Copa del Rey: Draw in San Sebastián sees Barcelona set up Clasico final

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Their victory may not have had the deafening impact Real Madrid’s thumping of Atlético sounded in the tournament’s other semifinal, but with their 3-1 aggregate win over Real Sociedad, Barcelona has achieved the same result. Building on last week’s 2-0 win a the Nou Camp, the reigning Spanish champions got an early goal from Lionel Messi today in San Sebastián, eliminating what little chance La Real had of overturning their first legdeficit. The eventual 1-1 result sets up a third Clasico of the season in April’s Copa del Rey final.

Messi opened the scoring the in the 27th minute with an effort evocative if his pre-injury self. Picking up a ball just inside his own half, Messi carried scrambled all the way to the edge of the Real Sociedad area, navigating a triangle of defenders to get his shot off from 18 yards. While Eñaut Zubikarai was able to get a hand on it, Messi’s slavo had enough behind to still trickle across the goal line, giving the visitors a three-goal lead.

Holding 76 percent of the ball, Barcelona was able to limit their hosts’ chances through possession along, though three minutes before full-time, Sociedad were able to craft a consolation goal. While a diagonal was played to substitute Gonzalo Castro down the left flank. Antoine Griesmann made a run to the top of the area, where Chilean found him 15 yards from goal. One-timing a left-footed blast past Pinto, the France World Cup hopeful ensured his team would avoid one of the indignities bestowed on Atlético. It took nearly 180 minutes, but at least his team managed a goal.

Superficially, the goal gives the impression Barcelona did less against La Real than Real Madrid accomplished against Atlético. In reality, neither tie was ever that close, with only the first 45 minutes of the two-legged affairs providing any hope a final Clasico could be avoided. While Real Madrid certainly deserve extra credit for easing past a team that had been almost unbeatable all year, there’s little more Barcelona could have done against Sociedad besides run up a meaningless score.

That they instead exerted their trademark oppressive, ball-hogging control reignites the debates that have defined the last few years of Spanish soccer. Can the power and prowess that the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale embody subdue the technical dominance Lionel Messi and Andrés Iniesta bring to the game? Can the might of Sergio Ramos and Pepe hold up against Barcelona’s movement, and will Gerard Piqué and company be able to handle the counterattacks Real’s sure to throw at them?

The next arguments will be made on Mar. 22 at the Bernabéu, with the teams meeting in La Liga. Thanks to today’s result, we’ll now get a third Clasico of the season in April. With Spain’s big two rounding into form, Champions League could very well provide more.

Klopp to the Kop: Multiple reports say deal agreed at Liverpool

TURIN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 24:  Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp shouts to his players during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match between Juventus and Borussia Dortmund at Juventus Arena on February 24, 2015 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
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Jurgen Klopp is on his way to Liverpool to sign a contract naming him the next coach of the Reds.

The celebrated manager, 48, has been on “hiatus” from football since leaving Borussia Dortmund last season.

[ MORE: Messi to stand trial in Spain ]

Reports starting emerging earlier today that an agreement was imminent, and now the BBC is among those reporting that Klopp will be rolled out Friday morning.

From the BBC:

No contract has yet been signed but that is viewed as a formality when Klopp arrives in Liverpool later on Thursday. He will be officially unveiled by Liverpool on Friday morning at 10:00 BST.

There’s not much to say besides this: Klopp’s addition to the Premier League will give more color and brilliance to the country’s footballing scene. Only a certain class of manager can be instantly expected to find a better system for an inherited group of players.

This could and should be a game changer on Merseyside.

Appeal rejected! Lionel Messi will face court trial in Spain

VIGO, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 23:  Lionel Messi looks dejected after the La Liga match between Celta Vigo and FC Barcelona at Estadio Balaidos on September 23, 2015 in Vigo, Spain.  (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Alex Caparros/Getty Images
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It was a mere 48 hours ago that Lionel Messi looked close to in the clear when it came to tax evasion charges.

Now the question is whether a Spanish court will lock away the greatest active footballer, as a judge rejected the prosecutors’ (!!!) request to drop the charges.

[ WATCH: Hilarious spoof pegs Messi, Ronaldo as “Friends” ]

Messi and his father have already made a $5.5 million corrective payment, but there’s principle in play here. And the judge wants to know how Messi can claim he had no idea what was being done with his money.

From the BBC:

Lawyers acting on behalf of the tax authorities demanded 22-month jail sentences for both defendants.

“There are rational signs that the criminality was committed by both accused parties,” wrote the judge in a court filing, according to the AFP news agency.

Can you imagine one of the world’s richer men ending up in a Spanish prison? It’s very difficult to consider. In some ways it’s more plausible that he would buy his own island and start the “Messi Isle Premiership”.

Still, we won’t laugh off the idea, especially with FIFA apparently going down. Messi in prison. That’s something. Sepp in Switzerland. Lionel in Spain.