Bale making comeback in time for Ireland
Gareth Bale is closing in on a return to full, competitive football for Real Madrid and is targeting Champions League action in early March for his comeback.
The news confirms Ireland manager Martin O'Neill's belief that speculation over Bale's injury could rule him out for six months was no more than wishful thinking.
Real boss Zinedine Zidane expects Bale to return before the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Napoli in Naples on March 7.
That would give the Welsh talisman almost three weeks to regain match fitness in time for Ireland's crunch Russia 2018 clash at the Aviva Stadium on March 24.
Bale damaged tendons during a 2-1 Champions League victory against Sporting Lisbon in November.
Subsequent surgery in London was followed by initial reports suggesting a lay-off which would impact in a very negative way on Wales boss Chris Coleman's plans.
"I hope he will be back before then," said Zidane
"He has been working well. He is enthusiastic and the only thing left is for him to train with the rest of the team, which is the most important thing," he added.