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La Liga: Costa scores, sent off (video); Atleti still chasing Barca

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Diego Costa was at his best – and worst – on Saturday when the Atletico Madrid striker was sent off after celebrating a goal that helped to beat Getafe 2-0 in his second match back at the club.

Costa already had one booking for elbowing a Getafe player when he tapped in Atletico’s second goal in the 68th minute. But instead of embracing his teammates, he ran around the net and to the edge of the stands where he was hugged by fans, earning him a second booking.

Far from reproaching the 29-year-old Costa, Atletico coach Diego Simeone praised the player he hopes can lead the team to the same heights they reached in 2013 and 2014, when they won the Copa del Rey followed by the Spanish league title.

“Costa gives us intensity and power, and he inspires fear. You can feel it and see it,” Simeone said. “We have known him for a long time. We know how he plays and that he always pushes the limits. His courage and passion to fight for every ball is transmitted in each play.”

Second-place Atletico is within six points of Liga leader Barcelona, which hosts Levante on Sunday.

Despite not having played a competitive match since June, Costa has shown no rust from his long layoff while waiting for Atletico’s yearlong ban on new players to expire at the start of January.

The goal was Costa’s second in as many appearances since making his return to Atletico from Chelsea. He scored as a substitute on Wednesday in a 4-0 victory at Lleida in the Copa del Rey’s round of 16.

Costa started Saturday’s match by curling a shot onto the top of the net and setting up Antoine Griezmann before the France forward assisted Angel Correa for the hosts’ opener in the 18th.

Besides providing added punch to Atletico’s attack, Costa also showed the same knack for rattling rivals with his aggressive attitude and physical play.

The Brazilian-born Spain striker had to be separated from Getafe’s Juan Cala when the two exchanged words after the halftime whistle, and he was booked for elbowing Dakonam Djene when they contested a ball in the 62nd.

Then came Costa’s goal, a cool side-footed shot to slot Sime Vrsaljko’s low cross just into the post, followed by his excessive celebration.

“(Costa) is contagious, and he showed all that he is, scoring a goal and getting sent off,” Atletico midfielder Gabi Fernandez said. “Costa doesn’t have to adapt to us, he came ready to play. That’s why we wanted him.”

The derby at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium was a bad-tempered match that featured 10 total bookings.

Costa’s sending-off means he will miss next round’s trip to Eibar.

Costa helped Chelsea win the English Premier league title last season before he fell out of favor with coach Antonio Conte.

Coach Marcelino Garcia Toral returned to Valencia’s sideline to oversee its first win in three rounds, a 2-1 comeback at home over Girona.

Valencia remained in third place, two points behind Atletico and six ahead of Real Madrid, which has two games in hand.

Garcia Toral missed Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at Las Palmas in the Copa del Rey while he recovered from a car accident reportedly caused when his car hit a wild boar on Dec. 23.

The Valencia manager wore a neck brace under his coat for Saturday’s match, when Dani Parejo converted a penalty after Girona’s Ramalho scored an own-goal to cancel out the opener by Cristian “Portu” Portugues.

Forward Luciano Vietto debuted for Atletico as a late substitute after arriving on loan from Atletico.

Real Betis won a wild Seville derby by rolling to a 5-3 victory at Sevilla, ruining the home debut of Italian coach Vincenzo Montella.

Betis never trailed, although Sevilla leveled at 2-2 by halftime. But Riza Durmisi, Sergio Leon and Cristian Tello scored in the second half to deal Sevilla its first home loss in league play since Nov. 2016.

Police arrested 23 people for participating in a fight between fans of Sevilla and Real Betis hours before the match. Authorities said that the rival fans had arranged the meeting in order to fight.

VIDEO: Sporting KC’s Medranda scores wonder goal in win over Vancouver

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Sporting KC showed again on Friday night why they’re the rightful leaders at the top of the Western Conference, pulling four points ahead of the LA Galaxy and the Vancouver Whitecaps with a dominating 6-0 win over the Whitecaps at home.

Scottish forward Johnny Russell bagged a hat-trick in the game, all by the 48th minute, but the highlight of the night came off the foot of 24-year-old Jimmy Medranda. The Colombian scored an absolute worldie from a ridiculous angle, taking the space given to him outside the top-left corner of the box and sailing it over the head of Vancouver goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic and into the back of the net.

It was, of course, massively beneficial to Sporting KC that Vancouver went two men down in the 40th minute after a huge skirmish that saw Yordy Reyna and Efrain Juarez both sent off. Reyna earned his marching orders for throwing Russell to the ground, while Juarez reportedly used unacceptable language.

Still, KC was already up 3-0 when the incident occurred, and credit must go to teams that take advantage of what has been handed to them. Sporting KC certainly did that as Russell becomes the first Scotsman to score an MLS hat-trick since Colorado’s John Spencer in 2001, and Medranda’s wonder goal sealed the deal past the half-hour mark.

Jurgen Klopp already wants a piece of Man City next season

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Manchester City may have run away with the Premier League title this year, but Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp can’t wait for a clean slate to try and challenge City’s title defense next season.

The Reds are into the Champions League semifinals and also looking to finish the Premier League season strong in a battle for positioning in the top four, but when asked about next year, Klopp was giddy.

“Of course I don’t fear the challenge,” Klopp said in his prematch press conference ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League visit to West Brom on Saturday morning.

The German made it clear he wants a piece of Manchester City next season. “This year, if City plays a normal season – which they didn’t do – then it would have been really close until the end because we are now all close together.”

“United is four points ahead [of Liverpool], Tottenham is two points behind. It’s a real fight for these positions. All big six pretty much delivered this year but City delivered the best. We will see. It’s difficult to deal with success as it is difficult to deal with other things in football but I’m pretty sure they will be strong again.”

Liverpool is one of only two teams to beat City in league play this year, with Manchester United being the other. Klopp and company torched the City back line in a wild 4-3 victory that ended City’s 22-match unbeaten run. Ultimately, though, Klopp knows they have to look at the entire season as a whole to best the defending champs next year, not just their matches against each other.

“It’s not important how good City will be, it’s about how we can get all the other points, plus the points we got so far again,” he said. “That’s the job to do. That is why it is always possible that it is closer. But are they able to dominate? They don’t have a limit to spending and all that stuff so I don’t know.”

VIDEO: Goalkeeper sends Memphis Depay flying with skillful touch

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Former Manchester United attacker Memphis Depay has one of the brightest spots for Lyon this season that sees them battling with Monaco and Marseille for 2nd place behind a dominant PSG. He has scored 15 goals and assisted 11 others this Ligue 1 campaign, adding to his tally just four minutes into Friday’s 5-2 win over Dijon, the sixth win in a row for the club that pulled them within a point of Monaco.

However, there was a moment to forget for Depay in the victory as well.

With the score still at 1-1 in the 19th minute, Depay was sent high up the pitch to press Dijon goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet, owner of the leakiest net of the Ligue 1 season. Nevertheless, sometimes the underdog prevails, and that’s what happened as Depay flung himself at the ball to put Reynet under pressure.

One silky touch by the netminder was all it took for Depay to end up on his backside.

The 24-year-old Dutch winger has had a fantastic season and one that could potentially propel him back to the biggest stage and a bigger paycheck, but for now, we can all poke fun at his misery in the moment.

Dortmund admits interest in signing Batshuayi permanently

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Michy Batshuayi might be out for the season with a serious ankle injury, but he may have already done enough to earn a permanent move to Borussia Dortmund.

The Chelsea striker moved on loan to the Bundesliga side in January and made an immediate impact, scoring two goals on his debut, and ultimately wound up with seven goals in 10 Bundesliga games before his ankle injury brought his season to a close. Now, the Dortmund front office is speaking very highly of the Belgian goalscorer, not so subtly hinting that they will take an aggressive approach this summer.

The interest to sign him is there,” said Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke. “But first we have to wait and see who will be Chelsea’s coach next season. Then we’ll start looking.”

Chelsea has Antonio Conte currently at the helm, but there are strong rumors that the Italian will depart at the end of the season as the Blues sit comfortably outside the Champions League places. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is known for his quick trigger, and despite Conte winning the Premier League just last season, this year’s disappointment will likely not be tolerated.

That yet-to-be-determined future has a significant impact on Batshuayi’s future, as Watzke mentions. The new Chelsea boss could take a liking to Batshuayi, which could complicate his permanent move. In addition, it’s possible that current players on the Blues roster could depart, like Alvaro Morata, Olivier Giroud, or Willian, making Batshuayi’s place at Chelsea more tenable.

There’s plenty to be sorted out in the coming months, but with Batshuayi’s 10-game performance at Westfalenstadion at the forefront of Watzke’s mind, it’s clear there will be potential here as the summer draws near.