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Just as he has done for Portugal on occasion, Cristiano Ronaldo may abandon the wing and play as a central striker, though more out of necessity than preference.

Zinedine Zidane is without Alvaro Morata, who will be unavailable for the next month, and Karim Benzema's race to full fitness may not be enough for the French striker to start.

As a result, Ronaldo as a No. 9 makes sense as a valuable alternative, with Lucas Vazquez perhaps slotting in on the wing in his stead.

Otherwise, Gareth Bale could move to Cristiano Ronaldo's usual position on the left, with either Isco or Vazquez then moving to the right wing position.

Regardless, injuries have truly given Zidane a selection headache ahead of a match of this magnitude, and Ronaldo's versatility in attacking positions is sure to be welcome as Los Blancos look to stay top of LaLiga.

Griezmann back in time for Madrid derby

Fully recovered from a left foot injury, Antoine Griezmann is likely to feature in Diego Simeone's starting XI in the Madrid derby on Saturday night.

Griezmann suffered a knock against Sweden on international duty with France last Friday, and after training on his own for two days, has rejoined the rest of the group to be all set for the decisive match.

Simeone's South American contingent also rejoined the team after international break, as Filipe Luis, Diego Godin, Jose Gimenez, and Angel Correa are also ready to go.

With Griezmann back, few surprises are expected from El Cholo, who appears to have settled on a line-up.

Meanwhile, Zinedine Zidane's 11 is far from settled, in direct conrast to Los Colchoneros.

That said, while the players chosen is all but assured from the Atleti boss, it is still unclear whether Simeone will opt for a 4-4-2 or a 4-1-4-1.

Bale: The best footballer I've ever played with is Ryan Giggs

He may have played with a raft of talent at Real Madrid, but Gareth Bale has passed over them all to name fellow countryman Ryan Giggs as his best ever teammate.

Currently rubbing shoes with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric in the Spanish capital, the fleet-footed Los Blancos attacker decided to plump for Manchester United icon Giggs when put on the spot at a Foot Locker campaign launch.

"For me, the best player I have played with is Ryan Giggs," he said.

"He was my hero when I was a kid and he is a legend in the world of football."

A recent nominee for this year's Ballon d'Or, the 27-year-old also admitted his pride at seeing all of his hard work come to fruition, while at the same time outlining some ambitious career goals.

"Being nominated for the Ballon d'Or is a great honour for me," he continued.

"It is recognition of the hard work and dedication that I have put in all these years.

"Now I just have to keep working hard and improving.

"My focus is to win as many trophies as I can with my teams, both Wales and Real Madrid, and the individual prizes will come later."

Rooney to be dropped by Mourinho after drunken debacle

Jose Mourinho intends to drop Wayne Rooney as punishment for his indiscretions on international duty, according to reports in the British media.

In the absence of first-choice frontman Zlatan Ibrahimovic through suspension, the England captain had been expected to lead the line, however his drunken antics have not at all been well received by Mourinho.

The Daily Mirror writes that youngster Marcus Rashford will instead start against Arsenal in Saturday's clash at the Emirates Stadium, with Rooney likely to drop down to the bench after his latest faux pas.

Despite the bold move, Mourinho is understood to be furious with the Football Associations's handling of the situation as several representatives were present during the debacle.

The Portuguese tactician will have to do without a whole host of first-team stars for the tricky trip to north London, with Ibrahimovic joining Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling on the absentee list.

Doubts remain, too, over Luke Shaw and Marouane Fellaini for the clash against Arsene Wenger's men.

Malaga made move to sign Balotelli

Francesc Arnau, sporting director of Malaga, has revealed that the club were offered the chance to sign Mario Balotelli during the summer.

Following a disappointing loan spell at AC Milan, Liverpool actively attempted to offload the Italy international, eventually selling him to Nice.

The striker has settled well into life in Ligue 1 ν and has scored seven goals in nine appearances in all competitions since making the move to France.

"Balotelli's salary is astronomical," Arnau told Cadena Cope. "We made an offer for him but the amount involved was something we couldn't pay.

"He went to Nice because they have a strong, economic project in place there with new owners who have invested a lot into the club. There was no chance of him coming here."

Southgate wants England manager job permanently

England interim manager Gareth Southgate wants the job on a permanent basis, Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn said on Thursday.

Southgate was in charge of the Under-21 side before taking the senior role for four matches following the sacking of Sam Allardyce.

Under Southgate England beat Malta and Scotland in World Cup qualifiers and drew with Slovenia before a 2-2 friendly draw with Spain on Tuesday.

"He's (Southgate) made it clear over the last week that he's convinced he wants the job. Clearly, his candidacy has become much stronger," Glenn told Sky Sports.

"We just need to weigh up the facts and take time to make the right decision. His candidacy is not just based on one or two matches, but because of what we've seen over the last couple of years."

When asked about interviewing other candidates, he said: "Potentially. Why would I say anything definite? It's an interview process and we have to be discreet."

England captain Wayne Rooney apologised on Wednesday after he was pictured drinking at a wedding over the weekend following Friday's victory over Scotland at Wembley.

"Don't make a drama out of it. We are having a proper investigation into what went on. It's disappointing. It's appropriate that he apologised," Glenn said.

"It doesn't set a great tone for the England captain. But I don't want to over-dramatise it either. Were there FA staff involved? We're establishing the facts.

"Why on earth would you be doing that given there is a team agreement around alcohol consumption during camp? There would be questions asked for sure."

Glenn said he had no intention of speaking to Rooney's Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who was reportedly unhappy about with the situation.

Juanfran: I'm a different player since Milan

Real Madrid's trip to Atletico Madrid on Saturday represents the first opportunity for Los Rojiblancos to get one over their rivals since the 2016 Champions League final, but Juanfran insists that he's overcome the defeat.

It was the right-back who missed the penalty shootout spot-kick that allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to seal the cup and condemn Atleti to a third silver medal in the competition.

"What happened in Milan remains a wound," Juanfran told COPE. "I'll always be a different player and I've worked hard psychologically.

"If we get a penalty [on Saturday], someone else can take it."

There will no doubt be a great atmosphere around the Estadio Vicente Calderon on the weekend with the historic venue hosting its final derby, with the defender looking forward to claiming all three points.

"It will be the last derby at the Calderon and there will be a special feeling for us and we think that we'll win, we only think about that," said Juanfran.

"Since [Diego] Simeone arrived, we now believe that we can beat Real Madrid "

Both sides are suffering from a number of injury worries, but Antoine Griezmann's fitness is of no concern to the Spaniard.

"I asked Griezmann if he'll play and he said yes," he asserted.

Wenger eyes golden chance to put one over Mourinho

Arsene Wenger has probably never had a better chance of finally beating a Jose Mourinho side than when Arsenal visit Old Trafford on Saturday to face a Manchester United team in underwhelming form and ravaged by injuries and suspensions.

The Frenchman has never trumped Mourinho in 13 competitive games since they first clashed in 2004 and he has often been the loser off the pitch as well, with Mourinho taunting him about Arsenal's lack of title success over the past decade.

But Arsenal have a good opportunity to register their first Premier League win at Old Trafford since 2006 when they face a United team that could be without six players, including their first-choice defence.

Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is suspended and centre halves Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling are injured along with right back Antonio Valencia who is recovering from surgery on a broken arm.

There are also doubts about midfielder Marouane Fellaini and full back Luke Shaw as Mourinho grapples with the most serious injury crisis of his time at United.

Ibrahimovic's absence will give Marcus Rashford the chance to move to his natural position as central striker for the first of four straight United home games in all competitions.

The Old Trafford faithful will be looking for signs that Mourinho is making progress despite a disappointing start to his reign which has left them sixth in the table, six points behind fourth-placed Arsenal and eight adrift of leaders Liverpool.

Wenger's main injury doubt cleared up on Tuesday when forward Alexis Sanchez, whom he had urged to miss Chile's World Cup qualifier with Uruguay after tweaking a hamstring, showed no ill-effects after scoring twice in a 3-1 comeback win.

For once, Arsenal, who had 11 other players on full international duty last week, will be confident of winning on a ground where Wenger has often emerged an angry second best, most notably in 2011 when they were humiliated 8-2.

Liverpool travel to Southampton with a major doubt over their former Saints midfielder Adam Lallana, who suffered a groin injury after scoring a penalty for England in their 2-2 friendly draw with Spain on Tuesday.

However, such are coach Juergen Klopp's attacking options, with Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi pushing for selection, that he will be confident of extending a run that has brought 14 goals in four games.

Former winger Steve Heighway became the latest Liverpool great to praise Klopp this week, saying the club's late manager Bill Shankly would have approved of the ethics Klopp is instilling at Anfield.

By that he meant how the team is playing, the desire for success and the way talent is being developed by the charismatic German.

Chelsea and Manchester City are also flourishing under new management with Antonio Conte's second-placed side at Middlesbrough on Sunday, 24 hours after Pep Guardiola's City, who are third, bid to make up ground at Crystal Palace.

 
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