Bundesliga Roundup: Battle for European places continues in Germany

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While Italy’s Catholicism prevents them from having Serie A matches on Easter Sunday, Germany’s Protestant roots appear to influence the decision not to hold games on Good Friday. But stay tuned – there will be Bundesliga matches played on Sunday, and they both could have a major impact on both ends of the table.

Thursday Results

Eintracht Frankfurt 2-3 Hannover
What a result for Hannover! Their second consecutive win puts them in a position where they’ll be at least six points clear of the drop zone when the weekend finishes. Leon Andreasen opened the scoring inside two minutes, but Martin Lanig struck back for Frankfurt before 15 minutes were out. Hannover’s determination showed through, with Lars Stindl and Didier Ya Konan putting the visitors up 3-1 before the half-hour mark. Alexander Meier pulled one back for Eintracht, but the hosts never managed to find an equalizer

Saturday Results

Augsburg 0-0 Hertha Berlin
What? A goalless draw in the Bundesliga? At least this draw most likely helped determine the top seven sides – although it likely won’t be until the end of the season that the exact order of slots 3-7 is established. But it looks like neither Augsburg or Hertha will be enjoying European competition next season.

Borussia Dortmund 4-2 Mainz
For the first hour, Mainz put up a good fight. Miloš Jojić scored first for the hosts, Robert Lewandowski second, but Shinji Okazaki was right there to pull Mainz even each time. But once Lukasz Piszczek scored the third for Dortmund in the 56th minute, the visitors fell apart. Niko Bungert was shown a straight red for a handball inside the area. Marco Reus duly converted the resulting penalty, and that was that. Dortmund stay second.

Braunschweig 0-2 Bayern Munich
It’s back to winning ways for Bayern, although bottom-side Braunschweig did do their best to give the title-holders a scare. But Claudio Pizarro broke free with fifteen minutes left to play, and Mario Mandžukić added a second ten minutes later. Now it’s time for Pep Guardiola’s men to focus on their midweek semi-final at Real Madrid.

Freiburg 4-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Well. Gladbach did a wonderful job of throwing this one away – and possibly their chance at the Champions League as well, if Leverkusen win on Sunday. The visitors took an early lead through Patrick Hermann, going into halftime up 1-0. Admir Mehmedi equalized in the 51st minute, and then Filip Daems was unable to put Gladbach in front in the 65th, with Oliver Baumann saving his penalty. Granit Xhaka saw red less than five minutes later, after which Oliver Sorg and Vladimir Darida quickly put the hosts up 3-1. Mehmedi grabbed a second with three minutes left to go, which ensured that Havard Nordtveit’s direct free kick didn’t threaten Freiburg at all.

Hamburg 1-3 Wolfsburg
It was a day of Croatian domination at the Volksparkstadion. An early goal from Ivan Perišić, followed by goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Ivica Olić, ensured a win for Wolfsburg, taking them above Leverkusen and into the last Champions League place. Ivo Iličević put one in for Hamburg, but it could only be a consolation.

Werder Bremen 3-1 Hoffenheim
Kevin Volland scored in the third minute for the visitors, but goals from Philipp Bargfrede, Santiago Garcia and Nils Petersen ensured a win for Werder Bremen. Not that it matters much – both sides are safe and neither are getting into Europe. But hey, it was still fun.

Still to come…

Nurnberg vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Big, big, big game for both sides. A win for the hosts, and they’re, well, not quite safe, but at least have a chance of remaining in the Bundesliga. A win for Leverkusen is necessary to get back into the final Champions League spot. That fourth-place finish must be seen as essential for the visitors, as for much of the season they were clear in second place.

Stuttgart vs. Schalke
And the weekend wraps up with another big one. Stuttgart need points to maintain their precarious lead over Hamburg. Schalke need points to maintain their seven-point cushion in third place, and thus don’t risk another early start in the Champions League playoff round – it’s likely one of the reasons they’ve looked so tired at times this season.

MLS at Week 8: Galaxy host Atlanta, NYCFC aims to stay unbeaten out west

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A full weekend of MLS action kicks off on Friday night with two of the Western Conference’s elite, while Saturday and Sunday feature a number of quality matchups.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy have been quite the attraction since the Swede made his move to MLS a few weeks ago, but Sigi Schmid’s side will be in for another early-season test on Saturday when they take on a red-hot Atlanta United.

[ MORE: Sweden not keen on Zlatan’s World Cup return ]

Both sides currently sit in second place in their respective conferences, while Atlanta boasts the second-highest goalscoring total in the league to this point, with 15 goals in six games.

Western Conference leaders Sporting KC have gone unbeaten in their last six matches since their opening day defeat to New York City FC, and Matt Besler and Co. will have another opportunity to put their stamp on the conference with a crucial match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, who sit third in the West.

NYCFC and FC Dallas remain on the only two unbeaten clubs left in 2018, although the latter has been far less convincing in its first five matches.

Patrick Vieira and NYCFC are coming off of a hard-fought 2-2 draw against Atlanta last weekend, and now head west to take on the Portland Timbers.

Meanwhile, Dallas plays host to the Philadelphia Union, who have taken just one win out of their first five games.

Here’s a look at the full slate of matches around MLS in Week 8.

Friday

Sporting KC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 9 p.m. ET

Saturday

Montreal Impact vs. Los Angeles FC — 1 p.m. ET
Houston Dynamo vs. Toronto FC — 3 p.m. ET
New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire — 3:30 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew vs. New England Revolution — 7:30 p.m. ET
Orlando City vs. San Jose Earthquakes — 7:30 p.m. ET
FC Dallas vs. Philadelphia Union — 8 p.m. ET
Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids — 9 p.m. ET
LA Galaxy vs. Atlanta United — 10:30 p.m. ET

Sunday

Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United — 4 p.m. ET
Portland Timbers vs. New York City FC — 6 p.m. ET

Atletico defeat leaves Barcelona 1 win from title

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MADRID (AP) Atletico Madrid lost 3-0 at Real Sociedad on Thursday, leaving Barcelona one victory away from clinching the Spanish league title.

Barcelona, which drew 2-2 at Celta Vigo on Tuesday without most of its regular starters, can secure its 25th crown at Deportivo La Coruna on April 29.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Burnley, trails Spurs by five points in UCL race ]

The Catalan club faces Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday.

Barcelona has a 12-point lead over Atletico, with five matches left, and is 15 in front of third-place Real Madrid, which needed a late goal by Cristiano Ronaldo to draw 1-1 with Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.

Another loss for Atletico on Sunday against Real Betis would leave Diego Simeone’s team out of contention for the title because Barcelona holds the head-to-head advantage between the clubs.

Willian Jose shot Sociedad ahead in the 27th minute at the Anoeta Stadium. Juanmi Jimenez made it 2-0 in the 80th after a perfect backheel from Jose before Jimenez scored again with an injury-time header.

It was a third straight win for Sociedad, which stayed 11th in the standings. Atletico hadn’t lost in three consecutive league matches.

GIRONA WINS

Girona ended a four-match winless streak with a 2-1 victory at Alaves, staying in contention for a Europa League spot next season.

Aleix Garcia opened the scoring for Girona in the 59th minute and Cristhian Stuani added a penalty in the 86th, moving the team within one point of seventh-place Sevilla.

Tomas Pina struck in the 90th minute for Alaves, which is 15th.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Leicester 0-0 Southampton: Saints lose chance to gain relegation ground

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Leicester City and Southampton finished scoreless at the King Power Stadium on Thursday, as the latter failed to pick up three critical points in a heated Premier League relegation race.

The best opportunity on the day likely came in the second half when Marc Albrighton‘s brilliant volley was deflected over the crossbar by Saints keeper Alex McCarthy.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Burnley with Moses’ second-half strike ]

Southampton boasted many of its regulars as they prepare to stave off being dropped down to the Championship next season, although Mark Hughes‘ side features in a big FA Cup semifinals clash over the weekend against Chelsea.

Chances were at a minimum in the opening stanza, with Leicester the more dominant of the two sides in attack, although it didn’t amount to much on their various counterattacking opportunities.

Kelechi Iheanacho threatened early on for the Foxes, coming close in the 15th minute with a strike that narrowly missed the far corner. This came briefly after he followed up on his own blocked attempt moments prior.

The Saints now sit four points behind 17th place Swansea City, while Leicester remains in eighth place — trailing Arsenal and the top six by 10 points.

Burnley 1-2 Chelsea: Moses rescues Blues all three points

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With four matches remaining in the Premier League season, Antonio Conte‘s side has everything to play for in the final weeks of the campaign.

[ MORE: Leicester, Southampton finish scoreless at King Power Stadium ]

Chelsea picked up a come-from-behind 2-1 win against Burnley on Thursday afternoon at the Turf Moor behind Victor Moses‘ second-half finish.

Moses was active throughout the match for Chelsea, playing a hand in both goals.

Ashley Barnes pulled a goal back for the Clarets in the 64th minute, but it wasn’t enough for the seventh place side to steal points off the Blues for the second time in 2017/18.

Alvaro Morata’s struggles continued on the day, as the Spanish international had a quality breakaway chance to seal the game early in the second half, but put his right-footed attempt wide of the goal.

The Blues went in front in the 20th minute after Burnley defender Kevin Long put the ball into his own net off of a dangerous cross from Victor Moses on the righthand side of the box.

Olivier Giroud made heavy claims for a penalty in the eighth minute, when the striker went to ground after having been contacted by Long.

The Frenchman started the match paired with Alvaro Morata up front as Antonio Conte looked to rest Eden Hazard and Willian ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup semifinal against Southampton.

The victory for the Blues puts Conte and Co. within five points of Spurs with four matches remaining in the PL campaign. Tottenham currently occupies the fourth Champions League position in England’s top flight.