La Liga & Serie A: Griezmann hat-trick paces Atleti, Milan tops Roma

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A roundup of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Sevilla 2-5 Atletico Madrid

Antoine Griezmann’s hat-trick helped pace Atletico on Sunday as Diego Simeone and Co. continue to apply pressure to Barcelona at the top of La Liga. Atleti remains seven points behind the Blaugrana in Spain’s top flight, after picking up its 17th victory of the season. The visitors scored twice in the first half with finishes from Diego Costa and Griezmann, before Koke and two more goals from the Frenchman extended the lead to 5-0.

Meanwhile, Sevilla did manage to pull back two late goals through Pablo Sarabia and Nolito, however, it was too late to complete a comeback.

Valencia 2-1 Real Sociedad

A brace from Santi Mina pulled Valencia to within two points of Real Madrid for third place in La Liga. The defeat for Sociedad keeps the bottom half side in 14th place, however, the side has a 10-point cushion above the relegation zone.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Malaga
Villareal 1-0 Getafe


Roma 0-2 AC Milan

A big victory for the Milan side has Gennaro Gatusso’s men back in contention for a top five place in Italy. Second-half strikes from Patrick Cutrone and Davide Calabria helped pace the visitors, as Roma suffered a big blow in the title race. Roma now sits 16 points behind league leaders Napoli, while already having lost earlier in the week to Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League.


Elsewhere in Serie A

Crotone 2-3 SPAL
Fiorentina 1-0 Chievo
Hellas 2-1 Torino
Sampdoria 2-1 Udinese
Sassuolo 0-3 Lazio
Juventus vs. Atalanta (POSTPONED)

Jose Mourinho ends verbal spat with Antonio Conte

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Manchester United manager has put an end to his verbal war of words with Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, saying now he will exercise “silence” after being challenged by the Blues head man yet again.

Mourinho began things by calling Conte a “clown,” referencing his touchline exuberance well known throughout the Premier League. Conte responded by saying Mourinho isn’t so innocent himself in that department, saying he must be having “senile dementia” and had maybe “forgotten his past.”

It continued as Mourinho escalated things further, recalling Conte’s ban for the massive match-fixing scandal at Juventus, something Conte was cleared of any wrongdoing in 2016. That, Mourinho says, cut deep in the Chelsea man.

‘The first time he insulted me I had a response,” Mourinho said Friday in his pre-match press conference ahead of Manchester United’s game against Stoke City on Monday. “A response that I know that touched the point where he really feels hurt.”

Conte responded to that my calling Mourinho a “small man” and “fake.” And now, Mourinho says he is finished with the back-and-forth.

“I think when a person insults another, you can expect a response, or you can expect contempt, silence,” Mourinho said. “He insulted me for a second time, but now I change, and now contempt and for me, contempt means end of the story.”

Manchester United and Chelsea meet next in Premier League play on February 25th, and it’s almost a guarantee this story will surface again before then, or at the very least in the buildup to that match. Whether Mourinho keeps his word on “silence” remains to be seen, as does whether Conte chooses to be silent as well, or if he will continue to speak out.

Top Premier League Storylines – Boxing Day

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The festive season is here, and as Leicester City proved, Boxing Day is sure to give us plenty of gifts.

[ MORE: Week 19 roundup ]

With that in mind, it’s time to cheat and get a look ahead at what will be waiting for us wrapped all nicely on Boxing Day for fans to open with excitement…

Can Manchester United hold a lead?

The Red Devils host Burnley at the friendly confines of Old Trafford, a thankful return for Jose Mourinho who been treated poorly by Fergie Time away from home. Manchester United has conceded a 90th minute winner at Bristol City and a 95th minute equalizer at Leicester City in its last two matches, and even going back a month, they coughed up an 89th minute winner at Basel in Champions League play as well. So now, facing a strong but beatable side in Burnley, can Manchester United not only gain a lead but hold it in front of the home fans?

Will one of the 3 teams fighting for fourth slip?

It appears – for now – that Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea will likely all be top-four teams when the season comes to a close. It would take a calamity for Pep Guardiola to lose the Premier League title, Jose Mourinho’s side is still as strong as they come in the English top flight, and it’s hard to imagine the defending champions slipping up enough to fall out of a Champions League place. That means Arsenal, Liverpool, and Tottenham will duke it out for the final spot in Europe’s top competition, and that promises to be one of the most exciting races left in the Premier League.

On Boxing Day, Tottenham hosts 13th-placed Southampton, Liverpool welcomes basement-dwelling Swansea City to Anfield, and Arsenal travels to a somewhat revitalized Crystal Palace. Will any of the three misstep? They’re all separated by a minuscule one-point margin, so any room for error is all but gone.

Can Mark Hughes build on Stoke City’s win?

There were rumors that Mark Hughes could be sacked on the doorstep of Christmas if Stoke City did beat West Brom last time out. The Potters rose to the occasion, and they held off the Baggies at home – barely. So now, the question becomes, can he put together consecutive victories for the first time this season as they visit Huddersfield Town? The Terriers have been a completely mixed bag this season, and Hughes can catch them in the table and possibly move Stoke a game outside the top half with a win. That would surely put the rumors of his dismissal to bed for the near future.

Will Pep Guardiola help out Rafa Benitez?

This holiday season, Newcastle fans will be wishing for what could end up being one of the biggest wins in club history should they pull off the stunner against Manchester City at home during the holidays. However, that is surely one of the more unlikely scenarios looking up and down the Boxing Day fixture list. So, we take a different approach here…

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez has begged and pleaded with his bosses to bring him reinforcements in January. With the Toon set to face off against the Manchester City juggernaut, there’s an quirky angle to this daunting matchup: the harder Newcastle falls to the best team the Premier League has seen in some time, the more ammunition Benitez has to slide under Mike Ashley’s door to bolster his case for bigger spending. Obviously, every match is critical with the team just two points above the relegation zone, but in a game they’re unlikely to collect any spoils from in the first place, could now be the time Benitez truly gets his wish?

Bundesliga wrap: BVB go 4-0 up, Schalke come back to 4-4

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s (wild) action in the Bundesliga, Germany’s (highly entertaining and enthralling) top flight…

[ PL ROUNDUP: Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool drop points; Manchester rejoices ]

Borussia Dortmund 4-0 Schalke (HT)

Peter Bosz’s side blew the doors of their Revierderby rivals, to the tune of 4-0 well before halftime. It could have easily been 5-0 or 6-0 at the intermission, in all honesty.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang opened the scoring after just eight minutes, followed four minutes later by an own goal from Benjamin Stambouli. Two minutes after that, Mario Gotze made it 3-0 after just 20 minutes. Game over, right? Right?!

For good measure, Raphael Guerreiro added a fourth goal in the 25th minute to complete one of the most dominant, lopsided routs of a derby in recent memory.

The second half would be a mere formality, with Dortmund needing only to remain with 11 men on the field — heck, even 10 should do the job — to see out the victory, unbeknownst to them at the time, move them three points closer to the league leaders, Bayern Munich.

Borussia Dortmund 4-4 Schalke (FT)

Well, that really escalated quickly, didn’t it? How, exactly, did we get here?

For the first 15 minutes of the second half, it all appeared to be going to plan for Dortmund. Sure, Schalke were in total control of possession, but again, it was all part of the plan for Dortmund.

Then came Guido Burgstaller’s goal to make it 4-1, followed by Amine Harit four minutes later and it was 4-2. Another 20 minutes would pass, during which period it was widely speculated that Bosz could very well find himself under further fire for failing to see the game out properly. Aubameyang made matters so much worse in the 72nd minute, having only just returned from a club-imposed suspension, by picking up his second yellow card on the day and making the long, lonely walk off the field and down the tunnel.

When Daniel Caligiuri scored Schalke’s third in the 86th minute, speculation became a firmly held belief.

Naldo’s 93rd-minute header presumably all but sealed Bosz’s fate, that he could very well be fired after fewer than six months on the job.

Borussia Monchengladbach 2-1 Bayern Munich

Bayern fell 2-0 behind to Gladbach before halftime, and Jupp Heynckes’ couldn’t claw their way back to rescue a point, even if for an incredibly lopsided set of full-time stats.

Thorgan Hazard converted from the penalty spot to put Gladbach ahead in the 39th minute, followed five minutes later by the second courtesy of Matthias Ginter. For another half-hour, the score remained 2-0, until Arturo Vidal pulled one back for Bayern in the 74th minute. Despite their best efforts — 16 second-half shots — a Bayern equalizer was never to be found.

RB Leipzig 2-0 Werder Bremen

One side did capitalize on Bayern’s slip-up and gain three points on the six-time defending champions, moving to within three in the league table: second-place RB Leipzig, with a 2-0 victory over Werder Bremen.

Future Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita opened the scoring in the 34th minute. The 1-0 scoreline held for nearly 45 minutes before Bernardo bagged a late insurance goal in the 87th minute to secure all three points and inch closer in the title race.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga

Freiburg 2-1 Mainz
Eintracht Frankfurt 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Augsburg 2-1 Wolfsburg

Sunday’s Bundesliga schedule

Hamburg vs. Hoffenheim — 9:30 a.m. ET
Cologne vs. Hertha Berlin — 12 p.m. ET

USMNT player ratings: Youth drives the bus

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Player ratings from the U.S. national team’s exhibition clash with Portugal, the reigning European champions, and the first game of a very long four years as the USMNT rebuilds from the ground up with two eyes toward the 2022 World Cup…

[ VIDEO: McKennie scores on his USMNT debut… and a Horvath howler ]

GK — Ethan Horvath: 3 — Hit the above link to see Horvath’s calamitous howler. That ain’t a great way to begin your bid to take over the no. 1 shirt from Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. Subbed off at halftime, which was the plan before kickoff, hopefully Hovath’s confidence isn’t too badly damaged without the chance to redeem himself immediately.

RB — DeAndre Yedlin: 6 — The best thing that can be said of Yedlin is this: you know what you’re going to get from him every time he steps on the field these days, and that’s something you couldn’t always say of the 24-year-old. He’s a constant presence and performer, and should have the right back spot locked down for much of the next two World Cup cycles.

CB — Matt Miazga: 6.5 — The best part of Miazga’s game is how quickly he reads, and reacts to, dangerous situations. There’s no one in the player pool who defends on the front foot as much as Miazga. As such, he’ll always require a partner who’s a brilliant emergency defender, which is hardly the strength of John Brooks, given his size and lack of recovery speed.

CB — John Brooks: 6.5 — Seeing Brooks on the field after three months out with a thigh injury only served as a reminder that his presence might have made a massive difference last month — not that they shouldn’t have been able to qualify without him, mind you. According to recently departed head coach Bruce Arena, Brooks and Miazga could have very well been the starting duo in Russia; with any luck, the same will be true of Qatar in four years’ time.

LB — Eric Lichaj: 5.5 — While Lichaj is somehow, against all odds, still only 28 years old, he’ll be 32 years old when the next World Cup begins. If he’s called into the next two or three USMNT camps, we’ll take serious the possibility he’s an option in the medium- to short-term. Until then, he’s starting at left back simply because someone has to.

[ RECAP: USMNT draw Portugal in first game of 2022 WC cycle ]

CM — Danny Williams: 7 — With the leash cut all the way off of Weston McKennie and Kellyn Acosta ahead of him, Williams had but one job against Portugal: protect the backline when the youngsters’ press is broken. It happened on a few occasions, and Williams put out the majority of those fires. It’s a trio that lacks a true playmaker — the sexy factor, if you will — but proved highly functional for the 84 minutes they shared the field.

RM — Tyler Adams: 6 — Adams, uh, struggled in the first half (see passing chart, at right — that’s a whole lot of red arrows). He started the second half of his USMNT debut much brighter, though, as he got on the end of Danny Williams’ cross to the back post and forced Beto to make a spectacular, sprawling save. Adams is still a player with a “permanent position,” thus an important period of his development lies directly ahead. In 2017, we saw him play at least one game at all three levels wide on the right, in central midfield, and the based of the midfield.

CM — Weston McKennie: 8 — The 19-year-old Schalke midfielder 1) scored a goal on his debut; 2) smashed the crossbar with a header from close range; and, most importantly, 3) provided a bit of renewed excitement around the USMNT. McKennie and Acosta proved a formidable central midfield pairing, capable of pressing high up the field and pushing the tempo. Where they struggled, however, was in unlocking further advanced attackers into the final third. That will, in theory, come with time and repetition — two things the USMNT has in abundance over the next 18-30 months.

CM — Kellyn Acosta: 6.5 — Acosta and McKennie had very similar games to one another, with the obvious exception of McKennie’s goal and near-goal. Given that Acosta is three years McKennie’s senior, you’d have hoped to see a bit more connectivity from his side of the field. Alas, no such luck in this one.

LM — Juan Agudelo: 5.5 — The good: in his 59 minutes on the field, Agudelo misplaces just three passes. The bad: not a single one of his 15 completed passes was played in the forward direction (in fact, not a single one of his 18 attempted passes was played forward). He’s already a tough fit on the wing further forward; playing the 24-year-old (yes, really) even deeper seems an impossible exercise to assess.

[ MORE: Brooks-Miazga the center-back partnership of the future ]

FW — C.J. Sapong: 5.5 — With the midfield set up to create turnovers and chances on the counter, Sapong’s physical presence and accompanying hold-up play was hardly a perfect fit, but he made the most of his very limited opportunities.

Sub — Bill Hamid: 6 — Only forced to make two saves — both routine — in his 45 minutes on the field, Hamid managed to avoid hurting his stock.

Sub — Cameron Carter-Vickers: 5 — While Miazga’s strength is the speed with which he reads the game, the polar opposite must be said for Carter-Vickers, thus he’s not terribly suited to play alongside Miazga. Hopefully this isn’t the last time we see them play together.