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La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid win in routs, remain tied in title race

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

[ MORE: Saturday’s Premier League roundup | Sunday preview ]

Barcelona 4-1 Villarreal

Barca and Real Madrid remain tied, now on 84 points, as La Liga’s title race begins the final sprint to the finish (Barca have just two games remaining). Each of the title hopefuls won in convincing fashion on Saturday. First up, it was Luis Enrique’s Blaugrana.

First up for Barca was Neymar, who put the home side 1-0 up in the 21st minute. Cedric Bakambu pulled Villarreal level 11 minutes later, but Lionel Messi bagged 50th goal of the season, and what would turn out to be the winner, just before halftime.

Luis Suarez made it 3-0 halfway through the second half, and Messi bagged no. 51, from the penalty spot, with exquisite style, not long before full-time. The Barcelona freight train is moving full-steam ahead, hoping against all likelihood for a slip-up that’ll hand them their 25th league title.

Granada 0-4 Real Madrid

Madrid’s game in hand, which won’t be played until May 17 (away to 11th-place Celta Vigo), seems almost certain to decide the 2016-17 La Liga champions, as Barca hold onto the top spot by virtue of their better record in head-to-head matchups this season. On Saturday, there was absolutely nothing that 19th-place Granada, who were relegated last weekend, could do to slow down a side that omitted Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric from the starting lineup. As it turns out, Madrid’s backups are also quite talented.

James Rodriguez put Los Blancos ahead in the 3rd minute and doubled the advantage just eight minutes later.

Another quick double, this one by Alvaro Morata, made it 3-0 and 4-0 in the 30th and 35th minutes, and that was that. Game over after barely half an hour.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Sporting Gijon 1-0 Las Palmas
Atletico Madrid 1-0 Eibar

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Alaves vs. Athletic Bilbao — 6 a.m. ET
Valencia vs. Osasuna — 10:15 a.m. ET
Deportivo La Coruña vs. Espanyol — 12:30 p.m. ET
Malaga vs. Celta Vigo — 2:45 p.m. ET

Monday’s La Liga schedule

Leganes vs. Real Betis — 2:45 p.m. ET

Europa League, LIVE: Arsenal, Marseille host first legs

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Diego Costa brings a solid career record against Arsenal back to London in a bid to ruin Arsene Wenger‘s farewell season at the Emirates Stadium.

[ FOLLOW: Arsenal vs. Atleti ]

The now-Atletico Madrid forward returns to England on Thursday as his La Liga outfit aims to stop Arsenal from reaching next month’s Europa League Final in Lyon.

[ FOLLOW: Marseille vs. Red Bull Salzburg ]

That’s a 3:05 p.m. ET kickoff, the same as Marseille’s date with Red Bull Salzburg in France.

ARSENAL-ATLETICO MADRID LINEUPS

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Wilshere, Ramsey, Welbeck, Ozil, Lacazette. Subs: Cech, Maitland-Niles, Holding, Chambers, Kolasinac, Iwobi, Nketiah.

Atleti: Oblak, Lucas, Godin, Gimenez, Vrsaljko, Saul, Thomas, Koke, Correa, Griezmann, Gameiro. Subs: Werner, Savic, Gabi, Vitolo, Olabe, Torres, Costa.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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It is that time of the week again, folks. Prediction time!

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ]

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush” ]

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

West Ham 0-3 Man City – (Sunday, 9:15 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Tottenham 4-0 Watford – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM ]

Swansea City 0-2 Chelsea – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Man United 3-1 Arsenal – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Newcastle 1-1 West Brom – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Huddersfield 1-2 Everton- (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Burnley 1-0 Brighton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Liverpool 2-1 Stoke City – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

 


Southampton 2-1 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Crystal Palace 2-0 Leicester City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Chivas’ Almeyda exhales after CCL win: “I finished last season with five ulcers”

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Matias Almeyda’s body didn’t need the intensity of penalty kicks, though he’ll gladly accept the outcome after Chivas Guadalajara clinched a Club World Cup berth by beating Toronto FC in the CONCACAF Champions League final.

“I finished last season with five ulcers,” Almeyda told ESPN’s Tom Marshall, noting his grandmother is ill as well.

Chivas reached a pair of finals before this tournament, and had a number of other obstacles including protests of the club’s owners and disappointment in player recruitment.

[ MORE: TFC’s “heart has been ripped from chest” ]

Still, the long-haired Argentine put together a winning CCL team. The former River Plate and Banfield manager spent most of his playing career in Spain, Italy, and Argentina, and is happy to pick up a big win in a new(ish) country.

“It’s beautiful. When I gave my first press conference I was unknown in Mexico and it wasn’t easy,” Almeyda said. “I spoke that day about what I wanted to achieve here and God has helped me achieve what I promised.”

The 44-year-old won Serie A as a player with Lazio, and has two Copa MX and a Liga MX title to go with his CCL crown. He’s a name to watch moving forward, and — as the kids say, don’t at me — a sneaky interesting name for the USMNT given his ability to marshal an undermanned unit.

Turkey hands bid plans for Euro 2024 to UEFA

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) Turkey has given UEFA its hosting plan for the 2024 European Championship, citing “unprecedented state support” to help beat Germany to stage the 24-team tournament.

Turkish soccer federation president Yildirim Demiroren says the latest attempt is “our best bid ever.” Ten stadiums proposed include two in Istanbul.

Turkey bid with Greece for EURO 2008, then alone for the 2012 and 2016 editions.

[ MORE: TFC’s “heart has been ripped from chest” ]

Before UEFA chose a multi-nation EURO 2020 hosting plan, Turkey was strongly favored before focusing on Istanbul’s failed 2020 Olympic bid.

Turkey has never hosted a major soccer tournament. West Germany hosted the eight-team EURO 1988 and a unified Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup.

The UEFA executive committee will pick a winner on Sept. 27 in Nyon.