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Zidane wary of game against already relegated Granada

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MADRID (AP) Now is not the time for Real Madrid to get careless.

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Zinedine Zidane, the former Madrid great looking to win his first Spanish league title as the team’s coach, said Saturday’s game against already relegated Granada should not be taken lightly.

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“It will be even more difficult because Granada doesn’t have anything to play for,” Zidane said Friday. “But they are still playing against Real Madrid and they still have quality players.

“You can say that their season wasn’t good because they were relegated, but it’s a team that showed that it deserved to stay in the first division. We have to prepare well and try to do our best.”

Madrid is level on points with Barcelona but trails on the head-to-head tiebreaker. Madrid, however, has four games to play while Barcelona has three, including Saturday’s match against fifth-place Villarreal at the Cam Nou.

“We have to put in our minds that this is a very important game for us,” Zidane said. “If we think that it’s going to be easy, we will be making a mistake. There are few games left and we know that these three points are important for us.”

The game at Granada is considered the easiest in Madrid’s remaining schedule. No team has lost more than Granada this season, with 23 defeats and only four wins in 35 games. Second-to-last in the standings, it has the league’s worst attack with 28 goals scored and the second-worst defense with 74 goal conceded.

Despite highlighting the importance of Saturday’s game, Zidane is expected to rest many of his regular starters ahead of next week’s match against Atletico Madrid in the second leg of the Champions League semifinals, when Madrid will be carrying a 3-0 advantage from the first game at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

One of the players expected to skip the game against Granada is Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been rested in several matches recently and has thrived in the final stretch of the season. He scored hat tricks in his last two Champions League games, and nine goals in his last five matches in all competitions.

Ronaldo has scored 12 goals in 11 career matches against Granada, including five in a 9-1 win in 2015.

Zidane has rotated the squad regularly and the players replacing the main starters have kept the team playing well and winning.

“Sometimes the players need to get some rest if we want to peak entering the final stages,” Zidane said.

Madrid is trying to become the first team to win back-to-back Champions League titles since the competition’s format was created in 1992-93. In the Spanish league, it is trying to lift the trophy for the first time since 2012, avoiding its longest title drought since the 1980s.

“We still haven’t won anything,” Zidane said. “We could win one title, or two, or not win anything. The only thing we know is that we have to keep doing what we have been doing so far.”

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Video: De Rossi, Roma make classy visit to Hillsborough memorial

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On many occasions there are instances where teams and individuals exemplify the fact that real-life occurrences are more meaningful than sports.

Ahead of Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League meeting, Italian giants AS Roma visited Anfield –where they will face Liverpool in the competition’s semifinals.

After walking around the venue where the two sides will compete in less than 24 hours, Roma captain Daniele de Rossi and the rest of the Roma squad visited the Hillsborough memorial at Anfield to pay tribute to the 96 victims lost in the 1989 event that rocked the entire country.

De Rossi was seen laying a floral arrangement on the site, along with a note from the club that read, “In memoria delle vittime di Hillsborough AS Rome.”

Liverpool, Roma ride major emotions into the UCL semifinals

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Four clubs remain in this season’s UEFA Champions League competition, and while two of the teams have been considered heavy dogs in the fight all year long the other two sides look to continue on their storybook run.

Liverpool, Roma, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have found themselves in the semifinals of this season’s UCL, creating a strong mix of storylines as the tournament heads towards its most critical point.

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Anfield will be the site for Tuesday’s first leg between Liverpool and Roma, with both sides still riding major highs from their victories in the last round.

The Reds enter the final four after having disposed of fellow Premier League side Manchester City in relatively dominating fashion. Meanwhile, Roma completed a seemingly impossible comeback against Barcelona to progress in the competition.

Liverpool is led by three of the year’s top goalscorers, including Mohamed Salah — who has scored eight goals in the UCL and 41 across all competitions.

For Roma, much of the side’s success has been predicated on finding defensive strength at the right moments throughout the tournament.

Despite falling behind 4-1 in their first leg defeat to Barca in the previous round, Edin Dzeko and Co. rallied for a 3-0 win at the Stade Olimpico to stun the Catalan club by holding Lionel Messi and his side in check.

Manager Eusebio Di Francesco will have to find creative ways to halt the Liverpool attack though over the course of two legs, with the Reds boasting the top attack in this year’s UCL.

Liverpool has scored 33 goals in 10 UCL matches, while only conceding seven in the process.

Keeper Ederson hopeful he can score this season for Man City

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The prospects for a goalkeeper scoring during a match are usually uncommon, but that hasn’t halted Manchester City’s number one choice from aiming to break the trend this season.

Ederson — who has moved into the starting role at the Etihad Stadium with relative ease in 2017/18 — has dreamt of scoring a goal of his own for the Premier League champions in waiting.

“I heard the fans chanting my name, asking me to take the penalty but Gabriel went there,” Ederson said. “Unfortunately he missed it and Bernardo happily scored. But if the manager have asked me to go there, definitely I’d score.

“I’m not sure if I would be able to do set-pieces, but I’m good at penalties, either using power or technique on shooting it. But City have [their] regular penalty-takers and we are well-served.

Citizen supporters chanted for the goalkeeper to take a penalty kick over the weekend in the team’s 5-0 win over Swansea City.

However, Gabriel Jesus was the man selected for the opportunity, but had his attempt saved by Lukasz Fabianski before Bernardo Silva was in the right spot to score the game’s fifth goal.

“If Pep asks me to take it, I’m there,” Ederson said of the penalty kick. “Hopefully it will happen [before the end of the season], I’d like to score.”

This isn’t the first time Ederson has discussed exploring opportunities outside of the net, though.

The Brazilian shot-stopper has long been a fan of former Brazil international goalkeeper Rogero Ceni — who scored 65 goals for club side Sao Paolo.

Earlier this season, the 24-year-old joked around with the media, saying that he’d be more than happy to fill a role in the midfield when City was experiencing some injury issues within the squad.

Everton 1-0 Newcastle: Walcott blast has Toffees up to eighth

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Everton earned a 1-0 win against Newcastle on Monday behind Theo Walcott‘s second-half strike at Goodison Park.

The victory puts the Toffees into eighth place, leaping over Leicester City for the time being — as the Foxes have an extra game in hand.

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The former Arsenal man broke the deadlock six minutes into the second half when Walcott blasted the ball into the roof of the net following a lofted cross from Yannick Bolasie.

For Walcott, it’s his third goal since joining Everton in 2017/18 from the Gunners.

The visitors had their fair share of opportunities on the day, particularly through Ayoze Pérez, who was active all throughout the match.

Perez nearly broke the deadlock after the half hour mark when he tested goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the 31st minute with a diving save in the bottom left corner.

Phil Jagielka came close four minutes later when his close-range attempt narrowly missed the top left corner after Michael Keane‘s flicked header off a corner kick.

The Spanish forward was at it again in the second stanza, and nearly found the back of the net when his header was saved in the center of the goal off of a cross from Kenedy.

Newcastle pushed hard for an equalizer in the dying moments, and even played up a man for a few minutes when Leighton Baines was tended to for a head injury, but the Magpies couldn’t even the score.