Courses change for Schalke, Borussia Dortmund in Saturday’s Revierderby

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All this talk (I started) about Borussia Dortmund being the second-best team in Europe looked pretty foolish after 45 minutes in Gelsenkirchen. Schalke had scored two early goals in their Revierderby, and if it wasn’t for Mario Götze clearing a ball off the line, the game could have been out of reach by halftime. Instead, Schalke went to intermission looking like the early season version of themselves.

That was a team that went into Dortmund in October and earned a 2-1 victory. Then, Schalke looked destined for a top four spot and showed the potential to comete with the big two, but a mid-season fall thrust the Miners mid-table. A recent run of seven points in three games pulled them back to sixth, but with their wins coming against Fortuna Dusseldorf and Wolfsburg, there was almost no hint Jens Keller’s wildly inconsistent team would be ready for a side that routed Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.

But rivalries have a weird way of changing everything, and the Revierderby is one of the biggest in Germany. Sure, most of the time I think all the magic of derbies talk is a bunch of hooey, but today it proved true. Over the first 45 minutes, Schalke looked like Dortmund — controlling, fluid, clinical with their chances — and Dortmund looked like Schalke. They were passive, overwhelmed, and unable to match Schalke’s energy.

The second half started with both teams reverting to type, with Robert Lewandowski’s 59th minute score giving BVB the last half hour to find an equalizer. But that proved one of the few times Timo Hildebrand would be stressed. Dortmund had 61 percent of the possession, but they only put three shots on goal. Schalke forced Roman Weidenfeller into eight saves.

The 2-1 moved Schalke into fourth, a remarkable standing considering how bad they’ve been all winter. Frankfurt could knock the Royal Blues out of the top four tomorrow, but that’s almost beside the point. Schalke is in contention for a Champions League spot. Mid-week against Galatasaray, they’ll be favorites to move into the final eight of this year’s competition. Despite two or three embarrassing months, Schalke’s still in line for a very successful season.

And that season has seen them take six points from Dortmund, a team that’s already in the Champions League quarters – one that should finish in second place in Germany. Whether those upsets are the magic of derbies or the team’s bipolarity, who knows.

Regardless, you get the feeling Schalke wouldn’t mind being drawn with their rivals should they make the Champions League quarters.

Here are the highlights, with Schalke’s opening goal a particularly special piece of execution:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1b7yg10xSw]

French league terminates goal-line technology contract

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PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

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The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga