EPL

Bale hitting top form as Real Madrid star mulls Spurs stay

By Sports Desk May 07, 2021

Gareth Bale is "performing at his best" and Ryan Mason is delighted to have the Real Madrid loan star on top form for Tottenham's run-in.

Spurs face Leeds United at Elland Road on Saturday with designs on narrowing the five-point gap to fourth-placed Chelsea in pursuit of Champions League football.

Consecutive Premier League wins over Southampton and Sheffield United have aided their cause, with Bale scoring four goals across those two games, including a hat-trick against the Blades.

That treble put Bale top of the pile in terms of his goals-per-minute ratio in the top flight, with his nine goals coming at an average of one every 81 minutes.

It marks an upturn in fortunes amid a loan spell in which the Welshman has often underwhelmed, but there is talk of Bale staying for next season if that is the wish of all parties.

Reflecting on the forward's performances on and off the pitch during his brief spell at the helm, interim boss Mason said: "I can only go off the back of the last two weeks, from what I've seen from Gareth, I experienced playing with him as well, a top professional with immense quality, he's produced on the football pitch as well, he's happy and I'm happy.

"We have to be performing at our best, at the moment he's performing at his best.

"I pick the team from training performances, certain individuals who will help that team within that match. For the game against Southampton, we needed Gareth, someone we could rely on to produce that moment.

"We have so many options at that high end of the pitch, there are difficult decisions to make. Gareth has proved in the last couple of weeks that he's got that quality in the final third."

Asked about Bale's future, Mason added: "Those questions and answers are not for me to say, Gareth and his parent club are having conversations.

"It's not right to focus on the next season, we have to focus on our next game, it's a massive match.

"When the season is done, those conversation will happen."

If Bale should add one more to his tally, it would represent the longest gap between 10-goal seasons in the competition's history (8), overtaking Paul Scholes and Nwankwo Kanu who each went seven campaigns between netting double figures.

Spurs have history on their side heading to Yorkshire, having won the last three in a row against Leeds in a six-game unbeaten run.

However, Leeds are seeking to remain unbeaten at home in the Premier League against each of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Spurs in a season since West Ham in 2015-16, and only the third newly promoted team to do so, after Ipswich Town in 2000-01 and Birmingham City in 2009-10.

The tactical battle will be plotted by two managers with wildly varying levels of experience, as Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa is 35 years and 327 days older than Mason, representing the second biggest gap between two opposing coaches meeting in the competition, after Bobby Robson and Chris Coleman (37 years, 112 days).

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    Carlo Ancelotti confirmed Gareth Bale will leave Real Madrid when his contract expires in June as he hailed the forward who remains "a part of the history" at the Santiago Bernabeu.

    Madrid wrapped up the LaLiga title with four games to spare and host Real Betis on the final matchday of the league season, with a Champions League final against Liverpool to follow on May 28 in Paris.

    Bale's role in their success to this point has been extremely limited, making just seven appearances in all competitions this season, totalling only 290 minutes of action.

    The Wales international, who will hope to qualify for the World Cup when his country face either Ukraine or Scotland in their play-off final on June 5, was expected to leave Madrid when his contract runs out at the end of the season, and Ancelotti confirmed that was the case on Thursday.

    Bale has won four Champions League titles during his nine-year spell in the Spanish capital, scoring three final goals.

    But his exit will mark the end of a turbulent stay in Madrid, with his Los Blancos commitment regularly coming under scrutiny from Madridistas and the Spanish press.

    Ancelotti could not promise Bale a final farewell appearance at the Bernabeu on Friday as injury problems persist, but the Italian insisted the 32-year-old's name will be etched into Madrid's history books.

    "Bale isn't 100 per cent fit, and he won't be in the squad. Tomorrow I'll choose if he's on the bench or in the stands," Ancelotti told a pre-match news conference.

    Asked about his future, Ancelotti added: "The contract ends, and he will leave. It is not so important if he plays tomorrow. Bale is part of the history of this club. He will remain in the memory of all Madrid fans.

    "He was important in the Decima [the club's 10th Champions League win], in Kyiv, in the Copa del Rey. He has written important pages in this club's history, and we have to take that into account."

    While Bale will not feature against Betis, who are winless in their past 10 LaLiga visits to teams from the Madrid region, Ancelotti will continue to rotate his side to build fitness for the Champions League final.

    "I think about giving minutes to the players who need it the most," Ancelotti continued. "Tomorrow Marcelo, [Luka] Modric... [David] Alaba will train with the group starting on Monday."

    Karim Benzema has scored 27 goals in LaLiga this season and is set to become the first French player to finish a campaign as the top scorer in the competition's history, but he is expected to be rested again.

    Despite fielding another heavily rotated side, Ancelotti expects an exciting game against Copa del Rey winners Betis.

    "We are the two teams that have won the competitions," he added. "It will be an entertaining game because Betis plays quality football."

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    However, the 30-year-old was unable to play for Inter due to medical rulings in Italy preventing players from competing after having a cardioverter-defibrillator fitted.

    Brentford subsequently offered the midfielder a six-month contract in January and Eriksen has starred, scoring once and assisting four in 10 league games to lift Brentford way clear of any danger.

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    Manchester United and Eriksen's former club Tottenham are reportedly circling, but Frank has reiterated his desire for his compatriot to stay with Brentford.

    "I'd love to say 100 per cent but I am convinced there is a good chance that he will wear a Brentford shirt [next season]," he said of Eriksen at a news conference on Thursday.

    "The way we play, our environment, and the role he is given, gives him an opportunity to flourish and play his best game.

    "He enjoys going to work every day and I still think you can be extremely ambitious playing for us.

    "I know I am optimistic, but I also picked up the phone and called him and said 'do you want to come to Brentford', no one thought about that six months ago.

    "So I'm convinced we will have a chance, the way I see it for us it is a win-win. He helped the team, he gave something to the fans they have never seen before at this level.

    "We helped him back to his football life again, for Christian it's a win-win, either he signs for us and everyone will be happy.

    "The fans will build a statue of him outside the stadium in two, three years' time or he goes to a bigger level and we will applaud him and we will say thank you for your time; go forward."

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    Jurgen Klopp's Reds do not yet know how many trophies they will finish the campaign with, but they have already secured the EFL Cup and FA Cup.

    The Premier League could yet be added to that haul if Manchester City slip up on the final day of the season, while European glory is the target when Liverpool take on Real Madrid in a Paris final.

    That showpiece match takes place on May 28, with Liverpool now intending to return home in time to celebrate their potentially historic season on May 29.

    Liverpool Women will also be involved in the parade, having won the FA Women's Championship.

    City mayor Joanne Anderson said: "We're delighted that we can now confirm the club will definitely parade around the city on May 29 – and I'm pleased we will be celebrating the achievements of both the men and women’s teams.

    "A huge amount of work goes on behind the scenes in preparation for an event of this size and scale, so it's fantastic that the city is now going to be able to experience this.

    "Lifting the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup and the FA Women's Championship trophy is an incredible achievement that deserves to be acknowledged, and we have everything crossed that they won't be the only trophies they are lifting on the day!

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    With the parade set for 4pm local time, a Liverpool statement added the club would spend the morning of May 29 paying tribute to the 39 supporters who lost their lives in the Heysel Stadium disaster, of which it is the 37th anniversary.

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