Real Madrid prove vs. Roma they’re not ready to be knocked off European throne

Real Madrid have been European champions for the past three seasons, and they don’t look ready to be knocked off their perch just yet. Against Roma on Wednesday, the signals were there that they could make a run for an unlikely fourth title in a row.

One person who stands to have a much simpler time recreating the magic of last season’s European Champions League campaign is Gareth Bale. With Los Blancos desperate for a talisman to replace Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal-scoring exploits, the Welshman appears ready to step into the void.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Those injury-riddled months of isolation, the doubts, the question marks over his price tag, the whistles and the boos; but now, with Ronaldo out of the picture, the path has cleared for Bale to create his own legacy at the Bernabeu. After the Champions League final when Ronaldo said “it was nice being at Real Madrid” and hinted at a move away, Bale did the same. Ronaldo was serious, and maybe Bale was too, but he just wanted to be counted on. Once the Portuguese departed, Madrid’s No. 11 was happy.

And he has been on a mission ever since to prove to the fans at the Bernabeu, Julen Lopetegui and himself that he has what it takes. Real Madrid had 17 chances in that first half, and Bale accounted for five of them. Maybe the shots were born from that sheer ambition to be Madrid’s first goal scorer of the 2018-19 campaign, the first in the Champions League in the post-Ronaldo era, something tangible to help his team win but something symbolic to announce his arrival as their talisman.

He didn’t score the first, but he rifled home the second with help from a lovely Luka Modric pass. He hit the underside of the bar just before that, too, and on another day might have had a hat trick.

The debate will continue as to how Real Madrid will replace Ronaldo’s goals, but Bale knows this is his time in the spotlight, and he’s proving himself more than capable so far.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

And amid a Serie A campaign in which Roma have dropped points in three of their opening four matches, last year’s Champions League semifinalists suggested repeating that feat will be problematic in 2018-19. After conceding more than 60 percent of the ball and 30 shots in Madrid, the Giallorossi now sit bottom of Group G, looking up at both CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen, who drew on Wednesday.

Man City’s lack of European history has caused fans to be slow to embrace the Champions League

Manchester City may be England’s longest-running Champions League representatives (eight consecutive seasons) but the club grabbed another, less impressive record in the dispirited home defeat by Lyon, notching their fourth consecutive defeat in the competition. Three of these have been at the Etihad, just to make it even worse.

No English club had hitherto achieved this particular landmark, underlining City’s schizophrenic relationship with the Champions League.

This has raised a number of important questions: Are the players buying into the dream set forward by the owners? Is Pep Guardiola’s historical blockage in this tournament a factor weighing on the players’ minds and thus a detriment to successful game preparation?cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Why the continued supporter-indifference to a competition that City have become increasingly comfortable in? Why the continued antipathy towards UEFA? Why the inward-looking delight whenever it is a question of getting back to the basics of league combat? Why will the fans be buzzing again for the weekend trip to Cardiff, yet seem non-plussed by the arrival of European aristocracy in Manchester?

Let us try to supply one or two answers to a great number of questions.

Firstly, City’s support has always leaned heavily towards the bread and butter of league and domestic cup action. Identifying the core support and its characteristics is increasingly difficult given the club’s present status, but in a down-to-earth way, this is still sort of what one would expect.

The reintroduction to continental combat after a 30-year absence has taken time to bed in with many supporters. To start with, City’s early struggles did not endear Champions League football to the masses. Having already borne witness to literally decades of losing when they should have been winning, something felt slightly uncomfortable watching new, successful City start from scratch again.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Bayern Munich, Napoli, Real Madrid, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund. There were plenty of early lessons to be taken on board. The debacle in Moscow where fans expected some kind of compensation for UEFA’s handling of the tie with CSKA (all fans banned owing to CSKA fans’ racist behaviour, yet Russian fans sporting colours were let in while City’s were turned away) further dampened the spirits and spawned the pre-match booing of the UEFA anthem that can still be heard four years after the incident.

The Belichick effect on Matt Patricia from those who played for both

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“He’s passionate. That’s how he was as a coordinator,” Flowers said. “He’s passionate. He’s going to get the best out of the players. He’s going to work you hard. The only difference is that he’s up there more, he’s addressing the team more.

“But obviously, he’s passionate, the same as he was. He’s not going to let you slack. There’s a reason I said what I said about him last year and why I came back to play for him again. Nothing but respect for Coach Patricia. I know what he’s going to do and how he’s going to get the best out of me as a player, all that.”nfl cheap jerseys nike

Being worked hard — that’s a trait carried from New England to Detroit. The outward passion, something Patricia hasn’t yet shown much of during game days, is a departure from his mentor Bill Belichick. And so far, not much has been changed — at least outwardly — from how Belichick does things in New England.10

That’s why when Patricia stares across the sideline on Sunday night at Ford Field, there will be obvious comparisons. He’ll see Belichick and the Patriots, the only NFL team he ever worked for prior to February, on the other side. The Lions and Patriots-influenced general manager Bob Quinn hired Patricia in February and started bringing the Patriot mindset to Detroit.

“You definitely see it,” said cornerback Sterling Moore, who was with the Lions in training camp and New England at other times during his career. “But I think that’s just something the greats do. You’re going to emulate. Kobe emulates MJ. You know what I’m saying? That’s just the way things go. So Bill is arguably the best coach to ever coach. So obviously he’s going to follow under his tutelage; he’s going to carry that here.”

Practices during training camp ran similarly to those in New England, including an intense focus on conditioning. Former coach Jim Caldwell didn’t run a lax environment, but it was much more easygoing in the Detroit locker room than the way it is now. At least one Jets player, Kelvin Beachum, said the defense the Lions run is similar to the Patriots’ defense.

Even some of the media components — coordinators on conference calls instead of news conferences; Patricia doing teleconferences at times instead of in-person news conferences — come directly from New England and are a departure from prior regimes in Detroit.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

“I think guys knew coming in that things were going to be different,” said safety Tavon Wilson, who played for both Patricia and Belichick. “And I think guys are taking it, kind of rolling with the punches.”

Mike Tomlin disciplines Antonio Brown; teammates say WR in game plan

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Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on Wednesday disciplined All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown for missing work Monday.

“He and I met yesterday for an extended period of time,” Tomlin said after Wednesday’s practice. “I’ll leave the nature of that conversation between us. There was discipline involved for his missed meeting on Monday.“cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Tomlin did not field questions. Brown is scheduled to address the media Thursday.9

Tight end Jesse James said Brown practiced fully Wednesday and is in the game plan for Monday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Cornerback Artie Burns said the discipline is “between him and the coach,” but said the team supports Brown and expects him to play.

Brown was a no-show to Steelers headquarters the same day he tweeted “Trade me let’s find out” to a former Steelers public relations staffer who posted that Brown wouldn’t be the same player without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Defensive end Cam Heyward, one of four team captains, said he spoke to Brown this week but will keep details private. “I don’t make those decisions but, shoot, I’d be a little surprised if he’s not there [Monday night],” Heyward said.

Brown also got into a confrontation with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner on the sideline during Sunday’s 42-37 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, which dropped the Steelers to 0-1-1 this season.nfl cheap jerseys nike

Roethlisberger said he has spoken to Brown and is not taking his actions personally.

“He’s the best in the world,” Roethlisberger said of Brown. “When you’re the best in the world, you want to help participate, you want to win football games. We’re all a little frustrated because we’re not winning right now.”

Boston’s ‘Cora Four’ has the stuff dynasties are made of

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Led by 32-year-old player-manager Jake Stahl, the 1912 Red Sox won the American League by 14 games. They relied on a young roster that included future Hall of Famers Tris Speaker and Harry Hopper, both 24, and a 22-year-old “Smoky” Joe Wood. They went on to stun the New York Giants in a seven-game World Series showdown that crowned the inaugural first season at Fenway Park. That was also the year Speaker cemented his superstar status, hitting .383, stealing 52 bags and hitting 10 home runs.

The 2018 edition of the Red Sox have an 11½-game lead in the AL East over the New York Yankees, with a magic number of two to clinch the division with 12 games left this season. This seems to be the year that 25-year-old Mookie Betts will cement his superstar status. He’s a front-runner for AL MVP, leading the majors in batting average (.337) and WAR (10.0), ranking second in runs scored (118), OBP (.431) and OPS (1.049), and third in slugging (.619).nfl cheap jerseys nike

But that’s where comparisons should end. The 1912 Red Sox hit a team total of 29 home runs in the dead ball era and scored a total of 799 runs over their 154-game season. Their competition was also limited to the seven other AL teams in the American League, long before baseball’s integration.10

The 2018 Red Sox have dominated with a formidable offense, leading the majors in almost every single category, helped by home-run-powerhouse J.D. Martinez. But with Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers in the infield, and Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi in the outfield, the Sox are doing it with something few playoff-bound Red Sox teams have had: a core of young, homegrown talent. A platform for success not just this year, but for years to come. And those four players might have a long future ahead of them playing for rookie manager Alex Cora.

“The next couple of years we’re going to be good due to the fact we’re kind of young, team-controlled, type of things. And you definitely sometimes think about the possibilities [in the] next couple of years,” Betts said.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

The 2018 Red Sox have had more than 500 games played by homegrown position players age 25-and-under this season. The most games they got from players that age or younger in any of their prior three World Series years (2004, 2007 and 2013) was the 257 games played by homegrown players 25-and-under in 2007. And while the current group of four shared little time together throughout the Red Sox affiliates, they have all dreamt of the special brand of success that comes from being part of a homegrown core.

Cubs show off playoff formula in beating Diamondbacks

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And it was a thing of beauty on Monday night, thanks mostly to starter Kyle Hendricks. He’s likely to get the ball in Game 3 of a postseason series, but as he has done many times in his career, he threw like an ace in shutting down the fading Arizona Diamondbacks 5-1, while just missing out on a complete game.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“You see bad swings by good hitters” is how manager Joe Maddon described it afterward.

Hendricks had it going, as he induced a swing rate of 58 percent, the highest in two seasons for him. Also, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information, his 25 first-pitch strikes were the second most of his career. And his changeup was devastating, as he struck out seven Diamondbacks on that pitch alone. Imagine that Kyle Hendricks in a playoff series, following Jon Lester and Cole Hamels.9

Cubs fans can begin to dream that dream, as the team reduced its magic number to win the NL Central to 10.

“We’ve been waiting for a little roll to happen,” Hendricks said. “It’s nice for us to be coming all together.”

Though it was a magnificent performance, a well-pitched game by the Cubs isn’t exactly headline material these days. The real narrative on Monday — and what might have meaning next month — is that some of the Cubs’ bigger stars showed up in the box score, namely former MVP Kris Bryant. He was 2-for-3 with two opposite-field hits, including his first home run since July 20. The majority of his time between then and now was spent on the disabled list with a bum shoulder. Bryant could just now be starting to feel like his old self again.

“We all know what KB can do here,” teammate Javier Baez said. “It’s not the way he’s used to swinging. He’s still getting used to it. I know he’s going to hit. Having him in the lineup, it changes how the other team pitches to us. They have to pitch to him, [Anthony] Rizzo or me, or whoever is in between.”nfl cheap jerseys nike

Bryant is adjusting, but as the at-bats have piled up in his return, he’s looking more and more like the dangerous hitter and on-base threat the league knows him to be. With an offense that has struggled throughout the second half, a productive Bryant can make the Cubs that much better.

Liverpool appear real deal as familiar failings torment Tottenham

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Liverpool extended their flawless start to the Premier League season by claiming a fifth successive league win to beat Tottenham at Wembley and record their best start to a campaign for 28 years.nfl cheap jerseys nike

Jurgen Klopp’s men have now emulated Kenny Dalglish’s 1990-91 team by winning their first five games, but as Arsenal ended that season as champions, history also serves to offer a reminder that Liverpool will still face challenges ahead.

But after losing 4-1 at Wembley last season, Liverpool avenged that defeat with goals from Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino either side of half-time. Erik Lamela’s injury-time strike was scant consolation for a Tottenham side who slumped to back-to-back defeats.10

The victory underlines Liverpool’s billing as the most likely challengers to reigning champions Manchester City this term, but having started the season with three wins, Spurs are now a team searching for answers. They could and should have suffered a heavier defeat. In the end, they were perhaps unlucky not to have a chance to level in the dying seconds, following a possible foul on Son Heung-Min by Sadio Mane in the penalty area. Liverpool, the unluckiest team in the league last season in ESPN’s Luck Index , escaped, but a draw would have been harsh as they dominated and looked more dangerous from the outset. Spurs were unable to cope with the pace of the visitors’ counter-attacks.

Perhaps early-season fatigue is becoming a factor for Spurs, whose starting lineup included seven players who reached the semifinals of the World Cup this summer.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

Liverpool, in contrast, had just one member of their starting lineup who endured a similarly draining World Cup, and that was Trent Alexander-Arnold.

But regardless of the mitigating factors, Spurs were second best from start to finish, with defensive mistakes costing Mauricio Pochettino’s team for both goals.

On this evidence, Spurs face another season of disappointment in the title race, but Liverpool are unquestionably the real deal.

Liverpool show how far they’ve come while Tottenham appear to be stuck

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Time and money are the two most crucial commodities when it comes to building a football team, and Jurgen Klopp has used both wisely since seeing his Liverpool side crushed 4-1 by Tottenham at Wembley last October.

Eleven months have passed since an inspired Spurs, led by Harry Kane, tore apart Liverpool last season in a game that left Dejan Lovren’s reputation in tatters and left question marks over many of Klopp’s players. Yet on Saturday, Liverpool returned to the scene of their humiliation and avenged that defeat with a convincing 2-1 victory that extended their 100 percent winning start to the season and moved them to the top of the Premier League.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

So what has changed?9

A quick look at the teamsheets offers the first insight into the evolution of Klopp’s team, compared to the lack of change at Tottenham, since that day last season. Only four of Klopp’s team last October — Joe Gomez, James Milner, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino — started Saturday’s fixture while six of Mauricio Pochettino’s players started both games.

Not much difference on the face of it, but look deeper and you see that only Gomez remains from last season’s Liverpool defence that was given such a torrid time by Kane. Gomez, who played at right-back that day, played alongside Virgil van Dijk in Saturday’s win, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson as full-backs. Simon Mignolet has been replaced in goal by the £66 million summer signing Alisson Becker, while Lovren, Joel Matip and Alberto Moreno have all been dislodged in the months since.nfl cheap jerseys nike

Emre Can and Philippe Coutinho have since left Liverpool, too — Coutinho’s sale raised in the region of £142m — while Jordan Henderson started this game on the bench, with Klopp selecting £52.75m summer purchase Naby Keita ahead of his captain.

Spurs, meanwhile, were missing the injured Hugo Lloris and Dele Alli on Saturday — both players would almost certainly have started if fit — with the other starters from last season’s game, Davinson Sanchez, Heung-min Son and Serge Aurier named on the bench.

But while Klopp has been able to bolster his team by the signings of Alisson, Van Dijk and Keita, Pochettino’s only possible change from last year was winger Lucas Moura, who started this game ahead of Son.

Drew Brees’ advice to Baker Mayfield: ‘You are just a sponge’

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Praise from Drew Brees for this year’s first overall draft pick has not shaken the team’s resolve. Nor has a 15-for-40 game from the starter. Or a winning effort from the third overall pick in his debut with the New York Jets.

The Browns maintain they are on the long and winding path with Baker Mayfield, and Tyrod Taylor is their starter — even after he put up some poor numbers in the season-opening tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“I wouldn’t want to live with 15-for-40 for a long time, because I do not think that we will be that again,” coach Hue Jackson said Thursday. “I really don’t. I understand the question, [but] I think that’s a non-issue. Again, first [game], chalk it up to what it is.”nfl cheap jerseys nike

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley pointedly emphasized the entire offense contributed to Taylor’s day, saying the group had 28 mental errors and gave the Steelers 100 yards with mistakes. Ten mental errors is not a winning effort, Haley said, and the 100 yards add up to seven points.10

Taylor’s game was an aberration in one sense. He has started 44 games in his career. The tie with Pittsburgh was the first time in those 44 starts he’s been below 50 percent passing. Jackson is aware of the numbers, but they won’t prompt him to turn to the draft’s first overall pick when the Browns play the Saints in New Orleans.

“He’s our future, and if he is, you don’t have to rush this thing,” Jackson said of Mayfield. “When everybody saw the numbers last week, I think everybody wanted to go, ‘OK, Tyrod’s out — let’s go to the other way.’ Let’s slow down a little bit here.”

Jackson said the Browns need to “let it all play itself out at the right time,” which was a feeling general manager John Dorsey expressed a week ago: Let things happen naturally with Mayfield.

“It just doesn’t happen overnight,” Dorsey said the week before the opener. “And that’s why we as an organization keep saying, for the betterment of the kid and the betterment of the organization, have a little bit of patience with this kid. He’s going to have some talent, but there’s no need to rush.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

“I’ve seen when you rush too many of these guys in there; it’s not good. But If you have a degree of patience, it’s usually better in the long run.”

On the opposite sideline Sunday will be Brees, a future Hall of Famer who was drafted in San Diego when the Chargers had Doug Flutie as the starter. As a rookie, Brees played in one game. His advice for Mayfield?

Lions’ Eli Harold has endured far more than backlash

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What used to be enjoyable wasn’t anymore. His personality — once gregarious and fun — disappeared into a solitary sadness. He would go out occasionally. It masked his feelings — what he didn’t want to talk about with anyone, what he still hasn’t shared all that often, even now as a linebacker in the NFL, first with the San Francisco 49ers and now with the Detroit Lions.

He has been open about his past. When Harold was a junior in high school, his nephew Forrest Harold died of an enlarged heart while playing rec basketball at Old Dominion. Then less than two months later, his mother, Sheila Korvette Harold, died of pancreatic cancer. What he hasn’t been as open about is that he didn’t have the capability to cope. Throughout the rest of high school, he didn’t understand what he was going through. Then he got to college. And he sank.

“My freshman year in college, I had hit a point so low, it was like every day was just dark,” Harold says now. “I hated football. I hated friends. I hated everything. It was just — I was being a follower. I was drinking, and I never really liked drinking. I was a follower, doing things that I know weren’t me and — I don’t know, man.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“I really had to find myself.”9

When, years later, Harold became one of the 49ers who knelt along with Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid to raise awareness about social injustice and protest for change, he received hate mail in which hundreds of people called him racial slurs. He handled all of it — because after what he had been through, that was nothing. Words slid off of him. He built his shell. He knew real loss, real pain.nfl cheap jerseys nike

While not clinically diagnosed, Harold said he dealt with depression throughout his freshman year and part of his sophomore year due to the two deaths that he never really understood how to mourn. By sharing the story of his battle with mental health for the first time, he is hoping it might help others open up with what they might be going through.

“Of course, and just like men, we’re taught to be alpha males, you know what I’m saying. I feel like it helps,” Harold said. “When [the NBA’s] DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love had spoken out about it, I felt like a lot of guys, a lot of professional athletes, took a deep breath and a sigh of relief, because they didn’t want to be that first guy to open up about it.

“And no one really ever wants to be the first to do something. Not saying that you are a follower but that it opened up a gate for other grown men to express their feelings about the situation.”