Bale starts for Real Madrid with Courtois on the bench against Alaves

By Sports Desk November 30, 2019

Zinedine Zidane named Gareth Bale in Real Madrid's starting XI and left Thibaut Courtois on the bench for Saturday's meeting with Deportivo Alaves.

Madrid had the chance to go top of LaLiga, at least temporarily, with a point and four changes were made to the team that conceded two late goals in a 2-2 Champions League draw against Paris Saint-Germain in midweek.

Eden Hazard's absence as the result of an ankle injury gave Wales international Bale the chance to start at club level for the first time since October 5.

The 30-year-old winger angered Los Blancos supporters last week when he posed in front of a flag that read: "WALES. GOLF. MADRID. IN THAT ORDER".

Eder Militao took the place of Raphael Varane, who reportedly suffered a knock against PSG, while loanee Alphonse Areola got the nod in goal as head coach Zidane shuffled his pack for a third game in seven days.

Luka Modric came into midfield for Fede Valverde, who joined Vinicius Junior on the bench.

Zidane declared the little-used Brazilian attacker would not be sent out on loan in January, but it remained to be seen if he would get an opportunity to impress against the competition's 13th-placed team.

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    Real Madrid moved three points clear of Barcelona at the top of LaLiga as Casemiro's double earned a hard-fought 2-1 win over Sevilla at Santiago Bernabeu.

    Fresh from their penalty shootout victory over Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana, injury-hit Madrid were largely underwhelming until a moment of quality from Casemiro broke the deadlock shortly before the hour on Saturday.

    Indeed, Sevilla thought they had taken the lead through Luuk de Jong's header midway through the first half, but Julen Lopetegui's luck was out against his former club as VAR came to Los Blancos' rescue.

    De Jong did have his goal when he curled in a superb strike from the edge of the area after 64 minutes, only for Casemiro to double his tally five minutes later as Madrid claimed the points.

    After a promising run from Rodrygo Goes came to nothing, Toni Kroos had the first sighter of the match, curling a first-time effort tamely into the arms of Tomas Vaclik.

    Madrid swiftly took control, but lacked cutting edge up top and relied on VAR to keep them on level terms with 30 minutes played when De Jong's header was disallowed for Nemanja Gudelj blocking off Eder Militao, much to Lopetegui's chagrin.

    But Casemiro took matters into his own hands in the 57th minute, lifting a deft finish over Vaclik after racing onto Luka Jovic's clever flick.

    Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr were introduced as Zinedine Zidane looked to press home their advantage, yet it was Sevilla who struck next - De Jong's excellent finish into the left-hand corner allowed to stand despite an apparent handball from Munir El Haddadi.

    Parity was short lived, however, and Casemiro made no mistake when he was left unmarked in the area to head home from Lucas Vazquez's cross, with a fine save from Vaclik preventing Kroos from adding a third late on.

     

    What does it mean? Madrid top of the pile... for now

    It has been all change at Barca and now Madrid have put the pressure firmly on Quique Setien in his first match in charge at Camp Nou on Sunday.

    Madrid are three points clear in first place, though Barca would move back above them should they get the Setien era off to a winning start against Granada. Sevilla, meanwhile, sit in fourth.

    Casemiro comes up with the goods

    It is not - or at least, it should not be - Casemiro's job to provide the goals in Madrid's side, but with Los Blancos' forwards failing to trouble Sevilla's defence too often, the midfielder stepped up. His first finish was coolly taken, while his second was a simple header for a player of the Brazil international's quality as he scored his first brace.

    Militao gets lucky thanks to VAR

    Madrid's marking for what Sevilla thought was the opener was horrendous, with De Jong given the freedom of the penalty area to head home. Militao went down far too easily after colliding with Gudelj, but the referee - after checking the pitchside monitor - deemed the contact enough to warrant a foul. Madrid, however, were not as lucky when De Jong slammed in the equaliser.

    What's next?

    Both sides are in Copa del Rey action in midweek, with Madrid facing Segunda B side Unionistas de Salamanca a day after Sevilla take on Levante in a Tuesday contest.

  • Setien surprised by Barcelona players' attitude Setien surprised by Barcelona players' attitude

    Quique Setien has been surprised by the willingness of Barcelona's players to accept fresh ideas during his "wonderful" first week in charge of the club.

    The LaLiga title-chasers entertain Granada on Sunday in Setien's first game as head coach, and the former Real Betis boss said he expects supporters to notice a change in the way Barcelona play.

    Ernesto Valverde was ousted after a 3-2 defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa, but Setien is optimistic of a return to form against a team that began the weekend in 10th place.

    "The week has gone very well, much better than I expected," Setien told reporters. "When you come to a new team there's always uncertainty about how they're going to respond.

    "There's always that stimulus and you can see they're very keen. I've been very surprised by the attitude of the players, how accepting they've been of new ideas.

    "I'm happy with everything: the work, the capacity the players have to understand everything you tell them. It has been wonderful. Marvellous."

    Setien was asked about the role he sees Arturo Vidal playing in his midfield, the Chile international having operated in a fluid position at times under Valverde.

    The new coach indicated every player would have a clearly defined job to do in his system, but he asked for patience to allow the squad to adapt to his changes.

    "There's no doubt we like players to play orderly systematic football," said 61-year-old Setien. "We like them to get back into position when they lose it. We need a balance, Barca needs a structure to attack and also to defend.

    "I hope it won't be an over-excited Barca but a motivated one that wants to put into practice what we've worked on. I think you will notice the changes - I hope so - but please remember it's not going to happen overnight.

    "If a player is receptive and really wants to learn and improve, you might be surprised what they are capable of doing. Every player has what they have but some outperform themselves. It's about learning and expanding your abilities and becoming even better still.

    "Sometimes players aren't playing where they feel or play best, but they must put their all into what's best for the team."

  • Rumour Has It: Barca, Juve in Rakitic-Bernardeschi swap talks Rumour Has It: Barca, Juve in Rakitic-Bernardeschi swap talks

    Barcelona and Juventus are in talks about a possible swap deal involving Ivan Rakitic and Federico Bernardeschi.

    Rakitic was linked with an exit from Camp Nou during the close season, but ended up staying at Barca.

    But he could be on his way to Turin and Bernardeschi may be heading in the opposite direction.

     

    TOP STORY – BARCA, JUVE IN RAKITIC-BERNARDESCHI SWAP TALKS

    Barcelona and Juventus are discussing a possible swap deal involving Rakitic and Bernardeschi, according to AS.

    The report says Rakitic – who has made just six LaLiga starts this season – has already agreed personal terms with the Serie A giants.

    However, the clubs are yet to reach an agreement, with Rakitic six years older than Italy international Bernardeschi.

    ROUND-UP

    - There is still work to be done if Bruno Fernandes is to find his way to Manchester United. The Daily Mail and The Sun report United want to pay Sporting CP £34million (€39.9m) with a further £25.5m (€29.9m) in add-ons, including bonuses for the English club winning the Premier League and Champions League.

    - Atletico Madrid are not giving up on trying to land Edinson Cavani in this window. The LaLiga side are still eyeing a move for the Paris Saint-Germain forward, according to Marca, although they are hoping to negotiate a lower price than the €30m the Ligue 1 club are reportedly wanting.

    - The wait continues for Inter as they try to sign Christian Eriksen. CalcioMercato reports Eriksen's agent Martin Schoots is scheduled to meet Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy in London next week as the midfielder tries to get his move to the Serie A giants.

    - Chelsea are favourites to sign RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner ahead of the 2020-21 season, according to The Sun, but it may take a £68m (€79.8m) deal to land the 23-year-old.

    - Arsenal are set for talks with Athletico Paranaense to negotiate a deal for midfielder Bruno Guimaraes, according to Globo Esporte.

    - Staying at Arsenal and France Football reports Paris Saint-Germain left-back Layvin Kurzawa has agreed to join the Premier League club for free at season's end.

    - Javier Hernandez will become one of the highest paid players in MLS. Sports Illustrated reports LA Galaxy will pay Sevilla $9.4m (€8.5m) for the forward, who is set to earn $6m annually, with the potential for that to rise due to bonuses.

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