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MADRID, Sept 17, 2018 (News Wires) - Gareth Bale says Real Madrid work together more as a collective unit without former talisman Cristiano Ronaldo, after the Portuguese forward moved to Juventus in the close season.

The Welsh winger is thriving in the absence of Ronaldo and Madrid have three wins from four La Liga matches.

Bale is Madrid’s key weapon as the Champions League starts again this week, with Real facing Roma on Wednesday at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“It’s maybe a bit more relaxed (without Ronaldo),” Bale told the Daily Mail. “I suppose there is more of a team, more working as one unit rather than one player.”

Madrid’s all-time top goalscorer Ronaldo was crucial to the club’s three consecutive Champions League wins under former coach Zinedine Zidane, although it was Bale who scored twice against Liverpool in the 3-1 triumph in May’s Kiev final.

Bale came on from the bench and said he was annoyed about not starting the match, with that rage fuelling him to score a brilliant overhead kick.

“(I was) angry. Quite angry, to be honest. Obviously, I felt I deserved to start the game,” said Bale.

“I’d been scoring goals. So yeah, I suppose it was hard to put the anger aside.”

SAN SEBASTIAN, Sept 16, 2018 (News Wires) - Barcelona moved two points clear at the top of La Liga after riding their luck to come from behind and win 2-1 at Real Sociedad while Real Madrid could only draw 1-1 in a highly entertaining game at Athletic Bilbao.

Champions Barcelona fell behind following a thumping shot from Aritz Elustondo in the 12th minute from a set piece.

They then survived a mini onslaught from the home side in the second half before Luis Suarez levelled in the 63rd with a scrappy goal and Ousmane Dembele gave them a barely deserved lead three minutes later.

The fightback follows Barca’s 4-2 win at Anoeta last January and makes them the only team to still have a perfect record in Spain’s top flight, where they lead the standings with 12 points, two clear of Real.

Visiting coach Ernesto Valverde decided to start his side’s arguably least favourite away trip without Philippe Coutinho and Sergio Busquets ahead of a jammed schedule of six games in 20 days.

That gamble appeared to have backfired when Elustondo smashed home following a knock down from a corner.

Valverde brought on Coutinho and Busquets early in the second half but their presence initially made little difference as Real Sociedad launched three counter attacks in quick succession, with only the presence of German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen preventing the home side from doubling their lead.

Barely a minute after Ter Stegen had blocked a gaping chance for Juanmi, Uruguayan striker Suarez took advantage of some confusion in the area following a free kick and smashed home from close range to the disbelief of the home supporters.

The Catalans took the lead following another set piece, Dembele sending the ball skidding in after goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli had flapped at a corner and left his net unguarded.

“I think you have to see a game like this to see how tough La Liga is,” said Suarez.

“Last year we also came from behind to win here and eight or nine years ago we wouldn’t win any games here. It’s a huge win for our confidence.”

Iker Muniain gave Athletic a deserved lead in the 32nd minute in Bilbao by bundling the ball home after Real failed to get back in time to defend a counter attack.

Real were twice denied by Athletic’s impressive 21-year-old goalkeeper Unai Simon in the first half but finally beat the youngster when Isco nodded home a cross from Gareth Bale in the 63rd minute as Real improved after bringing on midfield anchor Casemiro at the start of the second half.

Simon made two more outstanding saves to thwart Marco Asensio and Sergio Ramos although Athletic continued to counter, Inaki Williams smashing wide and the Basques being denied a penalty when the ball struck Casemiro on the arm while the Brazilian was on the floor.

The decision enraged Athletic supporters in a hostile atmosphere at San Mames, which was mirrored on the pitch as referee Jose Luis Gonzalez Gonzalez handed out eight yellow cards, six to Athletic players.

“This is a very difficult ground to come to, for the team they have and for how they play. They come looking for you, they press you man-for-man and make life hard for you and if you don’t find ways deal with that it’s tough,” said Real coach Julen Lopetegui.

“That’s what happened in the first half but we improved a lot in the second and did enough to win. It was a very intense game, Athletic played their part well and we did our job in the second half.”

MADRID, Sept 14, 2018 (News Wires) - Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui criticised on Friday La Liga's plans to hold a match in the United States, saying it undermined the equality of the competition.

The league asked on Tuesday for permission from Spain's football federation to hold Girona's fixture against champions Barcelona in Miami on Jan. 26.

"I am not in favour of it happening," Lopetegui told a news conference. "It does not benefit the equality of the competition. All the teams should play in the same stadiums."

Madrid, who are joint league leaders with Barcelona, continue their campaign at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, looking for a fourth consecutive win to maintain their 100 per cent record.

ROME, Italy, August 23, 2018 (News Wires) - Cristiano Ronaldo has said the decision to leave Real Madrid for Juventus after nine trophy-filled years in Spain was an easy one to make.

The 33-year-old joined the Italian champions last month on a four-year deal, ending a stint in Spain that saw him win two La Liga titles and four Champions League trophies.

"It was an easy decision. What was done in Madrid is incredible, I won everything, my family lives there, but it's part of the past," Ronaldo told sports streaming service DAZN.

Juventus paid €100 million to sign Ronaldo, who made his league debut in their 3-2 win at Chievo last Sunday.

MADRID, August 20, 2018 (News Wires) - Gareth Bale opened the scoring for Real Madrid in each of the last three La Liga seasons, but ultimately every time he played a supporting role in Cristiano Ronaldo’s show.

Now the Portuguese forward, Real’s all-time top scorer, has left to join Juventus, the onus is on the 29-year-old to be the leader in attack.

With a little help from the Welshman it was Dani Carvajal who headed home to send Madrid ahead, the warm-up act as Bale added the second in a 2-0 win over Getafe.

Having helped create the first goal and convert the second to get new coach Julen Lopetegui’s debut La Liga campaign off to a winning start, comparisons to Ronaldo were natural.

However, defender Nacho Fernandez insisted Bale is a talent of his own and does not need to follow in anyone’s footsteps.

“It’s not a question of him following Ronaldo’s path,” Nacho said.

“Cristiano left his mark on a whole era here. Bale is a really key player for us and he’s won many trophies here and has nothing to prove to anyone,” he added.

“Everyone knows they can count on him and I’m sure that he’ll continue to perform well. The fans are fully behind Bale and he’s very happy at Real Madrid. We’ve got some fantastic strikers here.”

Bale crashed a header against the crossbar in the first half, before his cross was pushed into Carvajal’s path by Getafe goalkeeper David Soria.

In the 51st minute the forward sealed Madrid’s victory, reacting in the box to smash a loose ball past Soria.

“He was the best, most dangerous, most incisive player on the pitch in Real’s La Liga opener, it was like seeing Ronaldo,” Spanish newspaper Marca said on Monday.

MADRID, August 18, 2018 (News Wires) - Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui batted away talk about the club's possible transfer targets ahead of his side's first La Liga game of the season against Getafe on Sunday, insisting he is happy with the squad he has.

"Right now we're focusing on getting the best out of the squad we have which is a squad we love, we have a lot of talent and we're going to work with it," Lopetegui told a news conference on Saturday.

"We like the players we have and I have no doubts about the squad I have. Our players have a fantastic attitude, and people are going to see a Madrid side with a lot of talent. The important players are the ones that are here, not the ones that are not."

Madrid have yet to sign a replacement for all-time top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo after selling him to Juventus for 105 million euros ($120.1 million). Their only new arrivals so far have been right back Alvaro Odriozola, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and 18-year-old Brazilian forward Vinicius Jr.

Important back up players Theo Hernandez and Mateo Kovacic meanwhile have been loaned out to Real Sociedad and Chelsea respectively.

Lopetegui, however, said the main thing on his mind was getting off to a strong start in the league as Madrid look to compensate for their woeful last campaign, when they finished 17 points behind champions Barcelona and below Atletico Madrid.

Madrid have already started the season on the backfoot by losing 4-2 to Atletico in the UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday.

"We have to focus on our games right now because the three points tomorrow are worth the same as all the other games, so we have to realise the season is starting now," added the former Spain coach, who faces a daunting task following Zinedine Zidane's trophy-laden two-and-a-half-year tenure.

"I'm really impressed with the enthusiasm the players have to revindicate themselves and with the talent they have.

 

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