Zinedine Zidane wants momentum from Gareth Bale after goalscoring return

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Spot on: Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale “radiated positivity” in Real Madrid’s 3-0 Copa del Rey win against Numancia, boss Zinedine Zidane said.

The 28-year-old scored in his first start since September in a season hampered by injury, but got the side’s opening goal from the penalty spot after 35 minutes.

Isco and Borja Mayoral also found the net, with the second leg of the last 16 tie to be played on January 10.

Zidane said on realmadrid.com: “Bale’s start to the game was exceptional and he really radiated positivity.

“He played for an hour and I thought he looked to be in good shape. We are happy and want to keep moving forward.

“The idea is to get some continuity in the side. It is his first game playing from the start and playing for an hour.

“We need to keep on in this manner and get into a rhythm with him.”

Real Madrid – currently fourth in LaLiga, 14 points behind leaders Barcelona – initially came up against strong opposition from Numancia, fifth in the second division and a side which have not lost since November.

Zidane said: “We picked up a good result at a difficult ground, against a team who fight hard and played well. I’m happy with the result because winning 0-3 here is not easy.

“In the second half we had some difficult spells, but we’re happy overall, particularly with the first half.

“This is exactly the team I expected to come up against, battling and running their hearts out, with the fans roaring their players on. But I’ll focus on the result and my players’ good performance.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Klopp has selection questions to answer ahead of Everton clash in FA Cup

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Mohamed Salah’s fitness, Philippe Coutinho’s future and Virgil van Dijk’s arrival are the three key issues facing Liverpool as they prepare to host neighbours Everton in the FA Cup’s outstanding third-round tie on Friday.

Salah, Liverpool’s 23-goal top scorer, missed Monday’s 2-1 Premier League victory at Burnley because of a groin injury, and manager Jurgen Klopp has indicated that he remains a doubt.

Despite that, Klopp was happy for Egypt international Salah and Senegal forward Sadio Mane were both allowed to fly to Ghana for an awards ceremony taking place on Thursday.

Both men are on the shortlist for the Confederation of African football’s player of the year award, and Klopp says is important that they are at the ceremony, even though it is so close to the Everton match.

“If it had been a match day, they wouldn’t have asked,” Klopp said. “For our side, it is just a sign of respect. We sleep in a hotel, they sleep in a plane. That is all the difference. If Mo is not fit, it will not be because of that.”

Salah, Mane, Coutinho and Roberto Firmino are widely considered to be Liverpool’s four key forwards, though the Senegal international was the only one who started at Burnley, as Dominic Solanke was given a rare start.

Firmino was used only as a substitute, undoubtedly to keep him fresh for the Everton match, while Coutinho was omitted from the squad altogether with a thigh problem, amid reports that Barcelona were preparing a new attempt to sign him.

“He is a doubt, at least a doubt, for Everton,” Klopp said.

Defender Van Dijk, meanwhile, is eligible to make his debut, having officially completed his £75 million move from Southampton on Monday.

If he is selected, it will mean Klopp fielding a fourth different central defensive partnership in four games, with Joel Matip playing alongside Ragnar Klavan against Swansea and Dejan Lovren against Leicester, before dropping out as the latter two faced Burnley.

“There is no rush,” Klopp said on Van Dijk. “We need time. A pre-season is for that usually but we don’t have a pre-season. After the Everton game, we have a little bit more time, that will help, but it’s a long-term project.

“So it’s not important when he makes his first game, it’s important how many good games he will play for Liverpool.”

While Liverpool are unbeaten in all competitions since October 22, Everton have gone four games without victory, losing their last two, at Bournemouth last Saturday and at home to Manchester United on Monday.

New manager Sam Allardyce guided them to a 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Anfield in the Premier League on December 10, although the visitors were outplayed for a significant chunk of the game, needing a late Wayne Rooney penalty to secure a point.

England midfielder Ross Barkley is getting close to full fitness, having missed the entire season to date with a hamstring injury, but he is not expected to be available to face Liverpool.

Everton have struggled for goals all season — they have scored 25 in the Premier League to Liverpool’s 50 — and defender Michael Keane says that has to improve.

“We’ve not scored a lot of goals lately and we’ve not created a lot of chances,” he said.

“That’s something we need to do and we are working on it, it’s just not happening at the minute. We need to show more quality in the final third and I’m sure it will come.”

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Van Dijk stats set him apart from his new Liverpool team-mates - A look at his numbers

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Virgil van Dijk is in contention to make his Liverpool debut in Friday’s FA Cup derby against Everton – but what will he bring to the team?

Manager Jurgen Klopp moved for the £75million Holland international after witnessing defensive displays that at one point in the season he admitted were making him “really sick”.

Press Association Sport measured Van Dijk’s statistics on the official Premier League website against those of his new central defensive colleagues, and he comes out on top across the board.

GOALS

The immediate good news is that in 67 Premier League appearances for Southampton, Van Dijk has never been identified as making the mistake that led to a goal.

Dejan Lovren has six such errors recorded against his name, most recently against Tottenham this season when he was substituted after 31 minutes.

Lovren admittedly has also scored five goals in the competition, including three for Liverpool, but Van Dijk is only one behind in just over half as many appearances as the 127 made by Lovren.

Joel Matip has two goals and two key errors, and Ragnar Klavan one of each, in 45 and 34 Liverpool appearances respectively.

TACKLES, INTERCEPTIONS, CLEARANCES, BLOCKS

Van Dijk wins 75 per cent of his tackles on average, slightly ahead of his new team-mates, with Matip trailing the pack on 71 per cent. The Dutchman also matches Lovren for the most tackles per game at 1.61, with Klavan this time well behind with exactly one per game.

There is more to defending than tackling, though, and the statistics suggest Van Dijk’s reading of the game is also ahead of Liverpool’s other defenders.

Totalling up interceptions, clearances and blocked shots, Van Dijk averages 10 per game compared to 8.8 for Lovren, 6.8 for Matip and just 5.4 for Klavan.

DUELS

Van Dijk also wins a higher proportion of his ‘duels’ and aerial battles – 493 duels won to 192 lost and 321 to 111 in aerial battles, the latter approaching a three-to-one ratio.

Matip is marginally above two-to-one in each category, as is Lovren in aerial battles – though the Croatian drops to around 1.8 duels won for every one lost. Klavan wins just over half of his contests in each category.

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