A roundup of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…
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Villareal 0-2 Barcelona
The visitors struggled to break down Villareal’s back line throughout the opening 45 minutes, but the Blaugrana were aided by Raba’s second-half dismissal on Sunday. From there, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez helped Barca pick up its 12th win of the season and restore the club’s five-point lead over Valencia.
Messi’s goal — his 525th for the club — matched Gerd Muller’s Barca record on Sunday, while the finish was his 18th in all competitions this season.
Real Betis 0-1 Atletico Madrid
Saul Niguez scored his second goal of the La Liga season to help give Atletico an important road victory against Real Betis. Atleti now sits third in Spain’s top flight, but remains six points behind league leaders Barcelona.
Elsewhere in La Liga
Real Sociedad 0-2 Malaga
Levante 1-2 Athletic Bilbao
AC Milan 2-1 Bologna
Giacomo Bonaventura scored twice on Sunday to give AC Milan a victory at the San Siro. The midfielder opened the scoring inside the opening 10 minutes, before Simone Verdi’s finish in the 23rd minute leveled the match for Bologna. Bonaventura tabbed his second goal of the day in the 76th minute to give the Rossoneri a win and keep the team inside the top seven. Milan currently sits on 24 points through 16 matches.
Elsewhere in Serie A
Chievo Verona 0-0 Roma
Napoli 0-0 Fiorentina
SPAL 2-2 Hellas Verona
Udinese 2-0 Benevento
Sassuolo 2-1 Crotone
Philippe Coutinho seems like a nice young man.
Liverpool’s Brazilian attacker is speaking about his future after authoring a UEFA Champions League hat trick against Spartak Moscow on Thursday.
[ MORE: Champions League favorites ]
He’s saying all the right things about his time with Liverpool, and is exhibiting class regarding a fairly clear desire to join Barcelona.
La Liga’s giants recruiting him hard this summer, but Liverpool would not budge despite several big money offers for the playmaker. From Sky Sports:
“I do not know how the future is going to be. What will happen in January, we will know it in January. I do not know if there will be an offer.
“Last summer there was a job offer in the same way that happens with any employee and I was interested in it. Since I stayed I have played with will and desire.”
Coutinho’s calm and measured comments exhibit his lack of power in the situation, and also a healthy respect for what Liverpool has done for him.
It seems unlikely Barcelona will make a run at Coutinho in January given the 25 year old’s inability to represent another club in the Champions League this season, let alone Liverpool’s contention in multiple competitions, but there’s no reason for Coutinho to close the door.
The bookies have a tendency to know the market, and the bookies like the chances of a new UEFA Champions League winner.
Both clubs would break a four-year Spanish hold on the trophy, but who are they and where do the rest fit (more or less, we checked several sites)?
[ UCL: Final 16 set ]
Sixteen teams remain alive in the tournament, and Real Madrid have won three of the last four (Barcelona the fourth). They place third and fourth on the list.
Here’s how the oddsmakers say it’ll go.
15. Shakhtar Donetsk
8. Tottenham Hotspur
6. Manchester United
5. Bayern Munich
3. Real Madrid
2. Manchester City
1. Paris Saint-Germain
Now PSG is certainly a wonder team, and both they and Man City have made deep runs into the tournament before, but it’s a little wild to see them as favorites. Granted that Man City is averaging 4:1 compared to Real’s 5:1 and Barca’s 6:1 (PSG is 7:2), but it says something about how convincing Pep Guardiola‘s men have looked this season.
Chelsea’s failure to win its UEFA Champions League group conspired with its four Premier League peers winning theirs to limit their Round of 16 opponents to three teams.
There’s a 67 percent chance the Blues will draw Barcelona or Paris Saint-Germain when the balls are drawn on Monday.
[ MORE: UCL Wednesday wrap ]
The other four Premier League sides can meet six teams each, separated from Chelsea and the second-place team in their groups.
Tottenham’s dismantling of its group means it cannot face Real Madrid, though it could still draw Bayern Munich or Juventus.
MADRID (AP) Barcelona will face Celta Vigo in the last 16 of the Copa del Rey, and Real Madrid will play second-division club Numancia.
[ MORE: Kathy Carter announces decision to run for U.S. Soccer president ]
Barcelona, which has won the competition for the last three years, was held to a 2-2 draw by Celta in the Spanish league on Saturday at Camp Nou.
Tuesday’s draw also paired Atletico Madrid with third-division club Lleida. Formentera, another third-tier club, will play last-year’s losing finalist, Alaves.
The other pairings are: Cadiz vs. Sevilla; Leganes vs. Villarreal; Las Palmas vs. Valencia; and Espanyol vs. Levante.
The matches will be played during the first and second weeks of January.