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Spain: Cristiano Ronaldo hurt, Real Betis tempting fate again

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La Liga’s global brand has become as much about the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid as the competition itself, but the competition’s greatest inner-city derby took place on Sunday. That when Sevilla, battling at the edge of the league’s European spots, welcomed Real Betis back to the Sanchez Pizjuan. Whereas the Seville rivals once shared a volatile coexistence, Betis’s 2011 return to the Primera Division saw the derby resume in a less-heated way. On the outside side of a then ever-increasing Spanish duopoly, Sevilla and Real Betis recognized the synergistic virtues of being in the same division.

Yet coming into today’s game, Betis found themselves in last place, a six-match unbeaten run in league leaving last year’s seventh place finishers three points from safety. With the club likely to go through in their Europa League group (sitting first in Group I through four rounds), the Beticos are in danger over-exposing themselves. A team having trouble taking care of business in league will be left waging battles on two fronts into 2014.

The Primera part of that struggle took a turn for the worse two minutes into Sunday’s derby. After José Antonio Reyes played through to Carlos Bacca, the Sevilla attacker’s right-footed strike dug Betis an early hole. While the visitors appeared poised to pull the lead back, outshooting Sevilla 5-2 over the next 40 minutes, Paulao’s foul on Reyes late in the half earned the Brazilian defender a second yellow card. When Stephane Mbia headed home the restart, Betis went into half down two goals, one man.

Second half goals from Vitolo and Vicente Iborra left Betis embarrassed, but a four-goal loss to their arch rivals is now the least of their worries. Fourteen matches into the season, Pepe Mel’s side has two wins and nine points, their -16 goal difference hinting this is more than just a slow start. While the team has the talent to play closer to the level of last year’s team, as has often been the case in Betis’s history, talent isn’t enough. Just over two years into their Primera return, Betis is beginning another fight for their first division survival.

Ronaldo to join Messi on the sidelines?

Gareth Bale scored, as did Karim Benzema, Isco, and Álvaro Morata, but the big news after Real Madrid’s win over a 10-man Almeria was the injury to Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese star left after 52 minutes with a hamstring injury resulting from a first half challenge.

“It was for precaution,” Ronaldo told the media after the match. “It’s nothing special. I was kicked in the first half and had the muscle a little stiff.”

Though Lionel Messi is out until 2014 with a hamstring injury of his own, it looks like La Liga will be spared the absence of its two biggest stars, even if that doesn’t necessarily mean Ronaldo will return any time soon. With matches against Galatasaray and Valladolid over the next seven days, Real Madrid can afford to exercise caution with their main weapon.

Elsewhere

  • Valladolid 0, Osasuna 1 – An unlikely goal from Oier (in fairness, his second of the season) leaves Valladolid in 17th place, the Spanish defender heading his team to their fourth win of the season.
  • Barcelona 4, Granada 0 – First half penalty conversions from Andrés Iniesta and Cesc Fábregas had Barça up two before Granada lost a man, with second half goals from Alexis Sánchez and Pedro finishing the job.
  • Real Sociedad 4, Celta Viga 3 – Mexican not-so-international Carlos Vela scored four times, twice after Andreu Fontás’s second half dismissal. Down 3-1 after 56 minutes, La Real left unexpected winners.
  • Atlético Madrid 7, Getafe 0 – Yet another red card on a weekend that saw seven dismissals allowed Atleti to score five times against 10 men, Diego Costa’s goal grabbing headlines.
  • Levante 0, Villarreal 3 – Playing 80 minutes against 10 men, the Yellow Submarine got two goals from Ikechukwu Uche, allowing them to continue their consolidation of fourth place.
  • Elche 2, Valencia 1 – Cristian Herrera’s 84th minute winner helped the home side end their three-match winless run, allowing them to join Los Che was one of four teams with 17 points.
  • Malaga vs. Athletic Club – Athletic will be looking to pull within one of Villarreal, while Malaga hopes to put more than one point between themselves and the drop.

Southampton: Van Dijk won’t leave, selling days likely done

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  Ralph Krueger the Southampton Chairman looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Newcastle United at St Mary's Stadium on March 29, 2014 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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Ralph Krueger doesn’t plan on selling any more big Southampton stars, and there’s none brighter than Virgil Van Dijk.

The Dutchman is perhaps the best center back in the Premier League, regularly linked with transfers to anywhere from Manchester City to Liverpool.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

But Krueger says Saints have had enough of selling big assets. Southampton has sold Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Sadio Mane, and Nathaniel Clyne in the past three seasons, and those are just the names to go to Liverpool. Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama have also moved on from St. Mary’s.

From Sky Sports:

“We would like to move away from that and we feel confident this summer will be a lot quieter in Southampton and we can keep the core of this team moving forward for a few years.

“That is going to be important when you see how excellent the group is right now and how exciting the football is. The game we are playing is a pleasure to watch and a pleasure to be part of.”

Saints were the more effective side in a 3-2 EFL Cup Final loss to Manchester United this weekend, but are well off the pace in the race to make back-to-back trips into Europe.

It will be hard to hold onto Van Dijk and even new bright light Manolo Gabbiadini without Europe, but Krueger is a strong leader with the ability to convince almost anyone to buy into a plan.

Real Salt Lake signs Plata to multi-year DP deal

Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata (8) gestures while walking during an MLS soccer game against New York City FC Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Sandy, Utah. (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP) DESERET NEWS OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; MAGS OUT
Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP
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SANDY, Utah (AP) Real Salt Lake has re-signed forward Joao Plata to a multi-year contract and he will continue to hold a designated-player spot.

The 24-year-old was acquired from Toronto FC before the 2013 season and he has 30 goals and 30 assists in regular-season play with RSL.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

Plata ranks No. 3 on the team’s all-time assists list and No. 5 in goals. He has 33 goals and 35 assists during his MLS career.

Real Salt Lake begins the season Saturday when it hosts Toronto FC.

Gotze out indefinitely with metabolism disorder

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 06:  Mario Goetze (R) and Ann-Kathrin Broemmel attend the MTV Europe Music Awards 2016 on November 6, 2016 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for MTV)
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Mario Gotze’s last few seasons have not fulfilled the expectations thrust about the World Cup-winning attacker.

Gotze, 24, scored the 113th minute goal that lifted Germany past Argentina in the 2014 World Cup, but has endured successive disappointing seasons between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

With just two goals this season, Gotze has played just 24 minutes since BVB came back from winter break. On Monday, the club revealed why: a metabolism disorder that will keep him out for an indefinite period of time. From Sky Sports:

“We are glad to know the reasons for Mario’s complaints and we are convinced that after recovering he will give us extra quality with his exceptional abilities,” said Dortmund’s director of sport Michael Zorc.

“Mario gets the full backing and maximum support from all of us at Borussia Dortmund on his way back.”

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Gotze at his best, and here’s hoping this problem is both curable and the reason for his struggles.

Liverpool hires EA Sports executive as new CEO

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Liverpool has named Peter Moore as the successor to chief executive office Ian Ayre.

Ayre, 53, is off to 1860 Munich this summer, and has stepped down early to allow Moore to take over.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

A Liverpool-born executive, Moore was the chief operating officer at EA Sports and has also worked with Microsoft and SEGA.

The move “completes a transitional phase” which saw several new names join the fray. From The Liverpool Echo:

The appointment completes a transition plan by FSG which included appointing Michael Edwards as sporting director while Billy Hogan was promoted to the role of managing director and chief commercial officer.