Nicosia in the Champions League.
Despite laying on the opener for Cristiano Ronaldo with a pinpoint cross, there were once again dissenting voices directed at Bale, who has scored just once for Real in six appearances so far this season.
As the 28-year-old was substituted, senior players encouraged the fans to applaud the No. 11 and Casemiro leapt to his defence.
"You can see he's not in his best moment, but he's working hard for the team: shooting, fighting and that's the Bale we need," Casemiro said.
Although Bale has been plagued with injuries for much of the year, head coach Zinedine Zidane was confident that the club's record signing would prove his worth to the Real faithful.
"Bit by bit, we're seeing the player Gareth is. After four months out injured, you need the same time to recover," he said.
"I think we'll see him improving bit by bit. I'm happy with what he's doing. We need to give him time."
With Real stumbling to two draws in their opening three LaLiga fixtures in the absence of the suspended Ronaldo, they already sit four points adrift of league leaders and rivals Barcelona and can ill-afford another slip up.
In addition to missing the Portuguese talisman, the Spanish and European champions will also be without French forward Karim Benzema and Brazilian full-back Marcelo for Sunday's visit to high-flying Real Sociedad, who are second to Barca on goal difference only.
Ronaldo once again showed in midweek why he is so important to the side.
Without him, Bale will be expected to step up to the fore as Real battle to keep up pace with their rivals at this early stage of the season.