Your guide to Premier League new boys, Cardiff City

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Croeso y Cymru – that’s Welcome to Wales, in Welsh. It’s a phrase we’ll hear more often next season after Cardiff City’s promotion to the Premier League.

A goalless draw at home to Charlton Athletic yesterday was enough to secure Cardiff a return to England’s top division after 51 years, sparking jubilation in the Welsh capital city. So, what can we expect from Cardiff in 2013-14?

Rivalry: the enmity between Cardiff and Swansea is infamously fierce. With Cardiff joining their fellow Welsh club in the top division, it will be renewed after a year’s break. The dislike goes far beyond the pitch – the two biggest Welsh cities have a civic and cultural rivalry, too. They’re not exactly fond of the English, either.

Craig Bellamy: Cardiff’s talismanic forward joined his home-town club on loan from Manchester City in 2010, and made the move permanent in 2012. He’s played for Liverpool, Newcastle, Norwich, Blackburn, and others – never lasting too long in one place thanks to his outspoken personality and reputation as a troublemaker (just ask former Anfield team-mate, John Arne Riise).

Controversial ownership: Vincent Tan is a savior with strings attached. The Malaysian owner’s investment eased the financial pressure at a club that’s had serious money problems for several years and is reportedly about $120m in debt. But some of his bright ideas to rebrand the club and make it more attractive to Asian fans have not gone down well with the locals, who seem to like their club’s traditional colors, its logo, and its name. Thanks to Tan (pictured), Cardiff now play in red instead of their historical blue (hence their nickname, the Bluebirds). He’s already said the club plans to spend up to $40m on players. It’ll be interesting to see what marketing gimmicks Tan has up his sleeves now that Cardiff are in a league that’s hugely popular in Asia. Think of the jersey sales in Kuala Lumpur!

Cardiff City Stadium: It’s not a very original name, nor is the design innovative. But Cardiff’s bland 27,000-seat home is modern – it opened in 2009 – and comfortable, certainly a venue fit for the pinnacle of British soccer. It’s a 25-minute walk from the city center and just across the road from the club’s former home, the outdated, intimidating, Ninian Park. The atmosphere’s less good in the new place but Cardiff fans are fanatical so it figures to be one of the noisiest venues in the Premier League.

Malky Mackay: The 41-year-old manager did what the more experienced Dave Jones couldn’t, and brought Premier League soccer to Cardiff after several near-misses. A former Scotland defender who played for Celtic, Norwich and West Ham, Mackay won’t be one of the division’s most quotable or excitable managers. He started his managerial career at Watford in 2009, doing well with limited resources and switching to Cardiff in 2011. It’ll be intriguing to see if he can avoid the same fate as Brian McDermott and Nigel Adkins, axed this season after taking up Reading and Southampton respectively – both similar-sized clubs to Cardiff.

New York Red Bulls introduce space at RBA for autistic families

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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) The Red Bulls have announced plans for a permanent sensory-friendly space at their stadium for families impacted by autism.

Formerly executive offices, the space overlooking midfield is a calm area that is free from the crowds and the noise of Red Bull Arena during matches. Families can use it for free.

The team announced the new space on Saturday before the Red Bulls were set to host the Chicago Fire. It was Autism Awareness Night at the stadium.

“Families deserve to feel welcome and comfortable each time they step foot into Red Bull Arena, not just one night a year,” Red Bulls GM Marc de Grandpre said in a statement released by the club. “We hope all sports teams and entertainment venues are inspired to take similar action to provide comfort for families with loved ones on the autism spectrum.”

League Two game restarted in empty stadium after fans storm field

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LONDON (AP) An English soccer game restarted in an empty stadium after a pitch invasion led to the crowd being told the fixture had been abandoned.

There were five minutes remaining in Leyton Orient’s fourth-tier game against Colchester on Saturday when a sit-down protest was staged on the pitch by Orient fans against Italian owner Francesco Becchetti.

It forced the referee to take the players off the field. The protests lasted for more than an hour before the crowd was told the game had been abandoned and the stadium eventually cleared. The teams came out and finished the game.

Leyton Orient lost 3-1 a week after its relegation from the English Football League was confirmed after 112 years.

“A decision was taken with the police to announce that the game had been abandoned as it was felt this would help clear the pitch, which proved correct,” the EFL said in a statement. “However, it was deemed appropriate that the game needed to be played to a conclusion in order to maintain the integrity of the competition.”

La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid hold serve in tight title race

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Super-duper Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of top 7 ]

Espanyol 0-3 Barcelona

Barcelona are doing all they can do — win — in their bid to usurp Real Madrid in the race for the title. While they entered the weekend — and still are — ahead of their El Clasico rivals based on head-to-head results this season, Los Blancos still have a game in hand which will surely decide whether Madrid claim their 33rd top-division title, or a 25th for Barca.

On Saturday, Luis Enrique’s side had more than just the title at stake — also at stake: the Derbi Barceloni, against fellow Catalan side Espanyol.

For 45 minutes, the home side held firm and refused to break, but once Luis Suarez put the Blaugrana ahead in the 50th minute, that was all she wrote. Ivan Rakitic doubled the advantage in the 76th minute, and Suarez completed the scoring 11 minutes later.

Real Madrid 2-1 Valencia

By the time the derby kicked off, Madrid had already applied the pressure and gone three points clear with a 2-1 victory that was a whole lot closer than the final score indicates.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark, and Zinedine Zidane’s side was well on its way to victory. Ronaldo followed up his opening goal with a missed penalty kick 10 minutes into the second half, and Daniel Parejo pulled the visitors level with a sensational free kick just eight minutes before the end of regular time. Points looked sure to be dropped, and the door opened wider for Barca, but Marcelo was prepared to play the part of hero on the day, and the Brazilian left back bagged one of the season’s more improbable goals, a right-footed strike from the top of the box, in the 86th minute.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 0-5 Atletico Madrid
Real Sociedad 2-1 Granada

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Osasuna vs. Deportivo La Coruña — 6 a.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Alaves — 10:15 a.m. ET
Eibar vs. Leganes — 12:30 p.m. ET
Celta Vigo vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:45 p.m. ET

Monday’s La Liga schedule

Malaga vs. Sevilla — 3 p.m. ET

Championship Focus: It’s all about the playoff places now

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With Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United having already clinched the Championship’s two automatic promotion places, all eyes turn to the four teams behind them still jockeying for playoff positioning…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s coverage of the Championship ]

3rd — Reading — 82 points, +2 GD
4th — Sheffield Wednesday — 81 points, +16 GD
5th — Huddersfield Town — 81 points, +1 GD
6th — Fulham — 77 points, +27 GD

First of all, the Championship remains the least sensible league in the world. Disagree? Just try to explain the above wildly varying points totals and the corresponding goal differentials. Go ahead, I’ll wait

As for the weekend’s results, Reading and Wednesday did themselves major favors in the race for third with victories over Wigan Athletic (1-0) and Ipswich Town (1-0), respectively, while Huddersfield, who entered the weekend in that top playoff place, played 67 minutes with a man advantage against Birmingham City, and lost 2-0. All three of Reading, Wednesday and Huddersfield have clinched their place in the promotion playoffs, which begin two weeks from Saturday, on May 13.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of the top 7 play ]

Given Leeds United’s 3-3 draw with Norwich City, a win would have clinched the fourth and final playoff place for Fulham, but the Cottagers dropped a pair of points themselves in a 1-1 draw with Brentford at Craven Cottage. Still, Fulham are all but into the playoffs with a three-point lead on Leeds, and a goal differential that’s 13 goals better.