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La Liga investigating Bale gesture, suspension looms

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Gareth Bale is facing a suspension for his action in the Madrid Derby last weekend.

Real Madrid’s 3-1 defeat of Atletico Madrid saw Bale score the final goal, a 74th minute marker.

[ MORE: Icardi stripped of captaincy ]

That was a good thing, his 100th goal for the club and one that helped Real close to within six points of first place Barcelona.

The 29-year-old also “saluted” the crowd by putting his hand on his biceps and moving his forearm in an upward fashion.

That’s a no-no, and La Liga has asked for punishment, saying Bale was provoking the opponents’ fans on a big stage.

Bale could miss between 1-3 games if it’s deemed his celebration did not cause a hostile reaction, but also somewhere between 4-12 matches if he’s judged to have intentionally provoked hostility from the fans.

That seems like a very loose interpretation. It seems likely he’ll get a more lenient figure given his reputation and the stature of Real. Over/under is probably set at three.

Barcelona, Real Madrid roll in La Liga action

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Barcelona extended its lead at the top of the La Liga table to eight points, while Real Madrid climbed into third as both Spanish giants won in convincing fashion on Sunday.

Lionel Messi found the scoresheet as Barcelona topped Girona 2-0 at Estadi Montilivi. Nelson Semedo grabbed his first goal in a Barcelona shirt just nine minutes in as a sloppy goalmouth scramble saw the ball fall right to the 25-year-old’s feet and he ripped it home low inside the right post.

Girona managed to match Barcelona on the shot count and had numerous chances to score, including one by Pedro Alcala soon after Semedo’s goal, and another from Pere Pons just before halftime that required a goal-line clearance from Gerard Pique. In the 51st minute, Girona fell a man down when Bernardo Espinosa picked up a second yellow card for hacking down Luis Suarez, and that made it tough for the hosts to find a way back in.

Barcelona grabbed its second goal when Lionel Messi produced a spectacular chip over Bono in the 68th minute and that was all she wrote for Barcelona. Still, despite the win, under-fire attacker Philippe Coutinho continued his poor form, creating just one chance and not influencing the game as the fans expect him to in Ousmane Dembele’s absence.

Karim Benzema was the star for Real Madrid, scoring a pair as they won 4-2 over Espanyol on the road. Benzema struck first just four minutes in, collecting a rebound from a saved Luka Modric shot and redirecting it back into the net past a sprawled-out Diego Lopez. Sergio Ramos picked up Real Madrid’s second in the 15th minute with a powerful header, and Benzema restored the 2-goal lead in the 67th minute with a right-footed effort across the face of goal and into the bottom-right corner.

Gareth Bale gave Real Madrid a 4-1 lead, and Espanyol wouldn’t find its second consolation goal until late after Madrid had fallen a man down on a straight red card to Raphael Varane for a controversial last-man foul that may be rescinded later, as replays showed Varane never touched substitute Pablo Piatti who spilled to the turf after tripping himself just outside the box on a breakaway.

Madrid had troubles with referee Jesus Gil all day, with Ramos pushing his luck after a 26th minute yellow card, right in the referee’s face to argue his case. Overall, seven yellow cards and the one red were handed out in the match, with Madrid picking up five of those eight.

PST Roundtable: 2019 in Preview

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Big predictions, transfer locations, USMNT expectations, and the Women’s World Cup.

[ MORE: Best of 2018 ]

ProSoccerTalk moves on from its Best of 2018 by asking our staff to grab their Gray’s Sports Almanacs and trying to create classier empires than Biff Tannen.


1) At this time next year, who will have been the reigning Premier League champions? And if you’re fancy, who leads it heading into 2020?

Joe Prince-Wright: Manchester City. And Manchester City.

Nick Mendola: I have to say Liverpool, but I’m so tempted to type M-a-n C-i-t-y. I do think Spurs have a shout if City can win Thursday and both the Reds and Citizens make deeper UEFA Champions League runs. This assumes an addition or two for Spurs in January.

As for next season: Man City with a long-term replacement for Fernandinho (and Zack Steffen, obvz).

Kyle Bonn: It would be ridiculous to bet against Liverpool at this juncture, but also I think Manchester City gives them a ride for 2018. I like Liverpool this year, and Man City long-term as well.

Dan Karell: Great question. I think that Liverpool will hold on this year. Something is different this time around for Jurgen Klopp and the Reds and I think they’ll hold off a late challenge from Manchester City in a title race that goes down to the wire. However, with a long, stressful season, I can see Man City jumping out to a 10-point lead of their own by this time next year.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

2) What will have been a success for the USMNT in Gregg Berhalter’s first trip around the Sun as national team boss?

Joe Prince-Wright: I think it will be solid yet unspectacular. Berhalter’s tactical plan is clear, which is good, but I’m not sure the player pool is at a stage where we can be too excited. The 2019 Gold Cup will be intriguing to watch, and the USMNT should put out their strongest possible squad, including Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Tim Weah et al.

Nick Mendola: A Gold Cup Final, 4-6 points from the first two matches of the fourth round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, and an established 14-16 man group for the fifth round of World Cup qualifying. Also a clearly-defined role for Christian Pulisic aside from, “Save our butts.”

Kyle Bonn: I think Berhalter will do a great job at giving lots of players a chance to prove their worth. We might not have a set two-deep in a year’s time, which might be frustrating for some fans, but also will be healthy for the program. I hope Berhalter comes into the job with an open mind about player selection, and I am optimistic on the possibility there.

Dan Karell: At a minimum, it’s seeing his team adjust to his playing style, developing a cohesive unit, and in terms of on-the-field success, wins against one or more European or South American opponents and making at least the 2019 Gold Cup final. Anything less than that is a step to the side, not a step forward.

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

3) Where will the following people be employed come Dec. 31, 2019: Christian Pulisic, Eden Hazard, Neymar, Jose Mourinho, Paul Pogba, Arsene Wenger, Gareth Bale, and Mauricio Pochettino?

Joe Prince-Wright

Christian Pulisic – Chelsea
Eden Hazard – Real Madrid
Neymar – Paris Saint-Germain
Jose Mourinho – Paris Saint-Germain
Paul Pogba – Manchester United
Arsene Wenger – AC Milan
Gareth Bale – Real Madrid
Mauricio Pochettino – Manchester United

Nick Mendola

Christian Pulisic – Chelsea
Eden Hazard – Chelsea
Neymar – Manchester United
Jose Mourinho – Inter Milan
Paul Pogba – Paris Saint-Germain
Arsene Wenger – Monaco (executive role)
Gareth Bale – Real Madrid
Mauricio Pochettino – Tottenham Hotspur

Kyle Bonn

Christian Pulisic – Chelsea
Eden Hazard – Real Madrid
Neymar – Paris Saint-Germain
Jose Mourinho – Unemployed (not hired? fired again? Who knows?!?)
Paul Pogba – Manchester United
Arsene Wenger – Monaco
Gareth Bale – Real Madrid
Mauricio Pochettino – Real Madrid

Dan Karell

Christian Pulisic – Chelsea
Eden Hazard – Chelsea
Neymar – Paris Saint-Germain
Jose Mourinho – LA Galaxy
Paul Pogba – Manchester United
Arsene Wenger – RAC Sport (French TV)
Gareth Bale – Manchester United
Mauricio Pochettino – Manchester United
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

4) What’s success for the USWNT at this summer’s World Cup?

Joe Prince-Wright: Winning it. The reigning champs are stacked but with the likes of France, England and Germany on home soil in Europe, it will be tough. That said, the USWNT have so many attacking weapons I think Jill Ellis will lead them to back-to-back World Cup titles.

Nick Mendola: Getting back to the final to defend their title. The modern women’s game has caught up to the U.S. in terms of international desire, and their tactical acumen/hunger is at worst level with the USWNT. As the first to the women’s development part, there was a time when it was an utter embarrassment for the USWNT not to win it all and do it in style. I think we’re past that, especially when the measure comes out of one game (not the group stage).

Kyle Bonn: Winning the dang thing. Anything less for this group at this stage is a failure. That might be closed-minded and elitist, but the United States has built itself into a juggernaut, and while other teams are catching up, the US still holds itself to a high enough esteem – and should do as much – that anything less than World Cup victory is a disappointment.

Dan Karell: With the quality of women’s soccer growing around the world, and the U.S. struggling to keep up at youth level, I think that a semifinals appearance at a World Cup is a successful run. Hopefully they can defend their title and win it.

(AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

5) Assuming no one breaks the Neymar mark, will anyone be bought for more than Paul Pogba’s $120m transfer mark? And who?

Joe Prince-Wright: Eden Hazard would if he had longer on his contract, but I think it will be intriguing to keep an eye on Harry Kane. If Pochettino leaves for United, does Kane go with him? Or maybe Real Madrid or Barcelona come calling?

Nick Mendola: There’s a chance that numerous clubs try to get a desperate new Manchester United technical director, manager, and/or Ed Woodward to break it, but I only see it happening at Real Madrid or United if Kylian Mbappe wants out of Paris Saint-Germain.

Kyle Bonn: Eden Hazard should break the mark. He’s valuable enough to be, and his situation is set up to be expensive. 27 years old and in extended prime form of his world-class career. The only thing that could bring it down is the fact his contract has just one year left after this season is over, and that could dent his price, but otherwise his inevitable sale to Real Madrid will likely top Pogba.

Dan Karell: Josh Sargent… but in 2022.

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

6) Free skate: What’s also on your mind for 2019 in soccer?

Joe Prince-Wright: I am looking forward to seeing players get a rest in the summer, for the most part, and I think that will enhance the PL for the 2019-20 campaign. We have seen so many injuries over the past six months due to the long World Cup and a quick turnaround for the domestic seasons has seen some star names (Kevin De Bruyne, Mesut Ozil etc.) suffer several smaller injuries.

I am most intrigued to see the title race between Liverpool and Man City and see if the former can hold their nerve in the coming months. If they do, there will be a Jurgen Klopp statue outside of Anfield this time next year…

Nick Mendola: Aside from which USMNT players seize their chance to become fixtures and whether Michael Bradley has a true return to form, I’m focused on how Premier League clubs fare in the UEFA Champions League, and how it affects the title race. The latter could lose a little bit of its luster should Liverpool beat Man City at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday, as the Reds will move from favorites to win the PL title to likely winner. Also, as much as Major League Soccer has increased in style and substance, it feels like it is stagnant in terms of the American sports consciousness. Can it regain legitimate upward growth aside from celebrating international names and big attendance at new clubs and stadia?

Kyle Bonn: I’m dialed in on the USMNT this coming year. I am fascinated to see how Gregg Berhalter does in his first year – an absolutely critical year for the growth, development, and recovery of the national team. There is talent growing in the pool, as evident by the young stars making headway in Europe, and the switch in mindset of Major League Soccer from attracting talent abroad to developing and selling its own. The Premier League is building juggernauts, and has a great shot at welcoming a Champions League title back to England in 2019 as well. This coming year of soccer should be a really fun one.

Dan Karell: I’m excited to see what Berhalter can do with the USMNT in 2019. I don’t mind if he leaves certain players out, as long as he picks a system that can bring wins and then picks the players that best fit that system.

In terms of the Premier League, I can’t wait to see Liverpool and Manchester City fight to the end to see who wins the league title.
(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

La Liga: Bale scores as Real Madrid get by tiny Huesca

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MADRID (AP) Gareth Bale scored early in the first half and Real Madrid held on for a harder-than-expected 1-0 win at last-placed Huesca on Sunday to move closer to the top of the Spanish league.

Bale found the net in the eighth minute and Madrid withstood pressure from the league newcomer to move to fourth in the standings after 15 matches, behind Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and leader Barcelona.

Barcelona and Atletico Madrid won their games on Saturday, while Sevilla was held by Valencia to a draw.

The match in Huesca happened only a few hours before fierce Argentine rivals River Plate and Boca Juniors played in Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in the final of the Copa Libertadores, South America’s equivalent of the Champions League. The second leg of the final was moved to the Spanish capital after the match in Argentina was marred by fan violence.

Madrid struggled against a Huesca team that hasn’t won in 16 straight matches. Huesca has only won once in the league this season – in the first round at Eibar.

Huesca is making its first-division debut and had never played against Real Madrid.

Santiago Solari’s team needed a solid performance by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to hold on to the win, the team’s fourth consecutive victory in all competitions after a humiliating 3-0 defeat at Eibar in the league.

“We couldn’t do much in the second half,” Courtois said. “We know we have to improve, but it’s difficult to play these types of matches.”

Courtois and other Madrid players said strong winds in the second half made it harder for the team to control the game.

Marco Asensio and Isco, who had led the team to a 6-1 rout of third-division club Melilla in the Copa del Rey on Thursday, entered Sunday’s match in the second half but made no significant contribution.

Bale scored with a neat volley from inside the area, side-footing a cross by Alvaro Odriozola.

The Wales forward, jeered by some fans in the team’s league win against Valencia last weekend, hadn’t scored in 10 league matches.

Real Madrid was ninth in the standings after losing 5-1 at Barcelona in a match that led to the firing of coach Julen Lopetegui.

Bale, Benzema injuries deepen Real Madrid’s struggles

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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid’s injuries keep mounting after Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema had to be substituted on Saturday in the 1-0 loss at Alaves.

Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui says both forwards needed to leave the match because of unspecified injuries.

Benzema did not start the second half, while Bale was replaced late after appearing to ask to be substituted.

Lopetegui says “the injuries to Karim and Gareth greatly limited what we could do.”

Madrid was already without injured backs Marcelo and Dani Carvajal, while Francisco “Isco” Alarcon is unavailable while he recovers from surgery for appendicitis.

The loss was Madrid’s fourth match in a row without scoring a goal.

After an international break, Madrid’s next game is at home against Levante on Oct. 20. It then hosts Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League before visiting Barcelona on Oct. 28.