By Tim Stannard
1) More Bale-out stories from Madrid media
On the one hand, it might be a simple case of the Spanish media looking to get those clicks by putting together four and four to make 11. Virtual bread doesn’t end up on the table on its own.
Then again, the Santiago Bernabeu is leakier than a colander so the fact that both leading sports papers in Spain are reporting on Thursday that a decision has been made to push Gareth Bale out of Madrid might have a hint of truth.
The evidence for Bale-exit: the Welsh footballer is a nice-to-have when playing well, but hardly reliable in terms of injuries. Indeed, Coach Zizou doesn’t even seem to be overly keen on using Bale when the forward is fit with the player spending all but 14 minutes of Wednesday’s Leganes encounter on the bench with Lucas Vazquez getting a free run in his spot. That might just be an anomaly, but Bale was left on the bench for the Champions League PSG game.
Those tidbits, combined with more pressure on Zidane to make better use of Marco Asensio and Isco in the days, months, and years to come means that this oft-called particular Bale-Out rumor, might well be right this time.
2) Europe League set to sort out final 16
Thursday is…Europa League day! Woot, woot!
And unlike the dawdling Champions League, Europe’s other competition to find the best of the rest, there will be some completion today with the second legs of the Last 32 ties.
The most fun is likely to be had is in Italy with Atalanta taking on a Borussia Dortmund side – with Christian Pulisic! - that has a narrow 3-2 advantage from the first leg. That encounter is live on beIN SPORTS Canada from 3:05PM ET / 12:05PM PT, preceded by Villarreal trying to claw back a 3-1 deficit against Lyon without centerback, Rubén Semedo, who was jailed awaiting trial in Spain on Thursday morning after being arrested on charges of kidnapping, assault and robbery.
Elsewhere, some of the other big hitters of the competition – Arsenal, Marseille, Milan and Atletico Madrid – all look snug with hefty first-leg leads. Tune into the XTRA at 7PM ET / 4PM PT for the best of the day’s action.
3) Carrasco on brink of Atletico Madrid adios
TRANSFER TRACKER TIME! And yes, it is a legitimate deal going through. And yes, it is allowed as the move is out of Europe and into the Chinese Super League. The soon-to-be mega-rich player is Atletico Madrid’s Yannick Carrasco after the Rojiblancos reportedly agreed a deal to move the Belgian to Dalian Yifang for a fee of around $36 million.
Now time for the scurrilous rumors. One of those comes straight out of Italy and says that Gianluigi Donnarumma has decided to leave Milan this summer and head to PSG. Yep. We are back on that merry-go-round again. Actually, we are likely to be back on the Paul Pogba rumor-mill as well with the Daily Mirror in England saying that the footballer wants out of Manchester United after falling very much out of favor with Jose Mourinho.
4) US women bring home hockey gold after shoot-out drama
Ecstasy for the US, agony for Canada. That was the fallout from a nail-shredding, thrilling hockey final that saw the US women’s team defeat Canada in a shoot-out to win a gold medal for the first time in 20 years, in an event that Canada had been dominant. With the score-line tied a 2-2 after overtime, the US won a sudden death contest 3-2.
Lindsey Vonn was unable to medal in what is set to be the skier’s final ever Olympic event, the women’s alpine combined. Vonn was fastest in the downhill element but failed to finish the slalom. Mikaela Shiffrin picked up her second medal of the Games with a silver after finishing 0.97 seconds behind Michelle Gisin of Switzerland.
There was a 1-2 for the US in the men’s ski half-pipe – a huge amount of spinning in the air and backwards landings - after David Wise and Alex Ferreira picked up gold and silver.
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