With Messi on the sidelines for the foreseeable future, is Ronaldo set to be crowned the new king of world soccer?

Galatasaray 1-6 Real Madrid: Ronaldo hat-trick as Spanish giants rout on the road (Video)

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Cristiano Ronaldo hit thrice and Karim Benzema grabbed a brace to dominate the Turkish giants at home and ensure Real Madrid their first three points of Champions League play under Carlo Ancelotti in Istanbul.

Gareth Bale did not start the match, having played just 60 minutes in the weekend’s draw with Villareal. Manager Ancelotti said that Bale was still only around 75% fit, so it’s no surprise he did not make the starting eleven.

The Galatasaray midfield surprisingly started on top, pressing both Sami Khedira and Luka Modric hard to prevent build-up play. This forced the creativity out wide, and the defense was able to then concentrate on guarding wingers Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria.

Iker Casillas began the match in goal, having received the blessing of Ancelotti as his chosen Champions League goalkeeper, but Casillas was forced off in just the 15th minute with a rib injury.  He went up for a save and his own defender Sergio Ramos did not concede the position, also attempting to head the ball away and in the process elbowing Casillas in the ribs.

The game got increasingly physical, with Gatatasaray playing for free kicks and Real Madrid obliging.  Felipe Melo had two beautiful chances kept out early, with a long-range strike well saved by a diving Casillas before his injury.  Then, a free header was also pushed wide by substitute keeper Diego Lopez in the 30th minute.

Against the run of play, Isco opened the scoring with Real Madrid’s first shot on target in the 32nd minute, and the match’s first goal.  A very long ball off the mid-line from Di Maria resulted in a contested header in the box.  Emmanuel Eboue failed to get a head on the ball, instead falling down, and it left Isco with a free shot which hit off the post and into the back of the net.

After the halftime break Didier Drogba was replaced by Nordin Amarat due to a shoulder injury Drogba suffered just before halftime in a collision with Madrid defender Pepe.

Galatasaray should have had an equalizer just after the break in the 47th minute, but Burak Yilmaz put his thundering header just wide left.

source: Getty ImagesKarim Benzema took advantage of a Galatasaray mistake for the deathblow in the 54th minute.  Melo headed a ball in the midfield but it landed directly to Benzema behind the defense, and the French striker did the rest himself, slotting it past Fernando Muslera for a 2-0 Real Madrid lead.

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged his team’s third in the 63rd minute, a goal that left the legendary winger chuckling. Di Maria got past Muslera on the right edge of the box, but his cross went over Ronaldo’s head. Thankfully, it fell to Isco who cut it back for Ronaldo to smash in from very short range. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.

He got a second just three minutes later, when Sergio Ramos’s header off a free kick was saved, and the rebound fell to Ronaldo for an easy finish as Real Madrid poured it on.

Benzema got his second in the 81st minute.  A lovely touch from Ronaldo on the left edge of the box popped the ball across the face as the Frenchman got free and he stuck it home with ease. The consolation for Galatasaray came late for substitute Umut Bulut on a great run beating Pepe, but it did nothing to ease the pain for the home side.

Any fleeting happiness from the goal faded fast as Ronaldo secured his hat-trick in stoppage time with a ridiculous back-and-forth ball beating three Galatasaray defenders in the box before a smashing finish from a tight angle. The goal is his 53rd in 93 Champions League matches.

The comprehensive, dominating win is a major statement by the Spanish giants, as they look to impress under Carlo Ancelotti.

Goals:

Real Madrid – Isco 32′, Benzema 54′, 81′, Cristiano Ronaldo 63′, 66′

Galatasaray – Bulut 83′

Lineups:

Galatasaray – Muslera; Nounkeu, Chedjou, Eboue, Riera; Melo, Inan; Sneijder, Baytar (Bruma, 62′); Drogba (Amrabat, 45′), Yilmaz (Bulut, 78′).

Real Madrid – Casillas (Diego Lopez, 15′); Pepe, Ramos, Carvajal, Arbeloa; Khedira, Modric (Illarramendi, 72′); Ronaldo, Di Maria; Isco (Bale, 64′), Benzema.

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Swansea City

SWANSEA, WALES - MAY 01:  Jefferson Montero of Swansea City is challenged by Nathaniel Clyne of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at The Liberty Stadium on May 1, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)
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  • Liverpool leads all-time 22W-8D-10L
  • Swans lost five-straight at Anfield
  • Reds unbeaten in 7 PL matches

One of the Premier League’s top attacks hosts the division’s leakiest defense, as Liverpool may be licking its chops ahead of a visit from struggling Swansea City on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Liverpool has drawn at Sunderland and Manchester United in its last two Premier League outings, and sits seven points back of leaders Chelsea.

Swansea City has allowed multiple goals in five of six PL matches since beating Sunderland 3-0 on Dec. 10. It’s no surprise that they’ve lost those five (the sixth being a 2-1 win at struggling Crystal Palace).

What they’re saying

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp on the match“We’re really looking forward to this game. I don’t know when it happened but in England every game now is like a final. Swansea are trying to survive. I don’t know when the title run-in will start, maybe now and we’re in the race. I hope for a special atmosphere tomorrow.”

Swansea City back Federico Fernandez on Liverpool“They are a team that is very strong going forward and that is shown by the number of goals they have scored. If you lose a little bit of focus against these teams then they have the players that will punish you every time. But it’s not only defending strongly when they are attacking, it is also how we keep hold of the ball and how we use it when in possession.”

Prediction

Swansea boss Paul Clement has his hands full, and is grabbing reinforcements in the transfer window (Luciano Narsingh, Martin Olsson, Tom Carroll). That won’t be enough to handle what Liverpool will dish out Saturday, as the Reds break free with a 3-0 win.

Saints’ Fonte moves to West Ham for $10 million

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West Ham has been linked with big name strikers since the summer, but the Irons’ big January transfer to date is a center back.

EURO champion and Southampton mainstay Jose Fonte is moving to London.

[ MORE: West Brom finally sells Berahino ]

Fonte, 33, makes an approximately $10 million move from the South Coast, where the Portuguese back will better Slaven Bilic‘s back line while forcing Southampton to find an answer alongside Virgil Van Dijk.

It’s been a strange trip to London for Fonte and Southampton, detailed by our own Joe Prince-Wright here. Fonte joined Saints during the 2009-10 season, and became a cult hero at St. Mary’s in helping the club move from League One to the Europa League in just over a half-decade.

Something won’t feel right about seeing Fonte in claret and blue, and Saints host West Ham on Feb. 4. Should be quite interesting.

Saga over: Saido Berahino finally has a new home (video)

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What in the world is the transfer rumor mill going to do without Saido Berahino?

Linked with a move away from West Brom for the better part of two years, the English striker has been freed from the bad graces of Tony Pulis and has joined Stoke City on a five-and-a-half year deal.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires Steven Gerrard ]

Berahino, 23, was sold for $15 million, a fee that could rise as high as $19 million. West Brom has previously rejected bids from Spurs amongst others that reached as high as $31 million.

It’s a smart, calculated risk for Mark Hughes and Stoke, who have not been able to get over the mid-table hump and encroach on European competition. Berahino scored 14 PL goals in 2014-15, a figure that rose to 20 when including all competitions.

Now could this mean Bojan Krkic is indeed off to Middlesbrough? We’ll wait to see if it’s a domino move for the Potters, and also if we one day yearn for the dulcet tones of Pulis screaming, “Saido!”, again and again, on the West Brom touch line.

Moyes says new Sunderland buys won’t be big difference makers

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - JANUARY 17: David Moyes, Manager of Sunderland (L) speaks to Jermain Defoe of Sunderland (R) before he comes on during the Emirates FA Cup third round replay between Burnley and Sunderland at Turf Moor on January 17, 2017 in Burnley, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
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Sunderland boss David Moyes isn’t expressing the emotions of an optimistic man.

The former Everton, Manchester United, and Real Sociedad manager says his transfer budget is “limited with a big L” and that any names in the transfer market are not the players he’s allowed to pursue.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks ]

Sunderland has been linked with Phil Jagielka, Leonardo Ulloa, Robbie Brady, The Chronicle did report that free agent Joleon Lescott has been training with the team.

Even worse, Sunderland’s two most impactful players, Jermain Defoe and Patrick Van Aanholt, have been reported as targets for other PL sides and may prefer to leave the Northeast.

From The Chronicle:

“I’d be kidding you on if I said the players we are going to bring in in January are going to massively make a big difference because first of all, we probably couldn’t get that level of player and secondly, we probably wouldn’t have the finances to do that.

“To suggest that the player we bring in would be making a big difference, I think, wouldn’t be correct.”

Woof. That’s a tough pill for already beleaguered Sunderland supporters to swallow, and will only cause more unrest from a fan base that has been to know to leave a match early. Sunderland are far from dead in the water, but Swansea, Hull, and Palace are all making moves as it looks more and more like a four team race for 17th. Is Sunderland doomed?