Aston Villa v Malaga - Pre Season Friendly

Watch live: West Bromwich Albion vs. Aston Villa (lineups and discuss)

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Of all the derbies in the West Midlands, this is the one Aston Villa supporters look forward to most, yet over the last two years, it’s been the Baggies who’ve headlined the rivalry. Though the teams have drawn their last three meetings, West Brom won the prior two, leaving them unbeaten in five against their claret and blue rivals. Whereas a few years back Villa had a persistent presence near the circuit’s Europa League spots, West Brom has now finished above Aston Villa two years in a row.

But coming into today’s match (3:00 p.m. Eastern, available live via NBC Sports Live Extra), the teams are on practically even footing. With each on 14 points, a win will vault the victors over 10th place Swansea and into the table’s top half. A draw and the teams will stay where they are: 11th and 12th place, with only one goal difference separating the clubs.


As for any Aston Villa opponent, one of West Brom’s keys will be containing Christian Benteke, even if the Belgian international has failed to score in his last four games. West Brom central defenders Gareth McAuley and Jonas Olsson will be tasked with tracking the 22-year-old sniper, who scored in the 14th minute of the teams’ last meeting in April (a 2-2 draw).

The Baggies, on the other hand, are relying on scoring by committee, with four players sharing the club’s scoring lead with two goals. Morgan Amalfitano and Stephane Sessegnon are capable of both creating and scoring goals from the level behind the striker, with England U-21 forward Saido Berahino one of quartet that’s gotten Steve Clarke multiple goals.


West Bromwich Albion: Boaz Myhill; Steven Reid, Gareth McAuley, Jonas Olsson, Goran Popov; Youssouf Mulumbu, Claudio Yacob; Morgan Amalfitano, Stephane Sessegnon, Chris Brunt; Shane Long

Aston Villa: Brad Guzan; Ron Vlaar, Ciaran Clark, Nathan Baker; Aleksandr Tonev, Karim El Ahmadi, Ashley Westwood, Yacouba Sylla, Leandro Bacuna; Christian Benteke, Libor Kozak

Cisse arrested in sex tape investigation

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Former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse is embroiled in a bizarre investigation into the extortion of a sex tape.

The 34-year-old French striker has been arrested by French police who have confirmed that are investigating attempts to bribe another international footballer.

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Unconfirmed reports from France claim that the individual in question is France and Lyon midfielder Mathieu Valbuena, a former teammate of Cisse at both Marseille and with the French national team.

According to Reuters news agency, Cisse was questioned because he was familiar with the people involved and in total four individuals were arrested as it is alleged they plotted to ask for money from Valbuena for the sex tape to not be released. It is unclear if the tape is of Valbeuna and his partner Fanny Lafon, or if other individuals are involved.

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Cisse won the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool and scored 24 goals in 79 games during his three-year stay at Anfield until 2007. He also had spells with Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League, while he is currently out of contract after being released by Ligue 1 side Bastia following nine goals in 41 appearances. Cisse is due to appear on the French version of “Dancing with the Stars” in the coming months.

Further reports from France say that Cisse is expected to be “exonerated” and that the existence of the video is “not proven” at this point.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

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Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?