The last few weeks have been a complete whirlwind for Gareth Bale.
That’s an understatement.
On September 1 he was sold to Real Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur for a world record fee of $132 million. Then on Saturday September 14 he made his Madrid debut against Villarreal and scored. And after making his UEFA Champions League debut for Real against Galatasaray as a second half sub, the 24-year-old Welshman can finally reflect on it all after their 6-1 win.
“It is amazing and a big reason why I joined such a big club was to be playing in the biggest competition in the world and it was great to get out there tonight, get the win and a good start,” Bale said.
Many were assuming Bale would once again start for the Spanish giants, but after playing 60 minutes on Saturday, manager Carlo Ancelotti decide to start the former Tottenham attacker on the bench. And he wasn’t really needed if truth be told, as his teammates demolished Turkish giants Gala in impressive fashion.
(MORE: Galatasaray 1-6 Real Madrid; Ronaldo scores hat trick as Madrid run riot)
Still Bale came on to play a cameo role late on and play his part in a few goals, and it seems as though he may come off the bench a few more times in the coming weeks as he builds up his fitness following a preseason interrupted by injuries.
“I spoke with the manager and I had no preseason whatsoever, I have trained seven or eight days, had 30 minutes for Wales and 60 minutes on the weekend,” Bale said. “So it was all about easing me in, and I felt good when I came on and I contributed. It is a different situation not to have a preseason and it is a bit difficult, but I am feeling like I am getting there, getting minutes on the pitch and it is all about game time and building myself up.”
With the most-expensive player in the world playing the role of a substitute and Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo helping himself to a hat trick to celebrate his new contract with Real… is there any stopping Los Galacticos in this seasons Champions League?
Sixteen teams remain in the battle to clinch the Premier League’s first European place of next season’s tournament, and we have some tremendous battles on tap for Tuesday and Wednesday in the EFL Cup (formerly the League Cup).
Today we focus on the 24 hours ahead of us, focusing on Tuesday’s five matches and allowing the Manchester Derby, West Ham-Chelsea, and Southampton-Sunderland to percolate a bit.
[ MORE: Finland’s “Leicester” gets it done ]
That’s not to say we don’t have a pair of giants dueling on Tuesday. Liverpool is three wins away from a return to the final, where the Reds fell in penalties last season. Standing in their way is Tottenham Hotspur, a deep squad which won’t have to worry much about a quick turnaround from Saturday.
That said, the Reds didn’t have to play at all last week, while this will be Spurs third match in a week. Spurs have been to the EFL Cup final thrice since 2008, and one of two teams (Chelsea) to make three finals this decade. Liverpool will start Simon Mignolet between the sticks.
The remaining four EFL Cup matches include at least one team outside the Premier League.
— Arsenal will host USMNT midfielder Danny Williams and Reading.
— Hull City is off to Ashton Gate to face Bristol City.
— Newcastle United is leading the Championship, and will get a visit from Preston North End in the first of two matches between the two sides this week.
— Norwich City will pay a visit to Elland Road and Garry Monk‘s Leeds United.
FC Dallas has two jewels of its triple crown all set, having claimed the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield.
One of the key reasons the club was able to sustain its pace this season was Mauro Diaz, 25, who shone even as Fabian Castillo shockingly left the club before the stretch run.
[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]
A River Plate product, Diaz gave FCD seven goals and 15 assists over 32 appearances before tearing an achilles tendon last week.
Diaz underwent season-ending surgery, but his teammates made sure he was a part of the champagne celebration by heading to his very nice-looking house for an early morning visit.
[ MORE: Pre-playoff power rankings ]
There was some eye-popping moments in the Premier League this weekend, yet still very little debate who shone brightest.
Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri scored a pair of Goal of the Month competitors in the same day in the Potters’ 2-0 win at Hull City on Monday.
[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]
The first was a curling wonder from distance, while the second came from a bit closer as the big-calfed Swiss attacker bamboozled the Hull wall and goalkeeper.
The Potters are up to 16th in the Premier League table with nine points.
HELSINKI (AP) Fans of IFK Mariehamn have gathered in the main square of the remote Finnish town to celebrate their team’s surprise league title.
“I feel very proud,” the club’s managing director, Peter Mattsson, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Monday, adding that “thousands” were expected to turn up for the party.
Watched by more than 4,000, Mariehamn clinched the Finnish title on Sunday with a 2-1 home victory over Ilves, from the industrial city of Tampere.
[ MORE: Full MLS Cup bracket ]
Mariehamn held off 11 other teams, including the traditionally strong Helsinki club, HJK, and defending champion SJK from western Finland. It ended three points clear of second-placed HJK for its first league title.
Local media dubbed the team “Leicester” after the surprise English Premier League champions last season.
Mariehamn, which has a population of 11,500, is the capital of the Aland islands off the southwestern Finnish coast