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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

Day Four: All the action from the U20 World Cup

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South Korea and Venezuela clinched berths in the knockout rounds of the U-20 World Cup on Tuesday, while Germany and Argentina have surprising work to do after two matches in South Korea.

[ MORE: Allardyce steps down at Palace ]

South Korea 2-1 Argentina

Barcelona B man Lee Seung-woo helped South Korea take a 2-0 lead, then hold on for the win and group lead over England.

England 1-1 Guinea

Chelsea youngster Fikayo Tomori scored a wild long range own goal to cost England the three points, but the Blues are still well-positioned to advance out of the group stage. Bournemouth midfielder Lewis Cook scored for England, and it was a beaut.

Venezuela 7-0 Vanuatu

Seven different Venezuelans have scored through a pair of shutout wins, with Caracas’ Sergio Cordova the only one to bag a pair.

Mexico 0-0 Germany

Germany has just one point through two matches, thanks largely to Pachuca’s Abraham Romero’s seven saves. Mexico was outshot 12-6.

Porto, Watford, Hull? Marco Silva in demand

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Marco Silva is one of the hottest properties in management, months after eliciting cries of “Who?” following his appointment at Hull City.

While those cries may have been a tiny bit myopic given his time at Sporting CP and Olympiacos, the 39-year-old is now visible to the world despite Hull’s relegation.

[ MORE: Real Madrid nabs $50m teen ]

Silva will be back in England to meet with Hull on Wednesday, but a clause in his contract that said he could leave if the club was relegated gives the Tigers very little hope.

Rumors have him wanted at Watford, and he’s also been linked with a number of other jobs including Southampton (should the club part ways with Claude Puel).

However, the former right back is also reportedly a target of one of the biggest clubs in his home country: Champions League side Porto.

UEFA Europa League Final preview: Manchester United vs. Ajax

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Jose Mourinho’s big European gamble takes center stage on Wednesday in Sweden, when Manchester United attempts to topple young Ajax in the UEFA Europa League Final.

United’s chances for UEFA Champions League qualification, a magnificent opportunity, are overshadowed by the pall cast over Manchester by sinister terrorist attacks at a pop concert that killed and injured many on Monday night.

Alas, there’s soccer to be played, and Mourinho is looking to make it a trio of shiny items in his first year on the job. United beat Leicester City for the Community Shield, then topped Southampton in the EFL Cup Final en route to Sweden.

United’s well-documented dearth of healthy defenders will march out one more time on Wednesday, with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones tasked with manning the center of the back line. Expect Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian out wide.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

Despite the injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho’s attack is going to give Ajax fits. Marcus Rashford has been next level for most of the second half of the season, and United will also likely feature Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba atop Ander Herrera.

If someone is going to break United down, it could be midfield wizards Davy Klaassen and Lasse Schone. The creative middle men have a variety of options to find with the ball, including on-loan Chelsea man Bertrand Traore and Danish teenager Kasper Dolberg.

But how will they deal with United’s attack? Sure Ajax has stopped Lyon, Schalke, Copenhagen, and Legia Warsaw, but United and Mourinho? That’s another challenge for Peter Bosz and his men.

Ajax won the 1992 UEFA Cup, and this is United’s first ever trip to this particular final. The Red Devils are heavy favorites, and we expect United to prevail. Don’t sleep on Juan Mata heroics. Call it 3-1.

Allardyce resigns, opening up intriguing vacancy at Palace

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Sam Allardyce is walking away on top outside the relegation zone.

The veteran Premier League manager, 62, resigned his post as Crystal Palace on Tuesday, weeks after leading another team to safety.

The move ends a tumultuous eight months for Allardyce, who was fired as England manager after an undercover sting exposed unethical dealings with agents.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

It also comes about an hour after somebody wrote that Crystal Palace should move on from Allardyce. What a jerk, that somebody.

Rarely at a loss for words, here’s Big Sam from cpfc.co.uk:

I want to be able to savour life while I’m still relatively young and when I’m still relatively healthy enough to do all the things I want to do, like travel, spend more time with my family and grandchildren without the huge pressure that comes with being a football manager.

This is the right time for me. I have no ambitions to take another job, I simply want to be able to enjoy all the things you cannot really enjoy with the 24/7 demands of managing any football club, let alone one in the Premier League.”

All kidding aside — and I’m far from a Big Sam fan — congrats to the man on walking away to enjoy the finer things in life. He had a heck of a run, and we’ll see how long he can resist being away from the fray. Cheers, Sam.