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

Watch Live: Swansea host Manchester United

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Swansea City welcome Manchester United to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Jose Mourinho’s side aiming to stay top of the Premier League table.

[ STREAM: Swansea v. Man United ]

Yes, it’s early days, but the Red Devils were imperious in their thumping 4-0 win against West Ham United to open their season. Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic dominated and Mourinho’s men are now a powerful, well-oiled machine.

As for Swansea, they struggled at Southampton but came away with a draw, however the main storyline surrounding the South Wales side this week has been losing Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton for over $60 million. Paul Clement will have to act fast to spend that cash wisely, but there is no doubt the Swans will miss their Icelandic playmaker.

In team news Swansea bring in Kyle Bartley and Roque Mesa as they line up in a 3-5-2 formation with Jordan Ayew and Tammy Abraham up top.

Man United are, unsurprisingly, unchanged.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski; Fernandez, Bartley, Mawson; Naughton, Mesa, Fer, Carroll, Olsson; Ayew, Abraham. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, van der Hoorn, Fulton, Narsingh, Routledge, McBurnie.

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Jones, Blind; Matic, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Mata, Rashford; Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Smalling, Fellaini, Herrera, Lingard, Martial

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

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Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Fabian Johnson misses Gladbach training with injury

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With John Brooks already out long-term due to a thigh injury, the United States may have another key injury to work around.

According to Borussia Monchengladbach manager Dieter Hecking, full-back/winger Fabian Johnson missed training on Friday due to an unspecified injury, and is now a question mark for Gladbach’s home match on Sunday against FC Koln. It could be nothing, but even the scare is cause for concern among U.S. fans.

Johnson has battled a few injuries the past couple of seasons, including a hamstring problem last spring that kept him out for nearly two months, including a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Johnson’s absence would leave a hole at right-back for the United States. The 29-year-old has been deployed some at right wing for the USMNT, but he has been relatively poor at that position in the national setup, looking better when pushed further back where he is given more defensive duties, roaming forward with less frequency but more intent.

In place of Johnson, another converted winger in Graham Zusi has been seeing more time at right-back, but he offers less in the attack and lacks Johnson’s recovery speed, meaning mistakes by the Sporting KC veteran are punished more often.

Falcao scores again to extend red hot start

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Monaco is hoping to ride out the final two weeks of the transfer window with 18-year-old wonderkid Kylian Mbappe still in tow.

While they wait, they aren’t missing a beat.

With Mbappe out of the squad, Radamel Falcao has begun the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season as Europe’s hottest goalscorer. He bagged a hat-trick last weekend with Mbappe on the bench to give him four goals in the first two league matches. Then, with Mbappe out of the squad entirely, Falcao netted the winner in a 1-0 road win over FC Metz.

Falcao has scored five goals so far this year, and his club has a +5 goal differential. In a way, Falcao has already been worth six points thus far.

Thanks in part to Ligue 1’s early start, Falcao’s five league goals are by far more than anyone else in the major European leagues. Four players have scored a pair of Premier League goals, nobody in La Liga or the Bundesliga have scored more than one, and the Serie A season has yet to start.

The Colombian did the same thing last season. After eventually coming off the shelf from to hamstring and concussion problems to start the season, Falcao scored 10 goals in 10 Ligue 1 matches leading up to the new calendar year.

At 31 years old, Falcao isn’t a long-term solution and the club will clearly look to retain Mbappe despite Falcao’s hot start, but should they lose the young Frenchman, the club will be in good hands while they search for a replacement over the next year.