First Piqué, then Costa: Atlético striker leaves after half an hour

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He wasn’t even supposed to play after suffering an injury in training yesterday. Now it looks like he should have sat this one out. Half an hour into today’s UEFA Champions League match in Barcelona, Atlético Madrid’s Diego Costa has left the game with an apparent right hamstring injury, lasting only 30 minutes in a match he wasn’t expected to play.

Yesterday, Atleti head coach Diego Simeone said Costa was “unlikely” to play after suffering a knee injury in training. His place in Tuesday’s teamed looked equally surprising and fortuitous when Barcelona lost Gerard Piqué to injury. Without him, the home side would be at a major size (and, potentially quality) disadvantage matching up with the Spanish international.

(MORE: Barcelona loses Gerard Piqué early against Atlético)

But with Costa apparently picking up a new injury, that advantage never surfaced. Instead, at the half-hour mark, Costa walked to the sidelines while clutching the back of his right thigh, with Brazilian attacking midfielder Diego called on to take his place.

Atlético is already without Raúl García, suspended for the first leg. That forced former Barcelona striker David Villa into the starting lineup in support of Costa. With Costa out, however, Villa will be tasked with carrying the load up front, with the team January signee from Wolfsburg brought in to bridge the gap between the midfield and attack.

Approaching halftime at the Nou Camp, the score is still 0-0, but both teams are dealing with losses. Gerardo Martino has had to call on Marc Bartra in central defense, while Simeone is down to his fourth choice in his two attacking spots.

Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery, scores in England win

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Jermain Defoe’s friendship with terminally-ill Bradley Lowery has been special to watch unfold, and the Sunderland striker brought his little buddy to Wembley today.

Then he notched a match-winner.

Lowery walked Defoe out onto the field in a replica England kit before Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, and then Defoe scored his 20th goal for country.

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It was his first since 2013, the last year Defoe was called up for the Three Lions.

Here’s the goal, which was followed by a second-half Jamie Vardy tally as England stayed atop Group F with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

Two Russian soccer fans stabbed in Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Two Russian fans have been hospitalized with serious injuries after being stabbed following a friendly soccer match between Red Star Belgrade and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Sunday police were looking for the knife-wielding perpetrators who attacked a group of Lokomotiv fans in downtown Belgrade late Saturday.

Serbian media reports said the Russian fans were attacked by supporters of Red Star’s rival Partizan Belgrade.

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The match, which Red Star won 2-1, was meant to promote Serbia’s traditional friendship with Russia.

Stefanovic says “nobody should think they could hurt the Serbian-Russian friendship” with such attacks.

Serbia has seen a surge of fan violence inside and outside stadiums. In 2009, a French football fan was fatally beaten in Belgrade.

VIDEO: Gerrard’s juggle and finish leads Liverpool legends past Real Madrid

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Scoring at Anfield doesn’t get old, especially when your name is Steven Gerrard.

The English midfielder was playing in a friendly match between Liverpool and Real Madrid “legends” on Sunday, when he delivered this tasty goal (and assists to Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, and John Aldridge).

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Gerrard redirects a cross over a lunging defender and into a place where he can lash a goal home to put the Reds up 4-0. He dedicated his Man of the Match performance to club legend Ronnie Moran, who died earlier this week.

Real’s comeback came up just short in a 4-3 final, with Fernando Morientes, Ruben de la Red, and Edwin Congo scoring for the visitors.

On a Sunday waiting for the international matches to begin, Gerrard supplies a nice highlight for the rest of us (Extended highlights free on Liverpool’s site).

Ozil bristles at talk of Arsenal selling him

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Mesut Ozil is on international break, and bristling at reports that Arsenal is going to sell him.

The midfielder’s absence from the lineup last week had plenty speculating on his future, even more than usual. His contract expires in 2018, and several reports claimed he’d join Alexis Sanchez as players destined for elsewhere.

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Ozil was not called up by Germany, and has missed four of his last nine Premier League matches. Three of those were for illness, and he missed last week’s loss to West Brom with a hamstring injury.

From Metro:

“And you think Wenger tells the journalist before he tells me? Then I know him differently,” Ozil told German outlet Welt.

“I have a contract until 2018 in London and I feel very comfortable there. We’ll talk soon and then make a decision.”

Metro notes that Ozil also said he wants to win the Champions League, something that can only happen with Arsenal remaining in the Top Four. We suppose you could make snarky inferences from his “comfortable in London” phrasing, but we’ll leave it there.