Briefs | Bale ruled out of Wales’ final World Cup qualifiers

Wales says Gareth Bale has been ruled out of its final two World Cup qualifiers. Bale’s fitness has been a source of concern for Wales since sustaining a calf muscle strain against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last week. The 28-year-old forward missed Real Madrid’s league game with Espanyol on Sunday but reported to the Wales camp the following morning. The Football Association of Wales confirmed yesterday that Bale would miss Friday’s game in Georgia and Monday’s meeting with Ireland. Wales, which reached the 2016 European Championship semifinals, is second in Group D, four points behind Serbia and one ahead of Ireland. Only the group winners are guaranteed a place at the World Cup in Russia next year.

Lopetegui wants focus on football

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has praised Gerard Pique’s commitment to the national team and called on the squad to be focused only on football despite the crisis involving Catalonia’s push for independence. Pique, the outspoken Barcelona defender highly supportive of Catalans, was harassed by fans Monday when he reported to the national team’s training camp in Madrid ahead of upcoming World Cup qualifiers. Lopetegui said in a radio interview with local radio station COPE that the central defender remained “motivated” despite the abuse from fans. He said Pique’s “behavior with the national team has always been very good.” The coach said players have the right to express their opinions privately, but have to try to avoid adding to the “unpleasant situation” generated by Catalonia’s bid for independence.

Porto stays top in Portugal but no longer perfect

FC Porto maintained its lead of the Portuguese league after drawing at second-place Sporting Lisbon 0-0 on Sunday. The result kept Porto two points in front of Sporting, and five points ahead of third-place Benfica. Porto was the only team with a perfect record after having won its first seven league games. Benfica’s Jonas put the defending champions ahead only two minutes into the game but Maritimo equalized early in the second half for a 1-1 draw.

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