THREE THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Brilliant Gareth Bale, stale Spurs and Italian woe

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Gareth Bale has prospered since Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid for Juventus. (AFP)
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Updated 21 September 2018
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THREE THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Brilliant Gareth Bale, stale Spurs and Italian woe

LONDON: All the major teams have now had a chance take a breather after their exploits in Europe and can now focus on domestic issues. Here we look at the things to look out for this weekend.

INTER AND ROMA YET TO PROVE CLASS

Both sides were expected to provide some sort of challenge to Serie A perennial champions Juventus this season. Roma, on the back of making it to the Champions League semifinals, and Inter on the back of renewed optimism at the San Siro. Both Italian heavyweights have looked punch-drunk so far, however. Inter have just one win in four and Roma are without victory in three matches. The Nerazzurri come into their clash away against an in-form Sampdoria on the back of a shock 2-1 win over Tottenham in the Champions League. Roma face Bologna away on the back of a 3-0 defeat to Real Madrid. Can both sides make statement of intents on the road or will they once again flatter to deceive?



CAN SPURS STOP SLIDE?

Such is the manic nature of top-flight football, combined with the 24/7 news cycle, that it only takes two weeks for a club to plummet from “definite title challengers” to “club in crisis.” Step forward Tottenham, who since they beat Manchester United 3-0 at Old Trafford have lost three in a row — to Watford and Liverpool in the Premier League and Inter Milan in Europe — and talk of a side that has gone stale is now prevalent. Obviously Spurs have not become bad overnight, but Harry Kane and Co. do look tired after their exertions at the World Cup — they had more players in the final stages in Russia than any other English club — and they need to get a win to stop the rot. An away clash at Brighton is not the easiest assignment, but defeat is not an option for Mauricio Pochettino’s men.



CAN BALE CONTINUE BRILLIANCE?

Just four months ago Gareth Bale was on the bench for the Champions League final, and it only seemed a matter of time before he left Real Madrid for pastures new. From the moment he was subbed on during the victory over Liverpool, things have definitely gone his way. He scored two in the 3-1 win over the Reds — the first an outstanding overhead kick — Zinedine Zidane, with whom he had a strained relationship, left as coach, and then the Frenchman was followed out of the Bernabeu exit door by Cristiano Ronaldo, the player who dominated Los Blancos. All that has given the Welsh wizard more freedom — freedom to express himself, to be the main man and to remind the fans why he was once the most expensive player in the world. He has been brilliant so far this season. In the Champions Legaue win over Roma he scored his fifth goal in seven games and looked indispensable to the side. A home clash against Espanyol tonight gives him a great chance to continue that run of form. Ronaldo who?

 


Spain considers playing Super Cup in Saudi Arabia

Updated 16 min 45 sec ago
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Spain considers playing Super Cup in Saudi Arabia

  • Proposal will be made at the federation’s general assembly next week

MADRID: The Spanish soccer federation is looking into the possibility of playing the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia beginning next year.

Federation President Luis Rubiales said Wednesday playing in the Middle East is one of the options being considered for the tournament, as well as a “final four” format with the top finishers in the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey.

The competition has been played in a one-game final between the champions at the beginning of the season. The idea is to play the new Super Cup in January.

The proposal will be made during the federation’s general assembly next week.

Rubiales did not confirm reports the deal will be worth €30 million ($33 million) a year for six seasons, saying “it will be difficult” to reach that value.

The federation president, one of the main critics of the Spanish league’s idea to play a regular-season match in the US, said the decision would take into consideration the players’ health, noting that playing in Saudi Arabia would not affect them as much as if the game was played in the US or Asia, where travel time and time differences were greater. Last year’s final, won by Barcelona against Sevilla, was played in Tangier, Morocco.

This year’s Italian Super Cup was played in Saudi Arabia as part of a multi-year deal worth more than €20 million ($22 million).  The Spanish players’ association, which complained about the Spanish league’s attempt to play in the US, did not oppose the idea of playing in Saudi Arabia.

“We weren’t against playing in the United States, what we wanted at the time was to be consulted about the idea and to give our opinion,” association president David Aganzo said Wednesday at an event organized by Europa Press. “If the proposal for the Super Cup is good for the players, we won’t have a problem with it.”

The Spanish league had to scrap the game in Florida after Barcelona, which would have faced Girona, backed down because of the lack of consensus among the parties involved. The league said it will try playing abroad again next season.

There is also a plan by the federation to reduce the number of games in the Copa del Rey to help clear up the calendar and keep teams from playing too many matches. The competition would include single elimination matches in some rounds, instead of a two-leg series. The proposal is also expected to be presented in next week’s general assembly.

“The clubs and the players want less official matches in the calendar,” Rubiales said.