Gareth Bale given standing ovation as Real Madrid thrash Deportivo

Gareth Bale departed the Santiago Bernabéu to a standing ovation and joked that this time they had applauded him, “instead of a whistle, which is always good”. The Welshman, who has occasionally been the focus of criticism from some supporters and who has been left out of the squad through injury 25 times during his career in Spain, curled in a wonderful goal and headed a second as Real Madrid came from a goal down to defeat Deportivo La Coruña 7-1. Those strikes took him to seven in only seven league starts this season, making him the team’s top scorer. Continue reading...

Alan Smith claims Arsenal star is ‘close’ to penning new deal

Mesut Ozil’s future at Arsenal has been somewhat shrouded in mystery and doubt for as far as the mind can remember, however due to Gunners legend Alan Smith’s tell-tale words, it appears that the German ace may be on the verge of penning a new deal at the north-Londoners, a huge, pivotal boost for the […]

Nineteen proves unlucky for disengaged Real Madrid as fatalism takes hold | Sid Lowe

Zinedine Zidane’s side have already dropped more points than in the whole of last season and they are 19 points behind Barcelona after Villarreal won at the Bernabéu for the first time – at their 19th attempt Sergio Busquets probably felt like hiding behind his hands. “The ghosts appeared,” he said. It was a cold, dark night and everywhere he looked they were there. If he looked left, especially. Blue and white figures flew past. Over the other side, on the touchline, Ernesto Valverde pulled his jacket up tight and peered through the pouring rain. “You must have thought: ‘again’,” he was asked afterwards, when it was finally over – the match, the curse, probably the title, too. “Exactly,” he said. Everyone did. The day before, Barcelona’s manager had described this as the “worst place” – there was something about it that haunted Barcelona, had a hold over them, something Continue reading "Nineteen proves unlucky for disengaged Real Madrid as fatalism takes hold | Sid Lowe"

Chelsea’s Conte confident of new Eden Hazard deal despite Real interest

• Belgian apparently waiting to see if Real Madrid are likely to make bid
• Chelsea close to securing Thibaut Courtois under new five-year dealChelsea intend to resume contract talks with Eden Hazard in the new year aimed at extending his stay at Stamford Bridge but the player is apparently in no rush to commit his future while it is unclear whether Real Madrid will prioritise his signing this summer. Hazard, who does not operate with an agent, is contracted to 2020 but, with a new deal first mooted towards the end of last season, has held discussions with the Chelsea hierarchy over an extension on improved terms. No formal offer has been made despite claims to the contrary by Hazard’s father, Thierry, to the Belgian newspaper Le Soir. Hazard senior suggested his son had rejected an offer while he awaits an indication from the Bernabéu whether their long-standing interest Continue reading "Chelsea’s Conte confident of new Eden Hazard deal despite Real interest"

Tactical review of 2017: Pep Guardiola reasserts his version of post-Cruyffianism | Jonathan Wilson

It took a while but the Manchester City manager has conquered England with a football that is not merely beautiful but also dominant. The question for 2018 is: can he now do it in Europe?The year ends with Pep Guardiola ascendant, his juego de posición, evolved over time and amended and slightly repackaged for England, cutting a swathe through the Premier League, just as it overwhelmed all in La Liga and the Bundesliga. There will be the usual complaints about how much money has been spent and, more pertinently, about the origin of that money, but English football has never seen anything quite like this. When Guardiola was winning two Champions Leagues in three seasons at Barcelona, their style became hegemonic. There were refuseniks such as José Mourinho but the vast majority of elite clubs wanted to ape their way of playing. There was, briefly, a global Continue reading "Tactical review of 2017: Pep Guardiola reasserts his version of post-Cruyffianism | Jonathan Wilson"

Messi deals with Madrid yet again as Barcelona look impregnable

Though the season is only at its halfway point, the title looks certain to return to the Nou Camp Leo Messi ended the clásico in a state of undress again but it was Real Madrid who had been stripped bare. At the very end of the last Madrid-Barça, Messi stood to the left of the goal at the north end of the Santiago Bernabéu, shirt off and held up for all to see; at the very end of the latest Madrid-Barça, exactly eight months later and a little over eight meters away, he lay on the grass to the right of the goal at the north end of the Santiago Bernabéu, boot off and abandoned, unseen at first. Then, as now, Barcelona had just scored the third, only now he had given it instead of getting it: another visit, another victory, and maybe this time a title too. If then Continue reading "Messi deals with Madrid yet again as Barcelona look impregnable"