Spain roundup: Anyone wanna win a title? Barca, Real, Atleti stumble

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Our editor Joe Prince-Wright asked if there was a punishment for winning La Liga, and that question seems even more relevant on Sunday after the big three collected two out of nine points for the second consecutive week.

Barcelona — yes, Barcelona — could not find a goal on the road at Elche. Despite the Blaugranas out-attempting the hosts 20-6, and holding Elche to zero shots on frame, the teams shared the points with a 0-0 score line.

Real Madrid seized that opportunity by… losing at Celta Vigo. Thirty-year-old Charles Dias de Oliveira scored on both sides of halftime as the hosts beat a Real side 2-0 who did not play Gareth Bale or Cristiano Ronaldo.

And so there was Atletico Madrid with an opportunity to clinch its first La Liga title since 1996 with a win at home against Malaga. This was a visiting side that had claimed two points from its last five matches against Atleti.

But they couldn’t find the goal after 45 minutes, and Samuel’s goal in the 65th minute had the home side on the ropes. Atletico was down 1-0, but managed an equalizer less than 10 minutes later when Jose Sosa’s cross was nodded home by Toby Alderweireld. It was the first La Liga goal of the season for the 25-year-old Belgian, and it was a big one.

The match ended 1-1, which means a draw next week at Barcelona will suffice for Atleti to win the league, but who’s betting against Barca now? With Atleti and Real still setting up for a UEFA Champions League final on May 24, Barca only has to focus on 90 minutes next weekend to win its fifth La Liga crown in six seasons.

ELSEWHERE

  • Real Betis 4-3 Valladolid — Just when it looked Betis has licked the stamp on its miserable season, the condemned side scored in stoppage time to keep the visitors in relegation danger.
  • Villarreal 4-0 Rayo Vallecano — The ma
  • Levante 2-0 Valencia— Massive ro
  • Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Real Sociedad — Twenty-five total shots but just two goals as the sides share points.
  • Getafe 1-0 Sevilla — There’s no substitute for desparation; Getafe is three points safe after outshooting the No. 5 team in the table 14-4 en route to the win. Sergio Escudero picks up the lone goal in the 70th minute.
  • Espanyol 1-1 Osasuna – This draw coupled with Almeria’s win keeps Osasuna into the final relegation space heading into the final weekend.
  • Granada 0-2 Almeria– The visitors leapt over their No. 17 in the table hosts to join the ranks of the temporarily safe on goals from Verza and Aleix Vidal.

Standings

 

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Atlético Madrid 37 28 5 4 76 25 51 15-4-0 13-1-4 89
Barcelona 37 27 5 5 99 32 67 16-1-1 11-4-4 86
Real Madrid 37 26 6 5 101 37 64 15-1-2 11-5-3 84
Athletic 37 20 9 8 66 39 27 13-4-2 7-5-6 69
Sevilla 37 17 9 11 66 51 15 10-4-4 7-5-7 60
Real Sociedad 37 16 11 10 61 53 8 11-4-3 5-7-7 59
Villarreal 37 16 8 13 58 43 15 9-6-4 7-2-9 56
Celta Vigo 37 14 7 16 48 52 -4 6-7-6 8-0-10 49
Levante 37 12 12 13 35 42 -7 7-6-6 5-6-7 48
Valencia 37 12 10 15 49 52 -3 9-3-6 3-7-9 46
Rayo Vallecano 37 13 4 20 45 78 -33 8-0-10 5-4-10 43
Espanyol 37 11 9 17 40 48 -8 7-5-7 4-4-10 42
Málaga 37 11 9 17 38 46 -8 7-2-9 4-7-8 42
Elche 37 9 13 15 29 47 -18 6-8-5 3-5-10 40
Almería 37 11 6 20 43 71 -28 6-5-7 5-1-13 39
Getafe 37 10 9 18 33 53 -20 6-6-7 4-3-11 39
Granada 37 11 5 21 31 56 -25 7-1-11 4-4-10 38
Osasuna 37 9 9 19 30 61 -31 5-5-8 4-4-11 36
Valladolid 37 7 15 15 38 59 -21 6-9-3 1-6-12 36
Betis 37 6 7 24 35 76 -41 5-3-11 1-4-13 25

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

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The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.