Messi benched for Deportivo Alaves v Barcelona

By Sports Desk April 23, 2019

Lionel Messi is on the bench for Barcelona's LaLiga game away to Deportivo Alaves on Tuesday.

Barcelona will be crowned champions this week if they beat Alaves and nearest LaLiga rivals Atletico Madrid lose at home to Valencia on Wednesday.

But they will have to face Alaves without their captain as Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho have been selected as support for striker Luis Suarez in Messi's absence.

Carles Alena is also in the Barcelona side, making his fifth LaLiga start of the season, with Arturo Vidal in midfield and Arthur alongside Messi and Jordi Alba on the bench.

Samuel Umtiti starts alongside Gerard Pique at the back, with Ivan Rakitic the main absentee for Barca. Sergi Roberto is expected to fill in at left-back.

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    Gareth Bale's days at Real Madrid appear to be numbered after head coach Zinedine Zidane confirmed the club are working on a transfer for the forward.

    Zidane was billed a "disgrace" by Bale's agent Jonathan Barnett, who has previously confirmed the coach and player have a fraught relationship, with the Frenchman seemingly not valuing Bale's ability despite his contribution to three consecutive Champions League titles.

    It was Bale's double that sealed Madrid's last European crown a year ago, a stunning overhead kick contributing to a 3-1 defeat of Liverpool in Kiev that proved Zidane's last match in charge - soon after he announced his shock resignation.

    But Zidane is back and seemingly set on selling Bale, so what are the options available to the Wales international now the Madrid coach has clearly signalled he has no place for him?

     

    TOTTENHAM

    The romantic option, a return to Tottenham would enable Bale to play first-team football and slot back into a club where he became a global superstar. Finances would surely scupper a permanent move although Spurs have smashed their club record to buy Lyon midfielder Tanguy Ndombele and are reportedly considering doing so again to sign Giovani Lo Celso from Real Betis. An initial loan has been mooted but Madrid would still likely have to cover a large portion of Bale's massive wages - how desperate are they to move him on? Bale would certainly improve Mauricio Pochettino's forward options and a front three of Son Heung-min, Harry Kane and Bale looks incredibly strong on paper.


    MANCHESTER UNITED

    Bale has long been linked with United, but their failure to qualify for the Champions League does not make them an attractive option for top-level players right now although they remain among the world's biggest clubs. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has also indicated he is willing to put his faith in young players such as the talented teenager Mason Greenwood, who has impressed in pre-season to force his way into first-team contention at Old Trafford despite being just 17. Bale would be an upgrade on United's wing options but they seem to be going in a different direction with the arrivals of Dan James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka signalling a long-needed change in transfer policy. Madrid's reported interest in Paul Pogba could see Bale offered to United as part of a potential deal, though.


    PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

    If PSG lose Neymar - the club confirmed recently he wants to leave - they will have room for another elite talent and Bale might just fit the bill. Whether moving to what is essentially a one-team league due to PSG's financial firepower is attractive to the Welshman is unclear, but teaming up with a thrilling talent like Kylian Mbappe could be persuasive. PSG are also one of a very small number of teams who could pay Bale the wages he has become accustomed to earning in Madrid and he has plenty of experience of winning the Champions League, which remains PSG's goal.


    CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE

    According to the bookmakers, Bale's most likely next destination is the Chinese Super League. Finances are again the key here, although CSL clubs have shown a reduced willingness over the last 12 months to pursue the most expensive players on the market due to a change in the league's regulations, which means they must pay considerable taxes on top of large transfer fees. Bale has been unable - or perhaps unwilling - to learn Spanish while in Madrid so it would be interesting to see how he would fare with the culture clash in China.


    STAY AT REAL MADRID

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    Filipe Luis has confirmed his departure from Atletico Madrid after eight seasons with the LaLiga club.

    The Brazil international delayed a decision on his club future until after the Copa America and both parties have now agreed not to extend his contract, which expired at the end of June.

    Atleti have overhauled their squad since the end of last season and though he had been open to the prospect of another campaign under Diego Simeone, Filipe Luis agreed the time has come for a change.

    "We had a conversation and decided this is best for the club and for me," Filipe Luis said at his farewell announcement on Sunday.

    "The relationship is great, the doors are open. We waited for the right moment to announce it. We both have a clear conscience.

    "I made myself available for whatever was needed. We decided that it was best to go our separate paths."

    The left-back praised his successor and compatriot, Renan Lodi, as the best Brazil had to offer in his position.

    After more than a decade in Europe, which included a season at Chelsea in between his two stints with Atleti, Filipe Luis now appears set to return to his homeland.

    Flamengo are reportedly in pole position to secure the 33-year-old's signature.

    "I have not signed any contract," he said. "I will make the decision in the next few days.

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    "Some things are missing. We are conversing. You always have to listen to Flamengo."

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    The French World Cup winner joined the LaLiga giants this month after they triggered his €120million release clause with Atletico Madrid.

    He joins a team rich in attacking talent and is likely to line up alongside a combination of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho in what promises to be a mouth-watering frontline in the forthcoming season.

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    "We'll be ready to enjoy ourselves and make the fans and ourselves happy at all times."

    Griezmann was particularly fulsome in his praise of Messi and vowed to strive to reach the dizzying standards set by the Argentina superstar.

    "Yes, it will be amazing [to play alongside him]," he added. "I'm excited to see what he's like day to day, what he's like in training.

    "I want to catch him doing things in training that I will try to repeat or do in my own way and get to know him on and off the pitch.

    "I will be ready to do whatever it takes: for him, for the club and for the players."

    Atleti fans are aggrieved by Griezmann's switch to their rivals, which came a year after he had pledged his future to the club, but the 28-year-old insists he will always hold fond memories of his time with Diego Simeone's side.

    "I know that there will be whistles [when he returns to the Wanda Metrpolitano]," he added. "It's part of football. They really loved me and when someone leaves, it can hurt.

    "It was like that at Real Sociedad. My first visit back wasn't easy, but I will always have Sociedad and Atleti in my heart because they gave me so much."

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