Luka Modric says the stamp on Denis Suarez for which he was sent off against Celta Vigo was "an accidental action".

Real Madrid ran out 3-1 winners at Balaidos in their first LaLiga game of the season on Saturday despite Modric's dismissal.

The Ballon d'Or winner was shown the red card for the first time in LaLiga after catching Suarez early in the second half.

Modric was sent off after a VAR review, but after the game he used social media to protest his innocence.

"Sent off for an accidental action," he wrote on Twitter, "In life I would never intentionally make such an action on a player. Totally involuntary!"

However, Madrid captain Sergio Ramos understood the decision by VAR to show Modric the red card.

"Everything used to protect football is good," Ramos said when asked his view on the technology.

"Today the decision was against us. We ended up with one less man, I don't think Modric went in with bad intention but he arrived late and the referee had doubts.

"He spoke to the other officials and reached that decision. VAR's there to help us and if these decisions protect football then they are welcome."

Zinedine Zidane praised Gareth Bale for his display against Celta Vigo and confirmed the Wales star will remain a Real Madrid player beyond the end of the transfer window.

Bale was told by Zidane in July it would be better for him to leave the Santiago Bernabeu, but a remarkable turnaround in fortunes saw him handed a start in Madrid's opening LaLiga match of the season.

He made the most of his opportunity by setting up Karim Benzema for Madrid's opening goal with some good play down the left in Saturday's 3-1 win at Balaidos, while also helping out defensively.

European clubs have a further two weeks to make signings, but Zidane has ruled out an exit for Bale at this stage.

"We talked before the game to say that he is going to stay and all the players we have now are thinking only about the season," the Madrid head coach said at his post-match news conference. 

"I think that Gareth and the others are only thinking about staying and playing."

Despite being light of options in attack due to the injury absence of new signing Eden Hazard, Zidane decided against bringing on James Rodriguez from the bench.

However, Zidane also offered an olive branch to the Colombia international, who has been strongly linked with a move away from the Spanish capital since returning from a loan at Bayern Munich.

"Hazard's injury is bad luck for us and I would have liked to have Eden," Zidane said. "It has not been possible and then from there we put another player into the side. 

"We began with Vinicius [Junior] and Gareth up top with Karim and I think it was a good game by all of them.

"Nothing has changed. We are now at the start of the season and I believe that Gareth, James and all the players that are here think about that and do their best to defend this shirt."

Madrid lost Luka Modric to a red card after Benzema had opened the scoring, but Toni Kroos and substitute Lucas Vazquez found the net before Iker Losada scored a last-gasp consolation.

Zidane was pleased with his side's winning start, coming a day after champions Barcelona suffered a 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao.

"We made a complete match from the beginning," he said. "The same playing later with 10 men. 

"I am happy and satisfied because it is a difficult ground and I believe that there are not many teams that will come and win here. 

"I'm also happy after the pre-season we have had, with complicated results. This is the fruit of that because, in the end, the competition was what mattered to us and starting in the league in this way was very good."

Having started on the right, Gareth Bale drifted to the lift, cavorted into space and set up Karim Benzema. One-nil to Real Madrid.

Football seems a simple game at times.

It would be doing a disservice to Bale to dismiss his role in this goal as entirely straightforward. The pace he used to reach Marcelo's throughball, the speed of close control that left David Costas spinning on the spot, the weight of cross to give Benzema an easy finish – it was all of the highest quality.

It also showed why Zinedine Zidane was correct to put faith in Bale to deliver in this LaLiga opener at Celta Vigo, despite the prolonged, exasperating uncertainty over his future. From benchwarmer at the end of last season, to Zidane telling everyone it would be better for Bale to leave in July, to a transfer to Jiangsu Suning that never happened, to a place back in the starting line-up for the first game of the new season – it's been a chaotic three months.

That's the issue with Bale, of course: everything about him seems to get more complicated – and more dramatic – in the inexorable scrutiny in which he lives his life.

Coaches everywhere have specific ideas that mean certain players become surplus to requirements, but Zidane versus Bale has sometimes been billed as a spat so venomous it's left poison dripping from the dressing-room walls. Footballers like to do things in their spare time apart from play football, like have a game of golf; when Bale picks up his irons, it's considered tantamount to a betrayal of professional decency. That's how it can feel from the outside, which maybe gives you an indication of why Bale so rarely bothers speaking out in public. Those waters can't get much muddier.

The truth of Bale's position at Madrid is probably less complicated than some think – and that is a good summary of what makes Bale the footballer so effective. It's why he was fleetingly impressive at Balaidos on Saturday in a battling 3-1 win, even if Madrid as a collective sometimes looked little better than the ragged bunch who shipped seven goals to Atletico Madrid last month.

Bale's assist was borne of him being as direct as possible: running behind the full-back, using a step-over and twist of the body to shake off the marker with the ball still in motion, and crossing into a dangerous zone with that precise left foot. Later in the half, he overtook Lucas Olaza when chasing a long ball despite the defender having close to a three-metre head start. It was an awesome display of speed and fitness from a man who has not exactly had a busy pre-season.

Moments after Madrid's opener, he was blocking a cross in his own box after racing back to protect the nervy Alvaro Odriozola. That's something he isn't so used to doing, but it came from the same sort of focused approach that makes him so clinical at the other end. You watch, you run, you act – shoot, cross, or, in this case, tackle. This is what Bale offers; it's what he has always offered.

The issue of his future isn't likely to get any clearer until the transfer window closes on September 2, but this game at least showed what a tremendous asset Bale can be when he is deployed with simple precision. For a coach like Zidane, who freely admits he is not the most pedantic of tacticians, that makes Bale valuable – especially in a Madrid team as muddled as this one.

Gareth Bale marked his return to the starting line-up with an impressive assist as Real Madrid survived a red card for Luka Modric to win 3-1 at Celta Vigo in their opening LaLiga fixture of the season.

The Wales star had been left out in the cold for large parts of pre-season following a collapsed move to China, but he was handed a start at Balaidos on Saturday and set up Karim Benzema for a 12th-minute opener.

Looking to capitalise on champions Barcelona's shock loss to Athletic Bilbao on Friday, Madrid added a stunning second goal through Toni Kroos, but only after Brais Mendez had a strike ruled out and Modric was shown a straight red card.

Zinedine Zidane started without any of his new signings, although the quality of his side's third goal - rounded off by substitute Lucas Vazquez - will offer hope of a far brighter 2019-20, despite them conceding late on through Iker Losada.

Madrid had lost back-to-back league matches at the end of last season, but they soon found their rhythm here as Bale turned his man inside out down the left and set up Benzema for a simple finish from four yards.

Celta felt there should have been a free-kick in the build-up and were further aggrieved in the final stages of the first half when Alvaro Odriozola was dispossessed by Denis Suarez and the ball fell to the feet of Iago Aspas, who was adjudged to be marginally offside when teeing up Mendez for a close-range finish.

Celta's hopes of claiming a point were boosted when Modric caught Suarez on the heel and was shown a red card following a VAR review.

Nestor Araujo forced Thibaut Courtois into a point-blank save but Madrid dug deep and scored a second thanks to Kroos' stunning strike from 35 yards, a minute after Benzema's header struck the post.

Vazquez rounded off a flowing move 10 minutes from time by drilling a good finish into the bottom-left corner, although Celta at least got a consolation through Losada's precise strike from a similar spot at the other end.

What does it mean? Familiar faces on show for Madrid

Madrid spent big during the close season in an attempt to bridge the gap to Barcelona, who finished 19 points clear of them last season.

Eden Hazard, Rodrygo Goes and Ferland Mendy all missed out through injury, though, while Eder Militao and Luka Jovic were named on the bench, so it was left to the old guard - not least Bale, Benzema, Kroos and Vazquez - to get the job done.

Bale makes his point

Zidane admitted on the eve of the game he was now "relying" on Bale and the forward did not disappoint on his return to the side. As well as setting up Benzema's goal with an impressive assist, he also helped out in a defensive sense.

Odriozola's blushes spared

Not helped by Courtois' pass, Odriozola was put under pressure and lost possession on the right. The offside flag came to the full-back's rescue that time, but it was generally a nervy display.

What's next?

Madrid welcome Real Valladolid to the Santiago Bernabeu next Saturday, while Celta host Valencia on the same day.

Gareth Bale looks set to get another chance at Real Madrid after he was named in their starting XI for the opening LaLiga game of the season at Celta Vigo.

Bale seemed certain to depart Madrid after six seasons with coach Zinedine Zidane, whom the Wales star has a rocky relationship with, making it clear during pre-season he wanted the forward to leave.

But, after a move to Jiangsu Suning in the Chinese Super League collapsed and no other realistic suitors emerged, Bale has been reintegrated into the Madrid squad.

The Cardiff-born forward has consistently delivered across a trophy-laden spell, but he often lived in the shadow of the imperious Cristiano Ronaldo – who was worshipped above all others at the Santiago Bernabeu before his departure to Juventus last year – and suffered with injuries.

There is no club in world football with higher expectations of its players than Madrid and Bale has at times been forced to toil under what many would consider unfair scrutiny and criticism, but an examination of his record in the Spanish capital shows his value.

Goal return to rival Ronaldo 

Bale left Tottenham as a once orthodox winger who had blossomed into a goal-scoring force on the flank and has continued that development in Madrid.

He scored 22 times in all competitions during his first season and added another 80 over the next five to join an exclusive club of players to have hit a century of goals for Los Blancos.

Among that group is Brazil legend Ronaldo, a beloved figure but one who finished his Madrid career with only two more goals (104) than the oft-maligned Bale's 102. Just 12 others have struck more for a club with a glittering 117-year history.

Bale has laid on 55 more - more than the talented Isco - during his time in Madrid, and has been responsible for the sixth-most goal involvements in LaLiga, even as the club stuttered to three third-place finishes and a single title.

Standing tall on Europe's grand stage

Madrid's success under Zidane has come largely in Europe, for which Bale can take a good portion of credit.

The Wales international fired his team ahead in the 2014 triumph over rivals Atletico Madrid, notched an assist and a successful spot-kick against the same opposition two years later, and then returned from injury in time for the crushing victory over Juventus in Cardiff in 2017.

That is all without mentioning his match-winning impact in Kiev.

Bale scored twice off the bench in 2018, the first a bicycle kick that dented Liverpool's nascent comeback and the second a speculative long-range shot that smashed it into pieces.

The brace elevated him to what is now a selection of seven players - including Ronaldo - to have struck two goals or more in a Champions League final.

 

Breaking new ground for British footballers

Criticism of Bale for failing to communicate with the media in Spanish dwarfed the plaudits directed his way for venturing where few of his compatriots had gone before.

Then aged 24, the Southampton academy product spurned reported interest from Premier League heavyweights Manchester United to become the third Welshman - and first in more than 25 years - to play in LaLiga.

He is the leading British scorer (78 goals) and appearance maker (155) in the competition's history, relegating David Beckham to second place in the latter category.

Yet, while Bale has struggled to gain Zidane's acceptance, reportedly in part because of his reluctance to assimilate to life in Spain, the France legend praised Beckham for being a "truly great professional" as recently as 2013.

That was despite him once admitting his "friendship with David is little. On the pitch, we understand each other perfectly, but as I don't speak English and he doesn't speak Spanish we are a little bit lost."

Bale might justifiably feel his efforts deserve greater affection - but now he has another chance to win supporters and Zidane over.

Gareth Bale has been named in the Real Madrid XI for their first match of the new LaLiga season against Celta Vigo, despite appearing destined to leave the club in this transfer window.

Bale, whose relationship with head coach Zinedine Zidane has long appeared strained, saw a July move to Jiangsu Suning collapse, while mooted transfers to other European giants never materialised.

But on the eve of the season, Zidane insisted he would use the winger while he remained in his squad and duly named him in the line-up for Saturday's meeting at Balaidos.

With Eden Hazard ruled out by a late muscle injury, Bale and Vinicius Junior will support Karim Benzema in attack as Madrid attempt to capitalise on Barcelona's surprise loss to Athletic Bilbao on Friday.

Madrid have invested heavily in the close season, yet Hazard's absence sees them start the first match of the new campaign without a single new signing in the side.

Luka Jovic is among the substitutes, along with James Rodriguez, who had been linked to rivals Atletico Madrid.

Real Madrid team to face Celta Vigo:

Courtois; Odriozola, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric, Bale, Vinicius, Benzema.

Subs: Navas, Militao, Nacho, James, Vazquez, Jovic, Isco.

Luis Suarez is out for an indefinite period after injuring his right calf in Barcelona's LaLiga loss to Athletic Bilbao on Friday, the club have confirmed.

The 32-year-old striker had to be replaced before half-time at San Mames after receiving treatment following a shot that hit the post.

Lionel Messi missed the match with a calf issue of his own suffered shortly before Barca travelled to the United States for two friendly matches against Napoli last week.

Their absences were felt as Ernesto Valverde's men succumbed to a stunning late winner from Athletic veteran Aritz Aduriz.

"Tests carried out on Saturday morning have confirmed Luis Suarez has an injured right calf," Barca said in a statement.

"His recovery will dictate his return to action."

Suarez's early withdrawal was the first time he has been substituted in the first half of a LaLiga game since he joined Barca from Liverpool in 2014.

The champions suddenly look light on forwards, with Philippe Coutinho set to join Bayern Munich on loan with a view to a permanent deal.

Antoine Griezmann debuted against Athletic, but Suarez's injury and Coutinho's departure could see Barca ramp up their interest in former player Neymar, who looks increasingly likely to leave Paris Saint-Germain.

The Premier League window may have already closed, but Manchester United and Manchester City are still in the headlines.

After going head-to-head for Harry Maguire, the two Manchester clubs are reportedly eyeing Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho.

This rumour will not go away anytime soon.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED AND CITY BATTLING FOR SANCHO

According to the Daily Mail, Sancho will leave Dortmund at the end of the season as rivals United and City do battle for the England international.

Sancho was reportedly on United's list of targets during the off-season, but Dortmund were unwilling to sell their 19-year-old star.

The English talent has flourished since joining Dortmund from Premier League champions City in 2017, and the Daily Mail claims the Bundesliga club are already looking for replacements.

 

ROUND-UP 

- Inter are considering a move for Man United's Alexis Sanchez after missing out on Edin Dzeko, reports Gianlucadimarzio.com. Bosnian striker Dzeko signed a new contract with Roma and Inter are now looking for alternatives, including Sanchez, free agent Fernando Llorente, Eintracht Frankfurt star Ante Rebic and Arkadiusz Milik, who could be used in a swap involving Mauro Icardi.

- According to le10sport, Ajax, AC Milan and Lille are among the clubs interested in Barcelona defender Jean-Clair Todibo. The 19-year-old arrived from Toulouse in January.

- Brescia have offered former Juventus and Italy midfielder Claudio Marchisio a two-year deal, reports Sky Sport Italia and other outlets in the country. Marchisio is a free agent after leaving Zenit and the 33-year-old could be joined at Brescia by Mario Balotelli.

- Sport claims Barcelona are prepared to sell midfielder Arturo Vidal for €20million as the Chile international continues to be linked to Inter and a reunion with former Juve boss Antonio Conte.

- According to Corriere dello Sport, Napoli and Juve are the only options for Inter outcast Icardi following Dzeko's Roma renewal.

- James Rodriguez may not leave Real Madrid following an injury to Eden Hazard, according to reports. James had been tipped to join either Napoli or Atletico Madrid, but the Colombia star is in Madrid's squad for their LaLiga opener at Celta Vigo on Saturday.

Antoine Griezmann said LaLiga champions Barcelona will improve as the season is long following Friday's shock loss to Athletic Bilbao.

Barca opened their title defence with a late 1-0 defeat away to Athletic at San Mames, where the holders succumbed to Aritz Aduriz's dramatic acrobatics.

Aduriz came off the bench and scored a stunning 89th-minute overhead kick to condemn Griezmann to a losing league debut for Barca.

"We have time," Griezmann, who arrived from Atletico Madrid, said after the match.

"The season is long and we have to work towards the next game.

"We have to work because that's the only way we'll improve."

Griezmann underwhelmed in his LaLiga bow for Barca – the €120million signing struggled to make an impact in the absence of injured captain Lionel Messi.

"We lacked what costs the most in football," the France star added.  "That last pass, that cross or that overlap."

Barca's defeat was compounded by an injury to veteran forward Luis Suarez, who was forced to leave the match in the first half.

Suarez suffered a muscle injury just after the half-hour mark, and Griezmann said: "Let's just see how he is and if he can play against [Real] Betis.

Barca – seeking a third consecutive LaLiga title – will travel to Real Betis on August 25.

 

Aritz Aduriz said he will always be available to help Athletic Bilbao until the last day after his stunning bicycle kick downed Barcelona 1-0 in the LaLiga opener.

Aduriz plans to retire at season's end but the 38-year-old Bilbao star showed he still has plenty of football left in the tank thanks to his unforgettable 89th-minute winner on Friday.

The club great scored within a minute of his introduction via a spectacular overhead kick against the LaLiga champions at San Mames.

Aduriz's goal saw him match a Lionel Messi scoring feat, having now scored in 15 consecutive seasons in Spain's top flight, and the veteran striker revelled in the result.

"The team has been amazing," Aduriz told reporters. "There is no better way to start than by adding three points against Barca. 

"I said I was going to be there to help Athletic until the last day and today I have been able to prove it.

"The atmosphere of San Mames is always insurmountable, but it is true that today people have taken this game even more eagerly. 

"Athletic's base is young people. You have to give them confidence and go slowly with them. They will help us a lot throughout the year."

"Dedicated to my family and everyone who supports me," Aduriz said of the goal. "These kind of things make football so beautiful."

"Everything in life has a start and a finish. I'm grateful to be able to choose to end things where I'm happiest," he continued.

Inaki Williams, who signed a nine-year contract extension with Bilbao following links to Manchester United, added: "I am very happy for Adu. 

"It's his last season and I want him to say goodbye with as many goals as possible."

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde said Antoine Griezmann has to come into play more following his underwhelming league bow for the LaLiga champions.

Griezmann made his first LaLiga appearance for Barca, who suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to Athletic Bilbao in their opening fixture Friday.

A €120million signing from Atletico Madrid, all eyes were on Griezmann, but he struggled to make an impact in absence of captain Lionel Messi, while Luis Suarez's first-half injury left him isolated.

"If he's near the area, he is decisive and moves well, but you have to dominate the game for that to happen," Valverde told reporters.

"Putting him on the left side, we know that you are going to focus on the goal, but we have a side and players that can hold the game.

"Of course, he is aware that we all expect a lot from many players and have to seek to get more into the game."

Suarez left San Mames just after the half-hour mark due to an apparent calf injury away to Athletic.

The Uruguayan veteran had to be substituted moments after hitting the post, which would have given two-time reigning champions Barca the lead.

Valverde added: "He has a muscular problem and we have to wait for the tests. In the second half, when we were around Athletic's area, we missed him."

Barca eventually succumbed to Athletic, who triumphed thanks to veteran Aritz Aduriz's stunning overhead kick in the 89th minute.

The 38-year-old made an immediate impact off the bench, meeting Ander Capa's cross in sensational fashion to seal all three points.

"With Aduriz, any ball in the air is a danger and he got his goal," former Athletic boss Valverde said.

"That move is dominant, and he's scored similar goals. When I saw him line it up... I wasn't surprised with the execution at all."

Gerard Pique conceded Barcelona were deservedly beaten by Athletic Bilbao, saying the defending LaLiga champions were "put in our place" at San Mames.

A stunning overhead kick from veteran substitute striker Aritz Aduriz in the 89th minute snatched all three points for the home side in the opening LaLiga match of 2019-20.

Barca hit the post through Luis Suarez - who went off injured in the first half with a muscle injury - and replacement Rafinha struck the crossbar, but they were largely lacklustre in attack without captain Lionel Messi, who is sidelined with a calf problem.

The result is likely to see pressure again begin to mount on head coach Ernesto Valverde, who came under fire at the end of last season for Barca's Champions League capitulation against Liverpool, as well as the Copa del Rey final loss to Valencia, although they retained the league title.

While he accepted the defeat, Pique did not believe Barca were especially poor and stressed losing at this stage of the season could in fact prove to be useful.

"San Mames is always very difficult and today the competition put us in our place," he told Movistar.

"We weren't ourselves. From the start, they pressed us a lot and physically they were better, although in the second half they dropped off a little.

"In the end, winning or losing comes down to details, and we leave with a defeat that will be good for us, because it's better to lose now than at the end of the season.

"We came from pre-season, there are new people... sometimes, you prepare for a game in one way and it doesn't happen as you expected.

"In the first half, they had one clear chance, [Inaki] Williams' one, and we had Luis hit the post.

"We played more in our own half, but that's what you expect at San Mames. In the second half, we played more in their half, but details are details and one killed us in the end."

Athletic Bilbao veteran Aritz Aduriz matched a Lionel Messi goalscoring feat with his sensational winner against Barcelona on Friday.

Aduriz came off the bench in the 88th minute at San Mames and scored a spectacular overhead kick barely 60 seconds later to seal a 1-0 win over the champions.

It means the 38-year-old, who plans to retire at the end of this campaign, has now scored in 15 consecutive seasons in Spain's top flight, something only Messi has achieved before.

The Barca captain was missing from this match while he recovers from a calf problem.

Barca's defeat marked the first time since 2008-09 that the reigning LaLiga champions have lost their opening match of the new season. Back then, Real Madrid lost 2-1 to Deportivo La Coruna.

It was also Athletic's first victory over Barca in their last 12 meetings, although Ernesto Valverde has now lost five of his six LaLiga away games against his previous club.

Barcelona lost Luis Suarez to injury as a stunning late goal from Aritz Aduriz secured a 1-0 win for Athletic Bilbao in Friday's LaLiga opener.

With Lionel Messi missing with a calf problem and Philippe Coutinho left out amid talks with Bayern Munich over a loan move, the Catalans were found wanting in attack against coach Ernesto Valverde's old club.

Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong made their league debuts for the champions, but there was little for them to celebrate as the 2019-20 season got off to a lacklustre start at San Mames.

The loss of Suarez to a first-half muscle problem only compounded what proved a frustrating outing for the visitors, who twice hit the woodwork before Aduriz's 89th-minute overhead kick secured all three points.

 

Luis Suarez went off injured in the first half of Barcelona's opening LaLiga match of the season against Athletic Bilbao.

The striker appeared to hurt his calf muscle shortly before taking a shot that hit the post just after the half-hour mark at San Mames.

Uruguay international Suarez was given treatment but had to be withdrawn, being replaced by Rafinha.

It is the first time he has been substituted in the first half of a LaLiga game since he joined Barca from Liverpool in 2014. 

Lionel Messi was missing from the match due to a calf injury suffered shortly before Barca travelled to the United States for two friendly matches against Napoli last week.

Philippe Coutinho was left out of the squad, with Barca confirming he is in talks with Bayern Munich over a loan move to the Bundesliga champions.

Ernesto Valverde's return to San Mames was goalless at half-time, with Rafinha having also been denied by the woodwork after replacing Suarez.

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