Bundesliga Wrap: Bayern’s lead even stronger as chasing teams stumble

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Bayern Munich must’ve been laughing from Friday through Saturday as their 16-point lead atop the Bundesliga held firm. The Nos. 2, 3 and 4 teams in the table all struggled, while No. 5 closed ground. Let’s take a look around Germany’s top flight.

Friday’s result

Schalke 0-0 Mainz
The match was even, aside from the fouls. It was the Kevin-Prince Boateng show on both ends, as he led the match in shots (4) and fouls committed (4). Not surprising to hear he picked up a yellow card as well. Schalke’s frustrations in not being able to topple Mainz backline boiled over, with 19 fouls on the day, and they were unable to jump the opportunity afforded them by Dortmund’s struggles at Hamburg.

Saturday’s results

SC Freiburg 2-4 FC Augsburg
Four different Augsburg players scored as the visitors kept Freiburg in severe relegation danger with a two-goal triumph. The club’s traded goals early before Admir Mehmedi briefly gave the hosts the lead in the 73rd minute. That awoke the beast, and Paul Verheagh, Halil Altintop and Andre Hahn scored thrice in 12 minutes to give Augsburg its come-from-behind victory, moving the team into a three-way tie for seventh and knocking on the door of the Top Five.

Hamburg 3-0 Borussia Dortmund
There was absolutely nothing doing for Dortmund today, as a hungry-looking Hamburg club struck before the break on Petr Jiracek’s goal before grabbing two more goals in the second half. Pierre-Michel Lasogga scored in the 58th minute before Hakan Calhanoglu scored a wondrous free kick that may have been longer than 40 yards out from goal. It was a rare blast and I’d encourage anyone to devour the footage if you can locate it.

VfB Stuttgart 1-2 Hertha Berlin
Stuttgart is still living with drop danger after a late Sandro Wagner goal doomed them at home. Levan Kobiashvili gave the visitors the lead in the 5th minute but Arthur Boka evened the score for Stuttgart. Wagner scored in the 87th and completed his day with a double yellow in the 90th minute, but it was too little, too late to benefit the home team. American defender John Anthony Brooks played the final five minutes for Hertha.

Borussia Monchengladbach 2-2 Hoffenheim
Hoffenheim is thrilled to split the spoils after falling down two goals in the match’s first 18 minutes, as Patrick Hermann struck in the fourth before Tony Jantschke doubled the host’s advantage. But Roberto Firmino, Sejad Salihovic and Kevin Volland continued to press and press and press… before the former two broke through with goals in the 56th and 82nd minutes, respectively.

American back Fabian Johnson played the right side again in what should keep Jurgen Klinsmann’s eyebrows raised in a good way (not permanently. They could freeze that way). The result leaves Monchengladbach in sixth.

Nurnberg 2-1 Eintracht
Despite a red card in the 32nd minute and an Eintracht goal from Domi Kumbela in the 24th, Nurnberg won a huge six-pointer, keeping their opponents in the No. 18 spot in the table. Eintracht’s  goal differential sunk to minus-25 as Nurnberg popped in goals in the 46th minute (Hiroshi Kiyotake) and 47th (Tomas Pekhart). Kumbela took six shots as Eintracht won the shots battle 20-7, but just seven of those went on goal.

VfL Wolfsburg 3-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Leverkusen kept the running total of points for the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 teams in the Bundesliga at one with an absolute collapse on the road. Sidney Sam equalized for the visitors in the 45th minute but Luis Gustavo and Ricardo Rodriguez provided two second-half goals for Wolfsburg, who jumped to within two points of No. 4 Schalke.

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”