Spain roundup: Top three all win as Ronaldo, Costa, Messi shine

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There are no style points on the board, though goal differential is close. By those measures, Barcelona made a statement regarding the La Liga title race as the top three all picked up wins but Barca’s was a stomping.

Lionel Messi became Barcelona’s all-time leading goal scorer when he slotted home the second goal of his hat trick in the Blaugrana’s 7-0 shellacking of 15th place Osasuna. Click the link and watch the video if only for Andres Iniesta’s left-footed stunner to make the score 3-0.

Barca was Barca again, boosting their league-best goal differential to 59. Perhaps  buoyed by topping Manchester City mid-week, it was certainly a different side than the club dispatched by Valladolid last weekend. Cristian Tello, Pedro and Alexis Sanchez also scored for Barcelona, which had a 3-0 at the break.

Real Madrid won 1-0 at relegation-threatened Malaga thanks to a 23rd minute marker by Cristiano Ronaldo, but it wasn’t close to their finest. The club’s unbeaten run in La Liga is now at 30 matches, and perhaps they were looking ahead to their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg with Schalke on Tuesday… but who are we kidding? They are up 6-1. It was just an off day for the club whose goal differential sits at 51.

Atletico stayed three back of Real and a point ahead of Barca with a 1-0 win of its own. Diego Costa put home a David Villa pass for the match’s only goal, as Atletico stayed unbeaten at home this season. It was a nice bit of pass and pace, as Costa simply outraced Espanyol defender Diego Colotto for the ball.

Elsewhere

  • Getafe 3-3 Granada — The goals started in the sixth minute and kept coming all night as Getafe let three leads disappear. Moroccan forward Youssef El Arabi bagged a brace in the comeback(s).
  • Levante 0-1 Celta Vigo — Nolito’s 19th minute goal moved the visiting side five points clear of the drop.
  • Rayo Vallecano 3-1 Almeria — Joaquin Larrivey’s brace vaulted Rayo out of the relegation zone and placed the visitors La Liga future in peril
  • Elche 0-0 Real Betis — Full credit to Betis, who keeps picking up points despite an unlikely bottom position nine points from safety. Elche carried 64 percent possession in the draw.
  • Sevilla 4-1 Valladolid — Kevin Gameiro stayed hot, striking twice, while Ivan Rakitic and Diogo Figueiras also netted for Sevilla. Javi Guerra scored late for the visitors.
  • Real Sociedad 1-0 Valencia — Sociedad is within five points of a Champions League spot thanks to Imanol Agirretxe’s 61st minute marker.
  • Villarreal vs. Athletic — Monday

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Real Madrid 28 22 4 2 77 26 51 12-0-1 10-4-1 70
Atlético Madrid 28 21 4 3 64 21 43 12-3-0 9-1-3 67
Barcelona 28 21 3 4 81 22 59 13-0-1 8-3-3 66
Athletic 27 15 6 6 50 31 19 10-3-1 5-3-5 51
Real Sociedad 28 13 7 8 49 39 10 9-3-2 4-4-6 46
Villarreal 27 13 5 9 47 33 14 7-4-3 6-1-6 44
Sevilla 28 12 8 8 51 43 8 7-3-4 5-5-4 44
Valencia 28 10 6 12 39 39 0 7-3-4 3-3-8 36
Espanyol 28 10 6 12 32 34 -2 7-2-5 3-4-7 36
Levante 28 9 9 10 26 35 -9 5-5-4 4-4-6 36
Celta Vigo 28 9 6 13 33 39 -6 3-6-5 6-0-8 33
Granada 28 9 4 15 27 39 -12 5-1-8 4-3-7 31
Elche 28 7 9 12 24 40 -16 5-5-5 2-4-7 30
Málaga 28 7 8 13 26 36 -10 5-2-7 2-6-6 29
Osasuna 28 8 5 15 24 48 -24 5-2-6 3-3-9 29
Rayo Vallecano 28 9 2 17 32 62 -30 5-0-9 4-2-8 29
Getafe 28 7 7 14 26 45 -19 4-6-5 3-1-9 28
Valladolid 28 5 11 12 30 48 -18 4-6-3 1-5-9 26
Almería 28 7 5 16 27 52 -25 4-4-5 3-1-11 26
Betis 28 4 7 17 23 56 -33 4-3-7 0-4-10 19

Antonio Conte admits he misses Italy, plans to return home

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This is not exactly what Chelsea’s fans will want to hear on a Monday morning after a resounding 4-0 win at Stoke as the Blues moved up to third in the Premier League table.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Antonio Conte, who delivered the Premier League title in his first season in charge of the Blues, and his first season in England, in 2016-17, has been speaking of his desire to return to his homeland.

Conte, 48, spoke to Italian radio station RadioUno about his experience in the Premier League and left the door wide-open for a return to Serie A in the coming months as he admitted he misses Italy.

“I miss it, that’s beyond doubt,” Conte said. “Italy is my homeland, so once I have had some good experiences, formative experiences, important and life-changing experiences, I’ll be back. I don’t know when but that’s the aim.

“It’s always difficult to predict the future. Us managers have the most precarious job of all. Today you’re working, tomorrow you’re out. I want to succeed, to finish one project and make the right decision about the next. This experience has given me so much, has improved me so much, but perhaps in the future I won’t be a manager. Perhaps I’ll work as a director of football. I don’t know.”

Conte has been linked with the managers job at Inter Milan and with comments like this, those links will not go away.

Adding further fuel to the fire was his decision to only signed an improved contract over the summer rather than extending his stay at Stamford Bridge. Conte’s current deal is due to expire at the end of the 2018-19 season.

After a tough summer and a tough start to the season which saw a feud with Diego Costa dominate the talk surrounding Chelsea, a loss to Arsenal in the Community Shield, an opening day defeat at home to Burnley, plus some questionable dealings in the transfer market, the pressure was piling on Conte.

His team have responded with five wins in their next six games in all competitions and are right up there with the early pacesetters in the Premier League.

That said, the fact that Conte was under any pressure whatsoever was a joke considering what he had achieved last season when nobody expected Chelsea to seriously challenge for the title. Therein lies why he could want out when his current deal at Chelsea is up, or maybe even sooner than that.

In situations like this I often think about what Eric Cantona did: leave before anybody else expects you to and you’ll go out, and remain, a hero.

Mourinho escapes ban after sending off

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Jose Mourinho will face no further action from the English Football Association after he was sent off at Southampton on Saturday.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Towards the end of United’s 1-0 win — which keeps them unbeaten and in second-place in the standings — Mourinho encroached slightly onto the pitch (we are talking half a yard here) and referee Craig Pawson sent him to the stands after being called over by fourth official Mike Jones who pulled Mourinho back into his technical area.

Mourinho, in true fashion, then delayed his sending off by shaking the hands of every member of Southampton’s coaching staff before he took his place in the stands for the final few seconds of the game.

After being sent off nine times in his career for various discrepancies over the years, Mourinho is no stranger to having the FA’s rule book thrown at him.

However there is an argument out there, and a credible one, that due to his high profile and history of misdemeanors Mourinho is treated rather differently than most managers.

In his long list of previous incidents where he has stepped out of line, stepping slightly over the touchline at Southampton was incredibly minor.

Common sense has prevailed.

MLS Snapshot: POR carve up 9-man ORL, keep pace with VAN, SKC

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The game in 100 words (or less): All of a sudden, the Western Conference has sprung to life as the 2017 regular season winds down — Vancouver Whitecaps, winners of five of their last seven games (unbeaten); Portland Timbers, winners of four of their last six following Sunday’s 3-0 victory over 10-man nine-man Orlando City SC at Providence Park; Sporting Kansas City, losers of just two of their last 15 games; Seattle Sounders, who had their 13-game unbeaten run snapped on Saturday; and Real Salt Lake, winners of four of their last five. With fewer than a handful of games remaining, Vancouver’s lead on Portland and Sporting KC remains one point after all three sides won this weekend; RSL and Seattle are separated by just three points, three points back of second and third. As for Saturday’s game, Diego Valeri is now a top-two candidate for MVP after scoring two more goals (his 19th and 20th, to go with 9 assists) against 10-man Orlando.

[ MORE: TFC’s Shield celebration delayed | RSL end Seattle’s run at 13 ]

Three moments that mattered

15′ — Valeri extends his streak, makes it 1-0 — The last time Valeri failed to score in a game, the date was July 23.

29′ — Mattocks taps it home after Asprilla’s cross — Huge credit to Diego Chara for the through ball to spring Dairon Asprilla into acres of space. The ball to Mattocks was simple, and he got it right.

59′ — Valeri gets no. 20, makes it 3-0 — Joe Bendik managed to deny Mattocks’ initial effort, but Valeri followed up when everyone in white had already quit on the play.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Diego Valeri

Goalscorers: Valeri (15′ – PK, 59′), Mattocks (29′)

The 2 Robbies: City Sparkle, Chelsea Shine, Liverpool Hold On

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe take a look at some of the weekend’s biggest storylines, including Liverpool’s thrilling victory over Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur’s frantic win away to West Ham United and Manchester City’s demolition of Crystal Palace.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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