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Messi, Barcelona send warning to PSG — 4 goals aren’t enough

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi and Neymar scored three spectacular goals to keep Barcelona atop the Spanish league after routing Celta Vigo 5-0 on Saturday.

The flashes of brilliance from Barcelona’s best may give pause to anyone who thinks Paris Saint-Germain’s 4-0 cushion is surely insurmountable come Wednesday in the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie.

The intimidating display also comes in the first match since coach Luis Enrique announced he would leave the club at the end of the season.

“It didn’t serve as a warm-up for PSG as far as how they play, but confidence is basic in these types of situations,” Luis Enrique said.

Besides two goals, Messi also contributed to setting up second-half strikes by Ivan Rakitic and Samuel Umtiti, dealing a stinging win to a good Celta side which has beaten Barcelona and Real Madrid this season.

“We always trust in our coach and his staff,” Rakitic said about the team’s response to Luis Enrique’s departure.

“Hopefully we can pull off a miracle and turn around the result to stay alive in the Champions League.”

Messi had already hit the post before he opened the scoring at Camp Nou with a masterful solo effort.

He received the ball near midfield with Celta apparently positioned to keep him in check. But he curled around his marker, sped toward the goal, cut back around a second man, and finished it off with a vicious left-footed strike.

Messi then assisted Neymar by threading a precise pass to meet his strike partner’s run into the box, where Neymar added his own exquisite touch by popping the ball into a perfect tight arc over the helpless keeper.

Messi got another great goal in the second half when he ghosted around two Celta players before firing between the legs of the second one.

Messi’s goals took his league-leading tally to 23, including 14 in his last 12 league matches. They were also his 37th and 38th goal in as many appearances this season.

Both strikers contributed to Rakitic’s score. After passing for Umtiti to get his first goal for Barcelona, Messi capped the victory before adding some flourishes in late attacks that went close to producing even more goals.

Barcelona stayed one point ahead of Madrid, which has a game in hand.

Karim Benzema broke his eight-round scoring drought with two goals, stepping up with Cristiano Ronaldo out because of an unspecified physical problem and Gareth Bale serving the first of a two-game suspension.

Madrid also got goals from the little-used James Rodriguez and Marco Asensio to get a convincing win after three poor showings allowed Barcelona to tighten the title race.

“During a season there are moments that you have to suffer, sometimes you play a bit poorly, but that is normal over a season. Today we got back to playing well from the very start, playing with intensity,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “This is a good sign for us.”

Before the season, the match at the small Basque club would not have been considered a priority for Madrid. But with its stars out, the team struggling, and Eibar playing well at home, the visit looked a challenging one for Madrid.

It wasn’t.

Benzema finished off his own rebound in the 14th and added a second goal in the 25th from Rodriguez’s free kick.

Benzema returned the assist for Rodriguez five minutes later before Asensio and Eibar’s Ruben Pena scored in the second half.

Goals by Roberto Soriano and Cedric Bakambu in each half gave Villarreal a win to stay in sixth place.

Leganes earned a second straight home win thanks to a late goal by Darwin Machis, who is playing at the promoted club on loan from Granada.

WATCH: Camila’s wicked swerving goal for Brazil

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The Tournament of Nations got underway earlier Thursday, with Brazil and Japan drawing 1-1 in Seattle.

While some in the crowd may’ve been waiting to see the United States women’s national team and Australia in the second game of the twin bill, they got an absolute treat from Brazil’s Camila.

[ MORE: Galaxy’s season-changing signing ]

The Orlando Pride midfielder is yet to scoop up 10 caps, but blasted this 25-yard goal home with a wicked outside bend.

The aesthetics are terrific.

LA Galaxy’s second Dos Santos signing is a season-changer

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Remember this day, MLS fans, as one that perhaps helped determine an MLS Cup Finalist.

The LA Galaxy have signed Villarreal midfielder and Mexican national teamer Jonathan Dos Santos, and he’s the sort of player who could alter the landscape of the Western Conference.

Like Nicolas Lodeiro to Seattle last season and New England’s addition of Jermaine Jones in 2014, Dos Santos’ move comes with the distinct possibility of elevating LA into the next stratosphere.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

Take the Galaxy’s history of winning, and toss in a midseason coaching improvement from Curt Onalfo to Sigi Schmid, as well as MVP-in-their-own-right caliber teammates Giovani Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini, and Jelle van Damme.

Don’t sleep on the fact that Schmid might be gathering momentum from inheriting a talented and underachieving roster and a brand new game-changing midfielder, which feels a bit like karmic retribution for Seattle firing him and signing Lodeiro the next day last season. Seattle only went and won the MLS Cup.

Schmid has used any number of formations, but could deploy a 4-3-3 with Jona Dos Santos, Jermaine Jones, and Joao Pedro in the midfielder and Giovani Dos Santos, Alessandrini, and Gyasi Zardes up top (Sebastian Lletget could return at some point, too).

Now FC Dallas is very deep, Sporting KC looks powerful, and Seattle won it all last year — plus, may be adding Derlis Gonzalez?!? — but LA’s move to add Dos Santos creates a quartet of teams with proven mettle (Houston looks decent, too, but I have concerns about their first-time as a unit in the playoffs).

Joey Barton’s gambling ban lowered by almost 5 months

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Joey Barton’s 18-month ban for betting on almost 1,300 soccer-related events has been lowered to 13 months and one week.

Putting aside the hilarity of grown men and women discussing whether an extra week was necessary, the alteration means he’ll be eligible to return to football on June 1, 2018.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

While that still hampers the idea of the 34-year-old playing again — he’ll be 36 when the ban ends — it’s a significant change if he’s open to the idea of returning to the game.

Barton’s original ban expired in late October 2018, well into a season. From Sky Sports:

The appeal board also agreed: “It was clear that Mr Barton was not involved in any cheating, he did not influence any games and there was nothing suspicious about his bets.

“(The reduction) reflects the overall seriousness of the breaches and also the mitigation of Mr Barton’s addiction.”

Barton’s remarkably controversial career has including several suspensions and imprisonment, but he always found his way back to the field and was very good when in form. After time at Manchester City and Newcastle United, Barton fended off naysayers with stints at QPR, Marseille, Burnley, and a regrettable move to Rangers.

We may see him on the field in August 2018.

FIFA fines Qatar after players’ political support for Emir

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has fined Qatar’s soccer federation after national team players breached rules against political statements by displaying T-shirts of the country’s Emir at a World Cup qualifier.

FIFA says its disciplinary panel imposed a 50,000 Swiss francs ($51,800) fine and reprimanded Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host.

[ MORE: Nainggolan staying at Roma ]

The incident happened in Doha on June 13, amid a dispute with regional rivals Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar’s players warmed up for a 3-2 win over South Korea wearing white T-shirts with an image of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to show their support for him.

FIFA says the charges related to “displaying a political image” and “political displays” by spectators.