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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.

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 in 2018, 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.

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

Transfer Roundup: Chelsea on Sanchez; Malcom to Arsenal; Mignolet to leave

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Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has responded to reports that the Blues are trying to make a late bid to buy Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

“I don’t know but I don’t think so,” Conte said when asked by reporters on Tuesday if Chelsea were in talks to buy Sanchez.

Reports on Monday had suggested that although Sanchez’s move to Manchester United was edging closer, Chelsea had entered the race late on.

Sanchez, 29, is said to be involved in a swap deal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan plus cash but even that deal is proving difficult with Mkhitaryan dragging his feet.

Is there hope for Chelsea? It still seems like a long shot and something would have to go drastically wrong with United’s move for Arsenal.


Bordeaux’s president,Stephane Martin, has been speaking about a potential transfer for his star Brazilian forward Malcom to Arsenal, and it appears the Gunners are a long way from buying the 20-year-old.

Malcom’s agent was in London earlier this week, suggesting a deal was close, but that no longer appears to be the case.

Martin had the following to say when discussing Malcom’s future.

“Things are clear with his agents. It has not been extended and secured this summer to give it away this winter,” Martin said. “We never had a discussion with Arsenal. From our point of view, it’s wind. They can always try, but they will have a hard time taking it from us.”

Malcom has taken Ligue 1 by storm this season and has scored seven goals and added five assists.

It is believed he is valued at over $55 million by Bordeaux and both Arsenal and Tottenham were reportedly interested in the deal. However, Arsenal are said to be the main contenders for Malcom and if Alexis Sanchez does leave, as expected, the youngster is seen as a direct replacement.


Simon Mignolet could be on his way out of Liverpool.

The Belgian goalkeeper, 29, has been speaking about his future at the club after he was dropped for the 4-3 win against Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday.

“After the game against Burnley I had a conversation with the coach, among other things about his ongoing rotation. I did not find that a healthy situation for a goalkeeper,” Mignolet said. “My place on the bench against City confirmed his words. I am not satisfied with that (being dropped) but you have to respect a decision of the trainer.”

“After everything that has happened this season, I know where I stand and the situation has become clearer. I have been in such situations before and have always come out stronger. I have to think about my future and the World Cup is coming. This situation should not last too long, that is clear. But I cannot say more about it either.”

Mignolet has started 29 of Liverpool’s 23 PL games but Loris Karius has played in the UEFA Champions League and Mignolet seems frustrated with sharing time with the German goalkeeper.

Where could he go? The likes of Crystal Palace, Southampton and Newcastle could be good landing spots for the Belgian international, while Liverpool have been linked with a move for Stoke’s Jack Butland in the summer, so maybe Mignolet could be part of the deal?