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La Liga & Serie A: Barca cruises past Bilbao, Napoli scores seven

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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 ]

Barcelona 3-0 Athletic Bilbao

The Blaugrana have moved to within a point of Real Madrid at the summit of La Liga after a convincing performance on Saturday at the Camp Nou. First-half goals from Paco Alcacer and Lionel Messi helped give Barca a 2-0 advantage prior to halftime, while Aleix Vidal added a third on the other side of the break. Messi was up to his usual tricks in the 40th minute when he scored a tight-angled free kick to beat goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz.

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Leganes

Fernando Torres notched a brace to give Atleti some hope of staying in the title race against Leganes. The veteran Spanish striker scored on both sides of halftime, with the first coming after an Antoine Griezmann penalty kick was saved in the 15th minute. Torres got on the scoresheet for a second time six minutes into the second stanza when Angel Correa sent the former Chelsea striker in on goal.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Malaga 0-1 Espanyol
Valencia 0-4 Eibar

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Sevilla vs. Villareal — 6 a.m. ET
Sporting Gijon vs. Alaves — 10:15 a.m. ET
Real Sociedad vs. Osasuna — 12:30 p.m. ET
Celta Vigo vs. Real Madrid — 2:45 p.m. ET (expected to be postponed)


Bologna 1-7 Napoli

First-half red cards plagued both sides but goals were aplenty for the visitors as Napoli put six into the net on Saturday. Marek Hamsik recorded a hat-trick for the away side, with his first coming after just minutes. Lorenzo Insigne scored just two minutes later to give Napoli an early 2-0 advantage, however, after that is when the infractions began to take their toll on the match. Napoli’s Jose Callejon was sent off in the 26th minute after picking up a second yellow card, before Adam Masina’s red card leveled the game at 10 v 10 six minutes later.

Dries Mertens capped off the opening stanza with a pair of finishes 10 minutes apart before finishing off his hat-trick in the 90th minute. Bologna had its lone moment of brilliance come in the 36th minute when Vasileios Torosidis headed past goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

Napoli goes second with the victory, jumping over Roma, while Bologna remains in 13th place.

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

AC Milan vs. Sampdoria — 6:30 a.m. ET
Atalanta vs. Cagliari — 9 a.m. ET
Chievo vs. Udinese — 9 a.m. ET
Empoli vs. Torino — 9 a.m. ET
Genoa vs. Sassuolo — 9 a.m. ET
Pescara vs. Lazio — 9 a.m. ET
Palermo vs. Crotone — 12 p.m. ET
Juventus vs. Inter Milan — 2:45 p.m. ET

Liverpool fans warned, as Roma pledges support

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There was a terrible incident in Liverpool on Tuesday when a Reds supporter was set upon by Roma fans and left in critical condition.

Sean Cox, 53, was attacked outside a pub before Liverpool’s 5-2 UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg win over AS Roma.

[ MORE: LFC 5-2 Roma | Klopp reacts ]

Liverpool has released its plans to keep supporters safe should they be among the 5,000 with tickets in Rome on Wednesday (via LiverpoolFC.com), pledging the “most comprehensive safety and security advice.”

The club has taken the exceptional measure of requesting an extraordinary meeting in the Italian capital, which will take place on Friday April 27. … At the behest of Liverpool, club officials will join AS Roma, UEFA and the relevant Italian police and security services to discuss specific ongoing concerns.

Merseyside Police chief superintendent Dave Charnock backed up Roma’s police demand that Liverpool fans without tickets skip the trip to Italy. According to the BBC, Liverpool was asked to put fans names on their tickets to the game.

“While we understand and appreciate that many Liverpool fans will want to travel to Rome, I would encourage fans who do not have tickets to not travel,” he said.

AS Roma, for its part, posted a photo of Cox with the statement, “His recovery and the safety of all fans attending football matches, is the only thing that matters now.”

Report: Gerrard on Rangers shortlist ahead of Old Firm Derby

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Could Steven Gerrard‘s first foray into management come against his old manager and in one of the most heated derbies in the world?

The BBC is reporting that the Liverpool legend is on the shortlist for Rangers as the Glaswegian side prepares to hire a new manager in its bid to reverse Celtic domination of the Scottish Premiership and the Old Firm Derby.

[ MORE: Fulham, NFL owner to buy Wembley? ]

Brendan Rodgers has engineered a marvelous run of form for Celtic, who went unbeaten in the league last season. Rodgers is also a sought-after managerial candidate for bigger jobs in Europe, and may not be at Celtic if and when Gerrard is hired by its rivals.

Either Celtic or Rangers have won the Scottish top flight title dating back to 1984-85, when champions Aberdeen were led by some guy named Alex Ferguson.

Rangers are facing a Manchester United moment this weekend, traveling to Celtic Park for a Sunday derby against Celtic which would see their rivals clinch the Premiership with a win.

Celtic has a 10-point lead on Rangers and Aberdeen, and is extremely likely to win its seventh-straight Premiership title. The record for most consecutive Scottish titles is nine, shared by Celtic (1966-74) and Rangers (1989-97).

Sweden announces Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not return for World Cup

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s public flirtation and seeming committal to returning to the Swedish national team for the World Cup was a big tease.

Whether it’s his call or not is up for debate.

The Swedish Football Association reports that it’s spoken with Ibrahimovic and the 35-year-old LA Galaxy striker has declined the chance to return to the fold.

[ MORE: Fulham, NFL owner to buy Wembley? ]

Sweden’s sporting director Lars Richt says Ibrahimovic has not changed his mind on international retirement despite his own words.

Sweden’s current team may have a role in that.

We imagine Richt and Sweden may be cushioning the blow for Ibrahimovic, especially if national team goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson is speaking on behalf of a team vibe when he speaks of Zlatan being “an individualist” who could ruin Sweden’s team-first concept.

Report: Fulham, NFL owner Khan agrees $700m price for Wembley

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Fulham owner Shad Khan also owns a National Football League team, and could have two top-flight teams from different nations playing in England soon.

For Fulham, the Cottagers are currently very much in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League and at the least will have a chance at qualifying through the playoffs.

[ MORE: TFC loses CCL Final in PKs ]

For the Jaguars, who have rarely needed all the seats in their stadium, it could mean a move to London if Khan goes through with what’s being reported as an accepted $700 million bid to buy Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium was also built with the design to host NFL games.

Here’s how ProFootballTalk’s Michael David Smith puts a bow on it (on one of the biggest days of the NFL calendar, nonetheless):

So it’s possible that there could soon be two iconic soccer stadiums in London with strong NFL ties, one which was built with NFL games in mind, and another that is owned by an NFL owner. The league is pouring serious resources into London.

It seems unlikely Khan would move Fulham from Craven Cottage, but there are other repercussions of this move for soccer in England.

There’s the potential for the England national team to no longer utlizie a permanent home, and the FA Cup and League Cup both potentially requiring new or rotating venues for their final rounds.

A lot to monitor here, and we’ll surely have all the details as they emerge from Khan’s crew.