Athletic Bilbao

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Europa League preview: Field set for final trim

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The UEFA Europa League gained some big names this week with the third-place teams of the Champions League, but will it lose some others?

Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, Atletico Madrid, and Sporting CP are among eight UCL drop-outs to join the UEL for the knockout rounds.

[ MORE: Liverpool crushes Spartak ]

Everton and Hoffenheim have already been eliminated, and Koln, Marseille, and Athletic Bilbao could bow out of the tournament without results on Thursday.

Only eight spots remain before Thursday’s action, with giants Arsenal and AC Milan already through before matches with BATE Borisov and Rijeka. The Gunners will be without Shkrodan Mustafi for the match, and will face a desperate BATE team which can still advance in a number of scenarios.

The other Premier League side in the tournament, Everton, is in Cyprus to face Apollon Limassol in a match thatb doesn’t matter for either side. Sam Allardyce will likely have little use for it ahead of Sunday’s Merseyside Derby.

Group F is the only bunch with two spots still open. Sheriff Tiraspol (Romania) leads the way, and needs just a point from Copenhagen. The hosts need to top Sheriff, while Lokomotiv Moscow advances with a win at Fastav Zlin or a Copenhagen draw or loss.

As for the three big names in question:

— Marseille advances with a win at home to Red Bull Salzburg, or a draw and help from Vitoria against Konyaspor.

— Koln goes through with a win at Red Star Belgrade.

— Athletic Bilbao simply needs to avoid a loss in Ukraine to Zorya Luhansk.

Entire Athletic Bilbao team shaves heads for cancer-battling teammate

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Athletic Bilbao defender Yeray Alvarez is battling cancer for a second time, and his whole crew’s behind him.

Marca reports that Alvarez is undergoing chemotherapy, and a common side effect is hair loss.

With Athletic back together for preseason, the team decided to show its solidarity with Alvarez by shaving their heads.

[ MORE: Chelsea matches Man Utd bid for Lukaku ]

The club also put together this video in tribute to Alvarez, who had previously reacted to the recurrence of cancer by sharing the following statement on Instagram (translated by Marca):

“When it seems that you have beaten [the tumour], it gets up and hits you again. Be sure that with everyone’s support I will win this fight and if I have to beat it, I’ll do it again and I’ll get up a thousand and one times.”

Coach Valverde leaves Athletic, will reportedly join Barca

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MADRID (AP) Athletic Bilbao says Ernesto Valverde will not remain as the team’s coach next season, clearing the way for his expected move to Barcelona.

Athletic said Tuesday that the coach will give more details about his departure in a news conference on Wednesday.

The Mundo Deportivo newspaper reported that Valverde has already reached a deal with Barcelona to replace Luis Enrique, who announced earlier this year that he would not continue with the Catalan club.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

Barcelona ends its season after the Copa del Rey final against Alaves on Saturday.

The 53-year-old Valverde reportedly will sign a two-year contract with Barcelona, with an option for a third season. The announcement is expected next week.

A former forward, Valverde played two seasons with Barcelona in the late 1980s.

He previously coached Espanyol, Olympiakos, Villarreal and Valencia.

La Liga wrap: Bilbao, Villarreal rise; Atleti wins fifth-straight

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Three La Liga matches served as an appetizer for Wednesday’s tasty Barcelona-Sevilla encounter, with the Madrid Derby on tap for Saturday at the Bernabeu.

[ BUNDESLIGA: In-form Kramaric tops Bayern ]


Athletic Bilbao 2-0 Espanyol

Aritz Aduriz may play until he’s 50. The 36-year-old Spaniard added his 11th and 12th goals of the season on Tuesday, giving him goals in three-straight matches. Bilbao goes sixth with the win thanks to Real Sociedad’s loss.

Real Betis 0-1 Villarreal

Villarreal also took advantage of Sociedad’s loss, getting a first goal of the season from Adrian to move fifth

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Real Sociedad

Atleti is flying ahead of the weekend’s Madrid Derby, now winners of five-straight after this goal from Filipe Luis to Fernando Torres and back to Luis.

Wednesday’s games

Barcelona vs. Sevilla — 1:30 p.m. EDT
Alaves vs. Osasuna — 2:30 p.m. EDT
Deportivo de la Coruna vs. Granada — 2:30 p.m. EDT
Sporting de Gijon vs. Malaga – 2:30 p.m. EDT
Leganes vs. Real Madrid — 3:30 p.m. EDT

Standings

 

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Real Madrid 28 21 5 2 74 28 46 12-3-0 9-2-2 68
 Barcelona 29 20 6 3 85 26 59 10-3-1 10-3-2 66
 Atlético Madrid 30 18 7 5 55 23 32 11-2-2 7-5-3 61
 Sevilla 29 17 7 5 52 34 18 10-3-1 7-4-4 58
 Villarreal 30 14 9 7 42 23 19 8-3-4 6-6-3 51
 Athletic 30 15 5 10 39 33 6 11-3-2 4-2-8 50
 Real Sociedad 30 15 4 11 43 41 2 7-4-4 8-0-7 49
 Eibar 29 12 8 9 47 41 6 8-3-4 4-5-5 44
 Espanyol 30 11 10 9 42 42 0 7-5-3 4-5-6 43
 Celta Vigo 28 12 5 11 43 46 -3 9-1-4 3-4-7 41
 Alavés 29 10 10 9 29 36 -7 4-7-3 6-3-6 40
 Las Palmas 29 9 8 12 45 48 -3 8-5-2 1-3-10 35
 Valencia 29 9 6 14 41 51 -10 6-3-5 3-3-9 33
 Betis 30 8 7 15 32 47 -15 5-6-5 3-1-10 31
 Málaga 29 6 9 14 33 47 -14 6-2-6 0-7-8 27
 Deportivo 29 6 9 14 31 46 -15 5-4-5 1-5-9 27
 Leganes 29 6 9 14 23 42 -19 3-5-6 3-4-8 27
 Sporting de Gijón 29 5 7 17 31 57 -26 4-2-8 1-5-9 22
 Granada 29 4 7 18 26 62 -36 4-4-6 0-3-12 19
 Osasuna 29 1 8 20 29 69 -40 0-5-10 1-3-10 11

Barcelona falls to Athletic Bilbao 2-1 in Copa del Rey Round of 16 first leg

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The referee was the focal point as Barcelona fell to Athletic Bilbao 2-1 in the first leg of their Copa del Rey matchup.

Goals from Aritz Aduriz and Inaki Williams downed the Catalans, while a free-kick from Lionel Messi gave Barcelona life heading into the second leg.

There were a number of key refereeing decisions that led to the result. The most scrutinized was a pretty awful no-call in the first half after a challenge by Xabier Etxeita that left Neymar in a heap in the penalty area, but instead the referee shook his head.

Later, the referee was back in the spotlight after he sent off both Raul Gardia and Ander Iturraspe of Athletic in the second half for questionable second yellow cards. Despite the two-man advantage, Barcelona was never able to level things up. There was also a heated exchange between Aduriz and Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti which saw them both receive yellow cards.

Despite all this, Barcelona only had itself to blame. The second Athletic goal, from Inaki Williams in the 27th minute, came from absolutely nothing, when Jordi Alba gave the ball away and the hosts pounced swiftly, as Aduriz delivered a back-heel to Williams who hammered the ball with blistering pace into the back of the net.

The two will play the second leg at the Camp Nou on January 11th.