La Liga

AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos

La Liga: Barca’s 31-game unbeaten run ties longest in club history

Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ FA CUP: Man United advance, drawn against PL opposition in QF ]

Eibar 0-2 Barcelona

Barcelona, the last remaining unbeaten side from Europe’s five major domestic leagues, warmed up for Tuesday’s Champions League round-of-16 clash with Chelsea by dismantling seventh-place Eibar side away from home on Saturday and extending their unbeaten run to 31 games in the league, tying the club’s all-time record in the process.

The Blaugrana took the lead after 15 minutes, when Lionel Messi slotted an inch-perfect through ball for Luis Suarez who rounded the goalkeeper and slotted home (WATCH HERE) for his 17th league goal of the season (20 in all competitions).

Messi played his part in Barca’s second goal, which came three minutes before full-time. The Argentine’s shot was initially saved, but Jordi Alba arrived on the scene moments later to clean up and finish off the 10-man Basque minnows.

The victory sends Barca 10 points clear of second-place Atletico Madrid, who play on Sunday, and 20 points clear of fourth-place Real Madrid, who have played two fewer games thus far.

Malaga 1-2 Valencia

Valencia, who spent the majority of the season’s first half as Barca’s nearest title rivals (while never really challenging), fell to third when they recently lost three straight league games, but have since regained their footing with back-to-back wins, including Saturday’s come-from-behind triumph away to last-place Malaga.

Brown Ideye put Malaga ahead just before the half-hour mark, a lead which remained intact for more than 50 minutes. Alas, Francis Coquelin bagged his first goal for Valencia in the 80th minute to draw level, followed by a penalty kick converted by Dani Parejo five minutes later.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 1-2 Sevilla
Alaves 1-0 Deportivo La Coruña

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Real Sociedad vs. Levante — 6 a.m. ET
Atletico Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao — 10:15 a.m. ET
Espanyol vs. Villarreal — 12:30 p.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Real Madrid — 2:45 p.m. ET

Video: Brilliant Messi through ball sends Suarez in on goal

Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With a blockbuster UEFA Champions League clash against Chelsea right around the corner for Barcelona, the Spanish league leaders look on pace to extend their perfect La Liga record.

[ MORE: Willian dazzles for Chelsea in FA Cup win over Hull ]

Despite rumors that Lionel Messi and some of Barcelona’s biggest stars would be rested ahead of Tuesday’s match against the London side, the Argentine superstar not only started at Eibar on Saturday, but made a brilliant impact in the 17th minute.

Messi linked up with Luis Suarez after playing the Uruguayan through towards goal from a tremendous defense-splitting pass that sent the striker in for the 1-0 lead.

Barcelona has yet to lose in domestic competition this season, boasting an 18-5-0 record heading into Saturday’s meeting with Eibar. Additionally, Messi and Co. currently hold a plus-49 goal differential, which was lifted to plus-50 with Suarez’s finish.

The Blaugrana are the last team in Europe’s five major leagues to remain unbeaten in league play.

Real Madrid, Germany mid Kroos sprains knee ligament

Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
3 Comments

MADRID (AP) Real Madrid says Germany midfielder Toni Kroos has injured a ligament in his left leg.

The Spanish club says tests revealed Kroos has a sprained ligament in his knee. It did not give an estimated time of recovery.

[ MORE: West Brom players investigated in Spain ]

Kroos is a first-choice player. He played all 90-plus minutes on Wednesday in the 3-1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

The second leg of their round-of-16 tie is on March 6.

Madrid’s match at Real Betis on Sunday is the first of three Spanish league games in a span of seven days. It visits Leganes on Wednesday and hosts Alaves on Feb. 24.

Wanda sells Atletico Madrid stake to Israeli company

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) Atletico Madrid says Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group has sold its stake in the Spanish club to an Israeli-owned company.

Idan Ofer’s Quantum Pacific is raising its stake to 32 percent after acquiring the 17 percent of Atletico that Wanda has owned since 2015.

The share sale will not impact on the naming rights of Atletico’s recently inaugurated stadium, which is called Wanda Metropolitano.

Atletico said Wednesday that Wanda’s decision to divest itself of shares in the team was part of a “global strategy,” adding that “mutual collaboration” will continue with Wanda, with “new initiatives” in the coming months.

Atletico says Wanda will remain a sponsor and help to develop the club brand in China.

Quantum Pacific acquired a 15 percent stake in Atletico last year for 50 million euros (then $59 million). Its purchase of Wanda’s 17 percent stake needs to be authorized by the Spanish Superior Council of Sports.

Atletico CEO Miguel Angel Gil and president Enrique Cerezo will remain the majority shareholders of the team, which is the third force in Spanish soccer behind Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Atletico has been steadily gaining strength, becoming a regular title contender in Spain and in Europe, enabling it to attract lucrative sponsorships and increase television rights earnings.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

UEFA Champions League last 16 score picks

Getty Images
Leave a comment

This is it. After a two-month hiatus, the UEFA Champions League is back and the action returns this week.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

The Round of 16 games will be spread over the next month with five Premier League teams — Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool — still in the competition.

Below is a look at each of the eight matchups with a score prediction, as Europe’s elite teams lock horns.


Basel vs. Manchester City (first leg, Feb. 13; second leg, Mar. 3)
No disrespect to the Swiss champs, but this is the easiest draw Man City could have got. Pep Guardiola‘s men are in imperious form and could have this tie wrapped up after the first leg in Switzerland. Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling will be too much for Basel to handle, but City have to watch as Basel stunned Man United in the group stages. Score pick: Man City to advance 5-1 on aggregate


Juventus vs. Tottenham Hotspur (first leg, Feb. 13; second leg, Mar. 3)
What a tie this promises to be. Spurs’ high-press against Juve’s solid defense with a fondness for counters with Gonzalo Higuain finishing off chances. Tottenham will look to take Juve level to Wembley for the second leg but with Harry Kane in fine form, he could cause Juve’s ageing defense some issues. Spurs’ best chance of success may be to ease off their high-pressing and allow Juve to come onto them before picking holes on the counter. Score pick: Tottenham to advance 3-2 on aggregate


FC Porto vs. Liverpool (first leg, Feb. 14; second leg, Mar. 4)
This Liverpool side seem set up for success in Europe and with the addition of Virgil Van Dijk in defense, his battle with Vincent Aboubakar should be epic. We all know about Liverpool’s incredible attacking talents and that should see them over the line. Jurgen Klopp won’t take Porto lightly, but the second leg being at Anfield is a huge bonus. Score pick: Liverpool to advance 4-2 on aggregate 


Real Madrid vs. PSG (first leg, Feb. 14; second leg, Mar. 4)
What a game. When Real Madrid finished second in their group (behind Spurs) PSG are one of the teams they would have feared most. With Neymar and Cavani ripping it up, Real’s usual method of all-out attack may not work against PSG. The two-time reigning European champs have all their eggs in one basket under Zinedine Zidane with their La Liga form struggling. This could well be the end of an era. Score pick: PSG to advance 3-2 on aggregate


Chelsea vs. Barcelona (first leg, Feb. 20; second leg, Mar. 14)
My goodness, these two clashing bring up some epic UCL memories. When Chelsea fluffed their lines by not winning their group, this was the worst-case scenario. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Co. will relish heading to an injury-hit Chelsea in the first leg as Antonio Conte‘s men battle poor form in the league. The La Liga leaders have struggled themselves a little lately, but they always seem to deliver in the big games. Score pick: Barcelona to advance 4-2 on aggregate

 


Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas (first leg, Feb. 20; second leg, Mar. 14)
A kind draw for Bayern considering they finished second in their group behind PSG. Besiktas should not be underestimated and having the second leg at home will be a big bonus. That said, surviving the trip to Munich in the first leg with anything less than a one-goal deficit would be massive. Having sold Cenk Tosun to Everton, Besiktas have lost their top scorer this season but have plenty of experience. Score pick: Bayern to advance 3-2 on aggregate


Sevilla vs. Manchester United (first leg, Feb. 21; second leg, Mar. 13)
Tricky test for United against a Sevilla side who caused Liverpool problems with their incredible comeback from three goals down. Jose Mourinho’s men will play for the draw on the road, then look to finish the job at Old Trafford. Sevilla aren’t the force they have been in previous seasons but they will not be a walkover. United have handled business carefully in Europe this season and Romelu Lukaku will be key in this game, plus Alexis Sanchez being able to play is a huge bonus. Maybe the defeat at Newcastle last weekend was the wake-up call United needed. Score pick: Man United to advance 2-1 on aggregate 


Shakhtar Donetsk vs. AS Roma (first leg, Feb. 21; second leg, Mar. 13)
One of just two teams to beat Manchester City this season, Shakhtar will be eager to hit their stride in the first leg with Fred, Bernard, Marlos and Facundo Ferreyra the danger men. The Ukrainian champs have had a nice rest with no official games since December with the Ukrainian Premier League starting up against this weekend, but that can sometimes leave them a little rusty. Roma kept hold of Edin Dzeko in January, which was massive, and you have to fancy them taking Shakhtar back to the Italian capital in the second leg. Score pick: Roma to advance 3-2 on aggregate