By Braden Phillips

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Promoted Elche's sole source of comfort when they host Real Madrid on Wednesday is that 100 million euros (84 million pounds) man Gareth Bale is unlikely to play.

Bale missed out on his home debut against Getafe on Sunday when he sustained a minor muscle injury in his left leg during the warmup and was hastily withdrawn from the team.

With the derby against Atletico Madrid looming next weekend manager Carlo Ancelotti is unlikely to be taking any chances, especially as the goals are flowing for Cristiano Ronaldo and Isco who have eight between them.

Ronaldo bagged a brace in the 4-1 defeat of Getafe which kept Real within a couple of points of leaders Barcelona and Atletico who have maximum points from five games.

"We don't want any problems," Ancelotti said of Bale's teething problems. "Pre-season has been unusual (for him), not only physically but mentally."

Despite Barca's 100 percent start to the season there have been a few question marks about the style of their football under new manager Gerardo Martino, even some gripes about the way they swept aside Rayo Vallecano 4-0 on Saturday.

So used to watching their team hog possession of the ball like a selfish child with a new video game, fans were surprised to see Vallecano enjoy a greater share of it at the weekend.

Barca face Real Sociedad on Tuesday and statisticians will no doubt be analysing ball possession in detail.

"I haven't come here to change anything and if the question is average ball possession, last year it was 66 percent and this it's at 65.8 percent," he told reporters at a news conference ahead of Tuesday's Nou Camp clash.

"When you have a team that has experienced excellence, these things will come up much more with a trainer who is not from in-house or isn't Dutch," he added, referring to the club's ties to the Netherlands through former coaches like Johan Cryuff, Louis van Gaal and Frank Rijkaard.

Under Pep Guardiola it was unheard of for Barca not to have more possession of the ball but Martino dismissed the weekend's generosity as an anomaly.

"The significance of possession depends on the team," he said. "Rayo are second in possession in La Liga. You have to analyse everything. The dimensions (of their pitch) benefited them more than us. It's not a big deal."

Barca will rest Cesc Fabregas for the match against Sociedad as he rotates his squad to maintain freshness. Sergio Busquets, who was left off the squad against Rayo, will play.

San Sebastian-based Sociedad have gone nearly a month without a victory and have struggled to score goals in La Liga this season, with just four in their first five games.

Two of those goals came in an opening day 2-0 win against Getafe but their last two league games resulted in 0-0 draws, either side of a 2-0 defeat by Shakhtar Donetsk in their return to the Champions League group stage.

Sociedad midfielder Carlos Martinez said the team was still getting accustomed to the demands of balancing domestic and Champions League play.

"The start of the season was very hard and when we get used to this rhythm of competition, the team will get back to what it was," he said.

"When we get our spark back, we're going to win games."

Atletico will look to keep pace with Barca in Tuesday's home game against Osasuna while fourth-placed Villarreal host Espanyol.

(Editing by Martyn Herman)

 

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