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Real Madrid’s public spat with a mayor after game postponed

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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid’s only opponent this week has been off the field.

Unable to play over the weekend because its Spanish league game at Celta Vigo was postponed by bad weather, Real Madrid traded blows with a local mayor who accused it of improperly pressuring to play the game despite security concerns.

Upset with the mayor’s comments, Madrid released an official note condemning the “inappropriate” and “totally inaccurate” statements.

Sunday’s match was called off after Vigo authorities deemed Balaidos Stadium unsafe for spectators because of damage caused to the roof by heavy wind.

“I expected cooperation from a team of Madrid’s grandiosity, not pressure,” Vigo Mayor Abel Caballero said Monday. “It’s only a football match. Even for Madrid, it’s only a football match. In my opinion, there was an improper controversy prompted by Real Madrid.”

The postponement created problems for Madrid because of an already tight schedule that includes decisive games in the Spanish league and in the last 16 of the Champions League. The club already had a game in hand in the league, at Valencia, because of its participation at the Club World Cup in December.

“Real Madrid regrets the unfortunate statements made by the mayor of Vigo, in which he states that this club disregarded the security measures required for the (match) to go ahead,” the club said. “Not only are the mayor’s comments inappropriate, they are also totally inaccurate, because at no point in time did Real Madrid question the security measures in place at Balaidos.”

Madrid said it merely proposed alternatives to avoid having the game postponed, including closing the affected seating section under the damaged roof and looking at playing at a nearby stadium.

“These proposals were made with a view to avoiding the postponement of the fixture from negatively impacting upon the four competitions, given the knock-on effect it would cause between them, as well as the massive financial losses suffered by television channels from around the world, which will have an impact on future tenders for the sale of broadcasting rights,” Real Madrid said.

Celta was also affected by the postponement because it is playing in the Europa League and in the semifinals of the Copa del Rey. Celta was expected to use its second-stringers against Madrid in the league, however, so a new date could play into its advantage.

“Madrid isn’t happy because we eliminated them in the Copa (quarterfinals),” Caballero told the Spanish sports daily Marca on Tuesday.

Celta coach Eduardo Berizzo said the club obviously would rather play a team other than Madrid, but dismissed the notion that the game was called off because of that.

“The game would have been suspended regardless of the opponent because it was unsafe for the fans,” Berizzo said. “I still don’t have the ability to make it rain.”

Celta’s opponent in the Copa del Rey, Alaves, also complained of the game’s postponement, saying it gave its rival an unfair advantage because it didn’t have to play any matches after last week’s first leg in Vigo, which ended 0-0. It wanted Wednesday’s second leg played at a different date so “both teams would play under equal conditions.” Its demand was not granted.

The Spanish league defended all the decisions taken regarding the game in Vigo, saying they were based on requests made by local authorities and with the safety of players and public in mind.

“Abel Caballero said the game couldn’t be played and gave his reasons for it,” league president Javier Tebas told the daily AS. “Those who have doubts about the mayor’s decision can make a complaint against him.”

The match between Celta and Madrid wasn’t the only one that had to be suspended because of bad weather in northern Spain. Friday’s match between Deportivo La Coruna and Real Betis also had to be called off because of damage caused by heavy wind at Deportivo’s Riazor Stadium.

The games have not yet been rescheduled.

“The calendar is very tight,” Tebas said. “But we will find a solution.”

World Cup-bound Saudi Arabia fires coach Edgardo Bauza

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) World Cup-bound Saudi Arabia has fired coach Edgardo Bauza nine days before the draw.

The Saudi Arabia Football Federation announced the Argentine coach’s exit after only five friendlies in charge. The team lost to Portugal and Bulgaria this month.

[ MORE: Big American Soccer Survey results ]

Bauza has been fired twice this year by teams in the World Cup lineup. He lost the Argentina job in April, after eight months in charge, when the two-time World Cup champions risked missing out on qualification.

In September, Bauza was appointed by Saudi Arabia to replace Bert van Marwijk, who was fired despite leading the team to its first World Cup since 2006.

Saudi Arabia joins Australia without a coach for the World Cup draw in Moscow on Dec. 1.

FOLLOW LIVE: Chelsea kicks off Champions League day

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There’s a Premier League side in action to kick off another day of UEFA Champions League action.

Chelsea is in Baku for a Noon ET match-up with Azerbaijan side Qarabag. A win boosts the Blues into the knockout rounds. CSKA Moscow and Benfica kickoff in Russia at the same time.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Here’s Antonio Conte‘s Starting XI: Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Rudiger; Zappacosta, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Willian, Hazard, Pedro.

Manchester United is in Basel as one of six 2:45 p.m. ET kickoffs

Full schedule
Qarabag vs. Chelsea — Noon ET
CSKA Moscow vs. Benfica — Noon ET
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Celtic — 2:45 p.m. ET
Juventus vs. Barcelona — 2:45 p.m. ET
Atletico Madrid vs. Roma — 2:45 p.m. ET
Sporting Lisbon vs. Olympiacos — 2:45 p.m. ET
Anderlecht vs. Bayern Munich — 2:45 p.m. ET
Basel vs. Manchester United — 2:45 p.m. ET

PST Survey results: Most exciting USMNT prospect

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The results of PST’s Big American Soccer Survey are in, and our staff will be walking through the results of thousands of votes in a series of posts this week.

We didn’t realize you could acronymize it to BASS, or else we would’ve done it sooner. Today’s question: Excluding Christian Pulisic, who’s no longer a prospect despite being just 19, who is the most exciting USMNT prospect.

[ MORE: All Big American Soccer Survey posts ]

Exciting performances in the U-20 and U-17 World Cups have given United States men’s national team fans plenty of hope for the future.

The most-mentioned write-in, collecting across all attempting spellings, was injured Arsenal playmaker Gedion Zelalem.

As for the serious contenders, Jonathan Gonzalez, Andrew Carleton Tyler Adams, and Lynden Gooch lagged behind this pack of four:

Cameron Carter-Vickers — 14 percent — He had a howling back pass in Sheffield United’s 5-4 loss to Fulham on Wednesday, but the on-loan Spurs 19-year-old center back is playing every minute for a club very much in the mix for Premier League promotion.

Weston McKennie — 18 percent — Another 19-year-old, McKennie was one of the Men of the Match as Schalke went second in the Bundesliga this weekend. He’s been a regular starter when healthy, and played advanced, central, and set back in Schalke’s midfield. Next up: a Revierderby meeting with Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund.

Josh Sargent — 21 percent — Off to Werder Bremen when he turns 18 in late February, Sargent has four goals in five matches for the U.S. U-20s, and 14 in 29 for the U-17s. That includes four goals and two assists in his last three outings, against Paraguay, England, and Hungary.

Tim Weah — 24 percent — The son of African legend George Weah, Tim turns 18 two days after Sargent. Unlike his countryman, Weah has been in Europe for some time. The Paris Saint-Germain prospect is slated to get his First Team bow some time soon, having scored four goals and added an assist for PSG in the UEFA Youth League.

Yannick Bolasie finally returns to Everton training (video)

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Among my most quoted coaching lines comes from former University at Buffalo and current Canisius College men’s basketball coach Reggie Witherspoon (and pretty sure it didn’t originate with him).

“It’s more about Jims and Joes than x’s and o’s.”

[ MLS: Seattle wins | Stalemate in Ohio ]

So if Everton rebounds from its rough start to the season to reach its preseason potential, there’s a good chance we’ll credit the return of one of the most electric attackers in the game and not necessarily their new boss.

Yannick Bolasie returned to training on Wednesday, and not a moment too soon following a near one-year layoff due to an ACL tear.

There’s no guarantee the 28-year-old Bolasie will have the same burst, of course, but he has the potential to be a season-changer.

Everton was 5-4-4 when Bolasie went down with his injury last season, and improved on the mark the rest of the way, but are a moribund 3-3-6 this season.