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La Liga & Serie A: Newly promoted Alaves shock Barca; Ronaldo returns, scores

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Real Madrid 5-2 Osasuna

Cristiano Ronaldo hadn’t played a minute of first-team football since injuring his knee in the final of EURO 2016. He needed just six of them — minutes, that is — to mark his return to the field with his first goal of the season (assisted by Gareth Bale) on Saturday. The Portuguese superstar wouldn’t find the net again, and he would only last 66 minutes on the day, but it was a successful return to action in every possible way.

Most notably, the 5-2 victory for Real Madrid. Danilo, Sergio Ramos, Pepe and Luka Modric each chipped in with a goal of their own, as Zinedine Zidane’s side became the only Spanish side still perfect three games into the 2016-17 season.

Barcelona 1-2 Alaves

Luis Enrique’s side dropped their first points of the season, at home against newly promoted Alaves. Lionel Messi was left out of the starting lineup (hamstring injury), but came off the bench on the hour mark, with the game tied at 1-1, and failed to make the kind of impact Barca needed.

Barca went behind through Deyverson’s opening goal in the 39th minute, but Jeremy Mathieu put them back on level terms less than 60 seconds after the halftime restart. Messi entered in the 60th minute, and Ibai Gomez scored Alaves’s winner, thanks to a fatal mistake by Mathieu, four minutes later.

Celta Vigo 0-4 Atletico Madrid

Antoine Griezmann scored twice, and Koke and Angel Correa chipped in a goal apiece, as Atleti routed last year’s sixth-place finishers away from home. Saturday’s brace gives the 25-year-old Frenchman 46 league goals three seasons into his time at the Vicente Calderon Stadium (22 goals in each of the last two seasons).

Elsewhere in La Liga

Sevilla 2-1 Las Palmas
Malaga 0-2 Villarreal

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Sporting Gijon vs. Leganes (6 a.m. ET)
Valencia vs. Real Betis (10 a.m. ET)
Granada vs. Eibar (12:15 a.m. ET)
Deportivo La Coruña vs. Athletic Bilbao (2:30 p.m. ET)


Juventus 3-1 Sassuolo

Gonzalo Higuain scored twice to take his league goals tally to three on the season (through three games — after scoring 36 in 35 last season) before Miralem Pjanic made it 3-0 with only 27 minutes on the clock. Luca Antei pulled a goal back for Sassuolo, but that’s as close as they would get. Juve are a perfect 3-for-3 to start the season, already two points clear of Napoli. They will probably never relinquish that lead.

Palermo 0-3 Napoli

Napoli, and perhaps Roma, will do everything they can to prevent Juve extending their half-decade of dominance any further. In the end, it won’t be enough, but it’ll be enjoyable to watch them try for a while. Jose Callejon bagged a brace and Marek Hamsik scored the third as Maurizio Sarri’s side blew past Palermo on Saturday.

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Bologna vs. Cagliari (6:30 a.m. ET)
Chievo vs. Lazio (9 a.m. ET)
Genoa vs. Fiorentina (9 a.m. ET)
AC Milan vs. Udinese (9 a.m. ET)
Atalanta vs. Torino (9 a.m. ET)
Roma vs. Sampdoria (9 a.m. ET)
Pescara vs. Inter Milan (2:45 p.m. ET)

FIFA suspends Brazilian soccer president Marco Polo del Nero

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has suspended Brazilian soccer federation president Marco Polo del Nero for 90 days while he is under an ethics investigation.

Del Nero has remained in power in Brazil despite being charged by American authorities with racketeering and money laundering in 2015.

FIFA says Del Nero has been provisionally banned from all soccer activities as formal ethics investigation proceedings are conducted.

Del Nero fled Zurich in May 2015 when FIFA colleagues were arrested, quit the executive committee of soccer’s governing body after missing meetings and was then indicted in the United States in December 2015. He has not been extradited from Brazil to face the charges.

Preview: How can Tottenham stop Man City?

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Can anyone stop Manchester City? Tottenham Hotspur will try this Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) with Mauricio Pochettino‘s men aiming to give the chasing pack some hope that City can be caught.

[ LIVE: Stream Man City v. Spurs

Pep Guardiola‘s men have won 15 consecutive Premier League games to stretch their lead atop the PL to 11 points heading into the busy festive season, but a visit from Spurs represents one of their toughest tests of the season so far.

Spurs currently sit in fourth place in the table but are 18 points behind City.

In team news Man City have no fresh injury concerns as Vincent Kompany could return after missing out at Swansea City in midweek, but John Stones remains out injured.

Tottenham will be missing Victor Wanyama and Toby Alderweireld through injury, while Davinson Sanchez serves the final game of his three-match ban.


What they’re saying

Guardiola on Man City going the entire season unbeaten: “It is not going to happen. We are going to lose games, it belongs to Arsene Wenger. Now what happens is an exception, it’s not normal what we’ve done. We’ll try to maintain it but we are going to lose games. It is important is to play better, that’s important. Records are OK but they stay there and one day they will be broken. We focus on the pitch and try to be better, make chances, concede few. I’m happy with the way we play – although I feel we can do much, much better.”

Pochettino on Man City’s incredible run: “They [Manchester City] are showing that they are not only the best in England but in Europe too with the Champions League. They are playing so well and deserve all the praise. It will be so tough. I think Manchester City deserve all the credit with what they are doing.”

Prediction

Spurs will prove a tough test for a rampant Man City squad and I expect Dele Alli and Harry Kane to cause plenty of problems for a threadbare City defense. 2-2.

Source: MLS rejected deal that would’ve brought Ousted to LA Galaxy

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TAM has become a great discussion in Major League Soccer, allowing teams to acquire more top-caliber players, but it appears in one instance the mechanism could actually hurt a player’s chances of being re-signed.

[ MORE: LAFC close to signing third DP, Portuguese midfielder Geraldes ]

Pro Soccer Talk has learned through an MLS league source familiar with the situation that the LA Galaxy had a deal in place to acquire Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted using Targeted Allocation Money (TAM), however, the league rejected that offer.

The 32-year-old took to Twitter on Friday, stating that a total of three teams offered him a contract using TAM, however, none of them were able to be executed.

It was announced back on Nov. 7 that Ousted would not return to the Whitecaps for the 2018 season, after spending nearly four-and-a-half years with the Canadian side.

Additionally, Ousted was scheduled to be one of the players eligible to be selected in Friday’s MLS Stage 1 Re-Entry Draft, but he has since been “forced to opt out.”

There are several ways a player can qualify to participate in the first stage of the Re-Entry Draft, and with Ousted having played over three MLS seasons and being over the age of 23, that previously ruled him eligible.

Under MLS’ current TAM rules and regulations, Ousted would have had to have been making at least $480,625 in 2017 in order for the veteran goalkeeper to qualify for a TAM offer.

That number is scheduled to increase for the next season, with the maximum budget charge set at $504,375 in 2018.

Ousted was only making roughly $378,933 in 2017, with a base salary of $360,000, per the MLS Players’ Union website.

In order for an MLS club to sign Ousted at this stage would require them to go above and beyond his option for next season, which as the goalkeeper states in his second tweet would be a “gamble.”

Below are the ways MLS has declared it possible for clubs to use TAM in order to sign or re-sign players.

Prince William’s dilemma: Royal Wedding clashes with FA Cup final

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The date for the Royal Wedding between Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle has been set and there’s a bit of a dilemma for Prince William: it’s on the same day as the 2017-18 FA Cup final on May 19, 2018.

Why does that matter?

William has been the president of the English Football Association for the last 10 years and he, along with other members of the Royal Family, usually attend the showpiece final at Wembley and hand out the trophy to the winning team.

Not this time.

With the date confirmed on Friday for the Royal Wedding takes place at Windsor Castle on May 19, specific times have yet been announced for the ceremony. Could that mean a late dash from the wedding to hand out the trophy at Wembley for Prince William? If his beloved Aston Villa make the final, maybe it’s not out of the question…

In a statement to the BBC, the FA had the following to say about the “fixture clash” in May:

“Everyone at The FA is delighted for HRH Prince Harry and Megan Markle with the announcement of their wedding at Windsor Castle next year. Saturday May 19 promises to be a wonderful day with a special royal occasion followed by English football’s showpiece event, the Emirates FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium. With millions coming together to watch both events at home and around the world, it will be a day to celebrate.”

The life of a royal isn’t all fun and games…