Gareth Bale

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 12:  Kevin Gameiro of Club Atletico de Madrid hits the goalposts with his shot during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and RC Celta de Vigo at Vicente Calderon Stadium on February 12, 2017 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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La Liga & Serie A: Gameiro nets five minute hat-trick and more

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Real Madrid 2-0 Espanyol

For the first time since November, Gareth Bale appeared in a match for Real Madrid. The Welsh attacker didn’t disappoint either as Bale scored to help secure Real’s victory over Espanyol on Saturday. Alvaro Morata gave the hosts the lead in the first half with a headed finish at the Santiago Bernabeu before Bale doubled the advantage in the 83rd minute. Real currently holds a four-point advantage over Barcelona at the summit of La Liga and has a game in hand.

Sporting Gijon 1-4 Atletico Madrid

Kevin Gameiro netted a hat-trick in five minutes to help solidify Atletico’s standing in the top four. The second-half substitute scored in the 80th, 81st and 85th minutes on Saturday after both sides traded goals in the early portion of the second stanza. Yannick Carrasco put the visitors in front just one minute into the second half before Sergio Álvarez equalized for Sporting Gijon in the 49th minute. The loss for Gijon leaves the club in the bottom three.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Sevilla 2-0 Eibar
Deportivo La Coruna 0-1 Alaves

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Real Sociedad vs. Villareal (6 a.m. ET)
Valencia vs. Athletic Bilbao (10 a.m. ET)
Celta Vigo vs. Osasuna (12:30 a.m. ET)
Barcelona vs. Leganes (2:45 p.m. ET)


Empoli 1-2 Lazio

While the first half lacked excitement, the second stanza was anything but boring as the two sides came to life. Rade Krunic gave the hosts the lead in the 67th minute, but Empoli’s lead was short lived as Ciro Immobile leveled the scoreline at 1-1 just a minute later. An Andrea Costa own goal in the 80th minute sealed the points for Lazio, who tentatively move into fifth place.

Atalanta 1-0 Crotone

Atalanta continues to be one of the biggest surprises of the Serie A season as the club picked up a narrow victory on Saturday over 19th place Crotone. Andrea Conti gave Atalanta the lead in the early portion of the second half to move the team into fourth place, ahead of Inter Milan.

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Bologna vs. Inter Milan (6:30 a.m. ET)
Chievo vs. Napoli (9 a.m. ET)
Sampdoria vs. Cagliari (9 a.m. ET)
Udinese vs. Sassuolo (9 a.m. ET)
Pescara vs. Genoa (9 a.m. ET)
Roma vs. Torino (9 a.m. ET)
AC Milan vs. Fiorentina (2:45 p.m. ET)

Dortmund investigating 61 fans after trouble at Leipzig game

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22:   Borussia Dortmund fans show their support during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Arsenal and  Borussia Dortmund at Emirates Stadium on October 22, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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DORTMUND, Germany (AP) Borussia Dortmund has identified 61 fans suspected of being involved with offensive and defamatory banners displayed during the Bundesliga game against Leipzig.

The suspects face sanctions that could include stadium bans, club expulsion, the cancellation of season tickets and possible civil charges, depending on the seriousness of the violations, Dortmund said Friday on its website.

[ MORE: Gareth Bale back this week ]

They were identified with the help of police who opened 32 preliminary investigations against supporters caught up in the violence outside the stadium on Feb. 4. Dortmund said that could rise to 40 or 50 in the coming weeks. The individuals will also face sanctions on a case-by-case basis after a club hearing.

Dortmund’s game at home on Saturday against Wolfsburg is subject to a partial stadium closure affecting almost 25,000 fans because of the abusive banners against Leipzig and for disturbances at several other games this season. The club was also fined 100,000 euros ($106,000).

“We feel a collective punishment against Dortmund fans and its ultra scene is counterproductive and ineffective,” said Dortmund, Germany’s second biggest club with about 145,000 members.

The club had agreed on Monday to close the Westfalenstadion’s south stand despite misgivings that innocent fans were also affected.

In Friday’s statement, the club said it was aware of its social responsibility and that it remains engaged in favor of integration and against violence and discrimination.

“We assure all those who were injured, insulted and disappointed on February 4 that we will continue to do all we can to punish the culprits and prevent a repeat of such incidents,” Dortmund said.

The club welcomed the German soccer federation’s nationwide stadium ban issued against 88 Dortmund supporters found armed with fighting gear and flares in Darmstadt last Saturday.

“The BVB (Dortmund) made the case for rigorous punishment,” the club said.

FA Cup predictions: Upsets at a minimum for Premier League clubs

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 19:  Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur scores their second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham at White Hart Lane on April 19, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Pep Guardiola said Friday that “the FA Cup is complicated”. There may be no better way to sum up the competition for top Premier League clubs.

Often sandwiched between critical league contests or European competitions, weakened lineups have become the norm in earlier rounds of the tournament.

[ MORE: Gareth Bale back this week ]

With 16 teams remaining, managers must weigh the risks of current and future schedule congestion with the fact that four more wins in the FA Cup bring silverware (and an automatic berth in the Europa League group stage).

Here are some predictions for this weekend’s fifth round match-ups:

Burnley FC vs. Lincoln City

Sean Dyche‘s Clarets are 10 points clear of the drop zone and facing non-league competition at home. They’ll have a strong lineup and win easily. Sorry, Imps, this one goes 3-1.

Middlebrough vs. Oxford United

Boro is still very much in a relegation battle, but needs to find its scoring touch in a big way. Oxford waxed a weakened Newcastle in the last round, and are no easy hurdle. 2-1, Smoggies.

Millwall vs. Leicester City

The Foxes have a trip to Sevilla and a visit from Liverpool next, and Claudio Ranieri won’t risk his best XI here. That and the away trip are probably enough to move Millwall into the quarterfinals. 1-0, Lions.

Huddersfield Town vs. Manchester City

The Terriers are Premier League hopefuls, but there’s a far cry between hope and reality. And Huddersfield boss David Wagner could be resting some guys as well with a busy promotion push ahead. Even City’s second unit — the PL giants host Monaco on Tuesday — will be enough for a 3-1 win.

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Chelsea

With a comfortable lead in the table and no other competitions this season, Chelsea will manage to cruise on the road. 2-0.

Fulham vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs need to end the woes of back-to-back poor performances, and a London Derby will have both sides ready to roar. Expect a tight one, and perhaps a replay. 2-2.

Blackburn vs. Manchester United

It’s fortunate for Blackburn that United played a Europa League match on Thursday, but the Red Devils are too deep and Jose Mourinho has several pieces of silverware on his radar. Manchester United, 2-0.

Sutton United vs. Arsenal

The fairytale ends here, as this is a classic set-up for the Gunners to showcase their might at the expense of a lesser side. Arsenal, 4-0.

Zidane: Gareth Bale fit for return after 10 weeks away

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 31:  Gareth Bale of Real Madrid holds a press conference at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium after extending his contract with Real until 2022 on October 31, 2016 in Madrid, Spain. Bale has scored 62 goals in 135 appearances for the club and won five trophies in the past three seasons, including the Champions League twice.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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Real Madrid leads La Liga and its UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie, and now it’s getting a star back in the fold.

Real boss Zinedine Zidane has dealt with long-term injuries to Casemiro and Gareth Bale this season. The first has been back for a few weeks, and the latter is due back this weekend.

Zidane, 44, announced that Bale had recovered from ankle surgery enough to be included in his squad for this weekend’s match against Espanyol.

[ MORE: Wenger will manage next season ]

Bale posted seven goals and four assists in 17 appearances before suffering the injury against Sporting CP in early December.

Real went 11W-4D-2 without Bale. The reigning UCL champs lead Barcelona by a point on the table and have played two fewer league matches.

LIVE: UCL last 16 – Bayern Munich v Arsenal; Real Madrid v Napoli

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20:  Francis Coquelin of Arsenal challenges Thiago Alcantara of Bayern Munich during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Arsenal FC and FC Bayern Munchen at Emirates Stadium on October 20, 2015 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Two huge games take place in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday at 2:45 p.m. ET.

Arsenal head to Bayern Munich for the first leg of their Round of 16 clash, with the two teams familiar foes after recent battles.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Arsene Wenger and Arsenal badly need to advance past the reigning German champs as Wenger’s future, plus the futures of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, perhaps depend on a deep run in the UCL this season.

The Gunners have crashed out at this stage in each of the last six seasons.

With Wenger’s contract up in the summer he has yet to announce if he will stay on for another season or two, as the Gunners fight for a top four finish and remain in the UCL and FA Cup. This is a pivotal week for how the rest of Arsenal’s season will pan out, especially with the battle for a top four finish intensifying.

As for Bayern, well, they’re hardly setting the world alight in the Bundesliga but Carlo Ancelotti’s side do lead the way. Bayern have knocked Arsenal out at this stage of the tournament in 2013 and 2014, while the last time these teams met they hammered Arsenal 5-1 in a UCL group game in Bavaria in November 2015.

In the other Round of 16 first leg, reigning European champions Real Madrid will look to put the tie to bed at the Santiago Bernabeu. They host Serie A side Napoli, with the Italians confident of causing an upset following a run of 18 games unbeaten which stretches back to October.

Still, with Cristiano Ronaldo fit to lead Real, the home fans will hope Zinedine Zidane’s boys can rack up a big win to reach the UCL quarterfinals for an seventh-straight season. Not having Gareth Bale fit is a blow for the La Liga leaders but they are still the heavy favorites against a Napoli side who sit third in Serie A.

Click on the link above to follow live commentary on both games, while we will have reaction and analysis on all of the UCL knockout games here at Pro Soccer Talk.


Wednesday’s UCL Round of 16, first legs

Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal – 2:45 p.m. ET
Real Madrid vs. Napoli – 2:45 p.m. ET