Villarreal CF v Real Madrid CF - La Liga

Gareth Bale fit for Madrid derby, Real Madrid need him to deliver

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Reports from Madrid on Friday suggest that Gareth Bale will return from a thigh strain to play in his first Madrid derby against Real’s noisy neighbors Atletico on Saturday night.

And Los Galacticos certainly need their most expensive signing to shine on the big stage, on his home debut at the Santiago Bernabeu.

On Wednesday night, Real narrowly beat newly promoted Elche 2-1, after a hugely contentious penalty kick in the 94th minute of play was converted by Cristiano Ronaldo. But throughout that contest they lacked a cutting edge and change of pace that Bale will deliver, if fully fit and raring to go.

However, it will be hard to not be fired up for this game, as many Madristas will have already told him all about the history and ferocity of this rivalry.

The intensity of these derby games is burgeoning, as Atletico have turned into a real European superpower in recent seasons. Yes, they’ve lost star striker Radamel Falcao to money bags Monaco, but they’ve got a new star emerging in attack as Brazil’s Diego Costa is banging in the goals (scoring seven in six games already this season) and proving his worth in La Liga.

source: Reuters
Diego Costa is Atletico’s key man, in what will be a fiery encounter in Madrid.

What makes Saturday night’s clash even better, is that Atletico are slightly ahead of Real after winning all six of their opening games to sit joint-top with Barcelona on 18 points, while Real have 16 points so far. With managerial changes and new philosophies coming into play at both Real Madrid and Barcelona this campaign, many believe Atletico Madrid are ready to challenge the two perennial giants of Spanish soccer for the the La Liga title.

There’s not two ways about it, if Real play like they did at Elche in midweek they will get heavily beaten by their city rivals at the Bernabeu. Diego Simeone has assembled an aggressive squad that isn’t afraid to attack and will penetrate Madrid’s weaknesses. One of which, could be Bale.

For all his talent, which is undisputed, it will be the 24-year-old Welshman’s first taste of a frenetic and rambunctious Madrid derby. And that may take some getting used to. No doubt Simeone will instruct his players to harass and tackle Bale forcefully in the opening stages, and then it’s all about how Bale reacts to the inevitable provocations.

Of course, Real also have the likes of Ronaldo, Karem Benzema, Angel Di Maria and many other to lean on for attacking creativity, but in Bale they hold the key to not only winning this Madrid derby… but putting their capital city rivals firmly in their place in the league pecking order.

Bale needs to be fit, fired up and ready to deliver a spectacular display on Saturday night. Real Madrid’s fans will be watching on keenly, to see if he’s up for the battle.

You can watch the game live on BeIN Sport in the USA, at 4pm ET.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 2-1 Montreal Impact

Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

The game in 100 words (or less): For weeks, it was a widely held belief that the Montreal Impact would snatch up the sixth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference with little or no resistance from their opposition. As they went six games unbeaten (four wins), all looked to be setting up perfect for the club that fired Frank Klopas midseason, but there was another team in the race for sixth that kept winning themselves: Orlando City SC. On Saturday night, Montreal and Orlando City faced off at the Citrus, with the expansion Lions claiming their fourth-straight victory with a 2-1 triumph. Montreal now holds a one-point lead on Orlando in the race for sixth, and have two games in hand, but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion L’Impact will qualify for the playoffs no resistance whatsoever.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

33′ — Bush’s mistake gifts Larin the opening goal — Larin did what your taught to do as a striker — “put it on frame, test the goalkeeper” — but in no universe does a shot so feeble have any business finding the back of the net. Evan Bush has been great this year. Hopefully (for Montreal’s sake), this howler doesn’t turn into the yips with the playoffs looming.

43′ — Hall’s “mistake” gifts Oduro an equalizer — Dominic Oduro equalized in the 43rd minute, when he took the ball out of the hands of Tally Hall and smashed it into the back of the net, but the goal should have been disallowed due to Hall having full control of the ball.

80′ — Hines hits the winner for Orlando — Seb Hines put the ball back into the mixer and just so happened to find the back of the net in the 80th minute. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Seb Hines

Goalscorers: Larin (33′), Oduro (43′), Hines (80′)

MLS Snapshot: NY Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew SC

Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
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The game in 100 words (or less): Two weeks in a row Columbus Crew SC have had a chance to go top of the Eastern Conference with a victory, and two weeks in a row Crew SC have failed to take a single point from massively important fixtures. Their latest defeat, a 2-1 humbling at the hands of the East-leading New York Red Bulls, started so well for Gregg Berhalter’s side, but was undone by a pair of costly, comedic defensive errors that allowed Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips (15th of the season) to erase an early deficit (Justin Meram) and win all three points. The result not only keeps the Red Bulls top of the East, but gives them a three- and four-point cushion with three and two games in hand on their nearest competitors., D.C. United and New England Revoltion respectively. For Crew SC, they’re four points back of the Red Bulls in fourth place, one point ahead of fifth-place Toronto FC, who have a game in hand.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Meram pokes it past Robles for an early lead — Meram “earned” his goal all the way back in midfield, when the Iraqi international’s mazy run took a routine turnover inside Crew SC’s defensive half and turned it into a dangerous counter-attacking opportunity. Harrison Afful overlapped and provided the cross for Meram to send home.

12′ — Sam capitalizes on multiple mistakes to equalize — Crew SC pass the ball out of the back. They don’t boot it forward to clear. It’s just what they do. Sometimes, that’ll bite you. When your goalkeeper and right back both have blunders clearing the ball 10 seconds apart, you probably deserve to concede an ugly, scrappy goal.

21′ — Wright-Phillips capitalizes on more defensive gaffes — See the above description for Red Bulls goal no. 1.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Damien Perrinelle

Goalscorers: Meram (9′), Sam (12′), Wright-Phillips (21′)