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Bayern back on top of Bundesliga before massive Leipzig showdown

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BERLIN (AP) Douglas Costa’s fine second-half strike was enough for Bayern Munich to return to the top of the Bundesliga with a labored 1-0 win at bottom side Darmstadt on Sunday.

Bayern leads on goal difference from promoted Leipzig before the sides meet in Munich on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Chelsea go 9 points clear; Man Utd streaking ]

It seemed the defending champions were already looking ahead to the next game as they produced an uninspired performance against Darmstadt, which had fired coach Norbert Meier on Monday after six straight losses.

“It wasn’t FC Bayern,” goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said.

The home side made a bright start under interim coach Ramon Berndroth. Bayern needed Thiago Alcantara to make a last-ditch block to deny Sandro Sirigu on a counterattack prompted by Arturo Vidal’s wayward pass seconds after kickoff.

Jan Rosenthal went close for the hosts after a corner minutes later and Bayern didn’t threaten until the 40th, when Mats Hummels’ penalty appeal went unheeded. TV replays showed the Germany defender was fouled by Mario Vrancic. Thomas Mueller drew a save from Michael Esser in the Darmstadt goal early in the second half.

But Bayern looked short of ideas against the hard-working Darmstadt, which was running more and restricting the visitors’ space. Another lost ball from Vidal had coach Carlo Ancelotti throw his hands up in exasperation on the sidelines. The Chilean midfielder made way for Franck Ribery with over 20 minutes remaining.

[ MORE: La Liga — Messi dazzles as Barcelona cruise past Espanyol ]

A moment of individual brilliance was needed for the breakthrough and it came from Costa in the 71st, when the Brazilian let fly with a superb swerving strike from 25 meters (yards) into the goal off the underside of the crossbar.

Peter Niemeyer should have equalized from the rebound when Neuer stopped Jerome Gondorf’s free kick but the Darmstadt defender headed straight back at the Bayern `keeper with the goal beckoning.

“In the end the most important thing is to win and stay first. So I’m satisfied,” Ancelotti said. “But we can play better and faster. We’ll give our best against Leipzig on Wednesday.”

In Sunday’s other Bundesliga match, Ingolstadt earned a much-needed victory at Bayer Leverkusen.

[ MORE: Serie A — Juventus beat 2nd-place Roma, go 7 points clear ]

Previously bottom Ingolstadt climbed above Hamburger SV into the relegation playoff place with its second successive win, while Leverkusen fans whistled their side off at halftime and again at full time in frustration.

Alfredo Morales put the visitors in front midway through the first half with a powerful header from Markus Suttner’s fine cross.

It got worse for Leverkusen early in the second half when Charles Aranguiz earned his second yellow card for a check on Anthony Jung after losing the ball.

But the sending off seemed to spur a response from the home side, which equalized in the 63rd through Admir Mehmedi just after Almog Cohen should have scored at the other end.

The Israeli midfielder atoned for his miss with what proved to be the winner 10 minutes later.

Report: Newcastle sale talks between Ashley, Staveley collapse

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Talks between Mike Ashley and Amanda Staveley over the much-desired and -rumored sale of Newcastle United are off, according to a report from Sky Sports and various other UK news outlets.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Sky has quoted a source close to Ashley as having said: “Attempts to reach a deal (with Staveley) have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time.” (Full quote below)

Ashley, the club’s current and long-beleaguered owner, has been seeking a potential buyer since putting the club up for sale back in October. Staveley emerged as the front-runner (the only runner, perhaps) in the days following Ashley’s announcement, and reportedly tabled an offer of $335 million in early December before reportedly offering something closer to $400 million a couple weeks later.

Ashley selling the club — and doing so before the end of the January transfer window, which now appears nigh impossible — appeared to be one the few scenarios in which Rafa Benitez would remain the Magpies’ manager beyond the end of the current Premier League season (Newcastle currently sit 15th, just three points clear of relegation) after constant rumors of his discontent and lack of financial backing last summer.

LIVE, FA Cup replays: West Ham, Leicester on upset alert

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Five FA Cup third round replays take place on Tuesday with two Premier League clubs on upset alert.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

Leicester City and West Ham United both host third-tier opponents, with the Hammers welcoming Shrewsbury to the London Stadium and Leicester hosting Jamie Vardy‘s former club Fleetwood.

Both Claude Puel and David Moyes have named strong teams to try and breeze through to the fourth round. You can follow commentary on all five games by clicking on the link above and we will have reaction right here on Pro Soccer Talk.

[ MORE: FA Cup fourth round draw in full ]

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday, with all the games kicking off at 2:45 p.m. ET unless otherwise stated.


Tuesday’s FA Cup replay schedule

Leicester City vs. Fleetwood Town
Mansfield Town vs. Cardiff City
Reading vs. Stevenage Town – 3pm
Sheffield Wednesday vs. Carlisle United
West Ham United vs. Shrewsbury

Premier League Power Rankings

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With the festive season over and things starting to settle down, now seems like a good time for our first batch of Power Rankings of 2018.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings – 2017-18 ]

The last time we fired this baby up was in early December, and you can see the ranking of the clubs back then in the parenthesis after their club name in the list below.

We have some massive movement, both up and down.

Here is the latest batch of Premier League Power Rankings as we sort the 20 clubs based on their current form.


  1. Liverpool (5) — What a few weeks for Liverpool. They won four of their last five games and Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are scoring goals, plus Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is stepping up with Philippe Coutinho gone. Jurgen Klopp‘s masterplan is showing significant progress.
  2. Tottenham Hotspur (9)Harry Kane leads the PL in goals (shock) and is now getting plenty of help from Dele Alli, Heung-Min Son and Christian Eriksen. Spurs are pushing towards the top four and the only way they will not qualify for the UCL again is if their defensive lapses crop up.
  3. Manchester City (1) — A draw away at Crystal Palace and a loss at Liverpool has seen City stumble of late but they’re still going to win the league. Defensive lapses have cost them but Kevin De Bruyne and Co. still look like they will score two or three goals every game.
  4. Manchester United (2) — Jose Mourinho’s men are looking much better with Paul Pogba back in the team. Four assists in his last two games show Pogba’s importance and United have the best defense in the league.
  5. Crystal Palace (14)Roy Hodgson is working his magic and Palace are pushing for the top 10. One defeat in their last 13 PL games has seen the Eagles soar to 12th place after their disastrous start to the season.
  6. West Ham United (19) — The Hammers are flying under David Moyes with Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini in form up top. All of a sudden a top 10 finish is very doable.
  7. Chelsea (3) — Four-straight draws in all competitions and three 0-0 stalemates on the spin mean Antonio Conte is under pressure. Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata’s partnership is struggling.
  8. Leicester City (6)Riyad Mahrez is the main man and Claude Puel‘s side began 2018 with a big win v Huddersfield and a draw at Chelsea, where they should have won. Leicester back to their best.
  9. Bournemouth (12) — Really good few weeks for Eddie Howe. Unbeaten in four PL games and big wins against Everton and Arsenal at home. The Cherries have rediscovered their scoring touch.
  10. Arsenal (4) — Wow. What a poor few weeks for the Gunners. One win in the last five in the PL, out of the FA Cup and Sanchez on his way. Ouch.
  11. West Bromwich Albion (18)Alan Pardew has his first win as West Brom boss and the Baggies ended their 21-game winless streak. They’re tougher to break down and have regained their threat from set pieces.
  12. Swansea City (20) — Plenty of confidence in the air in South Wales as Carlos Carvalhal has four points from his first three games in charge. Need buys in January but have given themselves a chance.
  13. Newcastle United (15) — Solid and steady but badly need attacking reinforcements in January. Two wins and two draws in last five show how steady and tough to beat they’ve become.
  14. Everton (10) — No wins in six and just four shots on goal in their last five games has Sam Allardyce‘s boys bang out of form after a good start.
  15. Watford (7) — No PL team has picked up less points than Watford over their last 10 games. Another second half of season slump. Marco Silva‘s fine start evaporating.
  16. Huddersfield Town (16) — No win in their last five games and David Wagner‘s side have conceded seven goals in last two defeats.
  17. Stoke City (13)Paul Lambert has one heck of a challenge on his hands. Stoke in bottom three, worst defense in Europe’s top five leagues.
  18. Brighton and Hove Albion (17) — 1 win in last 12 games and they’ve failed to score in eight of those games. Ice cold.
  19. Burnley (9) — Six games without a win and their goal threat has dried right up. Sean Dyche‘s still 7th, but they’re in a huge slump.
  20. Southampton (11) — On the current longest winless run in the PL. Mauricio Pellegrino‘s men will be in serious jeopardy very soon. They keep taking leads but throwing them away and look defensively fragile.

Barcelona forward Dembele injured again, out 3 to 4 weeks

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MADRID (AP) Barcelona says Ousmane Dembele is injured again and will be sidelined for up to a month.

The club says the young France forward picked up a hamstring injury in his left leg in the 4-2 win at Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Dembele, signed from Borussia Dortmund last year as a replacement for Neymar, was out for more than three months after rupturing a thigh tendon in his left leg on Sept. 16.

He had played only a few matches since fully recovering from surgery.

Barcelona says the injuries were not related.

The club also said Monday that Andres Iniesta has a right calf problem, but did not say how long the midfielder will be out.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga