Implications of Iker Casillas’ benching

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Some serious shock and awe here.

When teams were announced an hour ago for today’s Primera Division meeting between Málaga and Real Madrid, Los Blancos’ starting XI was missing one very notable name: captain Iker Casillas. Perhaps worse, his name was listed on the bench, which realistically precluded this being a fitness concern.

Iker Casillas got benched. Twenty-five-year-old Antonio Adan starts in his place.

The last time Casillas missed a match for competitive reasons was 2002. Casillas was 21 years old. Between 2002-03 and 2011-12, Casillas played in 371 out of a possible 380 La Liga games – 97.6 percent. Almost every match he missed was after Spain’s title was decided.

Of course, you can argue Spain’s title has already been decided this year. Real Madrid came into the weekend 13 points behind league-leading Barcelona. At kickoff at the Rosaleda, the gap was 16, Barcelona’s victory at Real Valldolid moving the Blaugrana nine clear of second place Atlético.

MORE: Real Madrid loss forces consideration of the unthinkable

As you might expect, social media erupted when news of José Mourinho’s decision spread. Surprisingly, most of the reaction was along the lines of “finally,” a response to Casillas’s dip in form.

The reaction, however, was a little too much. The implication that Casillas has somehow fallen off the face of the goalkeeping earth is wrong. Saint Iker has not been saintly this season, but he hasn’t been terrible. Real Madrid still has the second-best defense in La Liga, and it’s highly unlikely Casillas wasn’t the best goalkeeper on the team when they arrived in Málaga.

Where Casillas has failed is in living up to expectations – a reputation that held him as the best goalkeeper in the world. Whether you bought into that hype or not, this year Casillas hasn’t kept himself in the conversation, and compared to that high standard, this year’s Saint has proved a sinner. He’s dared to make mistakes.

This feels more like a wakeup call than a permanent decision. The permanent benching of the team’s captain would have major implications on the squad.

But perhaps that’s what Mourinho wants. Perhaps Mourinho is so desperate to wake up a squad he’s expressed concern about since match one that he’s gone nuclear. He’s benched Iker Casillas, providing the ultimate sign that nobody’s untouchable.

MORE: Mourinho extends best wishes to Vilanova

He could have benched Cristiano Ronaldo, but after Ronaldo’s unhappy spell earlier this year, that move would have blown up in Mourinho’s face. Likewise, dropping Pepe could have backfired, while benching Xabi Alonso or Mesut Ozil would have little effect. Perhaps to his detriment, Casillas has the maturity to put this in perspective.

But this may also be the desperate tactic of a man who knows this is his last season in Madrid. It’s hard to fathom Mourinho going to this card if he was thinking about long term solutions. If he was, Mourinho would be more likely to ride out this rocky time rather than setting off a firecracker.

People have Mourinho going to Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City after the season. I wouldn’t count out Chelsea, either. But Mourinho’s time has come at Real Madrid. Otherwise, this move wouldn’t have been made.

West Ham, Chelsea scoreless in London

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  • Chelsea no longer perfect
  • Blues have most of the ball…
  • But dangerous chances fairly even

Lukasz Fabianski made some solid saves including a terrific stoppage time stop on Ross Barkley, as West Ham United and Chelsea staged a 0-0 draw that betrayed its scoreline at the London Stadium on Sunday.

The draw is Chelsea’s first setback of the season, and leaves them in second. The Blues are two points behind Liverpool and level with Man City.

West Ham remains 17th with four points.

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Manuel Pellegrini‘s decision to counter led to some wide open chances for West Ham when the Irons managed to collect the ball, even without the injured Marko Arnautovic.

Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko found plenty of joy on the wings, and West Ham challenged young Chelsea backstop Kepa Arrizabalaga more than once. Michail Antonio was a change of pace from Arnautovic but certainly up for the role of center forward.

Maurizio Sarri would’ve been frustrated with the lack of danger given his tactical decision to rest Eden Hazard, Mateo Kovacic, and David Luiz at midweek for this very reason. Aside from an N'Golo Kante header, there was little to worry Lukasz Fabianski.

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Alvaro Morata subbed into the game and brought immediate life to the Blues attack, and also raised the question of whether the finish-lacking chance-monger is just snake bit when Fabianski made a terrific 67th minute save with his face.

David Luiz hit a free kick to Fabianski at one end, and Yarmolenko couldn’t get on the end of Robert Snodgrass‘ inviting cross at the other.

Barkley curled a pretty effort toward goal in stoppage time, but Fabianski got low to slap the effort wide of the frame.

Watch Live: Arsenal vs. Everton

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Richarlison returns for Everton as the Toffees head to North London for a match against Unai Emery‘s Arsenal (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Cenk Tosun is on the bench for Everton at the Emirates Stadium, while Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both start for Arsenal.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Sokratis, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Torreira, Ramsey, Ozil, Lacazette, Aubameyang. Subs: Leno, Elneny, Lichtsteiner, Holding, Iwobi, Guendouzi, Welbeck.

Everton: Pickford, Kenny, Zouma, Keane, Digne, Gana, Davies, Walcott, Sigurdsson, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin. Subs: Stekelenburg, Holgate, Baines, Tosun, Schneiderlin, Bernard, Lookman.

BWP set to miss big clash after yellow for swearing

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Bradley Wright-Phillips would like referees to consider his adulthood.

The New York Red Bulls’ super striker is going to miss a massive MLS clash with Atlanta United last weekend due to yellow card accumulation. RBNY is four points behind Atlanta in the race for the Supporters’ Shield with four matches each to play.

[ MORE: 2 Robbies on Mourinho, Man Utd ]

BWP was given a yellow for swearing at a linesman during RBNY’s 2-0 win over Toronto FC on Saturday.

Though we don’t know what he said and certainly don’t condone swearing at officials, the player didn’t make a show of it (something that earned Jozy Altidore a second yellow in a USMNT shirt a few years ago).

A fine is coming Wright-Phillips’ way for this one:

“It’s ridiculous man, it’s too big. We’re men. If you can’t take a swear word and what really happened then we’re in the wrong sport man, it’s ridiculous,” he said. “If someone said that to me, I wouldn’t even be like…I’d be like ‘Sorry, I missed.’ It’s a yellow card. The guy was having a nightmare all game. Nightmare.”

One thing that BWP is missing: It’s not the AR’s duty to know you’ll miss a game with a yellow. Still, this is a huge disadvantage for the Red Bulls on Sept. 30 at home.

Ben Yedder makes it 5 goals in 3 days with 1st half hat trick

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wissam Ben Yedder hit a first-half hat trick to lead Sevilla to a 6-2 rout at Levante in the Spanish league on Sunday.

[ MORE: 2 Robbies on Mourinho, Man Utd ]

It was the second big win for Sevilla in three days. Ben Yedder scored twice in a 5-1 home win over Standard Liege in the Europa League on Thursday.

Sevilla goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik saved a penalty kick by Jose Morales that would have allowed Levante to pull level at 2-2 midway through the first half.

Pablo Sarabia also scored for Sevilla and set up three more goals. Daniel Carrico and Andre Silva also got on the scoresheet for the visitors.

Sevilla had gone three rounds without a win in La Liga since its victory in the opening round at Rayo Vallecano.

Roger Marti scored for Levante, which also got a late own goal from Simon Kjaer.

Later, Barcelona hosts Girona seeking a fifth win in as many rounds.

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