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Bundesliga roundup: Schalke’s terrible, horrible, completely understandable bad week

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Schalke just completed the most understandably horrible week in the short history of modern soccer, a pair games that left one of the most affluent clubs in Europe on the wrong end of a 11-2 scoreline over their last 180 minute. Perhaps the Miners aren’t in the same spending category as Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, its opponents over the last four days, but regularly ranked among the 12-20 most valuable clubs in the world, Schalke’s plight highlights the ever-growing divide between Europe’s elite and the merely enviably huge.

Real Madrid’s 6-1 win in the team’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 opener was the low point – los Blancos putting up six goals in Gelsenkirchen before Jens Keller’s team got Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s spectacular consolation. On Saturday, however, the Schalke boss had the misfortune of seeing his team move from Europe’s second-best team to its defending champions. Bayern Munich, having lost only once since Pep Guariola took over, welcomed the Blues on the Allianz Arena.

The result, superficially, wasn’t as embarrassing as their loss at the Veltins Arena, but after giving up four goals in the match’s first 29 minutes, the disappointment was far more swift. David Alaba, Arjen Robben, Mario Mandzukic, and a second from Robben had Bayern up 4-0 before Schalke even registered a shot, let alone an attempt on target. An own goal from Rafinha eventually provided the visitors some consolation, but when Robben completed his hat trick with a 77th minute penalty conversion, the Bundesliga’s leaders completed their 5-1 demolition of the league’s fourth place club.

Yet as disheartening as the last four days have been for Keller’s club, they’ll likely prove irrelevant to the team’s ultimately goal – getting back into Champions League. So Schalke can’t compete with Bayern or Real? That’s not exactly an above-the-fold revelation. The fact that they were so far behind Europe’s two best teams only amplifies something that wasn’t news in the first place. Schalke, despite their nine-goal deficit over the last 180 minutes, is still a team that should be favored to grab Germany’s final Champions League spot. Their horrible week was completely understandable.

Bayern, however, did offer us something interesting in Saturday’s game. If Real Madrid’s mid-week rout was a message to Europe, Bayern Munich’s first half hour at the Allianz was a rebuttal. Four goals and no shots allowed may not have led to a more lopsided final, but in its own way, it was more remarkable.

There’s still no doubt. Bayern is the best team in Europe.

Elsewhere

  • Hertha Berlin 0, Freiburg 0 – Admir Medmedi peppered the hosts’ goal with four shots on target, but thanks to five saves from Thomas Kraft, Freiburg stays in the drop.
  • Borussia Dortmund 3, Nurnberg 0 – BVB recovers from last weekend’s embarrassment in Hamburg with a second half outburst, with Mats Hummels, Robert Lewandowski, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan allowing Dortmund to claim second place.
  • Werder Bremen 1, Hamburg 0 – Whatever momentum HSV garnered from last week’s win was left at the Imtech Arena, with Werder extending their unbeaten streak to three thanks to a Zlatko Junuzovic’s 19th minute winner.
  • Augsburg 1, Hannover 1 – Mame Biram Diouf’s 21st minute opener allowed Hannover to end their three-game losing streak, with a second half response from Ragnar Klavan salvaging a point for the hosts.
  • Braunschweig 1, Borussia Mönchengladbach 1 – An own goal from Marc-André ter Stegen cancelled out Raffael’s opener, sending previously Champions League-competing Gladbach to seventh.
  • Bayer Leverkusen 0, Mainz 1 – Sami Hyypia’s team ran their losing streak to four, giving up second place in the process. Thanks to Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s first half winner, Bayer now have to worry about their top-four survival, with fifth place Wolfsburg only four points back.

Sunday
Hoffenheim vs. Wolfsburg
Einfracht Frankfurt vs. Stuttgart

Others
Bayern Munich 5, Schalke 1

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Bayern Munich 23 21 2 0 66 10 56 12-0-0 9-2-0 65
Borussia Dortmund 23 14 3 6 54 27 27 8-1-3 6-2-3 45
Bayer Leverkusen 23 14 1 8 39 26 13 8-1-3 6-0-5 43
FC Schalke 04 23 12 5 6 42 35 7 7-2-2 5-3-4 41
VfL Wolfsburg 22 12 3 7 38 26 12 8-1-2 4-2-5 39
FSV Mainz 05 23 11 4 8 32 35 -3 6-2-3 5-2-5 37
Mönchen 23 10 6 7 40 29 11 8-2-2 2-4-5 36
Hertha BSC Berlin 23 10 5 8 34 27 7 5-2-5 5-3-3 35
FC Augsburg 23 10 5 8 35 33 2 6-2-3 4-3-5 35
1899 Hoffenheim 22 6 8 8 46 46 0 3-5-3 3-3-5 26
Hannover 96 23 7 4 12 30 42 -12 6-3-2 1-1-10 25
Werder Bremen 23 6 7 10 26 46 -20 4-4-4 2-3-6 25
1. FC Nürnberg 23 4 11 8 27 40 -13 2-5-4 2-6-4 23
Eintracht Frankfurt 22 5 7 10 24 38 -14 2-5-4 3-2-6 22
VfB Stuttgart 22 5 4 13 35 47 -12 2-3-6 3-1-7 19
Hamburger SV 23 5 4 14 38 52 -14 3-1-7 2-3-7 19
SC Freiburg 23 4 7 12 22 44 -22 2-4-5 2-3-7 19
Eintracht Braunschweig 23 4 4 15 17 42 -25 3-2-7 1-2-8 16

City Council approves plans for new Los Angeles soccer venue

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LOS ANGELES (AP) The City Council has approved plans to build a $250 million stadium for Major League Soccer’s expansion Los Angeles Football Club.

[ MORE: Can MLS teams begin to create separation in Week 10? ]

The council voted 12-0 Friday to move forward with a 22,000-seat stadium on the site of the old Sports Arena next to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and USC.

The 15-acre complex is also slated to include a conference center, restaurants, 140,000 square feet of plazas and streetscapes, and a soccer museum.

At its center would be the home to the new MLS team when it makes its debut in 2018.

LAFC is owned by Malaysian billionaire Vincent Tan, American venture capitalist Henry Nguyen and a celebrity-studded list of investors including Magic Johnson, Tony Robbins, Mia Hamm and Nomar Garciaparra.

Barcelona reportedly seeking out Nice winger Hatem Ben Afra

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Lost in the 2015-16 campaign has been Nice attacker Hatem Ben Afra.

[ MORE: Leicester can provide more magic at home vs. Everton ]

While Paris Saint-Germain has stolen the spotlight in France for much of this season, the former Newcastle midfielder has been nothing short of special for Les Aiglons.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s PL picks are in for Week 37 ]

That has left La Liga giant Barcelona contacting the 29-year old Frenchman over his services, according to Nice president Jean Pierre Rivere.

Rivere told France 3 he wouldn’t mind Ben Afra exiting the club:

“I would be very happy for him and for Nice if this move comes off,” Rivère said. “You do not reject Barcelona, but it is up to him to decide. If I was a player and Barcelona was offered to me I would not ask questions, I would go! But it is not yet done according to what I am told.”

In 32 appearances this season for Nice, Ben Afra has notched 17 goals and added five assists. He ranks third in goals, only behind PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexandre Lacazette of Lyon.

Barcelona could very well be the frontrunners to acquire the talented attacker, but several European sides have also expressed interest in Ben Afra. Premier League clubs Chelsea and Liverpool, as well as AC Milan have also been named as potential suitors.

[ MORE: What do other PL teams have to say about Leicester? ]

Ben Afra’s age may be a bit of a concern for the Blaugrana though, in addition to the fact that this current season is the only time in his career that he has tallied double-digit goals. The Lyon academy product could provide solid depth to Barcelona’s attack should a deal get finalized.

Follow @MattReedFutbol

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Everton

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  • Leicester simply playing for home pride
  • Everton seek top-10 finish

Leicester City host Everton on Saturday from the King Power Stadium (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra) in hopes of providing its fans with a season-capping victory, after winning the Premier League title on Monday.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE VIA LIVE EXTRA

By now everyone has seen Christian Fuchs‘ video of the Leicester players in celebration mode, but there are still two games left to play. The match against Everton may be more about pride than anything else, but it can still represent an important feat for the club and serve as a true celebration in front of their home supporters.

Jamie Vardy‘s return will provide the fans with yet another moment to applaud and you’d expect the Leicester forward to want to add to his 22 PL goals.

[ MORE: Norwich in desperate need of three points vs. Manchester United ]

The Foxes will be met by an Everton side that don’t really have anything to play for either. Toffees manager Roberto Martinez will surely be looking for a win with his job on the line, however, it’s left to be seen whether or not he can actually maintain his position. Everton has finished in the PL top 10 each of the last eight seasons, and a finish outside of that mark would be a huge setback for the club.

What they’re saying…

Ranieri on his team competing: “Inside me there are two people. One is a very aggressive, I want to win, I won the Premier League but now I want to win on Saturday.”

Martinez on Leicester not letting up: “I’m sure any sort of celebration could affect you in the long term if you had to face a difficult month. In a 90-minute game where the stadium is going to be an historic environment, I’m sure that can only be positive for the home team.”

Prediction

The title is already theirs but why wouldn’t Leicester win this match? The KP Stadium will be rocking into the night and the Foxes will come away with a convincing 3-0 win against Everton.

Follow @MattReedFutbol

Premier League Preview: Norwich City vs. Manchester United

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  • Norwich sit two points out of 17th place
  • United in battle with West Ham for Europe
  • Canaries are losers of three straight

Norwich City host Manchester United from Carrow Road on Saturday (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) as the Canaries seek Premier League safety with two weeks remaining.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE VIA LIVE EXTRA

With their season on the line, Norwich is facing desperation as they meet Manchester United. The Canaries posted just one win in four matches in April, leaving them 19th in the PL. While neither Newcastle nor Sunderland were able to create separation between themselves and Norwich, a win against United is a necessity with three games left to play.

Goals have come at a minimum this season for the Canaries, leaving Nathan Redmond and Dieumerci Mbokani in need of a big game. Each player has notched five goals this season for the side.

[ MORE: Ranieri’s on-field changes as manager have propelled Leicester ]

Disappointment has surrounded United for much of the 2015-16 season, however, the Red Devils still have important matches to play down the stretch. That starts with Norwich. Sitting four points behind fourth place Manchester City and holding a game in hand, Louis Van Gaal‘s club can close the gap on the Citizens with a strong performance on Saturday.

What they’re saying…

Neil on match’s importance: “Everybody knows the situation, so I don’t think it is going to have massive difference in terms of how we would approach the game or they (relegation rivals) would approach the game. What it does do is apply pressure to their game, but there will be pressure on that anyway. They will recognise and we recognise that all the teams need to win games to stay in the division.”

Van Gaal on injury struggles: “I always talk about facts, not about hypothetical circumstance and activities. I can only say that in the end of November we had first position, after that we had a big decline.”

Prediction

Despite playing in front of a feisty home crowd at Carrow Road and picking up a 2-1 victory early this season against United, the Canaries chances aren’t too optimistic. Norwich hasn’t scored in three straight matches, all of which were losses. With United still playing for something I don’t expect the Red Devils to drop this match. Give United the points on the road, 3-1, leaving Norwich to rely on Aston Villa and Chelsea to pick up wins.

Follow @MattReedFutbol

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