Lionel Messi, Gorka Iraizoz

Spain roundup: Atletico now three wins away, but Barcelona keeps pace

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Atletico Madrid is now three wins away from its first La Liga title since 1996, but Barcelona is doing what it can to prolong the race. Meanwhile, idle Real Madrid could only watch as it fell to third.

After 70 minutes of scoreless play, Miranda put Atletico on the scoreboard before a Diego Costa penalty in the 90th minute ensured that the hosts wouldn’t give any ground to Barca before the Blaugranas kicked off.

And there were concerns at Camp Nou thanks to a brilliant goal by Aritz Aduriz in the 50th minute, but Pedro equalized in the 72nd minute before — who else? — Lionel Messi netted his 26th La Liga goal of the season.

Celta Vigo is feeling much better about its La Liga life after a three-goal second half propelled it to a 4-2 win in a 6-point relegation scrap against Almeria. Nolito scored his 9th and 10th goals, one in each half, as the visitors spoiled the scene — and maybe season — of the hosts.


  • Rayo Vallecano 3-1 Real Betis — The hosts led 3-0 by the 51st minute, coasting to make safety a near-certainty after a brutal start to the season.
  • Osasuna 1-1 Valencia — Jonas canceled out Riera’s early goal with an 82nd minute goal.
  • Sevilla 4-0 Granada — Three different goal scorers were aided by an own-goal, as Kevin Gameiro kept up his fine form with his 14th goal of the season and fifth in three matches.
  • Real Sociedad 2-1 Espanyol— Barcelona’s “other” team continues to tumble as Sociedad rises, at least for a day, to sixth.
  • Levante 0-0 Getafe – Goal differential keeps Getafe in the drop zone despite point.
  • Malaga vs. Villarreal – Monday



Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Atlético Madrid 34 27 4 3 74 22 52 15-3-0 12-1-3 85
Barcelona 34 26 3 5 94 28 66 16-0-1 10-3-4 81
Real Madrid 33 25 4 4 94 32 62 14-0-2 11-4-2 79
Athletic 34 18 8 8 59 37 22 12-3-2 6-5-6 62
Sevilla 34 17 8 9 65 47 18 10-3-4 7-5-5 59
Real Sociedad 34 15 9 10 58 51 7 11-3-3 4-6-7 54
Villarreal 33 15 7 11 52 38 14 8-6-3 7-1-8 52
Valencia 34 12 9 13 47 47 0 9-3-5 3-6-8 45
Levante 34 10 11 13 30 41 -11 5-6-6 5-5-7 41
Espanyol 34 11 8 15 38 44 -6 7-4-6 4-4-9 41
Rayo Vallecano 34 12 4 18 42 71 -29 8-0-9 4-4-9 40
Celta Vigo 34 11 7 16 40 51 -11 4-7-6 7-0-10 40
Málaga 33 10 8 15 35 43 -8 6-2-8 4-6-7 38
Granada 34 11 4 19 30 50 -20 7-1-9 4-3-10 37
Osasuna 34 9 8 17 29 54 -25 5-5-7 4-3-10 35
Elche 34 8 11 15 27 46 -19 6-6-5 2-5-10 35
Valladolid 33 6 14 13 32 50 -18 5-8-3 1-6-10 32
Getafe 34 8 8 18 29 51 -22 4-6-7 4-2-11 32
Almería 34 8 6 20 36 68 -32 5-5-7 3-1-13 30
Betis 34 5 7 22 29 69 -40 4-3-10 1-4-12 22

LIVE: Man City, Stoke, Everton face second-tier teams in League Cup quarters

Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City FC
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Three of the four Capital One Cup quarterfinals take place on Tuesday with three Premier League teams facing second-tier opposition.

“What’s that, did somebody say banana skin?”

[ MORE: Follow League Cup scores live

Manchester City host Hull City at the Etihad Stadium with Manuel Pellegrini‘s side hoping to have David Silva back in the starting lineup but Joe Hart is still out injured so Willy Caballero will continue in goal. Steve Bruce‘s side drew 1-1 at the Etihad last season when they visited City before being relegated from the Premier League. The Tigers are fighting for instant promotion back to the big-time and knocked out Leicester City on penalty kicks in the last round.

Everton face a tricky trip to the Riverside Stadium as Roberto Martinez and the Toffees play Middlesbrough. Aitor Karanka’s side lost in the play-off final to Norwich last season but are looking good for promotion this term as they sit second in the second-tier and knocked out Manchester United on penalty kicks in the last round. Can Everton sort out their defensive frailties?

A third PL club has a tricky test coming up on Tuesday as Stoke City’s reward for beating Chelsea on PKs in the last round is a home game against Sheffield Wednesday. This will be no stroll in the park for Mark Hughes‘ side as the second-tier Owls comfortably knocked off Arsenal in the last round and this game has “cupset” written all over it.

Below are the fixtures for Tuesday as you can click on the link above to follow all the games live.

League Cup quarterfinals


Manchester City vs. Hull City – 2:45 p.m. ET
Middlesbrough vs. Everton – 2:45 p.m. ET
Stoke City vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 2:45 p.m. ET

FIFA sponsors demand “independent oversight” of reforms
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LONDON (AP) Five of FIFA’s sponsors have written to the executive committee of soccer’s scandal-battered governing body demanding “independent oversight” of the reform process.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Sponsors were originally promised places on the FIFA reform committee. But instead of being invited into meetings discussing the overhaul of the organization, they have only been offered seats on an advisory board which is yet to be appointed.

The sponsors’ letter was sent from Adidas, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Visa and Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch to FIFA’s ruling body ahead of meetings this week.

[ MORE: Chelsea, United battle for Muller

The letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press, says it is “clear to us that such independent oversight needs to run long-term through the implementation and evolution of the reform process.”

The reform committee was established following the indictment of soccer officials by American authorities.

VIDEO: Gerrard returns to Liverpool for training in MLS offseason

Liverpool v Sunderland - Premier League
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Steven Gerrard is back at Liverpool.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

The legendary midfielder, 35, has returned to the Reds just six months after leaving his hometown club for a new adventure in Major League Soccer with the LA Galaxy.

Gerrard spent a glittering 17-years at Anfield, guiding Liverpool to the UEFA Champions League title and winning every other major title except for the elusive Premier League crown.

[ MORE: Chelsea, United battle for Muller

After suffering an early exit from the 2015 MLS Cup playoffs with the Galaxy, Gerrard is now back in England and he’s using his time at home to train with Liverpool’s first-team and help out in any way he can as Jurgen Klopp has allowed him to come back into the dressing room he called home for nearly two decades.

“It’s a good situation,” Klopp said. “Everybody had a smile on their face when they saw Stevie. It’s good to have him here and we hope we can help him, and he can help us for sure with being in the dressing room. It’s cool.”

Below are photos and videos from Gerrard’s return as Klopp once again quashed any rumors regarding a loan move for the former Liverpool skipper who will enter his first full MLS season in 2016 with the Galaxy.

French PM says Benzema has no place on national team

Karim Benzema, France
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PARIS (AP) The French prime minister joined in the criticism of Karim Benzema on Tuesday, saying the Real Madrid striker “has no place” on the France team at the European Championship in the wake of a blackmail scandal.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Benzema is one of France’s key players as it gets ready to host the Euro 2016 tournament, but the forward faces charges of conspiracy to blackmail relating to an extortion scam over a sex tape. He is suspected of having played an active role in pressuring France teammate Mathieu Valbuena, a case that has badly damaged his reputation.

“A great athlete should be exemplary,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French radio Europe 1. “If he is not, he has no place within the France team.”

The investigation, centering on wiretap evidence, started when Valbuena took legal action after being contacted by a man claiming to possess an incriminating sex tape.

In a case that could drag on for months, Benzema’s involvement has not yet been fully determined. But investigators who charged him in October believe he was approached by a childhood friend to act as an intermediary and convince Valbuena to deal directly with the blackmailers.

“If a minister was handed preliminary charges, he would no longer be part of the government,” Valls said.

Benzema denies any wrongdoing but his arguments were undermined last week when Valbuena spoke directly about his attempts to pressure him in an interview with Le Monde newspaper.

[ MORE: City now valued at $3 billion ]

The French football federation has also joined the case as plaintiff.

“There are so many kids, so many youngsters in our suburbs that relate to great athletes,” Valls said. “They wear the blue jersey, the colors of France, which are so important in these moments.”

Preliminary charges under French law mean magistrates have strong reason to believe a crime was committed, and allow time for further investigation. The charges may later be dropped. In 2010, Benzema was handed preliminary charges for soliciting an underage prostitute but was acquitted in a case that lasted more than three years and tarnished his reputation.

Benzema’s image was further dented last month when he spat on the pitch after the national anthem was played at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium in a tribute to the 130 fatalities of the Paris attacks ahead of a match against Barcelona.

Benzema’s action ignited a wave of criticism on social media, prompting his lawyers to issue a statement in which they condemned “the scandalous interpretation” of the incident. Benzema, who has 27 international goals, had posted several messages in support of the victims in the days that followed the attacks.