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Bale brace guides Real Madrid to another UCL title

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Los Blancos have been the gold standard in the UEFA Champions League over the last half decade, and Zinedine Zidane and his side are victorious once more.

Real Madrid came away with a 3-1 win over Liverpool in Saturday’s UCL final in Kiev, Ukraine, courtesy of a goal from Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale‘s brace.

Although the first half left a bitter taste due to two key injuries to Mohamed Salah and Dani Carvajal, the second stanza really opened up in a brilliant manner.

Bale was on the pitch less than three minutes when he got his opener, and managed to complete a brace to help guide Real to its fourth UCL crown in five seasons.

The Welshman’s sublime bicycle kick restored Madrid’s lead in the second half, before Bale gave Real a two-goal advantage in the dying minutes with a venomous strike that left Karius stunned again.

Meanwhile, the Reds had responded well to Real’s first gut punch, when Sadio Mane equalized in the 55th minute when a close-range finish off a corner kick.

Goalkeeper Loris Karius granted Real a gift opener four minutes prior, after Karim Benzema blocked his throw from inside his box, and knocked it into the Liverpool net.

Karius had several Reds players open to distribute the ball to, but Benzema’s clever play provided the first goal in a comedic fashion.

The second half presented Real with the best chance of the match, as Isco smacked a shot off the crossbar, but the Madridistas couldn’t put the rebound away.

Cristiano Ronaldo nearly snuck one in for Real on the struck of halftime with a powerful header, but Karius did brilliantly to deny the Portuguese attacker from close range. Karim Benzema’s follow-up attempt was slammed home, however, he was ruled offside.

Liverpool was dealt a massive blow just prior to the half-hour mark, when leading goalscorer Salah was substituted out due to an apparent left shoulder injury.

The Egypt international went down in significant pain before being taken out after a 50-50 challenge with Sergio Ramos.

Several reports have already suggested Salah will miss the World Cup in Russia.

Los Blancos were forced into an early change as well, after Carvajal went down with an injury 10 minutes before halftime. Nacho was introduced into the match.

In the 21st minute, Trent Alexander-Arnold nearly blasted home the opener, but Keylor Navas held strong to prevent the Liverpool right back from scoring.

The Reds came out the dominant side, leaving Madrid with little room to work with in the midfield due to the high press employed by Jurgen Klopp.

Liverpool was the only previous English side to defeat a Spanish opponent in the UCL final, having beaten Real in the 1980/81 season behind a 1-0 victory in Paris.

Jorge Sampaoli resigns as Santos boss

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Brazilian club Santos confirmed Tuesday evening that manager Jorge Sampaoli has resigned as boss.

Sampaoli, who won the 2015 Copa America in charge of Chile but could not recreate that success with the Argentinian national team, signed on with Santos a year ago and guided them to a second-place finish in the Brazilian top flight, 16 points behind runaway champions Flamengo. His contract had another year, expiring in the winter of 2020, but with reports of offers from multiple clubs, he has stepped down.

The most widely reported destination is fellow Brazilian club Palmeiras, whom many believe Sampaoli has already entered talks with. He has also been linked with Argentinian club Racing, and his name has cropped up on occasion with the Arsenal vacancy, although that seems like a longshot. It was said in late October that Sampaoli had an offer from an unnamed La Liga club, but those rumors have cooled.

His reason for leaving Santos after just one successful season in charge is unconfirmed, but rumors are circulating that Sampaoli had incredibly ambitious transfer plans for the offseason, and when club president Jose Carlos Peres could not guarantee his support, the relationship became strained.

The 2019 season was mostly successful for Sampaoli at Santos, finishing second in the league table, but the secondary competitions were somewhat disappointing. They received a tough first-round draw in the Copa Sudamericana, falling to River Plate on away goals. They were also ousted from the Copa do Brasil in the Round of 16, falling 2-1 to an Atletico Minero side that finished 13th in the league table.

Tierney out months as Arsenal injuries pile up

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According to multiple reports, including Mark Mann-Bryans of PA Sport and Charles Watts of Goal.com, Arsenal full-back Kieran Tierney could be out up to three months after dislocating his shoulder in the 3-1 win over West Ham on Monday.

Tierney was withdrawn in the 29th minute after an awkward fall, using the bottom of his shirt as a makeshift sling. The club is still deciding on whether he will require surgery, according to Mann-Bryans, and that decision will ultimately determine the length of time he will miss. Still, even without surgery, it could leave him sidelined for a month or more.

The 22-year-old has struggled with injuries since joining the Gunners this past summer, missing the first seven games of the year with a hip injury. He has seen action in just five Premier League games thus far, and again could be sidelined for a significant spell. He could also end up missing Scotland’s critical playoff match against Israel in late March depending on his recovery timeline and fitness level.

Tierney’s injury is not the only one Arsenal is currently sweating. Granit Xhaka will miss the Europa League group stage finale against Standard Liege with a concussion, while Hector Bellerin is struggling with a hamstring problem. “Hector had a feeling in his hamstring during the warm-up [before West Ham] and we took the decision,” said interim manager Freddie Ljungberg after the win over the Hammers. “Not going to force anyone to play if they don’t feel 100%.”

Dani Ceballos is still sidelined with a hamstring injury suffered against Vitoria in October Europa League play and won’t return to training until later this month, while Rob Holding is a question mark this week after missing the West Ham game thanks to a bruised knee.

Arsenal, currently sitting ninth in the Premier League table and is scheduled to host Manchester City this coming Sunday following the trip to Belgium. They have upcoming games against Everton, Bournemouth, Chelsea, and Manchester United through the festive period.

Report: Leicester City looking to give Maddison, Soyuncu pay raises

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According to a report by Sky Sports, Leicester City has started negotiations with young stars James Maddison and Caglar Soyuncu about new contacts with increased pay.

The pair of 23-year-olds have current deals that run through the summer of 2023, so there is no urgency to lock them up long-term, but the Foxes are hoping to ease any lingering doubts about their futures at the club by rewarding good play on the field with a salary that fits the bill.

Soyuncu has been one of the league’s breakout defensive stars this season, partnering with veteran Jonny Evans to produce the Premier League’s stingiest defense thus far. The Foxes sold Harry Maguire in the summer for a record fee, and thanks to Soyuncu haven’t missed a beat.

Maddison, meanwhile, has proven himself the heartbeat of the Leicester City attack. He is assisting or taking nearly six shots per 90 minutes, and is on pace to score double-digit goals in league play.

The Sky Sports report says both club and players are “relaxed” about securing a new deal, given the lack of urgency required, but locking down the pair with improved salaries will ward off any significant noise about their futures – at least, for now.

The 2 Robbies podcast: Liverpool, Chelsea through to UCL knockouts

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle on Liverpool’s nervy 2-0 win against Red Bull Salzburg to take first place in Group E of the Champions League (1:55), Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Lille to secure a place in the Round of 16 (13:15) and who is the current favorite to win it all (20:45).

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Plus, what Arsenal’s come-from-behind 3-1 win at West Ham means for both London clubs (29:10) and the Robbies discuss what they’re looking forward to most at the next Live Premier League Mornings Fan Fest in Miami Beach (46:05).

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]