Shipped from abroad, Spain: Where we’re not supposed to care about the other 18 clubs

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Remarkably, Spain’s season will continue enough though there are no more Clasicos, the title race is all but decided, and the final four match days of the season will give us more glimpses of Real Madrid and Barcelona prospects than we wanted. Where the world has shown no particular interest in Spain beyond its top two teams, don’t expect to hear much about the Primera until next season.

In the anonymity of neglect, the fight for the last Champions League spots will play out. Valencia, on the back of two wins in their last three, have reclaimed third place from Málaga ahead of the teams’ meeting this Sunday . Three points behind Los Che, Málaga need to not only win, they need to reverse the 2-0 loss they suffered earlier this year at the Mestalla (Spain’s first tiebreaker is head-to-head results).

It may not even matter. After hosting Valencia, Málaga are on the road to face Barcelona then Atlético. Only three points ahead of a fading fifth-place Levante, Málaga may need to keep one eye on a pack that sees Athletic Bilbao and Atlético only four back.

That’s why Monday’s draw at Osasuna was so disappointing. Down 1-0 after Nino’s early second half goal, Málaga got an equalizer from the best player not on the big two – Santi Cazorla – but couldn’t find a winner. With only two points over their last three games, Málaga’s given the pole position to Valencia, who close the season with Osasuna, Villarreal, and Real Sociedad.

Málaga have always plotted a patient course on their road to becoming a power, but having come this close to Champions League qualification, being forced to settle for Europa could lead to a bitter summer.

Elsewhere in Spain

All results
Mallorca 1-0 Real Zaragoza
Sporting Gijón 2-1 Rayo Vallecano
Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid
Sevilla 1-1 Levante
Granada 1-0 Getafe
Real Sociedad 1-1 Villarreal
Racing Santander 0-1 Athletic Bilbao
Atlético Madrid 3-1 Espanyol
Valencia 4-0 Real Betis
Osasuna 1-1 Málaga

Races

Champions League: Real Madrid (88 points/34 games played), Barcelona (81/34), Valencia (55/34), Málaga (52/34)

Europa League: Levante (49/34), Athletic Bilbao (48/34), Atlético Madrid (48/34)

Stuff that stuck out:

  • It’s not just the press and fans outside of Spain that are dwelling on Real Madrid and Barcelona. Monday’s coverage was dominated with the aftermath of Saturday’s result. Add in the sprinkling of foresight toward mid-week Champions League matches and there’s little room for anything besides Cazorla’s equalizer.
  • Probably deserving more attention is Giuseppe Rossi, who is projected to miss 10 more months recovering from more procedures on his injured knee. According to Dr. richard Steadman, the Italian international actually needs two operations, with recovery times of four and six months. Rossi had originally hoped to be back early next season, but having gone under the knife on Saturday, the Villarreal star will now have to target February 2013.
  • Athletic Club continued to pull their way to the edge of Champions League qualification, but it wasn’t pretty. While they nearly passed Racing into submission, they needed a strong day from Gorka Iraizoz in goal to get three from a side destined to drop.
  • For much of 2012, Radamel Falcao has had to carry Diego Simeone’s club back into La Liga relevance. On Sunday, however, the hero was Arda Turan. The Turkish winger came with high expectations from Galatasaray in the summer, but until Espanyol’s visit, he’d managed only one league goal. The number tripled as Turan found a second half double, his team earning a win that kept them above Spain’s mid-table maelstrom.
  • One team that is no longer opening thinking about Europe is Sevilla, even though sitting on 46 points, they still have a chance. But it’s been a miserable year in Seville, and having seen only one point from their last two matches (after putting themselves in a position to dream of competing for third), the club has returned to one step at a time mode. Sitting ninth, they need only move up two spots to have a chance to make Europa. Unfortunately, that means displacing Athletic or Atlético.

Coutinho saves Brazil from Neymar’s VAR humiliation

AP Photo/Michael Sohn
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Dominant Brazil needed stoppage time to find a way past Costa Rican backstop Keylor Navas and pick up a 2-0 win in Saint Petersburg on Friday.

Neymar embarrassingly saw an awarded penalty overturned when he flopped instead of shooting following a tug from Giancarlo Gonzalez, but Philippe Coutinho toe-poked a shot through Navas’ legs in the first of six stoppage time minutes.

Neymar would later add a goal in the sixth minute of stoppage time from Douglas Costa.

Brazil finishes the group stage with Serbia, while Costa Rica waits on Switzerland.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Brazil controlled the first 12 minutes of the match, but Costa Rica just missed a bid to make it 1-0 against the run of play.

Deportivo La Coruña midfielder Celso Borges darted into the box to drag a low shot just wide of the far post.

Gabriel Jesus had the ball in the back of the goal in the 26th minute, but was deemed offside. And Keylor Navas stymied another Brazil rush a minute later.

But Costa Rica’s packed-in camp held Brazil at bay into the break.

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Brazil fired out of the gates to start the second half, and Navas was again busy as Neymar clattered into him in search of a loose ball. Well, kinda loose.

When Philippe Coutinho’s hammered shot was blocked out for a corner, it simultaneously felt like Brazil’s goal was either inevitable or destined to not arrive.

Navas then pushed a Neymar point-blank bid over the bar.

Tite opted to bring on Roberto Firmino, but Navas kept up his heroics by collecting a header off another Brazil corner.

The possibility of a scoreless draw felt even more likely when Neymar stole the ball and whipped a 21-yard shot just off the upper 90.

Neymar looked to have a won a penalty kick when Gonzalez tugged him in the six, but VAR overturned the call.

Fabregas praises Vela vs. Germany, not impressed by Ronaldo

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Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas was left off the Spain squad for this summer’s World Cup, and has been working as a pundit for the BBC.

Friday morning found him posting a column — well, we doubt he handled the posting — on the tournament so far, one that talked about how Spain rebounded from a tournament-opening loss to win the World Cup.

[ MORE: Lichaj moves to Hull ]

Fabregas then touched on Cristiano Ronaldo’s World Cup, saying credit due to his four goals but also questioning how impressed anyone should be with three goals from set pieces and a fourth from a David De Gea gaffe.

You cannot say that he and Portugal have shown great combinations or tiki-taka football to score great goals.

You have to give him credit, of course, but his goals have come from set-pieces, penalties or mistakes.

Seems a bit of anti-Real Madrid carryover there, although the sentiment is real (Portugal has not been impressive despite its four points).

Fabregas then went on to highlight one particular performance in the tournament: Mexico and LAFC midfielder Carlos Vela’s work in El Tri‘s upset of Germany.

Vela left Real Sociedad to join Los Angeles FC at the start of the year and people seem to think that when you go to the MLS, or that type of league, your level drops.

That was not the case when he played against Germany, because Kroos could not shake him off. He tried but he could not influence the game.

See, Cesc: You can totally come to our shores and run point for a team. Toronto is really close to me, if you’re asking, but Philly, Columbus, and New York are reasonable enough drives.

USMNT back Lichaj finds new home in Championship

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Eric Lichaj is going to bring his Premier League promotion dreams to a new Championship club.

The 29-year-old USMNT fullback has been a key part of Nottingham Forest to the tune of 188 appearances since moving from Aston Villa in 2013.

[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]

But he’s on the move, joining Nigel Adkins at Hull City on the heels of a three-goal season at Forest. He famously scored a pair of goals in a 4-2 FA Cup win over Arsenal, then naming his new dog Gunner.

“It’s a fresh start for me and I want to repay Hull City for the faith that they have shown in me by bringing me here. I’ll be working my hardest, as I always do, every day in training and on matchdays.”

The versatile American can play left or right back, and has pushed his way back into the national team picture. Lichaj has 15 caps with a goal for the USMNT.

Also, #AStarInStripes? We see you, Hull

Report: Minnesota United chasing Ecuadorian national teamer

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Minnesota United may be hoping another Ibarra can cure what ails its attack.

Romario Ibarra, 23, is on the Loons’ radar according to The Athletic‘s Kristian Dyer and Jeff Rueter, who say Minnesota would like to land the Ecuadorian when the summer transfer window opens on July 10.

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Ibarra was limited to eight matches for Universidad Católica this season as he battled through a lingering metatarsal fracture. But he’s scored against Argentina and Chile in each of his appearances for the national team, both World Cup qualifiers.

From The Athletic:

Sources say that Ibarra’s contract is unlikely to make him a designated player, leaving Quintero as the club’s sole DP. (It could depend, in part, on the size of the transfer fee.) Based on league standards, his salary will likely be drawn from Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) contract seems likely.

Ibarra’s older brother Renato plays for Club America, and has 36 caps.

Minnesota is six points outside the West’s final playoff spot, and has scored just 17 goals in 14 matches.