Marco Asensio

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El Clasico: Barca looks to end Real Madrid’s title hopes

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El Clasico has been anything but predictable in recent seasons.

There was Real Madrid’s dominant Spanish Super Cup earlier this year, and Barca’s four-point grab last season despite Real winning the title.

2015-16 saw the visitors win both matches, including Barca’s 4-0 smashing of Real at the Bernabeu, while the previous season saw the home sides come out on top in La Liga play.

[ ARSENAL-LIVERPOOL: Recap | 3 things | Stars/duds ]

2013-14 was a year Barcelona snared both league matches but lost the Copa del Rey final, while the previous three season drew cries of “Too much!” as 17 Clasicos dotted the landscape of soccer in Spain (and European tournaments, where Barca dismissed Real from the 2010-11 Champions League).

Enter Saturday morning’s derby in Madrid, where the hosts will be challenged to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after returning from UAE where they claimed a third Club World Cup in four seasons.

Real’s dropped points in two of its last five league matches, but is coming off a resounding 5-0 home defeat of Sevilla. The reigning champs are 11 points back of Barca with a match-in-hand, and might as well say goodnight to the league with a loss on Saturday. Cristiano Ronaldo leads Real with 16 goals this season, nine more than Marco Asensio.

As for Barca, they’ve sorting themselves out following the Neymar exit drama. Paulinho has proved a decent replacement for Neymar so far, equaling the six goals his countryman had scored at this point last season. Lionel Messi has, no surprise, been Barca’s best asset with 18 goals. Luis Suarez is second with nine in 13 appearances.

Prediction

There’s a lot of pride and pressure at the Bernabeu, and Real may be weary but won’t be caught off-guard. Barca has allowed a stingy seven goals in 16 matches this season, and Real will be fortunate to grab a goal. Barca will do the same, and we’ll call it 1-1 (2-2 if we’re feeling greedy).

La Liga: Real Madrid restore order with 3-0 win

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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid restored order after two straight losses with a comfortable 3-0 win over Las Palmas in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Goals by Casemiro in the first half, and Marco Asensio and Isco in the second, secured Madrid victory at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, keeping it eight points behind leader Barcelona after 11 games.

Barcelona defeated Sevilla 2-1 Saturday to maintain a four-point lead over second-place Valencia, which routed Leganes 3-0 for its seventh straight league win.

Madrid was under pressure after losses at Girona in La Liga and at Tottenham in the Champions League. The team endured a wave of criticism this week, and a convincing home win was needed to ease tensions for the defending champions.

“This win is important to help the team regain its confidence,” Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said. “Little by little we are getting back on the right track.”

Madrid was in control from the start, and Casemiro opened the scoring with a header following a corner just before halftime.

Asensio added to the lead with a booming, long-range shot into the top corner early in the second half, and Isco sealed the victory from inside the area after a well-placed low cross by Cristiano Ronaldo toward the end of the match.

Asensio and Isco are Madrid’s leading scorers in the league with four goals each. Ronaldo remains with only one league goal, although his tally with the club in all competitions is eight. He also scored four goals with Portugal.

Las Palmas is second-to-last in the standings with six points.

“We were playing well but that second goal put an end to our hopes,” Las Palmas striker Vitolo said.


Girona followed its stunning win over Real Madrid with a 2-1 victory at Levante, moving further away from the relegation zone.

It was the third straight league win for the Catalan club, which is playing in the first division for the first time this season.

Girona was coming off consecutive victories at Deportivo La Coruna and against Madrid at home in what had been a tense meeting at the height of a political crisis involving Catalonia and the Spanish government over the region’s push for independence.

“The team is showing maturity,” Girona coach Pablo Machin said. “We played a very complete match. We’ve been very consistent.”

Midfielder Borja Garcia put Girona ahead at the Ciutat de Valencia Stadium with a long-range shot into the top corner in the 58th, and former Levante striker Christian Stuani added to the lead from inside the area in the 83rd.

The lone goal for the hosts was scored with a header by Enes Unal in injury time.

Levante hasn’t won in six straight league games, but it had beaten Girona in the Round of 32 of the Copa del Rey last month.

“We need to improve and find a way to overcome this,” Levante coach Juan Ramon Lopez Muniz said. “We must lift our heads and move on.”

Girona moved to 10th place in the 20-team standings, while Levante dropped to 14th.

La Liga: Asensio leads Madrid past Eibar; Atleti end slump

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Marco Asensio scored and helped force an own-goal to lead Real Madrid to a 3-0 win at home over Eibar in the Spanish league on Sunday.

The 21-year-old forward got Madrid going in the 18th minute when his well-placed cross meant for Sergio Ramos was headed into the net by Eibar defender Paulo Oliveira.

Asensio put the result beyond doubt 10 minutes later at the Santiago Bernabeu when he drove Francisco “Isco” Alarcon’s cross under goalkeeper Marco Dmitrovic.

Marcelo rounded off the victory in the 82nd after substitute Karim Benzema set him up.

Following a rocky start with only two wins in the first five rounds, Zinedine Zidane’s team has now won four straight in the league as it remained in third place. Barcelona leads by four points over Valencia, with Madrid another point behind.

“Not everything went perfectly, but we are happy for the win,” Zidane said. “It was important to get the three points and to score that many goals.”

The goal was Asensio’s fifth of the season, and his third in the league to go with two from the Spanish Super Cup.

Dmitrovic could have done more to keep out Asensio’s goal, but the Eibar `keeper also denied Isco and Cristiano Ronaldo their chances to add to the lead.


Atletico Madrid broke a four-game winless streak across all competitions after eking out a 1-0 win at Celta Vigo. Diego Simeone’s side is fourth – a point behind Real Madrid.

Striker Kevin Gameiro scored his first goal of the season in the 28th when he swept home a poor clearance of a corner kick by Celta’s Sergi Gomez.

The much-needed victory came after back-to-back draws in the league along with a 2-1 loss to Chelsea and a 0-0 draw at Qarabag in Azerbaijan in the Champions League.

Atletico did little more than cling to the advantage as Celta tried to equalize.

“They made us wait a long time to get this win, and that was why we worked as hard as we did today,” Simeone said. “The team showed that it can dig in, and that it doesn’t mind holding up in its area if it has to protect a result.”

Celta played with a large section of its Balaidos Stadium closed due to safety concerns regarding the structure of the stands. Club president Carlos Mourino said that Celta will refund the cost of the tickets for the seats that had to be left empty.

Real Madrid lock up young core with new long-term deals

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Real Madrid are already the two-time defending UEFA Champions League winners, and are tabbed as one of two or three favorites to be crowned champions of Europe again this season.

[ MORE: Carlo Ancelotti out as Bayern Munich manager ]

While the past (three Champions League triumphs in four seasons) is already littered with silverware, the future isn’t looking so bad either after the defending La Liga champions announced new long-term contracts for a pair of under-25 superstars in the making in the span of 24 hours this week.

24-year-old defender Raphael Varane, who featured prominently in all three UCL runs, signed on Wednesday a new five-year deal which will keep him at the club until 2022. A day later, 21-year-old attacker Marco Asensio, who’s loudly announced himself onto the world’s stage already this season, re-upped for six more years with a new deal tying him to Los Blancos until 2023.

[ MORE: Southgate refreshingly honest about England’s lack of quality ]

Asensio signed for Madrid from Mallorca in the summer of 2014, but spent the next two seasons on loan, back at his old club for a season and then at Espanyol. Last season saw him break into the first team and flash momentary bits of brilliance late on in the season. That momentum has carried over to this season, as the heir apparent to the trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema has four goals and one assist through the first 10 games (all competitions).

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Real Madrid will remain quite good for quite some time to come.

Unbelievable reason why Marco Asensio is out for Real Madrid

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A freak shaving injury will keep Marco Asensio out of Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League opener against APOEL on Wednesday.

You read that correctly.

Asensio, 21, is a rising star for the reigning Spanish and European champions but will miss Real Madrid’s home clash against the Cypriot side due to cutting a pimple on his leg in a freak shaving accident.

After Real boss Zinedine Zidane told a press conference that Asensio had missed training this week as he couldn’t pull up his socks due a pimple on his leg, a report from ABC Espana states the winger has cut the pimple in a shaving accident and it has become infected.

Even though Cristiano Ronaldo will return to action for Madrid as he continues to be banned domestically, losing Asensio, who has scored four goals in his opening six games of the season, is a blow.

Real should be just fine without Asension on Wednesday but this is a reminder of one thing: pimples are a real pain.