Tottenham Hotspur's Bale reacts during their English Premier League soccer match against Sunderland in London

Still no Gareth Bale. But final Premier League friendlies reveal plenty

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LONDON — One man was missing, again, on Saturday as Gareth Bale wasn’t in Tottenham’s squad for their final preseason friendly against Espanyol on Saturday afternoon.

In fact, Bale wasn’t anywhere to be seen at White Hart Lane.

The 23-year-old Welshman is having his head turned by Real Madrid and rumors of a $120 million transfer fee continues to swirl around Bale and Tottenham.

But Bale’s future aside, the preparations are done. Preseason is all but over.

The final warmups are completed and in seven days the 2013-14 Premier League season will begin. And after today’s friendlies we have a much better idea of how some of the big teams will line up come August 17.

On Saturday some high-profile friendlies took place as the Premier League’s finest had one final tuneup before the curtain raiser next weekend.

Tottenham faced Spanish side Espanyol at White Hart Lane, while Arsenal and Manchester City squared off against each other in Helsinki.

Arsenal defeated Man City 3-1 in Finland, with goals from Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott cancelling out Alvaro Negredo’s strike.

While Spurs looked impressive at White Hart Lane, barely giving Espanyol a sniff in the first half. New $40 million signing from Valencia, Roberto Soldado, scored from the penalty spot on his home debut to open the scoring and as the game played out, Tottenham looked composed.

The old adage that flies around during preseason is true. “Results don’t matter.” “It’s all about fitness,” blah, blah, blah…

But it’s true. Nobody is worried about the scorelines. The performances matter and most importantly, who is out there playing.

Here are the starters for Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester City one week from the start of the season. And when Manchester United play Wigan in the Community Shield on Sunday, David Moyes’ first-choice lineup should be revealed. Wayne Rooney aside. While elsewhere, Liverpool and Chelsea have a pretty settle look to their squads.

Anyway, have a look at these. Which team looks the strongest right now?

Tottenham’s Starting XI: Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Fryers, Rose; Dembele, Chadli, Paulinho; Lennon, Soldado, Sigurdsson

Arsenal’s Starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Podolski

Manchester City Starting XI: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Fernandinho, Toure, Silva, Milner, Dzeko, Negredo

Arsenal have hardly changed. Is that a good or a bad thing? Well, they only really need to add maybe one more holding midfielder and a top quality striker. After an incredible finish to last season, the Gunners haven’t lost anyone and look strong.

Man City are a work in progress but Negredo continues to score and City may start with two strikers with Edin Dzeko once again getting the nod. Their back four remains the same and Fernandinho has replaced Gareth Barry in the holding midfield role.

While Tottenham were exciting and dynamic going forward, with Soldado supported by Aaron Lennon, Nacer Chadli, Sigurdsson and brief forays forward from Paulinho and Dembele. But some work is needed defensively with Jan Vertonghen out injured.

You can never read too much into friendlies but these lineups give a great insight into what managers think their strongest XI is going forward.

Seven days to go. Will these starting lineups be the same for the opening day of the Premier League?

Southampton: Van Dijk won’t leave, selling days likely done

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  Ralph Krueger the Southampton Chairman looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Newcastle United at St Mary's Stadium on March 29, 2014 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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Ralph Krueger doesn’t plan on selling any more big Southampton stars, and there’s none brighter than Virgil Van Dijk.

The Dutchman is perhaps the best center back in the Premier League, regularly linked with transfers to anywhere from Manchester City to Liverpool.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

But Krueger says Saints have had enough of selling big assets. Southampton has sold Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Sadio Mane, and Nathaniel Clyne in the past three seasons, and those are just the names to go to Liverpool. Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama have also moved on from St. Mary’s.

From Sky Sports:

“We would like to move away from that and we feel confident this summer will be a lot quieter in Southampton and we can keep the core of this team moving forward for a few years.

“That is going to be important when you see how excellent the group is right now and how exciting the football is. The game we are playing is a pleasure to watch and a pleasure to be part of.”

Saints were the more effective side in a 3-2 EFL Cup Final loss to Manchester United this weekend, but are well off the pace in the race to make back-to-back trips into Europe.

It will be hard to hold onto Van Dijk and even new bright light Manolo Gabbiadini without Europe, but Krueger is a strong leader with the ability to convince almost anyone to buy into a plan.

Real Salt Lake signs Plata to multi-year DP deal

Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata (8) gestures while walking during an MLS soccer game against New York City FC Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Sandy, Utah. (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP) DESERET NEWS OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; MAGS OUT
Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP
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SANDY, Utah (AP) Real Salt Lake has re-signed forward Joao Plata to a multi-year contract and he will continue to hold a designated-player spot.

The 24-year-old was acquired from Toronto FC before the 2013 season and he has 30 goals and 30 assists in regular-season play with RSL.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

Plata ranks No. 3 on the team’s all-time assists list and No. 5 in goals. He has 33 goals and 35 assists during his MLS career.

Real Salt Lake begins the season Saturday when it hosts Toronto FC.

Gotze out indefinitely with metabolism disorder

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 06:  Mario Goetze (R) and Ann-Kathrin Broemmel attend the MTV Europe Music Awards 2016 on November 6, 2016 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for MTV)
Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for MTV
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Mario Gotze’s last few seasons have not fulfilled the expectations thrust about the World Cup-winning attacker.

Gotze, 24, scored the 113th minute goal that lifted Germany past Argentina in the 2014 World Cup, but has endured successive disappointing seasons between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

With just two goals this season, Gotze has played just 24 minutes since BVB came back from winter break. On Monday, the club revealed why: a metabolism disorder that will keep him out for an indefinite period of time. From Sky Sports:

“We are glad to know the reasons for Mario’s complaints and we are convinced that after recovering he will give us extra quality with his exceptional abilities,” said Dortmund’s director of sport Michael Zorc.

“Mario gets the full backing and maximum support from all of us at Borussia Dortmund on his way back.”

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Gotze at his best, and here’s hoping this problem is both curable and the reason for his struggles.

Liverpool hires EA Sports executive as new CEO

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Liverpool has named Peter Moore as the successor to chief executive office Ian Ayre.

Ayre, 53, is off to 1860 Munich this summer, and has stepped down early to allow Moore to take over.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

A Liverpool-born executive, Moore was the chief operating officer at EA Sports and has also worked with Microsoft and SEGA.

The move “completes a transitional phase” which saw several new names join the fray. From The Liverpool Echo:

The appointment completes a transition plan by FSG which included appointing Michael Edwards as sporting director while Billy Hogan was promoted to the role of managing director and chief commercial officer.