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Zidane: “Desire to win the league still alive” despite big upset

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Real Madrid isn’t immune to let downs, but Zinedine Zidane says that’s not what happened in Sunday’s historic and politically-highlighted 2-1 loss to Catalan club Girona.

“We have to analyze this game because if we lose it’s for a reason, but it wasn’t due to the attitude,” Zidane said.

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The back-to-back reigning UEFA Champions League winners are now eight points behind Barcelona in a race to defend their La Liga crown, and Zidane says their title dreams remain alive.

The margin for error has almost disappeared, putting added emphasis on Nov. 19’s Madrid Derby and further circling the Dec. 20 El Clasico at the Bernabeu.

If we’ve learned anything about Real Madrid, especially under Zidane, it’s that writing them off is a poor, poor idea. Madrid lost three of five league matches in Nov-Dec 2015, and still finished just a point behind Barca.

So where’s Zidane’s mind now? From RealMadrid.com:

“I’m only worried about the three points and having had the possibility to kill off the match. There was no lack of desire or intensity. We’re going to continue working like this as it’s served us well. It’s not that we don’t work. I’m not worried. In football small details matter. … The league isn’t a chore for us, it’s our day to day. It’s true that we dropped three points and it wasn’t expected. After four wins we didn’t expect this kind of match. The players’ desire to win the league title is still alive.”

It’s certainly not over, especially because Barca’s schedule hasn’t gotten thick yet. The Blaugranas drew 1-1 at Atleti but have yet to face Valencia, Sevilla, Real, or Villarreal. Of the same crew, Real has only met Valencia. So, plenty to play for.

For a team which has proven the potential to go on nearly year-long runs without a loss, Zidane’s mentality will play a big role in sorting this out quickly.

Tunisian player who collapsed in Spain regains consciousness

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MADRID (AP) Spanish third-division club Toledo says a Tunisian player who collapsed from heart failure during practice 10 days ago has regained consciousness.

The club says doctors removed sedative medication and Lassad Nouioui was responding well to treatment on Monday.

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They will consider removing the 32-year-old Nouioui from the intensive care unit if his condition keeps improving. Nouioui has played for a number of clubs during his 14-year professional career, notably a four-year stay at Deportivo La Coruna and a one-year spell with Celtic.

Nouioui collapsed on April 14.

The game against Real Madrid B the following day was postponed because of the problem with Nouioui.

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.

[ MORE: Everton gets past Newcastle behind Walcott strike ]

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.

[ MORE: Everton gets past Newcastle behind Theo Walcott’s strike ]

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.