Barcelona

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, right, and Real Madrid's Lucas Vazquez, left, react after failing to score against Valencia during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Valencia and Real Madrid at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)
AP Photo/Alberto Saiz

Real Madrid adds intrigue to La Liga race with rare loss (video)

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The lone Wednesday match on La Liga’s docket injected some drama back into the chase for Spain’s crown.

Real Madrid fell 2-1 at Valencia, unable to overcome conceding twice in the first 10 minutes.

The match was one of two matches-in-hand Real held on its rivals for La Liga’s title. Now Real’s one-point lead over Barcelona and three-point advantage over Sevilla seem a bit more manageable.

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Simone Zaza and Fabian Orellana netted for¬†Los Che, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s 44th minute goal was the only answer the leaders could muster before full time.

Zaza’s goal was a stunner:

Real could rebuild its lead over the weekend, with Barcelona off to Atletico Madrid on Sunday and Sevilla traveling to Betis on the heels of its UCL win over Leicester City.

But for now, life’s a bit more exciting in Spain. Real hosts Barcelona on April 23, and hosts Sevilla on the penultimate weekend of the season.

Standings

 

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Real Madrid 22 16 4 2 57 20 37 10-2-0 6-2-2 52
 Barcelona 23 15 6 2 63 19 44 7-3-1 8-3-1 51
 Sevilla 23 15 4 4 46 28 18 9-1-1 6-3-3 49
 Atlético Madrid 23 13 6 4 43 19 24 8-2-1 5-4-3 45
 Real Sociedad 23 13 2 8 36 32 4 7-2-3 6-0-5 41
 Villarreal 23 10 9 4 30 15 15 7-3-2 3-6-2 39

Appeals rejected, Neymar will stand trial

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 02:  Neymar of FC Barcelona leaves the National Court on February 2, 2016 in Madrid, Spain. Neymar was giving evidence over allegations of corruption and fraud surrounding his transfer to FC Barcelona.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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Neymar, his family, Barcelona, and Santos are headed to court.

Not a great Monday for the Brazilian superstar and his clubs. They stand accused of hiding a portion of the transfer fee that helped Neymar head from Santos to the La Liga powerhouse Blaugranas.

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No appeals remain for Neymar, his mother, and their family brand N&N.

From Sky Sports:

The case stems from a complaint by Brazilian investment group DIS, which owned part of Neymar’s transfer rights and alleges that it received less money than it was entitled to when Neymar made the switch.

Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi was found guilty of tax fraud this summer, and is unlikely to serve his 21-month sentence.

La Liga & Serie A: Messi rescues Barca, Pescara earns second win

BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 19: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona shoots on goal next to Martin Maximiliano Mantovani of CD Leganes during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and CD Leganes at Camp Nou stadium on February 19, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
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A roundup of Sunday’s¬†action in¬†Spain and Italy’s¬†top flights‚Ķ

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

Barcelona 2-1 Leganes

The Blaugrana were just minutes away from another disappointing result but Lionel Messi rescued his side on the brink of time with an opportune penalty kick. The Argentine attacker netted a brace on Sunday, which helped keep Barcelona within a point of league leaders Real Madrid at the top of Spain’s top flight. Messi entered his name on the scoresheet in the fourth minute before Unai Lopez equalized for the visitors in the 71st minute. The loss for Leganes keeps the club just two points above the relegation zone through 23 rounds of play.

Real Sociedad 0-1 Villareal

Samu Castillejo’s stoppage time winner kept Villareal in a top six position after the team struggled to find its way in the attacking third for much of the match. The Yellow Submarine currently sit six points out of fourth place Atletico Madrid, while Sociedad holds a slim, two-point margin over Villareal.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Valencia 2-0 Athletic Bilbao
Celta Vigo 3-0 Osasuna

 


Roma 4-1 Torino

A pair of goals on both sides of halftime helped propel Roma to its 18th win of the season on Sunday, while keeping the Giallorossi within seven points of Juventus at the top of Serie A. Edin Dzeko continues to pay dividends for¬†Luciano Spalletti’s side after scoring early for Roma, while Mohamed Salah,¬†Leandro Paredes and¬†Radja Nainggolan each booked their place on the scoresheet in the rout.¬†Maxi Lopez provided the visitors with a consolation in the 84th minute, as Torino remain in ninth place.

Chievo 1-3 Napoli

Napoli’s potent attack continues to score goals at an astounding rate, and the third place side is still very much alive in the title race. The visitors jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the hour mark before Chievo finally pulled one back by way of¬†Riccardo Meggiorini. Their three goals on Sunday move Napoli to a total of 60 for the season, which is six more than Roma.

Pescara 5-0 Genoa

The last place side picked up its second win of the season on Sunday after scoring three goals inside of the opening 45 minutes. An own goal from¬†Lucas Orban in the fifth minute kickstarted Genoa’s misfortunes, and Pescara continued to pile it on from that point.

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Bologna 0-1 Inter Milan
Sampdoria 1-1 Cagliari
Udinese 1-2 Sassuolo
AC Milan 2-1 Fiorentina

PSG respond strongly to reports of Thiago Silva’s mental weakness

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 13: Thiago Silva of PSG looks on prior to the UEFA Champions League Group A match between Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal FC at Parc des Princes on September 13, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Paris Saint-Germain strongly supported captain Thiago Silva after reports in French publication L’Equipe suggested that the Brazilian’s injury problems are not as serious as the club has made them out to be.

According to¬†the often explosive French newspaper, the 32-year-old defender missed the pummeling of Barcelona not because of a calf bruise but was because he was “frozen with fear” ahead of one of the biggest games of his life.

“It’s hard to say if he’s injured,” said an unnamed source L’Equipe referred to as¬†a “regular at the training center.”¬†“Medical examinations did not show much. It looks as though he has tensed up at the approach of the event.” L’Equipe is known for its harsh words and even harsher match ratings, and occasionally seems to embellish otherwise routine stories.

PSG responded with an exclusive in Brazilian newspaper Globoesporte, saying,¬†“Thiago Silva was injured after the Ligue 1 clash with Lille [on February 7th],” the statement from the French champions read. “The diagnosis was heavy bruising on his left calf — he did not play against Bordeaux the week before the Champions League match at home to Barcelona.”

“Thiago Silva is our captain, the man of great games, who is always there through the difficult times and is appreciated by the staff and his teammates. Everyone at the club is shocked by the doubts some have expressed about his motivation.”

The L’Equipe claim¬†doesn’t seem to hold much water. Thiago Silva is an experienced Brazilian international and has played Champions League matches against clubs like Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, and even Barcelona twice in the 2014/15 campaign, which both times resulted in a 3-1 loss. He is also known to be injury prone, with the club even pointing out that after the unsuccessful World Cup in 2014, Silva returned to the club early to help them start the season, only to result in an injury in doing so.

After the Lille match where he picked up the injury, Silva missed the following Ligue 1 meeting, a trip to Bordeaux which PSG won 3-0. The article went on to say that the injury is severe enough to keep Silva out of the next Ligue 1 match, a home date with Toulouse, and he is expected to return for the trip to Marseille on February 26th. That would theoretically see Silva fit enough to play in the second leg against Barcelona on March 8th.

Without the captain on the field, manager Unai Emery instead was forced to pair an incredibly young duo of Marquinhos (22 years old) and Presnel Kimpembe (21 years old) in central defense, the latter of whom made his Champions League debut. With the help of successful midfield cover in Adrian Rabiot, he two held Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez scoreless in the 4-0 demolition.

Suarez: Barca relishes “beautiful challenge” of overturning 4-0

PSG's Thomas Meunier, left, and Barcelona's Luis Suarez challenge for the ball during the Champions League first leg knockout round match Paris Saint Germain against Barcelona, at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
AP Photo/Michel Euler
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The common though following Paris Saint-Germain’s 4-0 first leg domination of Barcelona is there may be only one or two teams capable of overcoming such a lopsided defeat in a home second leg.

No surprise here, but Barca is one of them.

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Saying the loss was “painful”, Blaugranas forward¬†Luis Suarez wants to flip the script in a big way and make history.

From the BBC:

“We are the best team in the world. If there is a team that can overturn this situation, it’s Barcelona.”

“To lose in the manner that we did in the last 16 is difficult and painful. It’s going to be very difficult but it’s a beautiful challenge,” added 30-year-old Suarez.

The problem isn’t scoring four goals, it’s keeping a clean sheet and scoring four goals (or scooping a five-goal win).

Paris Saint-Germain overwhelmed Barca in the first leg with incredible pressing and a knack for taking away space. Luis Enrique will not only have to have his players produce a dynamic performance, he’ll have to be tactically brilliant.