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La Liga: Madrid, Barca win, remain 3 points apart; up next: El Clasico

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup | Sunday preview ]

Sporting Gijon 2-3 Real Madrid

If Saturday taught us anything, it’s that the title race is anything but a foregone conclusion. Madrid found themselves a goal down after 14 minutes, and again five minutes into the second half. Fortunately for Zinedine Zidane’s side, the two deficits lasted a combined 12 minutes.

Isco pulled Los Blancos back to 1-1 three minutes after they fell behind, just as Alvaro Morata did the same in the 59th minute.

Through 89 minutes, Madrid looked destined to drop a pair of points that would allow Barcelona to close the gap in the title race to just a single point, with the season’s final El Clasico to be played next Sunday. Then, in the 90th minute, up popped Isco with a low, powerful strike to break the deadlock and improve Madrid’s recent run of results to seven wins in nine games as the season winds down.

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Real Madrid 31 23 6 2 82 33 49 12-4-0 11-2-2 75
 Barcelona 32 22 6 4 91 30 61 12-3-1 10-3-3 72
 Atlético Madrid 32 19 8 5 59 24 35 12-2-2 7-6-3 65
 Sevilla 31 18 7 6 56 39 17 11-3-1 7-4-5 61
 Villarreal 31 15 9 7 45 24 21 9-3-4 6-6-3 54
 Athletic 32 16 5 11 45 37 8 12-3-2 4-2-9 53
 Real Sociedad 32 16 4 12 48 45 3 8-4-4 8-0-8 52
 Eibar 31 14 8 9 52 42 10 9-3-4 5-5-5 50
 Espanyol 31 12 10 9 43 42 1 8-5-3 4-5-6 46

Barcelona 3-2 Real Sociedad

If the last two months have taught us anything, it’s that Barcelona might just be incapable of taking advantage of any and/or every Madrid slip-up. On Saturday, Luis Enrique’s side did what they had to do in order to heap maximum consequence on next weekend’s showdown at the Camp Nou.

Lionel Messi made it 1-0 and 2-0 in the 17th and 37th minutes, but Samuel Umtiti gave one back via an own goal five minutes later. Messi’s brace give the 29-year-old (yes, still) Argentine 498 goals across all official competitions for Barca.

Two minutes later, Paco Alcacer re-established the two-goal lead for all of three minutes of game time. Two minutes into the second half, Xabi Prieto made it 2-1, which is how things would end.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Atletico Madrid 3-0 Osasuna
Deportivo La Coruña 2-0 Malaga

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Leganes vs. Espanyol — 6 a.m. ET
Valencia vs. Sevilla — 10:15 a.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Eibar — 12:30 p.m. ET
Granada vs. Celta Vigo — 2:45 p.m. ET

Liverpool fans without tickets 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.