Gareth Bale back with a bang as Real Madrid survive Copa del Rey scare

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Bale is back: Gareth Bale crosses in the cup tie with Fuenlabrada

Gareth Bale provided a brilliant assist on his return from two months out with injury as Real Madrid advanced to the last 16 of the Copa del Rey on Tuesday.

The Welsh forward delivered a sensational cross for the first of Borja Mayoral’s two goals in a 2-2 draw with third-tier Fuenlabrada at the Santiago Bernabeu, as Zinedine Zidane’s team won 4-2 on aggregate.

Fuenlabrada, trailing 2-0 from the first leg, threatened to cause a famous upset when Luis Milla fired them ahead on the night in the first half, but Mayoral struck twice following Bale’s introduction on the hour.

The Welshman’s impact now means he leads Madrid’s assist charts this season despite only playing around 700 minutes less than his teammates, according to Andrew Gaffney.

Alvaro Portilla levelled late on for the visitors but Real took their place in the next round alongside Celta Vigo, Levante and Leganes, while La Liga strugglers Malaga crashed out following a 3-2 aggregate loss to second-division Numancia.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Do Liverpool have an angry Sadio Mane and other talking points ahead of trip to Stoke

Alex Rea 28/11/2017
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After an exhausting 1-1 draw with top-four rivals Chelsea on Saturday, Liverpool return to action with a trip to Stoke.

The Reds have beaten the Potters in their last four Premier League clashes with their last defeat a final-day 6-1 massacre in the conclusion of the 2014/15 season.

The complexion for both clubs has changed decidedly since then, though, with Jurgen Klopp’s side battling for a Champions League spot and Stoke sitting just three points above the drop zone.

Ahead of the game at the Bet365 Stadium, we examine the three key talking points.

MIDFIELD ROTATION?

Jordan Henderson should wear the No0 such has been the topic of debate surrounding the Liverpool captain and the number.

Indeed, Henderson has copped significant criticism from fans in recent weeks with the nadir arriving against Chelsea.

According to whoscored.com he failed to make a single successful key pass, clearance, tackle or interception.

Now, the numbers seemed harsh and since then they appear to have been debunked by the Liverpool Echo’s Andy Kelly, but regardless no stats are required to argue just how vapid Henderson been recently.

For a player in the pivot to misplace passes, be poor positionally and then also struggle defensively it’s simply not good enough.

Fortunately for Klopp he has a plethora of options for his midfield three.

Adam Lallana has returned from injury, Gini Wijnaldum is fresh after starting on the bench against Chelsea and Emre Can could return to the first-team fold, too.

The trip to Stoke could see the German boss change it up in midfield.

Henderson struggles to get a grip of Hazard

Henderson struggles to get a grip of Hazard

DOES KLOPP HAVE AN ANGRY MANE ON HIS HANDS?

Sadio Mane has since insisted his mini spat with Klopp at full time was nothing more than an impassioned chat with his boss but after being dropped on Saturday you had to wonder if there was more to the story.

“He [Klopp] asked me to play on the right side and one time I tried to ask for the ball in the number nine position,” Mane told Sky Sports News.

“Mo [Salah] was on my side and the coach was shouting ‘Sadio come onto the right side'”

“After the game I told the coach it was easier if you told Mo to come in because he was close to you.

“But it was friendly, it was not because I was unhappy or something else. There was no problem, I was just communicating and explaining that to him after the game.”

So the ambiguity has been dropped but Mane would have had every right to feel aggrieved considering he didn’t join the action until the 89th minute.

Alongside Mohamed Salah, the Senegalese forward has been the driving force of Liverpool’s attack but you would suspect the Egyptian will be rested on Wednesday with Mane coming back into the frame.

WILL REDS CROUCH AND HIDE?

Liverpool’s vulnerability in the air from set-pieces and crosses is a well examined weakness and it could be under the microscope when a former player lines up against them.

Peter Crouch is fresh from a signing a new one-year extension and he’s been an effective substitute for Mark Hughes this season.

Two of his three goals from the bench this season have come via his head – breaking one unwanted and wanted record along the way.

Crouch owns the Premier League record for most headed goals (52) and also substitute appearances (143).

The 36-year-old will likely begin the game in his usual spot with Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting the man spearheading Stoke’s 3-4-2-1.

But with Xherdan Shaqiri’s crossing ability there’s every chance Crouch could come back to haunt his former side should he make a 10th appearance from the bench this season.

Stoke frontman Peter Crouch

Stoke frontman Peter Crouch

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Tottenham miss Wanyama, Moyes crosses his heart and other Premier League talking points

James Piercy 27/11/2017
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From Everton‘s implosion at Southampton to David Moyes’s first point as West Ham boss, we look at the big talking points after the weekend’s Premier League action.

EVERTON ARE A MESS

From misguided pursuits in the transfer market, to sacking Ronald Koeman without a replacement lined up, to appointing David Unsworth as caretaker and now Sunday’s horrorshow at Southampton, in which their defensive line was so diagonal it may have been playing rugby union, Everton are in major trouble.

There is no shape, organisation or gameplan and this rudderless team looks relegation bound unless urgent changes are made.

Does anyone know what they’re doing, though?

Everton's caretaker manager David Unsworth

Everton’s caretaker manager David Unsworth

SPURS MISS WANYAMA

Injured players can often create false ideas of importance, the longer they are out.

But in the case of Tottenham’s Victor Wanyama, in the context of Spurs’ season right now, it is wholly accurate. Mauricio Pochettino places so much importance on midfield energy, but his engine room lacks any at present.

Moussa Dembele struggles to play two games in a row, Dele Alli is woefully out of touch, Harry Winks inexperienced and Eric Dier having to play in defence.

How they could do with some the Kenyan’s power and dynamism to pick them up in the middle of the park.

Victor Wanyama is still recovering from a knee injury

Victor Wanyama is still recovering from a knee injury

WHAT’S HAPPENED TO ROBERTSON? 

We all know what Liverpool‘s Alberto Moreno is by now; a good attacking full-back who, despite slight improvements, is incredibly fragile and ill-disciplined defensively.

Yet, still Jurgen Klopp persists with the Spaniard, keeping him in the XI against Chelsea despite a poor display in Sevilla which cost Dejan Lovren his place. It would be understandable if there were no other options but Andrew Robertson continues to be overlooked.

The Scot was bright in his two games in mid-September but hasn’t been seen since. He’s not injured, Klopp just doesn’t seem to trust him.

Robertson in his sole league game against Burnley

Robertson in his sole league game against Burnley

ZEEGELAAR’S ANOTHER FIND

Arsenal may have just signed Sven Mislintat as chief scout from Borussia Dortmund but maybe the Gunners should have been looking a little closer to home.

Watford’s scouting department continue to unearth unknown gems from around the world with Richarlison, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Kiko Femenia and now maybe Marvin Zeegelaar.

The masked Dutchman was simply devastating down the left flank against Newcastle, giving DeAndre Yedlin nightmares. Signed from Sporting for just €3m, the 27-year-old has settled into life in England seamlessly.

Marvin Zeegelaar in action against Newcastle

Marvin Zeegelaar in action against Newcastle.

CROSS YOUR HEART AND HOPE TO MOYES

United fans shudder at the memory of February 10, 2014 against Fulham at Old Trafford. A David Moyes-led team attempted 81 crosses to draw 2-2.

Early signs are that process is going to be repeated at West Ham, especially with the perfect target of Andy Carroll. Before Moyes took over, the Hammers averaged 21 crosses per game.

Against Leicester on Friday they swung in 31, with Cheikhou Kouyate’s equaliser coming from a corner. Something that would have no doubt delighted Moyes.

David Moyes congratulates Cheikhou Kouyate

David Moyes congratulates Cheikhou Kouyate.

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