Fernando Torres

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Torres leads Atletico into Europa League quarterfinals

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LONDON (AP) Fernando Torres scored twice as Atletico Madrid marched into the quarterfinals of the Europa League by thrashing Lokomotiv Moscow 5-1 Thursday.

Atletico, winner of the competition in 2010 and 2012, advanced 8-1 on aggregate.

Both Torres’ goals came in the second half. He converted a penalty in the 65th minute before adding his second with a low right-foot shot five minutes later.

Angel Correa, Saul Niguez and substitute Antoine Griezmann were also on target for Atletico in the second leg.

Maciej Rybus scored for host Lokomotiv.

China’s Dalian Yifang sign two Atletico Madrid stars

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Atletico Madrid have announced that Yannick Carrasco and Nicolas Gaitan have both been sold to Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang.

[ MORE: Lukaku wants respect ]

The La Liga giants released a statement on their website saying that both Belgian international Carrasco and Argentine international winger Gaitan had both made the move to China on a permanent basis.

Atletico’s ownership has consisted of a 17 percent stake from Chinese businessman Wang Jianlin, who runs the company Wanda, since 2015 but he sold that stake earlier this month.

Jianlin is from the Chinese city of Dalian and Wanda are now involved in Yifang, where Carrasco and Gaitan are heading.

“Yannick Carrasco and Nicolas Gaitan will join Dalian Yifang on a permanent deal. Best of luck in China!” Atletico said via their social media accounts.

Atletico are currently second in the La Liga standings, seven points behind leaders Barcelona, and are in the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League. With Diego Costa, Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres in attack, Diego Simeone has plenty of attacking option to choose from but Carrasco has been an integral part of his squad over the past few years compared to Gaitan.

Carrasco, 24, has played 124 times for Atletico, as he joined from Monaco in 2015 and went on to score 17 times in 81 La Liga appearances for Simeone’s side.

Gaitan, 30, played 49 times for Atletico after arriving from Benfica in 2016 with the Argentine attacker linked with a move to the Premier League in January but nothing came to fruition.

Earlier this week Portuguese international center back Jose Fonte left West Ham for Dalian Yifang.

The club were promoted to the Chinese Super League for the 2018 season as Champions of the second tier, and they will now have some serious help in making waves in China’s top-flight where stars such as Ezequiel Lavezzi, Axel Witsel, Ramires, Oscar, Graziano Pelle, Javier Mascherano and Hulk play.

Top Chelsea v. Barcelona moments

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Ahead of Chelsea hosting Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg, let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

And boy, we have a lot of golden moments to choose from between these clubs as they’ve meet in the UCL knockout rounds on five previous occasions.

[ MORE: United, Chelsea in UCL action

In recent years Barcelona against Chelsea has become essential viewing whenever they meet and Tuesday at Stamford Bridge will be no different as Lionel Messi looks to score for the first time ever against the west London club after firing blanks in all of his previous eight encounters.

From epic semifinal goals, to late drama and heartbreak, below is a look at some of the greatest moments in European history between these two clubs.

1. Fernando Torres‘ goal at the Nou Camp sends Chelsea to the UCL final in 2012

Down to 10-men and trailing 2-0 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate, Chelsea looked doomed after John Terry was sent off in the first half at the Nou Camp. Then Ramires pulled a goal back in the first half with a fine lob, before Lionel Messi hit the post and struck a penalty kick against the crossbar as Barca couldn’t find the all important third goal. With everyone pushed forward, one long punt up the pitch found Fernando Torres late on and he rounded Victor Valdes before slotting home (last goal in the video below) to make it 2-2 on the night and send Chelsea onto the final in Munich against Bayern. They once again recorded another improbable win in the final to secure their first-ever European trophy on penalty kicks and this comeback against Barca, against all the odds, proved it was written in the stars.

2. Andres Iniesta’s last-gasp strike at Chelsea sends Barcelona to the UCL final in 2009

Barcelona went to Stamford Bridge after being held to a 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp in the first leg and they went 1-0 down, with Chelsea seemingly heading into the UCL final. Then, late on the ball found Iniesta on the edge of the box and his perfect finish sent Barca to the final where they would beat Manchester United to be crowned European champions. A wild night of celebrations in Barcelona ensued and Iniesta added yet another glorious moment to his legendary career.

3. Chelsea squander 3-1 first leg lead, fall 6-4 on aggregate in UCL quarterfinals

What drama. Stamford Bridge was rocking as Chelsea beat Barca 3-1 in the first leg of their quarterfinal with two goals from Tore Andre Flo and a fine free kick from Gianfranco Zola and everybody believed they’d make it through to the last four of the Champions League. Umm, probs not. Luis Figo and Rivaldo each scored in the second leg as they looked to be sending Barca through on away goals, but Flo hit back to give Chelsea another advantage. Dani Garcia then scored seven minutes from time to take the game to extra time and Barca scored twice in the first half of extra time to make it 6-4 on aggregate and seal their passage to the final four. One of the greatest quarterfinal clashes in UCL history.

La Liga wrap: Messi free kick completes Barca comeback (video)

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The league leaders got some luck and some Leo to stretch its unbeaten league season to 21 matches in one of four Sunday matches in La Liga.

[ MORE: Sane injured ]

Barcelona 2-1 Alaves

Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi dragged Barcelona back from Alaves’ unlikely upset bid with goals in the final 15 minutes as the hosts increased their La Liga lead to 11 points over second place Atletico Madrid on Sunday.

Former Man City product John Guidetti gave Alaves a lead after just 23 minutes of play, and Barca needed a couple breaks to get the win.

Suarez’s goal took a turn off a ducking Gerard Pique’s hand on its way into the goal, and Paco Alcacer appeared to be just offside before he was fouled to set Messi up for the below free kick.

Philippe Coutinho started the match for his first La Liga match since a 2011-12 loan stint at Espanyol, but departed with the deficit 1-0.

Atletico Madrid 3-0 Las Palmas

Antoine Griezmann ended a scoreless stalemate just after the hour mark, and Fernando Torres busted it wide open in the 73rd minute before Thomas finished the scoring 15 minutes later.

Diego Simeone’s men took advantage of Real Madrid’s blowout of Valencia, taking a six-point lead over third placed Los Che. City rivals Madrid are eight points back of Atleti with a match-in-hand.

Leganes 3-2 Espanyol
Sevilla 1-1 Getafe

Expectations high for Diego Costa’s long-awaited return to Atleti

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone finally has his favorite striker back at the club.

Now expectations are high in the Spanish capital that Diego Costa can again make Atletico a title winner.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City, Spurs in action on Tuesday (TV, stream info) ]

Costa helped the team win the 2013 Copa del Rey before topping that the following season with the Spanish league title — making Atletico the only team other than Barcelona or Real Madrid to win the competition in the last 13 years.

Costa also led Atletico to the first of two Champions League finals in the last four years, but he was forced to abandon the 2014 final early on due to injury and Atletico lost 4-1 in extra time to Madrid.

In the three years Costa was at Chelsea, Atletico only won the minor 2014 Spanish Super Cup.

Costa faces a challenge to win more silverware immediately. Atletico failed to advance from the Champions League group stage and, although it is second in the Spanish league, it trails leader Barcelona by nine points. Its best chances are in the Copa and Europa League.

[ MORE: No surgery for Gabriel Jesus after MCL injury ]

“We were eliminated from the Champions League, which was bad luck, but we still have a lot to do this year and we are going to fight for everything we can achieve,” Costa said at his presentation on Sunday before being greeted by more than 25,000 fans at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

His immediate goal will be to recover his full fitness after not playing since last season when he helped Chelsea win the Premier League but fell out of favor with coach Antonio Conte.

Six months have passed since Costa played his last official match, scoring in a 2-1 win for Spain over Macedonia. He has been training hard with Atletico since the Spanish club agreed to a transfer fee reportedly worth $72 million in September.

“I am feeling a lot better than when I arrived,” Costa said. “I have prepared well and I am anxious to play and do what I need to do, which is to help the team and score goals. I have been waiting a long time for this moment. I am tired of training, I want to play.”

His first opportunity will likely come Wednesday when Atletico visits Lleida in the Copa del Rey’s round-of-16. Next up is a league match against Getafe on Saturday.

Costa and fellow winter reinforcement Victor “Vitolo” Machin weren’t allowed to play for Atletico until 2018 when the club’s one-year ban on fielding new players expired. The ban was imposed by FIFA after the club broke rules regarding youth players.

Simeone is hoping that the 29-year-old Costa is still the same caliber as when he scored 20 goals to lead Chelsea to the PL title.

[ MORE: January transfer plans for Mourinho, Man United? ]

The Brazilian-born striker will rejoin a team that maintains its pillars from 2014. Center back Diego Godin and left back Felipe Luis feature in defense, Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion and Gabi Fernandez are fixtures in midfield, and most importantly Simeone still stalks the sideline.

Costa’s goals, physical play and “bad boy” attitude that rattles rivals are the perfect fit for Simeone’s emphasis on hard work and a united team.

Atletico tried several times to find a replacement for Costa. But neither Mario Mandzukic nor Jackson Martinez panned out, and current striker Kevin Gameiro has only given Atletico goals in bursts.

Costa will slot in beside forward Antoine Griezmann, the team’s most creative player and its top goal scorer in recent campaigns who is reportedly being pursued by other clubs, including Barcelona and Manchester United.

In theory, the two should make a deadly force.

“We have worked very hard to get Costa and Griezmann together. I hope we can enjoy them for a long time,” Simeone said Saturday. “We have two forwards coming to the team and the competition is good for Atletico.”

[ MORE: Top 5 PL matches to come in 2018 ]

Atletico has also strengthened its attack with Vitolo, who is similar in his large build to Costa. Vitolo spent the first half of the season on loan at Las Palmas after Atletico lured him away from Sevilla in the offseason.

The additions of Costa and Vitolo may mean Atletico will look to move one or more of its forwards. Besides Gameiro, Atletico’s attack also includes Fernando Torres, Yannick Carrasco, Angel Correa and Luciano Vietto.

Costa also has a lot to play for individually. His spot on Spain’s World Cup squad is in jeopardy after he was dropped by coach Julen Lopetegui given his hiatus from football.

“If I start scoring goals and the team plays well, it will be easier for me to make Lopetegui’s list,” Costa said. “I am ready to give it my all and later the coach will decide.”