A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…
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Real Madrid 3-0 Real Sociedad
While the rest of La Liga’s top-tier sides all faltered over the weekend, Real Madrid has created some separation at the top of the league following their solid performance at the Santiago Bernabeu. Mateo Kovacic put Los Blancos in front prior to halftime, while Cristiano Ronaldo dazzled for the game’s second and Alvaro Morata put the finishing touches on the effort for the hosts. Sociedad looked on the back foot all afternoon, and Iñigo Martínez’s second-half red card summed up the match for the fifth-place side.
Real Betis 1-1 Barcelona
The Blaugrana slipped up in a big way on Sunday, although Luis Enrique’s side surely wasn’t aided by the game’s officiating. Luis Suarez rescued the visitors in the 90th minute after Betis took the lead 15 minutes prior through Alex Alegria. However, it was the game’s refereeing in the dying minutes that cost Barca dearly.
Neymar was on the receiving end of a nasty takedown inside the penalty area with under a quarter hour to play, but the official opted to not blow his whistle. Then, an own goal was missed after Betis defender Aissa Mandi cleared the ball away after the ball had already crossed the line.
Elsewhere in La Liga
Espanyol 3-1 Sevilla
Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Sporting Gijon
Sampdoria 3-2 Roma
Despite getting off to a fast start, Roma succumbed to midtable side Sampdoria at Comunale Luigi Ferraris. The visitors led on two separate occasions on Sunday but a pair of late finishes from Patrik Schick and Luis Muriel ensured that Sampdoria would come away with all three points. Roma now sit four points behind leaders Juventus, although the Bianconeri hold a game in hand.
Sassuolo 0-2 Juventus
Gonzalo Higuain is up to 15 goals on the season and Sami Khedira added the second for Juventus before halftime to give the Bianconeri a more comfortable lead at the top of Serie A. The loss for Sassuolo leaves the bottom half side in 16th place, however, the side is still 11 points above the drop zone.
Elsewhere in Serie A
Torino 1-1 Atalanta
Cagliari 1-1 Bologna
Crotone 4-1 Empoli
Fiorentina 3-3 Genoa
Udinese 2-1 AC Milan
Napoli 1-1 Palermo
Two can’t-miss matchups are on display as the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first legs continue on Tuesday afternoon.
[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]
Chelsea and Barcelona continue its terrific recently rivalry over the past two decades with Ernesto Valverde’s side traveling to Stamford Bridge to face Antonio Conte and co. At the same time, Bayern Munich hosts Turkish giant Besiktas at the Allianz Arena.
Lionel Messi, who has yet to score against Chelsea in eight games, will be looking to break his own five-game goal drought while also keep Barcelona’s Champions League hopes alive against one of his club’s toughest opponents. Messi will be playing up top alongside Luis Suarez, with both Paulinho and Sergio Busquets sitting deep behind them to keep Chelsea from posing too much of a threat on the counter attack.
For Chelsea, the Champions League remains the last trophy the club can theoretically win, and Conte has named a strong side, though without a recognizable No. 9, with Eden Hazard playing as a false nine.
Bayern Munich is looking to reach the Champions League semifinals for the seventh time in the last nine years, and they’re facing a side who’s in the knockout stage for the first time. Vagner Love leads the line for Besiktas with Ricardo Quaresma and Anderson Talisca looking to create behind. Former Real Madrid centerback Pepe starts on the backline, and will look to stop Robert Lewandowski.
Click on the link above to follow live commentary of the two UCL last 16 games, while we will have you covered for analysis and reaction from both games right here at Pro Soccer Talk.
Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 schedule
Chelsea vs. Barcelona – 2:45 p.m. ET
Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas – 2:45 p.m. ET
In a statement of intent, Tottenham is reportedly preparing to bring in one of the Premier League’s most electrifying wingers.
The Times in London reports that Spurs are set to offer Crystal Palace a $70 million transfer fee to sign Wilfried Zaha, bringing the Ivory Coast international back to a big six club for the first time since 2014. Zaha famously was the last signing of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, but by the time the now-25-year-old arrived, David Moyes was the manager and Zaha never found a place in the Man United first team.
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Since returning, Zaha has found his form and this season has four goals and an assist for Crystal Palace in 20 Premier League matches as the club is now treading water above the relegation zone. Last season, Zaha scored seven goals and dished out nine assists in 34 starts in the league.
Zaha’s potential signing likely means either a change in formation or the departure of either or both Son Heung-min and Erik Lamela, both who play on Zaha’s preferred left side regularly.
The report states that the signing could be a way to galvanize some of the supporters for next season in which the club will play in the re-built White Hart Lane.
Josh Sargent’s 18th birthday is one he’ll never forget.
The young American phenom was finally able to sign his first professional contract on Tuesday after turning 18-years old, passing the FIFA threshold for when a foreigner can sign a pro contract. Sargent has been training with Werder Bremen’s youth teams for the last few months and has even trained with the first team and featured for the Werder Bremen U23s.
“We’ve gone over all the formalities and Josh signed his professional contract with us earlier,” Bremen sporting director Frank Baumann said on Tuesday afternoon. “Again, we’re delighted he decided to join us. He’s settled in brilliantly since the turn of the year.”
[READ: UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas]
Sargent will continue to train with the youth teams and reserves, and will be eligible to feature for the Werder Bremen first team for the 2018-2019 season.
After making a number of moves to improve its attack this offseason, Orlando City SC is now splashing the cash to improve its backline.
The club announced on Tuesday the signing of veteran centerback Lamine Sane from Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga on a permanent deal. It appears that with less than six months left on his contract and Sane not in Werder Bremen manager Florian Kohfeldt’s plans, he was allowed to leave on a free transfer.
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“Lamine will significantly strengthen our back line,” Orlando City general manager Niki Budalic said in a statement. “He brings tremendous experience at the highest levels of European football and we believe he will fit right in with what we’re trying to build in Orlando.”
Sane started 27 times for Werder Bremen during a struggling 2016-2017 season, but had made just 11 appearances this season for the Bundesliga side. He’s also made 25 caps for Senegal, but the French-born defender hasn’t appeared for them since 2015. Perhaps a good start to the season in MLS could get him a surprise spot in the World Cup squad.
The 30-year-old joins a rebuilt starting lineup featuring other veterans as Orlando City looks to win in the near term, after three straight seasons of missing the playoffs.
While the team lost Cyle Larin and Kaka in the offseason, Jason Kreis and co. brought in Dom Dwyer late in the 2017 season, Justin Meram, Josue Colman, Uri Rosell and Sacha Kljestan in the offseason. Along with a couple of new outside backs, Sane is the first signing to shore up the leaky middle of the park for Orlando, one that the club’s fans hope will lead Orlando City to a top-six finish in the Eastern Conference in the least in 2018.