Happy Boxing Day, Gareth Bale! Enjoy your hat trick

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He’s 23 years old, the most unstoppable force in the Premier League, and after today’s performance at Villa Park, Gareth Bale is only one goal off his career high. Last year, the Wales international buried 10 for Spurs. Sixteen games into his Premer League season, Bale’s already scored nine times, putting him on pace for a 20-goal season.

The output also put Tottenham in fourth place in the Premier League, their 4-0 win over Aston Villa giving Spurs 33 points through 19 rounds.

Bale is the most dynamic player in the Premier League, the type of title you give somebody when you’re too finely parsing the league’s best players. His combination of speed, size and strength is unmatched among the league’s attacking talents, and as one of the Premiership’s few wide stars, he always has the space to show it.

MORE: Hart, Mancini struggles on display in Sunderland

But given his ability to tear into opponents is now being matched by some consistent, elite goal scoring, how long do we have to wait until we talk about Gareth Bale as the best player in England?

At least one more week, because for now, it’s time to enjoy the show Bale put on at Villa Park.

In a culture where Boxing Day soccer carries a lot sentiment, Bale gave a performance few Spurs fans will ever forget. That it was his first Premier League hat trick means he’s unlikely to forget it, either.

Bale’s first provided the insurance for Jermain Defoe’s opener, his touch putting him behind the Villa defense, catching Brad Guzan out of position (highlight, below). The second saw an Aaron Lennon square ball find Bale with far too much room in the middle of the area, his lower-right corner finish leaving Guzan flat-footed. In the 84th minute, Bale completed his hat trick, finishing a Gylfi Sigurdsson pass into the top of goal before being subbed off.

With the win, Spurs move into fourth place, tiebreakers allowing them to sit on top of Everton and West Bromwich Albion.

Villa, though they’ve been outscored 0-12 over the last four days, stay in 16th place but now have the worst goal difference in the Premier League: -21.

At long last, Butland returns to full training with Stoke

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Stoke City’s long-coming goalkeeping dilemma will come to a head soon, as Jack Butland is back in training.

A year ago today, the Potters confirmed that star backstop Butland would miss EURO 2016 with a broken ankle. He’d need multiple surgeries as recovery dragged on and on.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

That was more palatable thanks to the play of Lee Grant, who arrived on loan from Derby County but became a permanent Potter in January. Grant has been a key part of Stoke’s season.

Butland is contracted to Stoke through 2021, and he’ll ascend to the starting gig sooner rather than later. But Grant is in the catbird seat for now, and at least will have made himself attractive to other clubs seeking a keeper.

Report: Everton linked with $4 million swoop for Canada’s Larin

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The Sun only hits on a few of the many transfer rumors it tosses around, but this one bears a second look for fans of Everton, MLS, and Canada.

Everton is already eyeing replacements for Romelu Lukaku, according to the report, and is hunting for a bargain in Canadian national teamer Cyle Larin.

Larin, 21, was the first overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft by Orlando City SC after an electric career at UConn.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

He’s since scored 35 goals in 63 matches for the Lions, picking up three in his first two matches of the 2017 season. The 6-foot-1 Ontario native has five goals for Canada in 19 caps.

The Sun says Larin would cost close to $4 million, a fraction of what the Toffees will get if they sell Lukaku.

Fan dies after falling off football stadium in Brazil

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SAO PAULO (AP) A Brazilian football fan has died after falling 25 meters from the top of Morumbi Stadium in Sao Paulo onto a parking lot.

The height is equivalent to an eight-story building.

Bruno Pereira da Silva, aged 23, suffered head injuries and died upon arrival at a local hospital on Sunday.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

He and other fans were attempting to jump to a section of the stadium where they could get a better view of the Sao Paulo state championship match between Sao Paulo and archrival Corinthians. The game ended 1-1.

Friends of da Silva told Brazilian media Silva was attending his first football match.

CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers: CRC, Honduras get off the mat

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The two traditional CONCACAF powers are riding high following Friday’s round of World Cup qualifiers, while the two other sides to qualify for Brazil 2014 are licking their wounds.

Honduras and Costa Rica both found themselves on the wrong side of shutout losses to the United States and Mexico, while Trinidad and Tobago injected itself into the discussion with a home win over Panama.

[ WATCH: CONCACAF qualifiers on Telemundo ]

What’s cooking for Tuesday? Read on:

Honduras vs. Costa Rica — 5 p.m. EDT Tuesday

Two sides which love to play physical, on-the-edge soccer meet on the heels of Friday losses. Expect Jorge Luis Pinto’s Catrachos to adapt after a 6-0 beatdown at the hands of the U.S., but they’ll have to do much, much better at home.

The dates at Estadio Morazan have to be the key for Honduras to climb into the Top Three, and it’ll be buoyed by memories of its 3-1 win over T&T two rounds ago. As for Costa Rica, Los Ticos aim to respond from conceding their first two goals of the Hex.

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Mexico — 7 p.m. EDT Tuesday

Kevin Molino’s strike gave T&T its first three points of qualifying, but its odds of getting a result against visiting Mexico aren’t nearly as good. The Soca Warriors desperation will be easy to see, as June’s qualifiers include trips to the U.S. and Costa Rica.

El Tri now has wins in two of its trickier Hex matches after adding Friday’s 2-0 win over Costa Rica to its upset of the Yanks in Columbus. Ten points through four matches would be exemplary; A draw or loss leaves the door open for Costa Rica to summit the Hex table.

United States vs. Panama — 10:05 p.m. EDT Tuesday

Read our extensive preview here, but the upshot is this: The United States can rise into the Top Three by beating Panama, while Los Canaleros will be happy to scoop a draw to stem any bleeding cause by Molino and T&T.