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Real Madrid done rotating players as it goes for Spanish title

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MADRID (AP) There is no more rest for Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates.

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Zinedine Zidane is done rotating his squad and will use Ronaldo and the rest of the regular starters when Madrid plays at Celta Vigo with a chance to regain the Spanish league lead and move into position to clinch its first title in five years.

A win or a draw in the match postponed from February because of bad weather will move Madrid past Barcelona into first place going into the weekend’s final round of matches. Both teams have 87 points, but the Catalan club leads on the head-to-head tiebreaker. Madrid plays at mid-table Malaga on Sunday, while Barcelona finishes its season against eighth-place Eibar on the same day.

“We are prepared,” Zidane said Tuesday. “We have two matches to play, two finals, and then it’s all over in the league. Everybody is doing very well physically and wishing that the game starts as soon as possible. We are thinking positively and we will give everything we have.”

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Zidane had been rotating the squad the last few months as Madrid also played the decisive stages of the Champions League. Its latest game in the European competition was against Atletico Madrid in the semifinals last week, when it advanced to the final on June 3.

Zidane kept regular starters such as Karim Benzema, Casemiro and Luka Modric out of the starting lineup against Sevilla on Sunday, when Madrid won 4-1. Ronaldo was in that match, scoring two goals, and he is also going to play on Wednesday in Vigo. The star forward hadn’t played in an away match for Madrid since March, against Athletic Bilbao. He was rested in the team’s following four away matches in the league.

“Cristiano will be with us,” Zidane said.

The game against Celta was originally scheduled to be played on Feb. 5 but was postponed because heavy winds damaged the roof of the Balaidos Stadium, making it unsafe for players and spectators. Vigo authorities at the time accused Madrid of improperly pressuring to play the game despite the security concerns, and the club had to officially respond by saying that it would never want to put the fans’ safety at risk.

Madrid wanted to avoid playing Celta so late in the season. There were no other dates to play the match because Celta was participating in the Europa League and Madrid in the Champions League.

Celta, which made it to the semifinals of the Europa League, eliminated Madrid in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey after winning 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and drawing 2-2 at the Balaidos in January. The team is currently 13th in the Spanish league standings.

“It will be a difficult game because Celta has a good team. It’s going to be complicated, just like it was against Sevilla and like it will be against Malaga,” Zidane said. “I expect to face the same Celta team as always.”

Madrid hasn’t won the league since 2012 and is trying to avoid its longest title drought since 1981-85. It’s longest winless streak since then was when Barcelona won four in a row from 1991-94.

Barcelona is trying to win the league title for the third straight time.

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FIFA force pace on $25B Club World Cup, global league plan

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GENEVA (AP) FIFA is forcing the pace on talks over a $25 billion offer to revamp the Club World Cup and create a global national team competition.

FIFA says President Gianni Infantino hosted a meeting last Friday with invited officials from some top European clubs.

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The European Club Association has strongly opposed FIFA’s hope for a four-yearly club tournament starting in 2021, which could rival the UEFA-organized Champions League.

UEFA has also proposed a Global Nations League. A similar project is tied to the FIFA-controlled $25 billion, 12-year offer from a consortium including investors from Saudi Arabia and China.

FIFA says it’s holding “informal ongoing discussions with different stakeholders on the topic of the future Club World Cups.”

Infantino is set to meet confederation presidents and general secretaries “in the near future,” FIFA says.

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.