Carlo Ancelotti is considering throwing Gareth Bale into the Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain after the forward showed he still has plenty to offer Real Madrid.

Bale made a vexingly quiet start to Saturday's LaLiga game at Villarreal before springing to life and proving the biggest goal threat on the pitch.

The Wales international had a game-high six shots and was denied by three smart saves from Geronimo Rulli in the goalless draw, Madrid's fifth successive away draw at Villarreal. From one of those opportunities, goalkeeper Rulli flicked a Bale strike against the crossbar.

Considering it was Bale's first game since August for Madrid, after an injury lay-off, what started off inauspiciously turned into a statement performance.

Now Bale could be thrust into the same role, as a central striker, when Madrid travel to take on PSG at Parc des Princes in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Tuesday.

There might be a chance of Karim Benzema being back from his hamstring injury for that game, while Luka Jovic is another option after he almost grabbed a last-gasp winner against Villarreal, hitting the bar with a chip after replacing Bale.

Ancelotti is being non-committal for now, but Bale is in the conversation, and that is a tribute to how well he performed in this comeback game.

Asked if Bale might lead the attack in Paris, Ancelotti said: "I don't know, we have to wait and see what happens in the next few days. Hopefully we can get everyone back.

"He has had the opportunity and he has delivered. He could have scored, he was dangerous. [He has done] everything we ask of him."

Bale had only nine touches in the first half and 19 in all, before he was substituted in the 74th minute. When he got on the ball, however, there was a reassuring quality about his play.

"He had a major injury in September, when he had already started playing," said Ancelotti, who took charge of his 100th LaLiga game as Madrid boss.

"Then it was difficult for him to pick up the pace to avoid problems. Today he has shown that he can be with us, that he is committed."

Madrid have scored just once in their past three games, which is a worry heading into the tussle with PSG, who won 1-0 against Rennes on Friday.

"We need more effectiveness," said Ancelotti, "but I was more worried about the team in the first half when they were not very committed.

"It's clear what we were missing. In the first half, we had a low block, almost too low. We weren't aggressive enough in duels and one-on-one situations.

"That's why Villarreal had more control. In the second half, we were more aggressive without the ball. That was key."

Gareth Bale was almost a returning hero for Real Madrid, going as close as anyone to finding a winner in the 0-0 draw at Villarreal on Saturday.

Making his first LaLiga appearance since August, Bale was initially a passenger, but he later drew three sharp saves from Geronimo Rulli, who kept the hosts in the game.

Madrid remain top of the table, but with Sevilla winning on Friday night it means the lead for Carlo Ancelotti's team has shrunk to four points.

The outcome was perhaps predictable from the first whistle: Madrid have now drawn their last five away LaLiga games against Villarreal. All the same, there was almost a stoppage-time twist, substitute Luka Jovic chipping against the bar.

It was the home side who went closest in the opening 20 minutes when Arnaut Danjuma's shot took a touch off Marcelo and bounced back off the left post.

Villarreal's Alberto Moreno found a yard of space on the edge of the Madrid box and his thumping shot demanded a good save from Thibaut Courtois.

Bale then had a sniff of a chance, sprinting onto a throughball from Casemiro and seeing his shot well saved by Rulli.

Marco Asensio whipped a powerful shot a yard too high early in the second half, before Bale hit the bar from just inside the penalty area, Rulli with enough of a touch to prevent the Wales forward finding the net.

Federico Valverde then stole the ball and played in Vinicius Junior, but Rulli spread his body well to keep out the Brazil winger's shot.

Bale again drew a save from Rulli, with the goalkeeper getting down to a flicked strike from the former Tottenham man, who lasted just over 70 minutes until Jovic replaced him.

Courtois had to be sharp to punch away a dangerous backpass from Marcelo, before Jovic nearly pinched the points, Nacho seeing the follow-up cleared off the line.

Gareth Bale was named in the starting line-up for Real Madrid for the first time since August for Saturday's LaLiga clash with Villarreal.

The Wales international started each of Los Blancos' first three league games of 2021-22, scoring in the 3-3 draw with Levante, but has not played for his club since.

Injury problems and a positive coronavirus test have kept Bale firmly on the sidelines, although he was an unused substitute in the past two league matches against Elche and Granada.

Carlo Ancelotti elected to start the 32-year-old at Estadio de la Ceramica as part of four changes from the 1-0 win over Granada.

Casemiro, Federico Valverde and Vinicius Junior also came into the side, with Eduardo Camavinga, Luka Modric, Isco and Rodrygo dropping out.

Villarreal have only won one of their previous 11 LaLiga games at home to Madrid, who have a three-point lead over Sevilla at the top of the table, with a game in hand.

 

Carlo Ancelotti said "everyone's feelings are positive" regarding Karim Benzema's availability for Real Madrid's Champions League last-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain next week.

Benzema has missed Madrid's last two games after picking up a muscle injury against Elche last month, and remains a doubt for Saturday's LaLiga trip to Villarreal.

However, speaking at a media conference ahead of that game, Ancelotti indicated that the 34-year-old – who has scored 24 goals in 28 games in all competitions this season – could be fit for Tuesday's clash in the Parc des Princes.

"We have good feelings, he is having good feelings," he said. "We will see if he will train on Sunday or Monday with the team. Everyone's feelings are positive, but it will be decided on Sunday or Monday.

"The most important thing is the player's health. If there is a risk, we are not going to take it. We have to evaluate but if he plays on Tuesday, it is because there is no risk."

Ancelotti also said he hopes PSG star Neymar will be fit for the Champions League fixture, adding: "I hope Benzema and Neymar can be there, the best players. If the best are there, we'll have the most entertaining game possible."


The former PSG boss was also asked about Gareth Bale. The Wales international has played just three times this season after returning from a loan move from Tottenham, and has not featured since playing in a 1-0 win at Real Betis in August.

"We have a very good working relationship," Ancelotti explained. 

"He's training hard. He's committed to the cause. He has not been playing of late, but seeing him in training I can confirm he is ready to play, and I do know that when he gets that opportunity, he will produce the goods.

"I'll be asked now 'why hasn't he played?' Looking back, he's had some trouble to be fully match fit after having picked up an injury. But these last 15 days or so the intensity has increased and I'm sure he's ready to play. Obviously it is my call to decide when."

Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini is set to miss the first leg of the Bianconeri's Champions League last-16 tie with a Villarreal after sustaining a calf injury that will reportedly sideline him for a month.

Chiellini, 37, suffered the issue in Juve's 2-0 win over Hellas Verona on Sunday and a statement on Tuesday confirmed it was a calf strain.

The statement read: "Giorgio Chiellini underwent radiological scans at J Medical today, which revealed a low-grade lesion of the deep musculature of the left calf."

While Juve have not put a specific timeframe on his recovery, reports across the Italian media suggest he is likely to miss the rest of February.

As such, he is likely to miss five matches, starting with Thursday's Coppa Italia clash with Sassuolo.

Juve are also due to face Atalanta, Torino and Empoli in Serie A before the end of the month, while they go to Villarreal for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on February 22.

However, Chiellini should be able to feature in the return leg on March 16, while Roberto Mancini can still expect to select his captain at the crucial end of their World Cup qualification campaign.

European champions Italy did not secure automatic World Cup qualification, meaning they must face North Macedonia in the play-off semi-finals – Portugal or Turkey await in the play-off finals.

If Italy do not reach Qatar 2022, it will be the first time in history the Azzurri have failed to qualify for successive World Cups.

Antonio Conte has urged Tottenham to be more careful in the transfer market after suggesting the club was guilty of making "mistakes in the past".

Spurs allowed Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Bryan Gil all leave the club on loan in January, while Dele Alli joined Everton on a permanent deal.

Alli undoubtedly flourished for a time at Spurs, but Lo Celso and Ndombele have so far proven to be expensive flops since joining in 2019.

Lo Celso, signed for an initial £27.8million (€32m) from Real Betis, was shipped off to Villarreal with a purchase option, while Ndombele – a club-record signing at £55m (€63m) – was sent back to Lyon, who retain the right to buy him for a reported €65m (£54m).

Spurs do at least appear to retain hope for Spain international winger Bryan, 20, whose temporary switch to Valencia does not include any purchase clauses or obligations.

However, Conte's general appraisal of the situation does not reflect especially well on any of them, nor those in charge of transfers at Spurs.

"Usually you buy players to reinforce your team," Conte told reporters on Friday. "But if you send on loan after two or three years, it is strange.

"It means that maybe in the past you have to see what you did and maybe to understand that there were some mistakes in the past.

"We have to pay more attention in the future when we go into the market. It becomes a fundamental importance if we want to enforce the team, otherwise you drop the quality of your team."

Tottenham were active with incomings as well, with Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski joining from Juventus. Spurs sporting director Fabio Paratici previously signed both players during his spell in charge of the Bianconeri.

While neither player ultimately fitted the bill in Turin, Conte appeared excited by their respective arrivals in north London.

"We are talking about two players who are the right prospects for the club's philosophy, young players, talented players to develop and improve to then become important players in the future," he said.

"They have the right experience, Bentancur, for sure, has played many games for Juventus, Kulusevski as well. To be able to sign these two players was good, because they complete our squad.

"We needed to add another player in the midfield. We played with only three midfielders – [Pierre-Emil] Hojbjerg, Winksy [Harry Winks], [Oliver] Skipp.

"We needed to add another player, and we added a good player. Not only to add one player, but a good player.

"Rodrigo has a lot of space for improvement, he played for his national team, 200 games [for Juve and Boca Juniors] despite his age; he's only 24 years old. He's won in Italy. Yes, a good signing for us."

Winger Kulusevski had previously been tipped for a big future at Juve when initially signed from Atalanta amid a breakthrough loan spell with Parma in 2019-20, the year he was named Serie A's Young Player of the Season.

Conte is confident Kulusevski's versatility will be an asset, and he is even confident the wide attacker could operate effectively as a wing-back.

"Dejan has the characteristic to play, in my mind, behind the striker, one of the two number 10s we have behind our striker. At the same time, he has the capacity to play as a wing-back, on the right. He also likes to do this because physically, he's very strong, he has good quality," Conte said.

Conte was said to want to use Adama Traore, another winger, as a wing-back before he chose Barcelona over Tottenham.

Argentina midfielder Giovani Lo Celso has joined Villarreal on loan from Tottenham until the end of the season, with the Yellow Submarine having an option to buy.

The 25-year-old has struggled for game time in the 2021-22 campaign, having only made nine appearances in the Premier League, and only three substitute appearances in the league since the appointment of manager Antonio Conte.

With the deadline-day arrival of Rodrigo Bentancur from Juventus adding even more competition for places, Lo Celso will spend the rest of the season in Spain to try to rediscover the form that saw Spurs spend big money to bring him to the club from Real Betis in 2019.

Lo Celso has scored eight goals in 86 appearances for Spurs and was a part of the Argentina squad that won last year's Copa America.

Villarreal are seventh in LaLiga, and travel to Lo Celso's former club Betis on Sunday.

Ousmane Dembele's future at Barcelona has been uncertain for months.

The 24-year-old has stalled on a new deal with the Catalans.

Dembele has attracted interest from several top clubs, meaning his signature looms for deadline day.

TOP STORY – MAN UTD TO HIJACK PSG'S DEMBELE MOVE

Manchester United are set to make a deadline-day move for Barcelona's Dembele, according to Footmercato.

The Red Devils could hijack Paris Saint-Germain's plans, with the Ligue 1 club having already verbally agreed to a deal with the French winger.

United are ready to move, with Anthony Martial loaned out and Donny van de Beek and Jesse Lingard also set to exit.

 

ROUND-UP

- Arsenal outcast Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has agreed to a deal to join Barcelona, according to Sport, but Dembele must exit the Catalans to enable the move to be completed.

- Real Madrid have opted against a January move for Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni, claims Diario Sport, due to their €80m asking price.

- Talksport claims that Tottenham's Giovani Lo Celso will join Spanish club Villarreal on loan for the rest of the season. Lyon were also interested in the Argentina international.

- Portuguese midfielder Renato Sanches has opted against a €25 million move from Lille to Milan, according to Calciomercato.

- Newcastle United's January spending is not over as the club eyes deadline-day deals for Aston Villa's Matt Targett and Arsenal's Eddie Nketiah, reports The Telegraph.

- Newcastle are set to land Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson on loan, claims Talksport.

- Struggling Spanish club Getafe are interested in free agent Diego Costa, according to Marca.

- Dele Alli could join Milan on loan from Tottenham, reports Gazzetta dello Sport.

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone said he was happy to take a point away from the visit to Villarreal after facing "one of the best teams in LaLiga".

Angel Correa struck a sensational opener after 10 minutes, the Argentina international intercepting Daniel Parejo's sloppy pass and firing over Geronimo Rulli from just inside the Villarreal half.

Opta calculated his breathtaking effort to have an expected goal (xG) indicator of just 0.0166 – the lowest for a goal in LaLiga this season.

However, the hosts pulled level before half-time through Pau Torres, shortly after Gerard Moreno had seen a penalty saved by Jan Oblak.

Alberto Moreno put Unai Emery's side ahead after the break but Geoffrey Kondogbia, who was sent off deep into stoppage time after picking up a second yellow card, sealed a point with his first goal for the club in the 67th minute. 

That goal snapped Los Colchoneros' run of three straight LaLiga defeats on the road, and Simeone was pleased with his players' efforts against a strong and spirited Villarreal side. 

"It was a difficult game," he told Movistar. "For me, Villarreal is one of the best teams in LaLiga. They defend well, they are organised at the back and attack very well.

"When [Matheus] Cunha didn't score a second with his chance they grew into the game. They played a good first half and continued that in the second.

"They put themselves ahead but then a different Atletico Madrid appeared. We leave with positives and lots of things to correct.

"We have been fighting and working to improve ourselves. Today we did a lot of good things and we are on a quest to keep improving things."

Marcos Llorente echoed Simeone's sentiments, saying Atleti need to sharpen up if they are to turn draws into wins.

"We always want victory," he said. "But having gone two goals down it was good to see the reaction of the team. It is a point that has been fought for and won. We wanted all three, but we are happy with the reaction of the team.

"We always want more. In the second half we have managed to generate chances. If we correct the errors we know we can win games."

The result lifted Atleti above Real Sociedad into fourth, with Llorente acknowledging the battle for a Champions League place could go right to the wire.

"You can see that it is going to be a very tight fight up there," he added. "There are teams that are doing things very well. Winning three points is very complicated. If you are not at 100 per cent anyone can take them away from you."

Angel Correa scored a sensational goal from almost the halfway line as Atletico Madrid fought out a pulsating 2-2 LaLiga draw with Villarreal on Sunday.

Correa stunned the Estadio de la Ceramica with his sublime early strike, but the hosts pulled level before half-time through Pau Torres, shortly after Gerard Moreno had seen a penalty saved by Jan Oblak.

Alberto Moreno thought he had sealed a fifth consecutive top-flight win for Unai Emery's side before the hour mark, yet Atleti salvaged a point thanks to Geoffrey Kondogbia's first goal for the club, although the midfielder's match ended with a red card deep into stoppage time.

The result moved Diego Simeone's side up to fourth, while Villarreal remained four points behind their opponents in eighth.

Atleti went ahead after 10 minutes thanks to Correa's audacious strike, the Argentina international intercepting Parejo's sloppy pass and firing over Geronimo Rulli from just inside the Villarreal half.

Alberto Moreno struck the post soon after, before he won a penalty when Thomas Lemar handled his shot inside the area in the 23rd minute.

Gerard Moreno's weak spot-kick was kept out by Oblak, though, with Parejo's follow-up ruled out for handball following a pitchside VAR review.

The hosts did pull level six minutes later, however, Torres bundling in from close range after Oblak spilled a Parejo free-kick at his feet.

Villarreal deservedly went ahead in the 58th minute when Alberto Moreno latched on to Gerard Moreno's pass and found the back of the net via a signifiant deflection from the onrushing Oblak. 

Simeone's men went back to the Spanish capital with a point, though, when Kondogbia's 20-yard strike slipped through the grasp of Rulli in the 67th minute, before the 28-year-old goalscorer received a second yellow card for a foul on Yeremi Pino in added time.

Angel Correa scored a remarkable goal from almost the halfway line in Atletico Madrid's LaLiga clash at Villarreal on Sunday. 

The Argentina international intercepted Daniel Parejo's sloppy pass just inside his own half before sensationally firing over Geronimo Rulli from just over the halfway line.

Opta deemed the effort to have an expected goal (xG) indicator of just 0.0166 – the lowest in LaLiga this season. 

Correa has now scored 12 goals in his last 28 top-flight appearances, which is one more than he had in his previous 98 league games for Diego Simeone's men. 

Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos will come up against Real Madrid after Paris Saint-Germain were paired with Los Blancos in the Champions League round of 16, which had to undergo a re-draw.

PSG were initially drawn against Manchester United on Monday, throwing up a tantalising encounter between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

However, a technical error meant the draw had to take place again and while Messi will not meet Ronaldo just yet, the Barcelona great will go up against his former club's Clasico rivals.

Having finished second in Group A behind Manchester City, who were handed a favourable tie against Sporting CP, PSG will host Madrid in the first leg in February before visiting the Santiago Bernabeu in March.

That means Mbappe, who is a high-profile target for Madrid and could well have already signed a pre-contract agreement with Los Blancos by the time these fixtures roll around, will go up against his suitors.

It also sees Madrid legend Ramos go up against his old club, and it is the same story for Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti, who coached PSG from 2011 to 2013.

United, on the other hand, will face Atletico Madrid, who had initially been due to play Bayern Munich. The Bundesliga giants have been drawn against Salzburg.

Liverpool may well lament their luck. Salzburg had been their original opponents, but Jurgen Klopp's team now have to prepare for a tie against Serie A champions Inter - albeit they made light work of the Nerazzurri's rivals Milan in the group stage.

Coincidentally, holders Chelsea were again drawn against Lille, having been set a tie with the Ligue 1 champions during the initial draw. 

Villarreal will take on Juventus and Ajax go up against Benfica.

Champions League last 16 draw in full:

Salzburg v Bayern Munich
Sporting CP v Manchester City
Benfica v Ajax
Chelsea v Lille
Atletico Madrid v Manchester United
Villarreal v Juventus
Inter v Liverpool 
PSG v Real Madrid

UEFA has confirmed the Champions League last-16 draw will have to be re-done after a technical error with the initial procedure.

Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain were set to face each other in the knockout stage, but that headline fixture and the other ties will have to be redrawn after what UEFA labelled as a "technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other."

United were initially drawn to face Villarreal, but the sides were unable to play each other as they had previously featured in the same group.

After complaints from affected clubs, including Atletico Madrid, UEFA later announced the draw would take place again at 1500 CET (1400 GMT).

UEFA's deputy general secretary, Giorgio Marchetti, spotted the mistake involving United's ball and ordered the tie to be drawn again. Manchester City were instead picked to go against Villarreal.

Yet United, due to the technical error, were subsequently blocked from being selected as one of the teams eligible to play the next team, which was LaLiga champions Atleti.

Bayern Munich were ultimately picked to face Atleti, while United were drawn in the glamour tie of the round against PSG – a game that would have seen Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi meet in the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time since the 2010-11 semi-finals.

The re-draw could well benefit United, given the challenge of facing PSG. However, holders Chelsea and Liverpool were handed favourable draws against Lille and Salzburg respectively.

Inter had been due to face Ajax, while Sporting CP were up against Juventus. Real Madrid had been drawn against Benfica.

UEFA has confirmed the Champions League last-16 draw will have to be re-done after a technical error with the initial procedure.

Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain were set to face each other in the knockout stage, but that headline fixture and the other ties will have to be redrawn after what UEFA labelled as a "technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other."

United were initially drawn to face Villarreal, but the sides were unable to play each other as they had previously featured in the same group.

After complaints from affected clubs, including Atletico Madrid, UEFA later announced the draw would take place again at 1500 CET (1400 GMT).

Lionel Messi will once again face off with old foe Cristiano Ronaldo after Paris Saint-Germain were drawn against Manchester United in the headline fixture of the Champions League round of 16.

Former Barcelona star Messi meets Ronaldo in the knockout stages, with United visiting the Parc des Princes in February before the return leg at Old Trafford will take place in March. The legendary duo also met in last season's group stage when Los Cules went up against Juventus.

PSG finished second behind Group A winners Manchester City, while United were top of Group F.

If Messi against Ronaldo was not enough to look forward to, the tie also sees Mauricio Pochettino face the side that he has long been touted as a possible manager of.

Ex-Spurs boss Pochettino remains among the favourites to replace interim boss Ralf Rangnick, who is in charge until at least the end of the season.

United have met PSG in two of the previous three seasons. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer masterminded a 3-1 win at the same stage in March 2019, a victory that saw United through 4-3 on aggregate and secured him the job on a permanent basis.

The sides played each other again in the group stage of the 2019-20 campaign, with Thomas Tuchel's PSG winning at Old Trafford after losing the home game 2-1.

There was, however, a nervy moment for UEFA's officials when United were initially drawn against Villarreal, but due to teams who played each other in the group stage not being able to face each other in the last 16, the tie had to be re-drawn.

It remains to be seen whether any clubs lodge a complaint, with initial reports suggesting the draw will stand.

United's rivals and last season's runners-up City were instead drawn against Villarreal, who were victors of the 2020-21 Europa League.

Elsewhere in Monday's draw, holders Chelsea were paired with Ligue 1 champions Lille and Liverpool landed a favourable draw against Salzburg.

Atletico Madrid, who scraped through in second place behind Liverpool in Group B, face a daunting tie with Bayern Munich.

Benfica went through in Group E at the expense of Barcelona, and the Portuguese giants were drawn against the Blaugrana's Clasico rivals and 13-time European champions Madrid.

Ajax topped a Champions League group for the first time since 1995-96, and were drawn against Inter, with Juventus meeting Sporting CP, who are making their first appearance in the knockout stage since 2008-09.

Champions League last 16 draw in full:

Benfica v Real Madrid
Villarreal v Manchester City
Atletico Madrid v Bayern Munich
Salzburg v Liverpool
Inter v Ajax
Sporting CP v Juventus
Chelsea v Lille
PSG v Manchester United

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