Most of the headlines around the soccer universe today have been taken up by the Premier League, with 14 of the division’s clubs back in action on Saturday. But it wasn’t just England that saw the return of first-division football this weekend — over in Spain, La Liga kicked off the season with Real Sociedad hosting Getafe. The Erreala secured a 2-0 victory thanks to goals on either side of the break, thanks to goals from Carlos Vela and new boy Haris Seferović. That should give Real Sociedad a boost before their upcoming Champions League qualifying match, with the first leg taking place on Tuesday against Lyon.
Next up was a match between two sides that finished in the lower midtable last season, so you wouldn’t necessarily think you were about to see a thrilling match. But the game between Real Valladolid and Athletic Bilbao was fast paced and fun. Markel Susaeta kicked off the scoring for Athletic in the 28th minute, but Valladolid found an equalizer just three minutes later thanks to Patrick Ebert. Shortly after the restart, Athletic regained the lead through a goal by Iker Muniain, which seemed to break the hosts’ spirits. The match ended as a 2-1 victory for Athletic Bilbao.
The final match of La Liga’s Saturday saw Valencia play host to Málaga. With the sides taking 4th and 5th respectively last season, taking all three points was never going to be an easy task. But it was an important one for the new coach of los che, Miroslav Djukic, a former Valencia player. Fortunately for Djukic, Ricardo Costa broke through the Valencia defense in the 64th minute, and despite a flurry of activity from the visitors, the scoreline stood at 1-0.
La Liga action continues on Sunday with a host of great matches. First up is Barcelona hosting Levante, followed by Real Madrid vs. Real Bestis and Osasuna vs. Granada. The weekend wraps up with Atlético Madrid paying a visit to Sevilla.
The player-swap/trade/transfer between Arsenal and Manchester United still appears to be heading towards completion, but it was further delayed Friday.
Multiple reports in England state that while Alexis Sanchez seems set to move to Manchester United, Henrik Mkhitaryan has yet to agree to move the other way, as talks between the player’s agent and Arsenal continue. Mkhitaryan was seen training at Manchester United’s practice facility on Friday, and because the latest delay, both players would be unable to debut for their new teams this weekend after missing the Premier League registration deadline.
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Arsenal hosts Crystal Palace Manchester United travels to Burnley, both on Saturday at 10 a.m. (Watch Arsenal live on CNBC, Manchester United live on NBCSN, and both live on NBCSports.com)
The London Evening Standard reports that Mkhitaryan would command a $242,000-per-week salary but that as of Friday morning he had yet to undergo a medical for the transfer. Arsenal reportedly still wants a transfer fee included for Sanchez, while Manchester United would prefer to just swap the two players.
It’s also looking as if that won’t be Arsenal’s only business in the transfer market. While it seemed like a far-fetched rumor at first, the links between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Arsenal have only grown stronger in the past few days, and the Gabon international appears to be in the Gunners sights. It appears that Bordeaux’s young striker Malcolm is now off the table.
Efrain Juarez is bringing his game to Major League Soccer.
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The 39-times capped Mexico veteran has inked a deal with the Vancouver Whitecaps, joining a strengthened unit which came within a point of winning the West last season.
Juarez, 29, was unveiled as a midfielder by the ‘Caps, though he’s primarily played right back in his club career. He’s played at Celtic, Real Zaragoza, Club America, Monterrey, and Pumas.
Last capped by El Tri in 2012, Juarez has played every position except goal, center attacking mid, and center forward in his career (picture a ‘U’ on the pitch).
“I’m so happy and excited for this new stage in my career,” Juarez said. “It’s an opportunity for me to keep growing in a new league and to be a part of an amazing club in Vancouver. From the moment they showed interest me, Carl Robinson and the Whitecaps staff have made me feel very important. I promise to put all my effort into this club and do my best to help us achieve our goals.”
Marco Asensio’s eighth goal of the season and second of this Copa del Rey put an end to an unlikely Real Madrid winless run in a 1-0 victory at Leganes.
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The 21-year-old darted in front of a defender to volley home from in-tight, giving Real Madrid a first leg lead in the tournament quarterfinals.
More importantly, perhaps, it gives struggling Real a boost in morale after draws with Celta Vigo and Numancia, and a loss to Villarreal.
Real is home to Deportivo de la Coruna in La Liga before hosting Leganes in the second leg.
Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is probably happy that his for-sale club is away this weekend, even though his side’s up against Manchester City.
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That’s because hopeful buyer Amanda Staveley has responded to claims that her hopeful takeover of the team won’t be happening any time soon.
Talks had stalled, said Tuesday reports, much to the chagrin of an #AshleyOut brigade that at times can make Arsenal’s #WengerOut brigade look like a yard full of happy puppies.
A “source” had said, “Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” but Staveley shot back on Thursday to reignite the fire. From the BBC, taken from The Times:
“Our bid remains on the table. This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”
She also said that popular manager Rafa Benitez is integral to her interest in the team, and that fact combined with her insistence that an offer remains on the table will have many Newcastle fans seething with current ownership (and there have been protests for years). It’s Ashley’s move now.