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Spain roundup: After honoring Tito, Barca comes back for huge win

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All across Madrid, shouts of profanity were likely heard on Sunday as Villarreal coughed up a two-goal home lead to Barcelona before Lionel Messi climbed into the catbird seat to keep the Blaugranas in the title race with a 3-2 win.

The match was absolutely bananas, with Villarreal going ahead on goals by Cani and Tragueros before a pair of own goals leveled the match in the 78th minute.

But Barca needed all three points to remain in shouting distance of Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. The clock struck 80 with Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta standing over a free kick 23 yards out from goal. Here comes the likelihood, right? Not-so-much, as Sergio Asenjo leapt to make an acrobatic save. A corner went to nothing.

And then came Messi, as expected. The Argentine picked up a beautiful headed pass from Cesc Fabregas and was one-on-one with Asenjo. Was it going to go down any other way? His 27th La Liga goal of the season, in 28 matches, made it 3-2 in the 83rd minute.

A Barca foul on the edge of the box came very close to penalty kick territory, but a free kick was awarded that Villarreal could not convert. It remained and ended 3-2.

The game began with a moment of silence for Tito Vilanova, who passed away late last week after a battle with cancer.

Yet it could all be for nought, because Atletico got a goal from Raul Garcia to beat a very game Valencia side on the road, while Cristiano Ronaldo kept Real very much a threat with a brace in a 4-0 thrashing of Osasuna at the Bernabeu.

So it isn’t a two-horse race, and the season’s final match between Atletico and Barca in a few weeks will likely carry significance for all three massive clubs. And with the two Madrid clubs still competing in the UEFA Champions League, surely Barca fans are starting to like their odds just a little bit.

Elsewhere…

  • Elche 1-1 Levante – Richmond Boakye helps get a huge point for the hosts in the race for survival, though three points were the hope until Angel’s equalizer in the 74th.
  • Granada 0-3 Rayo Vallecano — It wasn’t long ago that Vallecano looked destined for relegation, and now they’re dusting off opponents left and right.
  • Getafe 1-0 Malaga — The hosts are momentarily safe, officially sending Betis down thanks to a 7th minute Adrian Colunga goal.
  • Betis 0-1 Real Sociedad — It’s academic for relegated Betis, and Carlos Vela’s 48th minute penalty ensured a home loss.
  • Espanyol 1-2 Almeria — Two late goals lift the visitors hopes for survival, but they are still two points back of safety.
  • Athletic Bilbao 3-1 Sevilla — Another goal from Kevin Gameiro wasn’t enough as Athletic surged into control of the fourth slot.
  • Celta Vigo vs. Valladolid – Monday

Standings

 

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Atlético Madrid 35 28 4 3 75 22 53 15-3-0 13-1-3 88
Barcelona 35 27 3 5 97 30 67 16-0-1 11-3-4 84
Real Madrid 34 26 4 4 98 32 66 15-0-2 11-4-2 82
Athletic 35 19 8 8 62 38 24 13-3-2 6-5-6 65
Sevilla 35 17 8 10 66 50 16 10-3-4 7-5-6 59
Real Sociedad 35 16 9 10 59 51 8 11-3-3 5-6-7 57
Villarreal 35 15 7 13 54 43 11 8-6-4 7-1-9 52
Valencia 35 12 9 14 47 48 -1 9-3-6 3-6-8 45
Rayo Vallecano 35 13 4 18 45 71 -26 8-0-9 5-4-9 43
Levante 35 10 12 13 31 42 -11 5-6-6 5-6-7 42
Espanyol 35 11 8 16 39 46 -7 7-4-7 4-4-9 41
Málaga 35 11 8 16 37 44 -7 7-2-8 4-6-8 41
Celta Vigo 34 11 7 16 40 51 -11 4-7-6 7-0-10 40
Granada 35 11 4 20 30 53 -23 7-1-10 4-3-10 37
Elche 35 8 12 15 28 47 -19 6-7-5 2-5-10 36
Osasuna 35 9 8 18 29 58 -29 5-5-7 4-3-11 35
Getafe 35 9 8 18 30 51 -21 5-6-7 4-2-11 35
Almería 35 9 6 20 38 69 -31 5-5-7 4-1-13 33
Valladolid 33 6 14 13 32 50 -18 5-8-3 1-6-10 32
Betis 35 5 7 23 29 70 -41 4-3-11 1-4-12 22

San Jose Earthquakes release Clarence Goodson, eight others

San Jose Earthquakes forward Quincy Amarikwa (25) is mobbed by teammates after scoring against the Portland Timbers during the first half of an MLS soccer match Sunday, March 13, 2016, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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While the battle for MLS Cup 2016 has been dwindled down to two sides, the rest of the league continues to make roster transactions in preparation for next season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The San Jose Earthquakes announced on Friday that the club has exercised options on six players, including goalkeeper David Bingham, Fatai Alashe, Kip Colvey and Victor Bernardez.

Additionally, the Earthquakes have released nine players, including U.S. Men’s National Team defender Clarence Goodson, Marc Pelosi and Tommy Thompson, however, the latter two are reportedly in talks to return to the club in 2017.

Napoli beats Inter 3-0 in Serie A after lightning start

NAPLES, ITALY - DECEMBER 02:  Players of Napoli celebrate the opening goal during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and FC Internazionale at Stadio San Paolo on December 2, 2016 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
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NAPLES, Italy (AP) Napoli eased to a 3-0 win over Inter Milan in Serie A on Friday, with two goals in the opening five minutes.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines heading into weekend ]

The home side got off to a lightning start as, following a wonderful team move, Jose Callejon headed back Marek Hamsik’s chipped pass for Piotr Zielinski to volley into the bottom left corner.

[ MORE: Ronaldo, Mourinho involved in massive tax evasion system ]

Zielinski turned provider moments later as Hamsik beat the offside trap to run onto his pass and fire into the bottom right corner.

It was Hamsik’s 104th goal for Napoli, moving him level with Edinson Cavani in third in the clubs’ goalscoring charts. The Slovakia forward needs 11 more to equal Diego Maradona’s record.

Inter started the second half aggressively but hopes of getting back into the match were scuppered six minutes after the restart when Lorenzo Insigne netted his fourth goal in three league matches after visiting goalkeeper Samir Handanovic only flapped at a corner.

Napoli moved level on points with Atalanta, which visits league leader Juventus on Saturday, and fourth-placed Lazio, which hosts Roma in the capital derby on Sunday.

Inter, which beat Fiorentina 4-2 on Monday for its first win under coach Stefano Pioli, remained eighth ahead of the rest of the weekend’s fixtures.

Report: Paraguayan midfielder Almiron to join Atlanta United for $13 million

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 11:  Miguel Almiron #17 of Paraguay tries to keep the ball as John Brooks #6 of United States slides in the first half during the Copa America Centenario Group C match at Lincoln Financial Field on June 11, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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On a day where Atlanta United added another young talent, the 2017 MLS expansion side could be preparing to make a major splash for a South American playmaker.

According to numerous Argentine media outlets, Atlanta is closing in on signing Paraguay international Miguel Almiron for an MLS-record fee of $13 million from Lanus at the end of 2016.

Almiron, 22, has scored three goals in 34 appearances for Lanus since joining the Argentine club in 2015. The young winger began his professional career back in 2013 with Cerro Porteno, where Almiron also played for the club’s youth academy.

On the international stage, Almiron has already earned seven caps for Paraguay after previously representing the nation’s Under-17 and U-20 national teams.

El Clasico Preview: Barcelona looks to break Real Madrid’s hold on La Liga

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 02:  Casemiro of Real Madrid CF battles for the ball with Neymar of FC Barcelona during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF at Camp Nou on April 2, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
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It could very well be the greatest rivalry in all of sports, and Saturday will see another installment of El Clasico in Spain’s top flight.

[ MORE: Messi looking to end El Clasico scoring drought ]

Barcelona will host Real Madrid on Saturday at the Camp Nou (10 a.m. ET on beIN Sport) as the Blaugrana look to hand the Madridistas their first loss of the La Liga season.

[ MORE: Griezmann joins Ronaldo, Messi for FIFA’s Best Player award ]

Through 13 rounds of play, Real remains the only unbeaten side in La Liga, sitting on 33 points atop the first division. Barca finds itself six points back, however, a victory would go a long way in cutting down Real’s advantage.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s 10 goals in league play thus far has paced Real to its hot start, which includes a 20-match unbeaten streak in all competitions dating back to the start of the La Liga calendar.

The Portuguese attacker will need to continue his brilliance this weekend, though, as Real is forced to cope without Welsh star Gareth Bale. The winger is expected to miss four months after undergoing an ankle operation recently.

Meanwhile, Barcelona enters the Clasico in less-than-ideal form for a club with massive expectations. Luis Enrique’s side has gone unbeaten in its last five matches across all competitions, but the Blaugrana have looked less than convincing in that span.

“It’s a special game and we want to make the team and fans happy. I expect 100,000 people cheering us on,” said Enrique. “The game tomorrow is a chance to beat Real Madrid and to get closer to the top of the table, nothing more.

“Controlling your emotions is basic. In a game like this one, what happens on the field has little to do with the league table.”

Temperament will surely be key for both sides in the contentious matchup, particularly with the meeting being historically one of great physicality. Red cards have been shown in the last two meetings, with Real players both being the recipients of the ejections (Sergio Ramos & Isco).

Lionel Messi and his 21 previous Clasico goals will prove to be crucial for Barcelona as they look to put the first blemish on Real’s record in 2016. The Argentine has 19 goals in all tournaments, making his presence an absolute must if Barca is to snatch a victory.

Real earned a victory in their most recent encounter with Barca, a 2-1 result in April 2016, where Ronaldo netted the game-winner inside the final five minutes of play.