Real Madrid fans can say what they like about Bale - Zidane

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Zinedine Zidane admits he would prefer Real Madrid fans not to target the likes of Gareth Bale but insists they are free to "think and say what they like".

Bale, Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane were all targets of irritated home fans during the 2-2 LaLiga draw with Valencia prior to the international break.

The treatment of the Wales international in particular has encouraged more speculation that he could decide to leave the Santiago Bernabeu next year, with Manchester United having been heavily linked with a bid during the most recent transfer window.

Zidane, however, believes supporters venting their frustrations is to be expected at Madrid and does not think Bale or Varane have been particularly affected.

"If you ask me what I would ask the fans, it's for them to be with the team from beginning to end. But the fans can think and say what they like," he told a news conference.

"If you express what you think by whistling every now and then, obviously I don't like it because we try to give our best and the fans know that, but there are games where things don't go the way you want.

"But it doesn't mean anything. This is football and it will always happen.

"Varane is okay. No player can be happy when they [the fans] boo. I don't see things as badly as has been said.

"We have a squad without any changes and he [Bale] is a very important player. Nothing more.

"The whistles will always happen, even more so at Real Madrid. It's unavoidable. You have to get used to it and we'll try to win every game."

Madrid resume their title defence at home to Levante on Saturday as they look to return to winning ways following the Valencia stalemate.

Zidane, who confirmed there have been no casualties during the international break, suggested Theo Hernandez could make his first league appearance since joining from Atletico Madrid in July.

"We're happy with Theo," he said. "He's been working with us for nearly two months and he's ready to play. I don't know if that will be tomorrow [Saturday], but he's training well and he's ready to play."

Cristiano Ronaldo will miss the match as part of his five-game ban for pushing a referee during the Supercopa de Espana win over Barcelona, but Zidane says the forward is relishing the chance to return to action in the Champions League meeting with Apoel next week.

"Cristiano is very excited for Wednesday," he said. "He's tired of not playing with us. He did very well for Portugal."

Marco Asensio has shone in Ronaldo's absence but Zidane has called for some of the expectation levels surrounding the 21-year-old to be toned down.

"I'm not surprised by Marco Asensio but we have to leave him in peace," he added. "What's important is that he has a cool head to keep progressing because he hasn't reached his limit yet.

"He can grow much more but with calm, with patience and humility, which he has."