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El Clasico: Barca looks to end Real Madrid’s title hopes

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El Clasico has been anything but predictable in recent seasons.

There was Real Madrid’s dominant Spanish Super Cup earlier this year, and Barca’s four-point grab last season despite Real winning the title.

2015-16 saw the visitors win both matches, including Barca’s 4-0 smashing of Real at the Bernabeu, while the previous season saw the home sides come out on top in La Liga play.

[ ARSENAL-LIVERPOOL: Recap | 3 things | Stars/duds ]

2013-14 was a year Barcelona snared both league matches but lost the Copa del Rey final, while the previous three season drew cries of “Too much!” as 17 Clasicos dotted the landscape of soccer in Spain (and European tournaments, where Barca dismissed Real from the 2010-11 Champions League).

Enter Saturday morning’s derby in Madrid, where the hosts will be challenged to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after returning from UAE where they claimed a third Club World Cup in four seasons.

Real’s dropped points in two of its last five league matches, but is coming off a resounding 5-0 home defeat of Sevilla. The reigning champs are 11 points back of Barca with a match-in-hand, and might as well say goodnight to the league with a loss on Saturday. Cristiano Ronaldo leads Real with 16 goals this season, nine more than Marco Asensio.

As for Barca, they’ve sorting themselves out following the Neymar exit drama. Paulinho has proved a decent replacement for Neymar so far, equaling the six goals his countryman had scored at this point last season. Lionel Messi has, no surprise, been Barca’s best asset with 18 goals. Luis Suarez is second with nine in 13 appearances.

Prediction

There’s a lot of pride and pressure at the Bernabeu, and Real may be weary but won’t be caught off-guard. Barca has allowed a stingy seven goals in 16 matches this season, and Real will be fortunate to grab a goal. Barca will do the same, and we’ll call it 1-1 (2-2 if we’re feeling greedy).

Video: Fekir’s brilliant free kick has Lyon leading PSG

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Paris-Saint Germain has established itself as one of Europe’s best sides, but their opponent on Sunday isn’t playing scared against Neymar and Co.

[ MORE: Spurs, Saints play to 1-1 draw at St. Mary’s ]

Lyon has taken a 1-0 lead inside the opening two minutes against the Parisians after a stunning free kick by Nabil Fekir caught PSG keeper Alphonse Aréola off his line.

The hosts could move all the way up to second place today with a victory over PSG, who holds the league lead in Ligue 1 with a nine-point advantage.

The 24-year-old Fekir has been a revelation for Lyon in his fifth season with the club, scoring his 19th goal in all competitions on Sunday.

That total has already surpassed his career-high from the 2014/15 season, when he eclipsed 15 goals.

USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie injured in Schalke draw

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Look away, U.S. Men’s National Team fans.

American and Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie was forced out of Sunday’s 1-1 Bundesliga draw against Hanover 96 after the 19-year-old collided with Felix Kraus.

McKennie, who entered the match in the 62nd minute for Leon Goretzka, managed to stay on the field for nearly 20 minutes before being substituted out.

To this point there has been no indication that the young USMNT player’s injury is serious.

More to follow…

Watford announces Gracia as Silva replacement

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Watford’s replacement for fired manager Marco Silva is indeed veteran Spanish boss Javi Gracia.

[ MORE: Watford fires Silva, blames Everton ]

The Hornets announced the 47-year-old’s hiring on Sunday, hours after firing Silva and blaming Everton’s pursuit of the manager for the club’s fall from European contender to the fringe of a relegation battle.

Watford is still four points clear of the drop following Southampton’s draw with Spurs on Sunday.

Gracia led Malaga to eighth and ninth place finishes in La Liga between 2014-16 before spending last season at Rubin Kazan.

Gracia, 47, has led promotion campaigns in Spain and has plenty of experience with perceived smaller clubs battling the drop zone.

Watford will hope the Hornets don’t reach that point after flirting with the Top Seven for the first quarter of the Premier League season.

Pochettino on sloppy Spurs draw, dismisses Malcom “rumor”

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Mauricio Pochettino knows St. Mary’s well, and the ex-Southampton boss has managed a rainy, sloppy match or three there in the past.

[ RECAP: Saints 1-1 Spurs ]

So he knows it’s possible to play well in those circumstances, leaving him feeling like Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw at Southampton on Sunday was a wasted opportunity against a struggling Saints side.

“It is temporary that Southampton are in the relegation zone, for sure they will push up the table,” Pochettino said. “It is two points we are going to miss at the end of the season because it is so tough between six or seven teams.”

[ MORE: Bertrand reacts to draw ]

So why couldn’t Spurs find their foothold? Well, aside from sickness keeping Christian Eriksen and Hugo Lloris out of the lineup, a bug that may’ve affected more on the team, Spurs just weren’t up to snuff.

“We struggled to play,” Pochettino said. “It was in possession, we made mistakes which allowed them to play. To win the game we should do better and play better. It wasn’t great.

Pochettino was also asked about Spurs’ reported pursuit of 20-year-old Bordeaux star Malcom, who has seven goals and five assists in Ligue 1 this season.

“That is a rumor and I don’t want to speak about it. I am happy with our squad. We are open to quality players but you know very well it is difficult in this transfer window.”