Gareth Bale

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Marcelo added to growing Real Madrid injury list

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Real Madrid faces Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday to kick off their Champions League campaign, but Zinedine Zidane will have his work cut out for him to piece together the best squad he can muster.

Veteran full-back Marcelo is the most recent to hit the absentee list, joining six other first-team members on the sidelines for the important upcoming match. The 31-year-old suffered a neck injury in the weekend La Liga match against Levante. Marcelo completed the 90 minutes, but appeared to pick up the injury when falling onto his back after taking a shot in the first half. The club confirmed he will not take part against PSG.

Alongside Marcelo, Luka Modric is on the sidelines with a groin injury picked up on international duty, and his stand-in Federico Valverde is also a miss with a quad problem. Isco is also out with a hamstring injury and Marco Asensio is sidelined long-term with a torn ACL, leaving James Rodriguez as an option in midfield. Meanwhile, Sergio Ramos is suspended for his intentional yellow card in last season’s Champions League match against Ajax, and reserve defender Nacho is also suspended thanks to a sending-off late in the second-leg loss to Ajax.

The good news for Real Madrid is Eden Hazard made his debut over the weekend with 30 minutes against Levante and will likely be called upon against PSG to pick up the slack. 21-year-old center-back Eder Militao could also be an option as Zidane hopes to replace Ramos in defense, having made his debut this weekend alongside Hazard. Gareth Bale was suspended for the Levante match but is likely to be back in the starting lineup against PSG.

Madrid has been somewhat poor to start the season, with two draws and a near collapse against Levante this past weekend, but they still sit third in the league with eight points through four matches.

PSG has its own issues as well, with Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani both injured, while Neymar is suspended for the first half of group stage play.

EURO 2020 qualifying: Netherlands rallies in Germany, Bale saves Wales

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Late heroics helped desperate Netherlands and Wales to big wins in their quests for a place at EURO 2020.

[ MORE: USMNT strengths and weaknesses ]


Germany 2-4 Netherlands

The Dutch sure can rally.

In a EURO qualifier which could almost be described as must-win, Ronald Koeman‘s Netherlands erased a 1-0 lead and overcame a late equalizer to beat Joachim Low’s Germany 4-2 in Hamburg on Friday.

Serge Gnabry‘s ninth minute goal gave Germany a lead it would take into the break, but Frenkie de Jong scored in the 59th before Ryan Babel helped force an own goal out of Jonathan Tah.

Donyell Malen blasted a close range shot home six minutes after Toni Kroos scored a penalty to restore the deadlock. Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool) put the match to bed in stoppage time.

The Netherlands entered the match with three points from two matches, but had already lost to Germany in its home fixture and was staring up at a Northern Ireland team which is 4-0 to start qualifying. Germany entered the day 3-0.

Wales 2-1 Azerbaijan

However tumultuous his past few seasons have been, Gareth Bale remains an absolute baller.

Bale scored in the 84th minute against stingy Azerbaijan to boost the Welsh to three points and a spot in crazy deep Group E. Croatia and Hungary have nine points, while Slovakia and Wales now have six. A draw would’ve been good for Azerbaijan’s first point of qualifying

Elsewhere

Estonia 1-2 Belarus
Cyprus 1-1 Kazakhstan
Slovakia 0-4 Croatia
Austria 6-0 Latvia
Scotland 1-2 Russia
Slovenia 2-0 Poland
San Marino 0-4 Belgium

Gareth Bale admits he’s not happy at Real Madrid

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After nearly being sold to Chinese club Jiangsu Suning this summer before Real Madrid blocked the move at the last minute, Gareth Bale is playing again at the Spanish giants.

But that doesn’t mean he’s happy again. Far from it.

The 30-year-old admitted he’s excited to be a regular contributor again, but his mental state is still struggling.

“I’m very surprised because I think everyone knows where things were at in terms of me going,” Bale said about the transfer possibilities this summer, speaking to reporters while on duty with the Welsh national team. “In football anything is possible. It’s a crazy sport and it’s one of those things that happens that not many people can explain but one or two can.

“I wouldn’t say I’m playing happy but I’m playing now. I’m sure there’ll be plenty more turbulence. Internally we have spoken and things are what they are. I’m professional, I keep my head down.”

Real Madrid struggled last season en route to a third-place finish in La Liga and an exit from the Champions League in the Round of 16, and after a calf injury sidelined Bale for most of January, he returned to just a bench role for the remainder of the season. He admitted that was what drove him to seek an exit this past summer.

“I understand that I’m made more of a scapegoat than most, I take it with a pinch of salt even though maybe it’s not all fully fair,” Bale said. “Towards the end of last season was difficult, there is no denying that, not just for me but for the team. The situation has now changed, U-turned.”

This season, Bale has started all three of Real Madrid’s league matches thus far, scoring a brace in the recent 2-2 draw with Villareal. It’s more difficult to blame Bale for the early struggles this season given the defensive woes, with the club unable to keep a clean sheet through three matches.

Still, Bale stopped short of revealing any details of what happened this summer or the conversations he had with manager Zinedine Zidane, wanting to keep a professional relationship. “The things that happened will stay private with the club. If you want answers, maybe you need to ask Real Madrid. It’s between me and them, and we will have to come to some sort of conclusion. I know there was a lot of talk with everybody saying good, bad, whatever they wanted. I don’t listen to anyone because they don’t really know what they are on about. Most people don’t know and understand the situation. It didn’t impact on me too much. I had a great summer holiday and didn’t really think about it too much.”

Bale hits back at critics

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The Gareth Bale saga has taken many twists and turns over the last 12 months. Perhaps the biggest twist/turn has been in the past few weeks, as Bale came into Real Madrid preseason fit and ready to go, and he’s started Real’s first three games of the season, scoring a pair of goals in a 2-2 draw with Villarreal last weekend.

Speaking in front of the media for the first time since his rumored transfer to China fell through, as well as all the back and forth rumors between him wanting to stay and Zidane wanting him out this summer, Bale hit out at the critics.

[READ: Strengths and Weaknesses of USMNT]

“I don’t read anything, I don’t listen to anyone,” Bale said. “People don’t know the situation. I had a good summer holiday, I didn’t think about it too much, I just kept my head down and worked hard in training. The things that happened will stay private.

“It’s not been ideal, but I’ve been there before, and I know how to deal with it. I had a good preseason in terms of training, and I know that things can turn quickly in football. I feel good, I feel stronger than ever. I’m in very good shape. I’m professional. I’m paid to play football, and you will have ups and downs. If you keep working hard, things will turn, and you will get rewarded.”

Of course, by saying that he doesn’t read anything or listen to anyone, he’s admitting that he has seen the reports and heard plenty of rumors. In 2019, it’s impossible to stay away from it, whether it’s his Real Madrid teammates asking him what’s up or family members wanting to know what the truth is.

However, the most important part of his quote was in the second part. If true that Bale is feeling stronger than ever, that can be massive both for Wales and Real Madrid. Real Madrid needed Bale to play a big role with Cristiano Ronaldo gone, but the winger failed to take the next step in his career. It may have been unfair for him to fill Ronaldo’s shoes, but the continued injuries and poor form didn’t help his case.

When Bale admits that he’s training better, and is likely taking better care of his body, as well as not wading into the transfer rumors, that’s a good sign for him as a player. It means his focus is truly on his game and that he’s working his hardest to bring another La Liga title to Real Madrid, and to get Wales into Euro 2020.

La Liga Roundup: Bale scores brace, salvages draw for Real Madrid

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Gareth Bale and Joao Felix headline Sunday’s La Liga action.

[ MORE: Atletico’s Felix scores first La Liga goal ]

Villarreal 2-2 Real Madrid

Just a couple of months ago, Zinedine Zidane made it clear it’d be “best for everyone” for Gareth Bale to leave Real Madrid amid a reported lucrative move to China. On Sunday, Spain’s most dramatized transfer saga this summer didn’t matter, as the Welshman showcased glimpses of former glory with his two-goal performance against Villarreal, securing a vital point for Los Merengues. 

Bale opened his account with the final touch of the first half, slotting in a delicate pass from Dani Carvajal into the net. His second goal, though, rolled back the years. Inside the box, with the ball tightly tucked on his preferred left foot, the Welshman’s perfectly-placed ball was impossible for Andres Fernandez to save.

The night wasn’t perfect for Bale, however.

Right before the final whistle, the 30-year-old was sent off after seeing his second yellow card of the night.

Of course, Bale coming to rescue wouldn’t be a talking point unless the hosts had done their fair share of work, which they did. In the 74th minute, Moi Gomez had all but sealed the game for El Submarino Amarillo. 12 minutes in, Gerard Moreno tallied his third of the season in just as many games.

Without Bale, Real Madrid host Levante next, while Villarreal look to secure their first win of the season against the league’s bottom-dwellers, Leganes.

Atletico Madrid 3-2 Eibar 

Joao Felix did open his La Liga account, but Atletico’s big moment came in the final stages of the match, when Thomas Party’s determined run into the box resulted in a last-second, game-winning goal for the home side.

Diego Simeone’s side are now La Liga’s clear-cut leaders, winning three straight games to start the season.

Eibar started off strong, finishing two of the three chances they created in the first half. But as the clocked ticked, the visitors lost their effectiveness, despite it being a quiet night for Los Colchoneros in terms of generating a plethora of looks at goal.

Like Felix and Partey, Vitolo contributed his second goal of the season, leveling the score in the 52nd minute. Renan Lodi and Diego Costa assisted on Sunday.

The league leaders will look to continue their applaudable run of form as they travel to San Sebastian to take on Real Sociedad, following the conclusion of the international break. Eibar, on the other hand, host an equally-struggling Espanyol.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Valencia 2-0 RCD Mallorca

Espanyol 0-3 Granada