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Barcelona handles Roma with own goal help

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  • Roma concedes two own goals
  • Pique nabs Barca’s third
  • Dzeko nabs late away goal
  • Second leg April 10 at Stadio Olimpico

You’d be forgiven if you had “Daniele De Rossi own goal” as the way Barca would open the scoring just before halftime.

But that’s just one of two own goals Barcelona used to build a 4-1 lead on AS Roma with a UEFA Champions League quarterfinal first leg win at the Camp Nou on Wednesday.

Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez scored Barca’s other goals, while Edin Dzeko nabbed an away goal late to give Roma hope ahead of Tuesday’s second leg.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

It was a fellow UCL mainstay, Andres Iniesta, whose cross was diverted into the Roma goal by De Rossi.

Roma wanted a penalty kick when Samuel Umtiti chopped down Lorenzo Pellegrini on the edge of the 18, but only a free kick arrived for i Lupi.

Alessandro Florenzi almost cued Diego Perotti up for an equalizer in the first second half minute, but the latter’s header zipped wide of the goal.

Umtiti forced Kostas Manolas into an own goal before Pique gave Barca its first proper goal of the match five minutes later. It was 3-0 in the 59th minute.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

UCL: Iniesta likely available for Barca ahead of massive Chelsea meeting

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Barcelona could receive a major lift ahead of its crucial UEFA Champions League second leg on Wednesday against Chelsea.

Midfielder Andres Iniesta looks set to return to the pitch after a recent injury layoff, which would prove vital for Ernesto Valverde’s squad selection in the Round of 16.

Iniesta has been out of action for over a week after sustaining a hamstring injury on March 4 against Atletico. However, the veteran was in training on Monday, which suggests that the Spaniard will be a role against the Blues.

The two sides are currently level at 1-1 after the first leg at Stamford Bridge in February, but Barca’s vital away goal courtesy of Lionel Messi has Valverde’s men in a good position.

Barcelona does have options behind Iniesta in the pecking order, including Andre Gomes and Ousmane Dembele, depending on how the Spanish leaders line up.

The La Liga side is without Philippe Coutinho in the UCL after the former Liverpool attacker appeared for the Premier League side earlier this season in the competition.

Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona: Messi makes impact

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Nas only needs one mic. Barca only requires one chance.

Lionel Messi scored on Chelsea’s lone mistake of the night, as Barcelona came back to score a potentially vital away goal in Barcelona’s 1-1 draw in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 meeting with the Blues on Tuesday at Stamford Bridge.

Willian scored Chelsea’s opener after hitting both posts in a Man of the Match performance.

The second leg is March 14.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Chelsea played without a true “No. 9,” keeping Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud on the bench to start.

Both teams had chances in the first 15 minutes, with Jordi Alba having plenty of work on Barca’s left side and Paulinho missing a header for the Blaugranas at the other end.

Willian, ever dangerous, broke against the run of play and drew a foul from Ivan Rakitic to earn a free kick five yards beyond the arc of the 18.

The attempt was Marcos Alonso territory, though Willian also stood over the ball. Alonso’s swooping kick dipped toward the near post but Marc-Andre ter Stegen got low to collect the ball.

Willian then cranked a shot off the far post after cutting quickly past Sergio Busquets. Five minutes later, he ripped one off the near post.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Willian did his damage in the 62nd minute, getting a Hazard cross atop the 18 and pending it around six bodies and inside the near post.

And Messi. I mean, what can you say? Chelsea went from 1-0 to level with an away goal conceded when Iniesta cut the ball back for Messi off an Andreas Christensen error and mistimed desperations slide from Cesar Azpilicueta.

Report: Iniesta considering offer from China

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Andres Iniesta is at a crossroads.

Like Xavi Hernandez and Javier Mascherano before him, the 33-year-old has a big decision to make. Take one last big contract, or stay at Barcelona (or in Europe) for less money?

According to Barcelona-based sports website Sport, Iniesta currently has an offer worth up to $43.5 million per season from Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian. The report states representatives from Tianjin have visited Barcelona twice since December, with the latest visit putting an offer on the table.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule ]

Iniesta, who reportedly has received interest from the Middle East and Major League Soccer, is now just considering remaining with Barcelona or moving to China. But he won’t make up his mind until March. Even with Philippe Coutinho in the club, Iniesta is still considered first choice in midfield.

The Spanish midfielder has been a Barcelona and Spain National Team sensation for more than a dozen years, with former manager Pep Guardiola once reportedly commenting to Xavi that Iniesta would outlast both at Barcelona (a claim which came true).

But while it seemed like Xavi, Guardiola and some others would never leave, perhaps Iniesta will follow Mascherano to China. The Argentine moved to Hebei China Fortune in January.

Individually and for his club and national team, Iniesta will go down as one of the top players in the world in his generation. He’s won La Liga eight times, the UEFA Champions League four times, the FIFA Club World Cup three times, as well as a World Cup title in 2010 sandwiched between two European Championships in 2008 and 2012.

Spain 5-0 Costa Rica: Silva, Morata star in thrashing of Ticos

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After disastrous showings at back-to-back major tournaments — group-stage elimination at the 2014 World Cup, followed by a round-of-16 exit at EURO 2016 (disastrous by their lofty standards) — Spain appear in perfect position to make a deep run at the 2018 World Cup.

[ MORE: Shaqiri promises “nice party” in Switzerland “when we qualify” ]

Having qualified directly into next summer’s tournament in Russia on the back of nine wins (and a draw) during their 10-game qualifying campaign, Saturday saw La Furia Roja take on another already-qualified side, rising CONCACAF power Costa Rica, and reiterate to everyone the gulf in class between Europe’s giants and hopefuls from elsewhere.

The final score — 5-0 to the home side — extended Spain’s current unbeaten run to 15 games (their last defeat came at EURO 2016), and was still perhaps flattering for Los Ticos, as it could have easily been 7-0, or 8-0, or worse.

[ MORE: WCQ — Ireland, Denmark all square ahead of decisive second leg ]

1. Jordi Alba smashes a left-footed shot past backup goalkeeper Dany Carvajal (Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas wasn’t called into this camp), the 7th international goal of his career.

2. Alvaro Morata pounces after Carvajal spills the ball inside his own six-yard box — his 13th goal for Spain.

3. David Silva slams home his first of two goals after one Costa Rican defender clears the ball off another.

4. Silva goes it alone this time — he wins the ball back, races into the penalty area and fires past Carvajal.

5. Andres Iniesta carries the ball, unimpeded, 40 yards through the heart of midfield. He fires from nearly 25 yards out and makes it 5-0.

The following is anything but solely based upon Saturday’s result: It’s officially safe to put Spain into the conversation of favorites — alongside the likes of Germany, Brazil and France — ahead of next summer.