Relegation and La Liga: which teams could drop on Sunday?

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Anyone that loves a relegation dogfight should tune in to La Liga today. On the final match day of Spain’s top division, five different teams are battling to avoid the drop. Each of the four games involving the bottom six sides are set to kick off at 12 noon ET.

Let’s take a look at which clubs could spend next season in the second division. Remember, La Liga uses head-to-head rather than goal difference as a tie-breaker when teams are even on points…which makes this a bit hairy:

Real Betis (20th)
It’s over for the Andalusian side, who, with just 25 points and a -41 goal difference, lost hope some weeks ago. Betis serve as perhaps another warning for smaller clubs entering Europa League that maybe, just maybe, that European experience isn’t worth the fight. Still, Betis won’t take it easy on Osasuna – even with nothing to play for, they beat 19th placed Valladolid last week.

Real Valladolid (19th)
First, in order to save themselves, Valladolid must beat Granada. If that happens, they’ll have 39 points. If Osasuna lose to Betis, Valladolid are safe. If Osasuna win, that could create a potential tie-breaker with Valladolid, Osasuna, Almeria and Getafe all on 39 points. The permutations of that outcome could give anyone a headache. If it’s just Osasuna and Valladolid that finish with 39, however, Valladolid will be relegated, as Osasuna have the better head-to-head.
In summary: if you’re a Valladolid fan, root for Betis and Vallecano – that should put Valladolid into safety.

Osasuna (18th)
A win puts Osasuna on 39 points. That’s a must. But the fact that Granada and Valladolid play each other doesn’t do Osasuna any favors. If Granada, Getafe and Almeria all win, Osasuna are relegated. If there’s another tie at 39 points, again, we’ve got another headache situation. But Osasuna will be cheering on Valladolid, as if they’re even on points, Osasuna stay safe.

Granada (17th)
Beating Valladolid makes Granada safe, full stop. If Granada lose, they’re down, full stop. If the match finishes in a draw, and Osasuna win, it gets more complicated. If both Getafe and Almeria lose, then Granada are down.

Getafe (16th)
Getafe are three points above the drop, but that doesn’t make them safe. Obviously, if get even a point at Rayo, they’re good – it’s La Liga for them next season. But if, despite having nothing to play for, Rayo decide to beat up on Getafe, they could be in danger. If the azulones lose, Osasuna wins and Valldolid and Granada ends in a tie, Getafe are down.

Almeria (15th)
Good news for Almeria – Athletic Bilbao are safe in the final Champions League place, and have no reason to fight for all three points. A draw is enough to keep Almeria safe. In fact, Almeria are almost certain to remain in La Liga. Only if Granada win, Getafe don’t lose and Osasuna win is there a chance that Almeria go down.

PS – if you’re fluent in Spanish, give this AS article a glance. You’ll see just how complicated tonight’s match outcomes might be.

Fixtures

Almeria vs. Athletic Bilbao
Osasuna vs. Real Betis
Rayo Vallecano vs. Getafe
Real Valladolid vs. Granada

Northern Ireland manager O’Neill banned for DUI

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EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has pleaded guilty to drunk driving and been banned from the road for 16 months.

O’Neill was caught by police on the outskirts of Edinburgh at about 1 a.m. on Sept. 10 and was found to be around three times the legal drink-drive limit.

O’Neill appeared on Thursday at Edinburgh Sheriff Court where he received the driving ban and fine of 1,300 pounds ($1,700).

O’Neill’s solicitor, James Mulgrew, told the court “this was simply a bad error of judgment.”

Northern Ireland is still in contention for its first World Cup trip since 1986. The team plays Switzerland in a two-leg playoff next month to qualify for the World Cup in Russia next year.

More AP World Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

Newcastle takeover bid moves closer

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Newcastle United fans are getting very, very excited.

PCP Capital Partners, led by Amanda Staveley, have signed a confidentiality agreement with the club’s owners after Mike Ashley put the club up for sale earlier this week

Ashley is said to value Newcastle at over $520 million, while Staveley is said to believe the club is worth close to $395 million, so there is plenty of negotiating still to happen but things are heading in the right direction.

In a statement on Monday Ashley said he would allow any potential buyer to pay the overall transaction fee in installments, while he also wants a buy to be completed by the end of December.

Who is Staveley?

She was seen at a Newcastle vs. Liverpool game at St James’ Park earlier this month as speculation was rife that a new owner was being lined up to buy Newcastle. That is indeed the case and Staveley, 44, is now able to look over the finances of the club exclusively.

Staveley oversaw the purchase of Manchester City by Abu Dhabi United and also lined up a deal for Liverpool to be bought by Dubai International Captial which fell through in the past.

Her close links to the Middle East has seen her become one of the most prominent British businesswomen in recent years and she currently manages over $34 billion of wealth globally. Staveley and her investors are said to be interested in buying several Premier League clubs.

Ashley’s lawyer, Andrew Henderson, released a statement on Thursday stating several other parties have inquired about buying the club since the announcement came that they were up for sale.

“Since Monday, a number of additional parties have come forward which we believe to be credible. We are also continuing to engage with a number of parties with whom we had entered into negotiations prior to Monday’s announcement.”

Things are moving very quickly for Newcastle’s fans as they thought they’d never get rid of much-maligned owner Ashley who is a lifelong fan of the club and bought them in 2007.

After two relegations from the Premier League (followed by instant returns to the PL on both occasions) Ashley has been accused of failing to spend money on the playing squad and realize Newcastle’s full potential as they challenged for the Premier League title on numerous occasions during the 1990s.

With Rafael Benitez getting the most of his squad and the Magpies sitting in the top 10 of the PL as things stand, the future is looking bright for Newcastle with plenty of investment expected if this sale does go through to Staveley or those she is closely connected with.

VIDEO: Man United ooze class after consoling teenage goalkeeper

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Wednesday was a big night for Benfica goalkeeper Mile Svilar.

The 18-year-old was making his debut in the UEFA Champions League and in doing so he became the youngest-ever goalkeeper to play in the competition, jumping ahead of the likes of Iker Casillas to set a new, hugely impressive, record.

Still, the night did not end well for the Belgian youngster.

[ MORE: United targeted Benfica’s goalkeeper ]

With Marcus Rashford‘s free kick floating into the box from out wide, he caught the ball but then stepped back over his own goal line… taking the ball with him.

Goal-line technology showed the ball had gone over and United were awarded the goal and won 1-0.

At the final whistle the teenager was stunned but Romelu Lukaku was one of the many United players who took time to console the distraught teenager.

Classy from Lukaku.

Even if Jose Mourinho did admit afterwards that United had targeted the teenager…

FIFA probe: Al-Khelaifi confirms his presence in Switzerland

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi says he will go to Switzerland next Wednesday to answer questions from Swiss prosecutors investigating the suspected bribery of a top FIFA executive for World Cup broadcasting rights.

Criminal proceedings against Al-Khelaifi, who is also CEO of Qatar-owned BeIN Media Group, former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, and an unnamed businessman working in sports rights were announced by the office of Switzerland’s attorney general last week.

The case involves the award of broadcast rights for the next four World Cups from 2018 through 2030.

Al-Khelaifi is alleged to have offered advantages to Valcke – FIFA’s CEO-like secretary general from 2007 until his firing in January 2016 – for the award of media rights in certain countries for the 2026 and 2030 World Cup.

Speaking Wednesday night on Canal Plus television, after PSG’s 4-0 win away to Anderlecht in the Champions League, Al-Khelaifi confirmed his trip to Switzerland.

“I have an appointment on the 25th. I will go there to speak with them, the Swiss (authorities),” said Khelaifi, who attended Wednesday’s match in Belgium. “That’s all.”

The proceeding against Al-Khelaifi is one of the first direct links to Qatar in sweeping investigations by federal law enforcement authorities in Switzerland, the United States, and France concerning FIFA, international soccer, and the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests.

Last week, the Paris offices of BeIN Sports were searched. Properties were searched in Greece, Italy, and Spain while Valcke was questioned in Switzerland.