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Spain weekend roundup: Takeaways from another Atlético Madrid-Barcelona stalemate

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For some, Saturday’s showdown was anticlimactic, the anticipation leading into the Atlético Madrid-Barcelona showdown failing to translate into the 0-0 final. With both teams dropping points for only the third time,  nothing changed at the top of the Primera División, even if Real Madrid was able to gain two points with their Sunday win at Espanyol. For the third time this season, Atlético and Barça were deadlocked after 90 minutes, slightly increasing the likelihood only goal difference the teams after 38 rounds.

[MORE: Leo Messi can’t quite find the magic; Barcelona and Atletico fight to scoreless draw]

At La Liga’s half-way mark — after a match that was supposed to identify Spain’s favorites — we still haven’t learned which team is better than the other. Saturday’s stalemate did, however, reveal a number of other, smaller things about the Primera’s title race:

1. 270 wasn’t enough – 1-1, 0-0, 0-0. Not only have these teams produced three draws in their 2013-14 meetings (the first two in August’s Spanish Supercopa), but neither side has scored in 204 minutes. At what point do we throw our hands up and say “these teams are equal,” acknowledging any potential goals represent the variance, not a true difference in quality?

We probably aren’t there yet, but if you saw a meaningful difference in Atlético and Barcelona on Saturday, you’re either a.) a fan of one of those teams, or b.) somebody I could really learn something from, because three matches into these teams’ 2013-14 series, there’s no way to tell who’s better.

2. Missed chance for Atleti Even if you think these teams are equal, you can argue Atlético should have done more at home. Being drawn by Barcelona could be seen as dropping points the Blaugrana are likely to build on at home on May 17.

Diego Simeone, however, didn’t seem to agree. At least, judging by his approach, he was fine playing out Saturday’s game to its logical conclusion. Like his counterpart (Gerardo Martino), he never had his team deviate from its game plan, either confident in its ability to break through or unwilling to risk a failure that could give their opponents two more valuable points.

With 19 matches left in the season, with every point so valuable between two teams that will push 100 points this season, that may not have been a risk either coach was willing to take. Whether Simeone comes to regret that will be determined in Catalonia.

3. Another lesson on possession – Barcelona had 69 percent of the ball. They controlled the game, right? No. Atlético’s work and pressure were just as important to how the game played out. Both teams finished with two shots on goal. Neither team looked close to taking the game from the other. Possession was incidental to the result.

4. Set pieces should have meant more for Atlético – Defending set pieces, Barcelona really only have one person capable of marking a significant opposing threat. Sergio Busquets and Dani Alves can try, but it’s Gerard Piqué little else until Carles Puyol returns.

Atlético, on the other hand, have six players within two centimeters of six feet tall, and on Saturday, they won seven corners and three free kicks in the Barcelona half. Yet come full-time, they’d failed to capitalize on any of them, giving those claiming Atlético should have done some fodder.

source: Getty Images5. Gerard Piqué reminded people of his value – Even the world’s best defenders have their detractors. It’s too easy to watch a player on a bad day, see a couple of mistakes, and pass judgment. To a certain degree, that’s the nature of defending, but over the past two years, Gerard Piqué (right) seems to have accumulated more detractors than most. Having to carry the defense in the absences of Carles Puyol, the Spanish international has occasionally faltered.

Saturday was not one of those times. Often isolated on Diego Costa, Piqué was the main reason one of Spain’s leading goal scorers was kept quiet. As best seen on the first half ball that forced Piqué to track Costa into the right channel, Barcelona’s center half seemed a step ahead of his marks, quick to read plays and beat his opponents spots while helping keep flack off Víctor Valdés.

On that play (and on a similar read to his right in the second half), Piqué’s positioning left Costa with a series of low percentage options, both times preventing a shot from testing his keeper.

6. Javier Mascherano continues to be a gamble – This:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtLPHi8T63E]

Let’s set aside the debate as to whether that could have been red, yellow, or nothing (it wasn’t a booking on Saturday). Why does Javier Mascherano continue to put himself in positions to turn games … in a bad way?

Two-footed, going straight into his man, the only thing that saved Mascherano on that play was Arda Turan being so close at the time he committed. Even then, the foul could have seriously hurt the Atlético midfielder, had Mascherano made contact. Once the Barça defender’s feet go out from under him, he loses all influence over whether that contact happens or not.

To paraphrase Charlie Murphy, Mascherano continues to be a habitual dice-roller. Often, you get a quality player who provides a midfielder’s skills in defense. Sometimes, and more often than most players, he takes unjustifiable chances.

Another official may have had Barça playing with 10 for Saturday’s final half-hour.

7. Barcelona is more than Messi, Neymar – When neither Lionel Messi nor Neymar started against Getafe mid-week, it seemed a long shot they’d go 90 against Atlético. Yet given the stakes, many wondered if Tata Martino would still take a chance. When Barça’s South America duo started the game on the bench, people both understood and respected the other gamble he was taking – keeping his best attackers on the bench.

The 0-0 scoreline gives cynics reason to criticize the move, but the silver lining speaks to the quality of Messi and Neymar’s teammates. On the road, against one of the best teams in Europe, and without their two most-talented attackers, the Blaugrana were still able to get a result, one that keeps them at the top of the table. And while this two may have been able to snag additional points for Barcelona, Martino was able to respect their recoveries while keeping his team in first.

8. Atleti better get scoring goals – If Saturday was an indication Barcelona and Atlético may finish this season tied on top, Diego Simeone’s team needs to start scoring goals. They’re five back on goal difference, the likely tiebreaker (if the teams end up even). If Atlético going to claim their unlikely crown, they may need to out-score their more-prolific opposition.

To date, Atleti have allowed 11 goals this season. Barcelona’s allowed 12. Even if Atlético try to make up the five-goal difference by conceding less, there isn’t much room for improvement in that column.

Odds are to catch Barcelona, they’re going to have to be a little more like Barcelona. Barça have scored 53 times so far this year. Atlético (47) need to catch up.

source:  9. Real Madrid was the ‘real winner’ – The instant, post-match analysis was unanimous: Real Madrid were the real winners on Saturday, even if they didn’t play until Sunday. Once they beat Espanyol, however, los Blancos were back within three points of this season’s big two. According to the standings, we have a three-team race.

At the same time, we can’t ignore what we saw from Real Madrid. Failing to score from open play against the league’s 12th-placed team, El Real are still playing like the Spain’s third-best team, and with Luka Modric and Xabi Alonso holding down the middle, it’s not difficult to imagine where Spain’s leaders will be able to given the Merengues problems.

By the math, Real Madrid did “win” this weekend, but seeing how Spain’s top-three performed, there was no change in the power dynamics at the top of the table. La Liga still has two main contenders for the title, with a sleeping giant given extra time to show they can make this a three-team race.

Elsewhere

  • Granada 4, Valladolid 0 – Two goals from Recio left Valladolid in the bottom three come at the end of the weekend, with goals from Jeison Murillo and Youssef El-Arabi piling on to drive Lucas Alcaraz’s team 10th.
  • Athletic Bilbao 6, Almeria 1 – Bouncing back from last week’s loss to Real Sociedad, Athletic got two goals from Ibai Gómez after Mikei Rico, Ander Herrera, Aymeric Laporte, and Artiz Aduriz had already put the game out of reach.
  • Celta Vigo 2, Valencia 1 – A second half brace from Charles reversed Daniel Parejo’s opening goal, ending Celta’s three-match winless run.
  • Elche 1, Sevilla 1 – Christian Herrera’s 82nd minute goal seemed to give Elche its upset, but one minute before full-time, Daniel Carriço equalized, carrying Sevilla’s unbeaten run to seven in league.
  • Getafe 0, Real Vallecano 1 – Alberto Bueno’s 29th minute goal held up as Rubén Martínez’s five saves helped keep Getafe off the scoresheet.
  • Real Betis 1, Osasuna 2 – Nono’s second booking left Real Betis down a man and a goal in the 38th minute. A second half own goal from Jordi Figueras put the game away before Jorge Molina got the home side on the board late.
  • Levante 1, Málaga 0 – Bernd Schuster’s team spent 71 minutes chasing David Berral’s opener, putting up 22 shots along the way. Six saves from Keylor Navas, however, delivered Levante’s sixth win of the season, Málaga now losers of two in a row.

Others
Atlético Madrid 0, Barcelona 0
Espanyol 0, Real Madrid 1

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Barcelona 19 16 2 1 53 12 41 9-0-0 7-2-1 50
Atlético Madrid 19 16 2 1 47 11 36 9-1-0 7-1-1 50
Real Madrid 19 15 2 2 53 21 32 8-0-1 7-2-1 47
Athletic 19 11 3 5 32 24 8 8-2-0 3-1-5 36
Real Sociedad 18 9 5 4 35 23 12 6-2-1 3-3-3 32
Villarreal 18 9 4 5 32 20 12 4-3-2 5-1-3 31
Sevilla 19 8 6 5 36 30 6 5-2-2 3-4-3 30
Valencia 19 7 2 10 26 31 -5 5-1-4 2-1-6 23
Granada 19 7 2 10 19 25 -6 3-0-7 4-2-3 23
Levante 19 6 5 8 18 27 -9 3-3-3 3-2-5 23
Getafe 19 7 2 10 20 31 -11 4-2-4 3-0-6 23
Espanyol 19 6 4 9 22 25 -3 4-2-4 2-2-5 22
Osasuna 19 6 3 10 17 29 -12 3-2-4 3-1-6 21
Málaga 19 5 5 9 19 24 -5 4-0-5 1-5-4 20
Celta Vigo 19 5 4 10 23 31 -8 2-4-4 3-0-6 19
Almería 19 5 4 10 21 38 -17 2-3-4 3-1-6 19
Elche 19 4 6 9 17 28 -11 2-3-5 2-3-4 18
Valladolid 19 3 7 9 21 33 -12 2-4-3 1-3-6 16
Rayo Vallecano 19 5 1 13 19 45 -26 2-0-7 3-1-6 16
Betis 19 2 5 12 16 38 -22 2-3-5 0-2-7 11

Sergio Aguero charged by FA, could miss Manchester derby

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - APRIL 02:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Manchester City at Vitality Stadium on April 2, 2016 in Bournemouth, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Sergio Aguero did not get away with it.

In the second half of Manchester City’s 3-1 win against West Ham United on Sunday Aguero appeared to elbow Winston Reid in the face in an off the ball incident.

As soon as that happened, perhaps Jose Mourinho made a call to his friends at the English Football Association…

The English FA believe it was intentional and Man City’s top scorer from last season has been handed a charge which could lead to a retrospective ban.

That is likely to see Aguero, City’s main man up front, miss the Manchester derby against Manchester United on Sept. 10.

Ouch. Couple with a calf injury, not a good few days for Aguero.

Here is the statement in full from the FA as Pep Guardiola has been dealt a huge problem ahead of his first Premier League showdown against arch rival Mourinho.

Sergio Aguero has been charged for an alleged act of violent conduct which was not seen by the match officials but caught on video.

The Manchester City forward was involved in an incident with West Ham United’s Winston Reid in the 76th minute of the game on Sunday [28 August 2016].

He has until 6pm on Wednesday 31 August to reply.

Off the ball incidents which are not seen at the time by the match officials are referred to a panel of three former elite match officials.

Each panel member will review the video footage independently of one another to determine whether they consider it a sending-off offence.

For retrospective action to be taken, and an FA charge to follow, the decision of the panel must be unanimous.

10 deals to look out for on Transfer Deadline Day

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Wilfried Bony of Manchester City celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Capital One Cup Quarter Final match between Manchester City and Hull City at Etihad Stadium on December 1, 2015 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
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As the seconds tick away, Premier League teams will become more desperate.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

The summer transfer window for PL clubs closes at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday and there seems to be plenty of business still to be done by all 20 teams.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal? ]

Below is a look at the top 10 players to keep an eye on in the next 24 hours or so, as deals for them to move elsewhere already seem to be in motion.


  1. Jack Wilshere (Arsenal): English midfielder wants to head out on loan. Juventus, Roma are interested, plus several PL clubs. A mercurial talent who just needs to play regularly.
  2. Wilfried Bony (Manchester City): Out of the picture completely at City, Bony could head to West Ham, Stoke or Everton. Powerful striker who needs to regain confidence.
  3. Islam Slimani (Sporting Lisbon): Leicester have apparently had a huge bid rejected for the bustling Algerian striker, but should up their offer to bag him.
  4. Saido Berahino (West Brom): This guy is always around on Deadline Day and that’s the case again. Stoke City are now the main contenders with Palace signing Remy and Benteke.
  5. Adrien Silva (Sporting Lisbon): Portuguese national team midfielder has said he wants to join Leicester but Sporting aren’t keen on losing him. Has a $50 million release clause.
  6. Marcos Alonso (Fiorentina): Chelsea could be set to seal the signing of the left back. The versatile Spaniard is good on the ball and had previous PL spells with Bolton and Sunderland.
  7. Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool): Told to go out on loan by Jurgen Klopp, it is believed he turned down a move to Stoke. Could the French international arrive at West Brom?
  8. Samir Nasri (Manchester City): Pep Guardiola lambasted Nasri for being overweight during preseason and although he appeared as a sub last weekend, he could be off to Sevilla.
  9. Lamine Kone (Sunderland): Everton and Chelsea are said to be battling it out for center back who had an impressive finish to last season. Powerful center back, worth over $25 million.
  10. James McCarthy (Everton): Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Leicester are interested in McCarthy with Ronald Koeman not seeing the Republic of Ireland midfielder in his plans.

Hull City sign Ryan Mason in club record deal

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Hull City have finally got the green-light to sign new players and this one is a biggie.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

Ryan Mason, 25, has signed from Tottenham Hotspur in a club-record deal believed to be for a fee of around $17 million. Sunderland had also been in for Mason but he chose to sign for Hull on a three-year deal.

Mason has seen his playing time dwindle at Spurs over the past 12 months and the energetic two-way midfielder has moved to the KCOM Stadium to reignite his career as he enters his prime.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal? ]   

Following in the footsteps of former Tottenham players Michael Dawson, Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone in switching Spurs for Hull, Mason is ecstatic to join the Tigers.

“I’m delighted and excited to be here,” Mason said. “I can’t wait to get started and I see this as a massive opportunity for me.”

Mason will provide a calming influence in midfield as the Spurs academy product is comfortable on the ball and able to time his runs from midfield well when he gets forward. He has one England cap to his name and has experienced Europa League action with Tottenham after joining them as an eight-year-old.

Starting the Premier League season with just 13 fit senior players, caretaker boss Mike Phelan has finally been able to add to his squad and it is the biggest indicator yet that Phelan will be handed the job on a permanent basis when the sale of the club from the Allam family to Chinese investors is ratified in the coming days.

Goalkeeper David Marshall arrived earlier on Tuesday from Cardiff City and it is expected that striker Will Keane will come in from Manchester United, plus others could arrive.

After two wins from their opening three games of the PL season, these signings further lift any gloom which was hanging over the Yorkshire club following a tumultuous summer as manager Steve Bruce walked out and their owners were heavily criticized for not adding reinforcements.

Man United’s Bastian Schweinsteiger admits MLS “an option”

BORDEAUX, FRANCE - JULY 02:  Bastian Schweinsteiger of Germany celebrates victory after winning  the UEFA EURO 2016 quarter final match between Germany and Italy at Stade Matmut Atlantique on July 2, 2016 in Bordeaux, France.  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
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Bastian Schweinsteiger has not given up on playing for Manchester United again but the captain of the Germany national team already seems to be looking ahead to the future.

[ VIDEO: Hope Solo loses it ]

Schweinsteiger, 32, only signed for the Red Devils last summer but following Jose Mourinho’s arrival as boss the legendary German midfielder has found himself training with the reserve squad and surplus to requirements.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal?

Speaking ahead of his final game for Germany, a friendly against Finland in Dortmund on Wednesday, Schweinsteiger revealed that although a move to Major League Soccer isn’t an option right now, it will be in the future.

“The transfer window there is already closed. That’s why it’s not possible now,” Schweinsteiger said. “My dream still is to play for Manchester United. If I get a fair chance, I believe in it. I believe in my abilities. Until my suspension it went really well last year, after that the two injuries happened. But America is naturally an option.”

So, Schweinsteiger to MLS in 2017?

It certainly seems to be a possibility, especially if United waive any transfer fee for the German midfielder so they can get his hefty $262,000 weekly salary off their wage bill.

Looking at Schweinsteiger’s options, both Minnesota United and Atlanta United will join MLS in 2017 and could be interested in signing a high-profile Designated Player to ramp up interest about their arrival in North America’s top-flight. Frank Lampard will be out of contract at New York City FC this December, as will Steven Gerrard at LA Galaxy.

If some of the big boys in MLS are looking for a marquee signing who can sell shirts and provide veteran leadership in midfield, Schweinsteiger may well be their man.

Even if Mourinho doesn’t think he can still do it, Schweinsteiger put in some decent displays for Germany as they made the semifinals of EURO 20016 and when he was fit last season at United he certainly didn’t look out of place sometimes the pace of the Premier League caught him out.

Let’s not forget, 18 months ago Schweinsteiger was still a regular for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga and played an important role in several runs to the UEFA Champions League semifinal stage.