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An alarming pileup of FC Barcelona woe frames today’s Champions League clash with AC Milan

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Barcelona and “painful defeat” have linked themselves astonishingly of late.

Losses to rival Real Madrid have leaked into a recent Champions League setback to form a pool of despair that seemed so unlikely – some might even say “unimaginable” – just a month ago.

(One article has seemed to find a middle ground between “unlikely” and “unimaginable,” settling on the slightly less dramatic “alarming” in assessing the Catalan’s surprising slump.)

Whatever descriptive adjective we choose, all signposts around the Nou Camp point to the same arrival point: Who would have thought such darkness could creep into one of the Earth’s most evocative collection of fabulous feet?

Perhaps Tito Vilanova’s unfortunate absence, stacked on top of Pep Guardiola’s still-recent departure, has finally caught up with the Blaugrana. Or perhaps things have finally gone stale for a team whose core has changed so little over the last few years. For whatever reason, the club is 6-4-3 with just one shutout over its last 13 contests.

But with all that … It’s all there for the turning over today at the Nou Camp, where the energy inside the ginormous Blaugrana ground will carry an unfamiliar nervousness. Milan carries a 2-0 lead in the Round-of-16 second leg clash (3:45 p.m. ET on Fox Soccer Channel).

An FC Barcelona collection still blessed with Leo Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi (and that trio just headlines the fabulous cast) remained was a Champions League favorite moving into the Round of 16. Then came the fateful march into and out of the San Siro, where suddenly surging AC Milan left Barca’s European ambition on the skids.

Tactical cracks have developed in the Barca attack as teams have settled into a formula, defending with those two stingy banks of four and clogging the middle against a Barca bunch that seems so dead-set determined to come through there anyway. So how the Blaugrana attack an Italian defensive arrangement, and which players see the field, may say a lot about today’s outcome.

Or, is it something less tactical, as Xavi suggested in a pre-match news conference?

“We have lacked the old movement in attack and the accompanying defensive intensity,” he said. “Perhaps winning so comfortably in the league has caused us to drop our level a little.”

Perhaps. Either way, things won’t be easy today for the Catalan club; Milan is unbeaten in 10 games now, now third in Serie A and nipping at Napoli for second.

VIDEO: T&T women’s team gives away one of the most bizarre PKs

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Play until you hear the referee’s whistle. In theory, so simple. In practice, it only takes a single second of concentration lapse to become an internet sensation for all the wrong reasons.

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Such is life for Karyn Forbes, member of the Trinidad and Tobago women’s national soccer team. In the above video, you’ll observe Forbes, a 24-year-old midfielder, giving away perhaps the most bizarre penalty kick you’ll ever see. You’ll have to watch for yourself to believe it.

[ MORE: USWNT opens Olympic qualifying with 5-0 victory ]

Unfortunately for Forbes, though the whole of the ball might have crossed the whole of the end line, the referee did not blow her whistle… not until Forbes picked the ball up with her hands and carried it to her goalkeeper.

Bundesliga to go ahead with video replay tests over two years

FILE - In this Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, file photo, a Hawk-Eye camera is set up at Toyota stadium in Toyota. For the first time at a World Cup, technology will be used to determine whether a ball crosses the goal line during matches at the upcoming tournament in Brazil. With vanishing spray also being used to prevent encroachment by defenders making up a wall during free kicks, officials at the highest level of the world’s most popular sport are finally getting some assistance. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)
AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama
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BERLIN (AP) The German Football League (DFL) has given the go-ahead for the possible testing of video replays in the Bundesliga over a two-year pilot phase.

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The DFL says it will be lodging an application with FIFA to take part if the pilot phase is approved by the International Football Association Board at its next annual general meeting on March 5.

The DFL says video replays could be used by a “team of impartial match officials for the purpose of avoiding any evidently incorrect decisions” and that the pilot phase would be preceded by “intensive preparations.”

[ MORE: 17-year-old American MF Pulisic gets Bundesliga debut for Dortmund ]

These would include the settlement of costs among FIFA, the IFAB, the DFL and German football federation, as well as training for the candidates.

West Ham extend Payet’s contract in “enormous show of faith”

West Ham’s Dimitri Payet celebrates after scoring while soap bubbles are blown during the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham and Newcastle at Boleyn Ground in London, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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West Ham United hope Dimitri Payet is going absolutely nowhere after the club announced on Thursday the 28-year-old Frenchman has signed a contract extension through the summer of 2021.

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Payet’s current contract was scheduled to keep him at the Premier League club through the summer of 2020, but a series of standout performances (6 goals, 4 assists so far this season, mostly during the season’s opening three months) and rumors of interest from “bigger” clubs meant tacking on another year — and plenty more cash — was the best way to keep Payet in east London for the foreseeable future. The club confirmed earlier this week that negotiations over an extension were underway.

“He’s the best player I’ve signed in 25 years,” said West Ham co-owner David Sullivan. “He’s a [$43 million] player. He’s a supreme footballer. He makes every player in our side play better. On his day, he’s world class, he’s unstoppable.”

Payet, who’s been at West Ham just eight months after signing last summer, could still depart in the summer should he finish the current season strong and/or show up and show out at the European Championship, which kicks off in June. In that event, West Ham would now bag a much heftier transfer fee than they would have done prior to the extension.

VIDEO: Dele Alli’s magnificent juggling goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon

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Remember that Dele Alli goal? No, not that one… that one. Of course you remember it. How could you not?

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How often does a player receive the ball out of the air, flick it over his head, spin 180 degrees and hit an inch-perfect volley from 20 yards out to secure all three points for his team? The answer is, of course, not very often.

[ MORE: Top 5 Premier League storylines — Sunday’s top-four battle royal

Thus, a goal such as Alli’s stunning winner against Crystal Palace last month has been, and will continue to be, immortalized through numerous recreations in this Digital Age. Above is Alli’s goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon.