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


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?

Five Premier League players make UEFA Team of the Year shortlist

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 03:  Kevin de Bruyne of Manchester City celebrates scoring his team's fourth goal with his team mate Sergio Aguero (L) during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Newcastle United at Etihad Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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UEFA has released the 40-man shortlist for the 2015 Team of the Year, with five Premier League players making the cut.

[ MORE: Champions League roundup ]

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard is on the list after being named the Premier League Player of the Year last season, as is Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez.

Manchester City accounts for the other three players, as Joe Hart, Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne have been selected. However, De Bruyne makes the list mainly based off his play for Wolfsburg last season.

Three teams have more players selected than the entire Premier League combined. Barcelona leads the list with eight players, while Bayern Munich and Juventus each have six.

[ MORE: FIFA Ethics Committee seeks lifetime ban for Sepp Blatter ]

Cristiano Ronaldo already has the most appearances on the final list with nine, and is looking to make his ninth consecutive Team of the Year. No other player has been selected more than six times since the beginning of the award, which was started in 2001.

Below is the complete 40-man shortlist.

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Denys Boyko (Dnipro).

Defenders: Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), David Alaba (Bayern Munich), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), David Luiz (Paris St-Germain), Dani Alves (Barcelona), Thiago Silva (Paris St-Germain), Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid).

Midfielders: Grzegorz Krychowiak (Sevilla), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), Arturo Vidal (Bayern Munich), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Marco Verratti (Paris St-Germain), Yevhen Konoplyanka (Sevilla), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), James Rodriguez (Real Madrid), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen).

Forwards: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris St-Germain), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Neymar (Barcelona), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Alvaro Morata (Juventus), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Luis Suarez (Barcelona), Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid).

New York Red Bulls’ Jesse Marsch voted MLS Coach of the Year

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Red Bulls’ Jesse Marsch has been voted Major League Soccer’s Coach of the Year, the first to earn the honor in the two-decade history of the New York team.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The Red Bulls went a league-best 18-10-6 in Marsch’s first season after replacing Mike Petke, winning 14 of their last 20 games with one tie. They trail Columbus 2-0 going into Sunday’s second leg of their Eastern Conference final.

MLS said Tuesday that from combined team, media and player votes, Marsch received a weighted total of 152 out of a possible 300.

Dallas’ Oscar Pareja was second with 91 and Vancouver’s Carl Robinson third with 24.

How can Chelsea qualify for last 16 of Champions League?

HAIFA, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 24: Willian of Chelsea celebrates scoring his teams second goal during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC and Chelsea FC at Sammy Ofer Stadium on November 24, 2015 in Haifa, Israel.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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With one match left in UEFA Champions League group play, Chelsea control their own destiny.

After beating Maccabi Tel-Aviv 4-0, the Blues sit tied with FC Porto on ten points at the top of Group G.

[ MORE: Champions League standings

However, with Dynamo Kyiv earning a big win over Porto on Tuesday, Chelsea must wait until the final matchday to qualify for the knockout round, as there is a possibility of a three-way tie for the top spot in Group G.

With Chelsea hosting Porto on December 9, here are the scenarios for Jose Mourinho’s men to assure advancement.

  • A win over Porto will clinch Chelsea the top spot and a place in the last 16.
  • A draw against Porto will see Chelsea advance.
    • Chelsea draw/Dynamo win: Chelsea win group, Dynamo finish second
    • Chelsea draw/Dynamo draw or loss: Porto win group, Chelsea finish second
  • A loss to Porto and a Dynamo Kyiv draw/loss to Maccabi Tel-Aviv will see Chelsea finish second in the group and advance to the last 16.
  • The Blues have secured at least a berth in the Europa League, regardless of the result in their final match.

Simply put, get a point at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea advance.

Mourinho says bad pitch in Tel-Aviv injured Ramires, John Terry

during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC and Chelsea FC at Sammy Ofer Stadium on November 24, 2015 in Haifa, Israel.
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Chelsea left Israel with a 4-0 win over Maccabi Tel-Aviv, but also left with some injuries.

Ramires was hurt in training the day before the match, and John Terry was forced off in the second half.

[ RECAP: Tel-Aviv 0-4 Chelsea ]

Jose Mourinho talked about the condition of the pitch before the match, and was even more upset after it as two of his players are now hurt, although the extent of those injuries is not yet known.

Terry was stretchered off and looked to be in quite a bit of pain after going up for a challenge, as his ankle twisted awkwardly when he landed.

The pitch in Tel-Aviv was in poor condition, as large chunks of turf could be seen flying up when players planted or went in for tackles. Mourinho himself was seen on the field trying to fill in divots during stoppages of play.

While Mourinho said he didn’t want to jump to conclusions before getting test results, he believes John Terry will be unable to play this weekend, a huge Premier League match away at Tottenham.

[ MORE: Arsenal ready to “play for our lives” in match vs. Olympiacos ]

Other than his issues with the conditions, Mourinho was relatively happy with the team’s play and believes they are getting some confidence back, now with consecutive wins after beating Norwich City over the weekend.