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Offshore drilling: at Real Madrid 0, Valencia 0

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Man of the match: Vincente Guaita’s save on Cristiano Ronaldo was his match’s standout moment, the Valencia `keeper getting a left palm to a shot headed for his lower-left hand corner. Two other great second half saves (both on Karim Benzema) along with dominance of his six-yard box in the match’s final moments helped Guaita complete the first shutout of Real at the Bernabeu since Victor Valdes kept a clean sheet on Apr.27, 2011.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • This wasn’t a matter of a team coming to the Bernabeu and holding on for dear life. While Valencia let Real Madrid dictate play, they had a clear plan. Higher up the pitch, Los Che were going to run until they dropped (with Pablo Hernández and Jeremy Mathieu providing seemingly scripted reinforcements for Pablo Piatti and Sofiane Feghouli near the hour mark). At the back, they were going to stay compact and force Real Madrid to beat them from distance or by cross (in an approach not dissimilar to what Carlo Ancelotti did to Marseille).
  • Even though Real Madrid had plenty of chances to win, Valencia’s plan worked. Los Blancos certainly had fewer clear chances than they’re used to generating, with the virtues of Valencia’s approach most evident in the 76th minute. Then, Ángel Di Maria was unable to blast a 22-yard shot through a crowded area, the block coming out to Marcelo roughly 34 yards from goal. It was a play we’ve seen so many times before – the ball sent right back in over a defense caught pushing up – but Real didn’t have the kind of penalty area presence to take advantage of it. While Marcelo’s cross for the back post was poor, Karim Benzema was seen cutting off his run, fading the right of the area.
  • And Benzema should have won this match in the 78th minute. Cristiano Ronaldo fed him a perfect ball near the spot, and while Guaita came quickly, most of the goal was there for the taking. Instead, Benzema’s attempted chip went straight to the Guaita, keeping it scoreless.
  • By the end of the match, Valencia was creating the better chances. Jeremy Mathieu had an open shot from 18 yards out in the 72nd minute. Aritz Aduriz had another chance minutes later with a header, and in the 85th minute, Iker Casillas had to come off his line to save Real’s point when Jordi Alba was put in behind Alvaro Arbeloa and Pepe. With Roberto Soldado brought on for the last 15 minutes, Valencia had the pieces to craft the upset.
  • Whereas Unai Emery looked like he had a precise plan for the match, José Mourinho seemed to be tinkering. He started both Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain together – a rarity. By the end of the match, he had all of Benzema, Ronaldo, Di Maria, Kaká, and Jose Callejon on (along with Xabi Alonso and Marcelo). That kind of kitchen sink approach has worked before, but tonight it contributed to the feeling Real Madrid was as likely to lose as win.
  • The draw leaves Real Madrid up four in La Liga, Barcelona sitting second with 75 points. Valencia point leaves them one up on Levante in third, but with first-place Malaga hosting Racing Santander in Monday, Los Che would find themselves in fourth by the time Rayo Vallecano visiting on Wednesday.

Argentine star Messi leaves Honduras match with back injury

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 08:  (L-R) Jose Juan Vazquez #23 of Mexico and Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina during a international friendly at AT&T Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi left the field with a back injury in the second half of a 1-0 victory over Honduras in a friendly Friday night.

The Argentine team captain and Barcelona star was hit on an apparently inconsequential play and immediately went to the locker room. He was replaced at the 62-minute mark by Sevilla midfielder Ever Banega and never returned to the field.

“Messi suffered a trauma to the left side of his lower back and rib cage,” the Argentine Football (Soccer) Association said in a statement, adding that doctors were looking at the injury.

[ MORE: Hull City snares last PL spot for 2016-17 ]

Messi is not a player who leaves the field with minor injuries like he did Friday at San Juan’s Bicentenario stadium.

“I would not dare to venture a diagnosis,” said a concerned Argentine manager, Gerardo Martino.

Gonzalo Higuain, who scored for Argentina, said it “was an important win and here’s hoping that what happened to Leo is nothing.”

Messi was scheduled to fly to Spain to resolve a tax issue and then rejoin the team in Santa Clara, California.

Hull City secures PL position next season

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Ross Wallace of Sheffield Wednesday make a break during Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final match between Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Mohamed Diame was the hero on the day for Hull City, as the Tigers gain promotion to the Premier League next season.

The Senegalese attacker sent Sheffield Wednesday packing on Saturday afternoon at Wembley Stadium after hitting a scorching long-distance effort past goalkeeper Kieren Westwood in the second half.

After an initial back-and-forth spell of chances over the opening half hour-plus, Sheffield was drastically taken out of the match as Hull began to gain their composure on the ball.

Hull City will join Championship winners Burnley and Middlesbrough in the Premier League in 2016-17 after being promoted. Relegated clubs Newcastle, Norwich City and Aston Villa will take their place in England’s second flight.

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UCL FOLLOW LIVE: Lineups as Atleti, Real duel in finale

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, right, fights for the ball with Atletico Madrid's Tiago Mendes during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
AP Photo/Francisco Seco
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After their devastating defeat two seasons ago, Atletico Madrid looks for revenge and their first UEFA Champions League title on Saturday against Real Madrid.

Milan will be the site for the action, as Zinedine Zidane and Real are seeking their 11th title in the competition and have the opportunity to knock Atleti out in the title match for the second time in three seasons.

To follow live, click here.

LINEUPS

Real Madrid: Navas, Marcelo, Ramos, Pepe, Carvajal, Casemiro, Kroos, Modric, Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema Subs: Casilla, James, Nacho, Lucas Vasquez, Jese, Isco, Danilo

Atletico Madrid: Oblak; Filipe Luis, Godin, Savic, Juanfran; Gabi, Fernandez, Koke, Saul Niguez; Griezmann, Torres. Subs: Moya, Tiago, Correa, Hernandez, Thomas, Ferreira-Carrasco, Gimenez.

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Atlanta United actively pursuing Mexican duo Guardado, Vela

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 07:  (L-R) Former professional soccer player Carlos Bocanegra, MLS Atlanta owner Arthur Blank, rapper Ludacris, Commissioner of MLS Don Garber, and former professional soccer player Darren Eales attend the MLS Atlanta Launch Event at SOHO on July 7, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for MLS Atlanta)
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With Atlanta United FC set to make their MLS debut in 2017, the club is reportedly set to make a major splash with one or possibly two Mexican stars.

[ MORE: Agent: Zlatan Ibrahimovic may not join Man United ]

ESPN FC‘s John Sutcliffe reported from the team’s future home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, on Friday, saying that the team is targeting both Andres Guardado and Carlos Vela.

[ MORE: Edgar Castillo to replace Timmy Chandler for USMNT ]

Guardado, who currently plays for PSV Eindhoven, has long been a staple of the El Tri midfield, making 124 appearances for the Mexican national team.

While Vela wasn’t included in Mexico’s Copa America Centenario roster, the Real Sociedad striker has every bit of talent you’d want from a future Designated Player, which is likely what either Guardado or Vela would be.

Atlanta currently has three players on their roster. Greek goalkeeper Alexandros Tabakis, Junior Burgos and Jeffery Otoo currently round out the squad.

The potential addition(s) of an Andres Guardado or Carlos Vela would prove to be not only big for Atlanta but for MLS as a whole, more so with Vela though. MLS’ growth over recent years has brought young DPs like Sebastian Giovinco and Giovani Dos Santos to Toronto FC and the LA Galaxy, respectively.

Another league addition who is in the prime of their career will only continue to build the league’s reputation, and immediately put Atlanta on the map next season.

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