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.

How can Man United qualify for last 16 of Champions League?

Wayne Rooney, Manchester United FC

Heading into the their final UEFA Champions League Group B game, Manchester United hold their destiny in their own hands, but any slip-up could mean it’s Europa League on Thursday nights for Louis Van Gaal‘s men.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

The Red Devils would have advanced to the knockout stage with a victory over third-place PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday, but slumped to an ugly 0-0 draw instead.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Man United 0-0 PSV ]

So, here’s all of the scenarios for the final matchday of the group stage, away to Wolfsburg, in which United would advance to the round of 16 advance:

  • A Man United win will see Man United finish top of Group B
  • A Man United draw, coupled with a PSV draw or loss (vs. CSKA Moscow), will see Man United finish second in Group B
  • A Man United draw, coupled with a PSV victory, will see Man United finish third in Group B
  • A Man United loss, coupled with a PSV loss, will see Man United finish second in Group B
  • A Man United loss by more than one goal, coupled with a PSV draw, would see Man United finish third in Group B
  • A Man United loss, coupled with a PSV win, would see Man United finish third in Group B

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

There are your scenarios for Man United as it’s pretty simple to break it down: Win, and they go through. Fail to win, and their fate is completely in the hands of PSV.

VIDEO: Can Leicester stun the world? Man United title favorites?

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The Foxes are top of the Premier League and are led by a surging Jamie Vardy but how long can they keep shocking the world?

With six tough games coming up between now and the start of 2016, Claudio Ranieri‘s men will be pushed to their limit but so far this season they’ve been sensational and Vardy has equaled Manchester United legend Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record of scoring in 10-straight PL games.

[ MORE: Full PST Extra archive ]

Can he make it 11 in a row on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via Live Extra) when United visit the King Power Stadium? As for the Red Devils, they sit in second place and are just one point behind the flying Foxes’. Louis Van Gaal‘s men have certainly flown under the radar so far and our churning out wins at an impressive rate.

Jenna Corrado and I discuss that and more in the latest edition of PST Extra. Click play on the video above to see our chat in full.

Men in Blazers podcast: The Leicester fairytale goes on

Men In Blazers - Sept. 22
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Rog and Davo revel in another chapter of the Leicester City fairytale, break down Liverpool’s shock dismantling of Manchester City and discuss Arsenal’s slip against West Brom.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

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Pellegrini updates status of Joe Hart’s hamstring injury

Joe Hart, Manchester City FC
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Joe Hart was forced to leave Manchester City’s 1-0 defeat to Juventus in UEFA Champions League play on Wednesday due to a hamstring injury, which he seemed to incur while making a spectacular one-on-one kick-save late in the second half.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini confirmed after the game that Hart’s injury is indeed a hamstring issue, and went on to say that he would need further tests once the team arrives back in Manchester to determine the severity and how long, if at all, City and England’s no. 1 would be out of action.

Man City, currently third in the Premier League on 26 points, will host eighth-place Southampton at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).