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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WEDNESDAY NIGHT PREVIEW

Following Manchester United’s successful trip to Paris on Tuesday, both Liverpool and Manchester City will be looking to emulate their rivals with successful starts to their 2020/21 UEFA Champions League campaigns.

Here are your previews ahead of the big games on Wednesday night…

Real Madrid v Shakhtar Donetsk 17.55

Madrid will be hoping for a better European venture third time around having been eliminated at the quarter-final stage in August. Still possessing plenty of quality, Zinedine Zindane’s men are rightfully still considered a real thrrst at the business end of the compeition.

However, off the back of a surprise home defeat to Cadiz in La Liga, Los Blancos perhaps aren’t the side they once were.

They should still have enough quality to come past the Ukrainian champions.

Manchester City v Porto 20.00

Pep Guardiola will be without star performer Kevin De Bruyne for the visit of Porto on matchday one. Despite this they will go into the match as huge favourites, and joint favourites with Bayern Munich for the competition outright.

City are desperate to end their wait for European success and will hope a solid start against Porto will set them on their way.

Their Portuguese visitors are no easy task, and will boast West Ham loanne Felipe Anderson as part of their squad.

Ajax v Liverpool 20.00

This meeting between two of the giants of European football will come as a welcome break for Liverpool from talking about injuries, VAR controversy and that derby day draw.

As we all by now know Virgil van Dijk will miss this game, and perhaps the remainder of the season. Both Alisson and Thiago also miss out for the Reds whilst Jurgen Klopp does welcome back Naby Keita into his squad.

Ajax still present a major opposition, albeit a little stripped of their quality players who helped them reach the semi-finals of the competition during 2018/19, the year Liverpool made it six.

Bayern Munich v Atletico Madrid 20.00

A clash of epic proportions see’s holders play host to Liverpool’s extra time conqureors Atletico Madrid.

Hansi Flicks men are many peoples favourites to make it back to back Champions League’s whilst Diego Simeone’s charges are always difficult to beat.

This match promises to be a battle of free-flowing attack against rigid well organised defence.

Other Fixtures

RB Salzburg v Locomotiv Moscow, Midtylland v Atlanta, Olympiacos v Marseille, Inter Milan v Borussia Monchengladbach

Sergio Regulión completes Spurs Transfer- Who is the Spanish Left Back?

Tottenham have announced the signing of Real Madrid’s Sergio Regulión.

The defender arrived in North London for €30 million (£27.5 million) on a five year deal, with Spurs winning the race to secure the signature of the highly rated Spaniard ahead of Premier League rivals Man United, who also held a strong interest in the left back.

The Red Devils were looking to strengthen their options at left back and saw Reguilón, who had a successful spell on loan at Sevilla last year, as the ideal candidate to compete with Luke Shaw for a starting berth.

The stumbling block for United was Real Madrid’s insistence on including a buy back clause in the deal, whilst Los Blancos also wanted a payment of €30 million up front, with United only willing to do a deal of €20 million plus add ons.

Their hesitance allowed Spurs to swoop in, with the Lilywhites accepting a buy back clause active for two years, believed to be in the region of €45 million depending on various incentives, according to the Guardian.

Regulión is an attack minded full back who joined Real Madrid’s La Fabrica academy at the age of eight and worked his way up through the various youth ranks.

He got his first taste of senior football in 2015 when he was loaned out to Segunda Division B outfit UD Logroñés for the entirety of the 2015-16 campaign. He featured sparingly, making just nine appearances before returning for a more successful loan spell the following season.

He played 30 games as a more advanced left winger and scored eight goals, establishing himself as a regular in the third division.

On his return to Madrid, he featured heavily in the Castilla side, signing a new contract in 2018 after catching the eye, before new boss Julen Lopetegui promoted him to the first team for pre season ahead of the 2018-19 season.

He made his debut in October 2018, starting in a 3-0 defeat to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League before making his league debut in a 2-0 win over Real Valladolid the following month.

He would go on to register a further 11 appearances for Los Blancos, as Marcelo’s form dipped, but the return of Zidane as manager slowed his progress.

Frenchman and fellow left back Ferland Mendy was brought in from Lyon to replace the ageing Marcelo, pushing Regulión down the pecking order given Mendy’s terrific form for Los Blancos.

A reunion with Lopetegui at Sevilla for the 2019-20 campaign allowed Regulión to get regular minutes at the highest level, and he certainly grasped that chance.

He enjoyed an impressive season, featuring in 31 games, scoring twice as Los Palanganas finished fourth in La Liga. He also played a key role in helping them to win the Europa League for the third time in the last five years.

Regulión is made very much in the mould of a modern full back, sound defensively but devastating driving forward. He created 40 chances in the 2019-20 season, the fourth best in Europe’s top five leagues for full backs under the age of 23.

This is an interesting stat considering this was the Spaniard’s first full campaign at the highest level.

He was named in the Europa League team of the season and won his first cap for Spain in the recent international break, starting in the Nations League victory over Ukraine.

He will certainly be an upgrade on Spurs’ current options at left back, Welshman Ben Davies who is solid yet unspectacular, particularly going forward and the engimatic Danny Rose, who has been told to train with the Under 23s after returning from a loan spell at Newcastle.

Real Madrid’s insistence on including a buy back clause highlight that they value Regulion’s clear potential, and don’t want to lose him forever.

They may well exercise the clause if he impresses in London, as he could be the ideal heir to replace Mendy in a few years, with the Frenchman already 25 and often struggling with niggling injuries.

The buy back clause could be a cause for concern for Tottenham, but in the short term (and Mourinho is well known for making signings for the here and now) it represents a good deal for Spurs as they look to transform an ageing squad, which has grown stale with a lack of signings in recent seasons.

Like Doherty on the right, Regulión will be tasked with being a creative outlet on the left, linking up with Son and putting in crosses for Kane to attack. He will also be asked to do his bit defensively, and working under a defensive minded coach like Mourinho would no doubt aid this part of his game.

He may need some time to adapt to the physicality and speed of the Premier League, but for a player with a good injury record and such great potential he should shine in England.

Liverpool have shown the significance of attacking, mobile full backs in the modern game and the combination of Doherty and Regulión should excite Tottenham fans as much as the pairing of Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold on Merseyside.

Where next for gareth bale?

On Thursday the footballing world was treated to a lesser seen phenomenon, Gareth Bale played football, on an actual football pitch.

The 31 year old perhaps now ex-superstar appeared in the first-half for Wales during their 1-0 victory over Finland. In truth it wasn’t Bale’s finest 45 minutes and his manager Ryan Giggs said the amount of time was all he was fit for given his lack of match fitness, having not played for months on end.

With a CV that matches some of the greats of the game Bale has found himself very much of the periphery of things at Real Madrid for around two seasons now. Having almost secured a move to China last summer, the former Tottenham man could be looking for a way out of the Bernabau once more.

In a recent, honest, interview with Sky Sports, the Welsh forward said Real Madrid: ”make things very difficult” when asked abut his desire to leave the club.

Surely the time has come for the four times Champions League winner to find himself a new club, and with it regular football once more.

Success at Madrid?

There can be no doubt prior to the fallout Bale’s time in the Spanish capital has ultimately been a success, however, fans of the club would perhaps suggest otherwise.

Since completing his £90 million move the forward has won two La Liga titles, one Copa Del Rey, three FIFA Club World Cups, and the aforementioned four UEFA Champions League crowns.

Individually the Cardiff born star has the incredible record of 105 Madrid goals in 251 appearances in all competitions, including one of the greatest goals to ever grace a Champions League final.

Despite falling dramatically out of favour with Zinedine Zidane and the fans, although in truth the fans always seemed to struggle to warm to the Welshman, seemingly because he wasn’t Cristiano Ronaldo and occasionally took the limelight off their darling, nobody can deny Bale still has something to offer at the highest level.

His fleeting international outings have proven his quality remains, often the go to man for a Welsh side which has reached higher than usual heights in recent times.

So where could, and should he end up…

Having been on the verge of a move to the Chinese Premier League last summer many may seem a repeat of that move as the logical switch,. Given his current wages and the two years left on his deal, it is going to take a club with deep pockets as well as some bargaining from all parties to make this move happen.

Without one aspect of the move forgoing some financial loss, Bale could continue to earn his money sitting on the bench and playing golf in his free time.

The romantics and Spurs fans will be dreaming of a return to White Hart Lane where he made his name, having been a struggling left-back before moving up the pitch and setting the Premier League alight.

In truth the powers that be and the wage structure in place is unlikely to see Bale back at Spurs. It is much more likely the Welshman heads to one of the other top six Premier League clubs, Manchester United have often been touted as potential suitors.

Opinion

Simply seeing Bale back playing football is the preferable option, however, not at one of Liverpool’s main rivals as adding a player of his abilltiy would enhance any squad, even if his days of playing two matches a week are behind him.

Whilst there is very little chance of it happening, given his wage demands and the type of player Liverpool sign. I would love to see Bale in the red of Liverpool, although I can’t foresee him being delighted with Jurgen Klopp’s running demands. A player of his immense quality would be beneficially to every team in world football, they simply need to let him play.

Former Real Madrid and Spain keeper calls it a day

As the well-known saying says, all good things must come to an end. That time has come for former Real Madrid and Spain legend Iker Casillas.

The 39-year-old goalkeeper has decided to hang up his gloves for good and will always be remembered for being somebody loved by the Spanish people.

During a 16-year career at the Bernabeu, he made 725 appearances for Real, winning three Champions League titles and five La Liga crowns.

He also helped Spain win the 2010 World Cup and two successive European Championships in 2008 and 2012.

Casillas joined Portuguese side Porto in 2015 making 156 appearances for them, winning two Primeira Liga titles and one Portuguese Cup.

Casillas played for the Spanish national side for six years winning 167 international caps. Only former team mate Sergio Ramos has made more appearances for Spain.

The Spaniard hasn’t played since April 2019 after suffering a heart attack during training. Considering his age and recent health issues it probably comes as no surprise he came to this eventual decision.

He joined Real Madrid at the tender age of nine and the club said recently he was the best goalkeeper in their 118-year history.

The 39-year-old currently holds the record for most Champions League clean sheets and was also part of the Real side that won the Champions League three times in his distinguished career.

To prove what a footballing legend he is, in 2014 he became one of four players to represent Spain at four World Cups. He was also named as the second-best goalkeeper of the 21st century, behind who else but Gianluigi Buffon.

But he will always be remembered by football lovers around the world for his time at Real Madrid. He is without doubt one of the finest keepers ever to play the game and somebody whom strikers at last will be able to breathe a huge sigh of relief that they don’t have to face him anymore.

What was do you think was Iker Casillas greatest moment of his historic career?

Real Madrid win La Liga Title after three year gap

Real Madrid clinched their first La Liga title since 2017 following a 2-1 victory over Villarreal on Thursday.

Real wrapped up the title with a game to spare after a Karim Benzema brace secured victory.

In an empty Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium, Benzema opened the scoring in the 29th minute. The forward added a second in the 77th minute from the spot.

Vincente Iborra pulled a goal back late in the game, but it was to late for the visitors.

Zinedine Zidane’s side were crowned La Liga Champions for the 34th time in their history. They head into the final day of the season with a seven-point lead over second place Barcelona.

Since the restart back in Spain in June, Madrid have won ten consecutive matches and have been unstoppable.

Zidane said:

“Today is one of the best days for me as a professional,

“After everything that happened, the three-month break, it is fantastic what has been achieved.”

La Liga titles have been in short supply for Real, this is only their third in the past nine seasons.

However, when it comes to European success it is a different story. They won three consecutive European Cups in Zidane’s first tenure.

What makes Real’s success this season even more remarkable is that last season they were also rans behind Barcelona. Barca finished a notable 19 points clear of their rivals and looked favourites to complete another La Liga triumph this season before a ball was kicked.

However, Zidane’s troops had other ideas. The Frenchman has always been hailed for his man-management abilities and tactics.

Despite virtually having the same squad as last season, Zidane knew there was a problem defensively with the side. This campaign has seen Madrid a much solid unit at the back.

As a result, they currently boast the best defensive record in the league having conceded only 23 goals in 37 games thus far. This is half the number of goals conceded in their last campaign.

Ferland Mendy has looked assured at left back and Raphael Varane having the best season of his career. Thibaut Courtois, meanwhile, is looking back to his best between the sticks and with Sergio Ramos such a competitive leader along with the outstanding Casemiro, this side oozes quality.

Madrid have had goals in them all season with 21 different players getting in on the scoresheet. In fact, their forward line has fired blanks all season.

That said it is an all-round squad that performs in all departments that will win you silverware and Real have proved this.

On a night of high celebrations, it was noticeable that Gareth Bale wasn’t one of those joining in the fun.

The Welshman was pictured standing away from the group. Bale was also spotted tamely punching the air at the end of the back row. He was then caught on camera attempting to trip up his teammates as they jumped around in a circle.

Make of that what you will but could that be a message to the Spanish giants to say I’m off soon, thank you very much?

Meanwhile, Lionel Messi has come out and been critical of his Barca colleagues, saying “things have to change” at the club.

He went on to add:

“We are a weak team who can be beaten with enough intensity and enthusiasm.”

Scathing words indeed from the world’s greatest footballer. That said, the magician has a good point.

Barcelona haven’t performed up to their normal high standards this season. They have looked as always to Messi to lead from the front, which he has and delivered as well.

It is others who are not keeping up to the very hight standards of performances that Barca expect from them.

Overall, Real Madrid have deserved their La Liga title and they will be a difficult act to catch again next season. Barcelona have to raise their standards for the next campaign, otherwise Zidane will be smiling from ear to ear once more.