Luis Aragonés, architect of current Spanish national team, passed away Saturday in Madrid

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Former Spain men’s national team head coach Luis Aragonés — the man who forged the team that’s won their last three major competitions — passed away Saturday in Madrid. He was 75 years old.

Aragonés was head coach of La Roja when Spain claimed the European Championships in 2008, building a team that would eventually win the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. It was the high point of a 35-year managerial career that started with Atlético Mardid in 1974, ended with Fenerbahçe in 2009, and included spells at Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla, Espanyol and Real Betis.

Aragonés had been suffering with a form of leukaemia, with his physical state kept secret from the Spanish press. Earlier this week, however, that worsening condition forced Aragonés to be hospitalized. He died early Saturday morning.

One Sunday at the Vicente Calderón, Atlético fans unveiled a large banner (above) commemorating the man who played and coached a combined 25 seasons at the club.

Born in Madrid, Aragonés enjoyed an 18-year playing career starting in 1957, going on to make 372 Primera División appearances with Atlético. Upon retiring as the club’s all-time leading scorer, Aragonés became the Atleti head coach, embarking on a managerial career that could see him claim six major honors. In 1977, he won his only league title, leading Atlético to the top of La Liga.

His legacy, however, will be that of a man who returned Spain to prominence. In guiding La Roja to a European title in 2008, Aragonés saw his national team end a 44-year drought without a major honor.

Helping unite a team often divided along regional lines, Aragonés instilled the style that has persisted through the tenure of his successor. For that, current Spain head coach Vicente Del Bosque expressed his gratitude:

“Without a doubt he marked the road in this final successful phase,” Del Bosque said. “I felt a great deal of appreciation toward him.”

Chelsea striker Samuel Eto’o, who played for Aragonés at Mallorca, tweeted out his condolences.

“My heart is in profound pain on this day, as a great man has left us. More than a coach, Luis Aragonés was like a father to me. I keep wonderful memories of our relationship and of my experience at Mallorca. Dear papa, thank you for all you have tought us, you will be missed.”

Manchester City striker Álvaro Negredo also added his sentiments. From Twitter:

“Today and forever the football world will cry your loss but you will always be by our side. Rest In Peace Luis Aragones”

Watch Live: Leicester City v. Man City

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Manchester City can put Leicester City deep in its rearview mirror when the two sides meet at the King Power Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Leicester opens the day four points back of the second-place visitors. The Foxes also saw Chelsea move four points back with a win over Spurs.

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Aymeric Laporte again pairs with Fernandinho in Man City’s back line, keeping John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi on the bench.

Harvey Barnes and Ayoze Perez start on the bench for Brendan Rodgers‘ Foxes.

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VIDEO: Messi scores first half hat trick for Barcelona

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Lionel Messi scored a first half hat trick for Barcelona against Eibar on Saturday.

Messi, 33, is warming up quite well for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg as he tore Eibar’s defense to shreds to put them 3-0 up at the break.

In a week where Messi and Barcelona have been in the news amid an emergency signing of Martin Braithwaite, a social media spying scandal and plenty of criticism of sporting director Eric Abidal, the Argentine ace got back to doing what he does best.

Barcelona sat in second place in the La Liga table heading into this weekend, one point behind Real Madrid.

Giroud vows “start of a good run” for Chelsea ahead of UCL

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OIivier Giroud knows he’s given Frank Lampard food for thought as Chelsea improved its top four stock with a 2-1 defeat of Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Giroud scored the first goal in making just his third Premier League start and eighth league appearance under Lampard, and now has two goals in 375 minutes this season. The other came against Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup.

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The Frenchman now has 79 Premier League goals, and the ex-Arsenal man will be doubly thrilled to that four of them have now come against Spurs.

“I was lucky the ball came back after hitting the post and I tried to finish,” Giroud said, via the BBC. “It was a good feeling for me, a good moment and I’m so happy for the team to win today. It’s been three months I didn’t start, it’s been a special day for me and all of us.”

[ MORE: Mourinho reacts ]

Giroud said that this was bigger for Chelsea than it was for him, though.

“It was a very important game for us today. I want to talk about the team spirit. We’ve shown great character today. We knew it was maybe a kind of turning point. We lost a bit of confidence. It was nice to bounce back and get this win, a hard win against a rival, so I feel relieved today.

“Tottenham is obviously a rival for the Champions League race, so we are pleased to put them four points behind us. This is the start of a good run, I hope, now we need to focus on the Champions League. This game would be nice for the confidence and for the changing room.”

Chelsea meets Bayern Munich on Tuesday at Stamford Bridge before a trip to Bournemouth on Feb. 29. The breathing room on fifth place is welcome.

Jose Mourinho defends players “trying to do miracles,” explains Dele move

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Tottenham Hotspur boss Jose Mourinho says he can have no complaints with his shorthanded men following a 2-1 loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho pointed to the absence of strikers Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane as well as a Champions League match in midweek.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

“Look at Chelsea they played a World Cup-winning striker up front, England’s second striker on the bench, and Belgium’s second striker in the stands,” he said, via Football.London. “We had no strikers on the pitch, no strikers on the bench and two in the hospital.”

Chelsea were the much better side on the day, with Olivier Giroud making a statement to Frank Lampard about his ability as a center forward.

And Mourinho felt sufficiently shorthanded on the day, especially given the exhausting 1-0 loss to RB Leipzig at midweek.

“Lucas, Lo Celso, Bergwijn,” he said. “These boys that are playing every minute and trying to do miracles in positions that are not their positions. I cannot complain.”

Mourinho also defended keeping Dele Alli on the bench for the first time in his tenure as Spurs boss.

“We had strange game plans but we needed to have them. Like Lamela who played well, people think I’m stupid that I don’t play him, but he’s constantly communicating with me in the warm-up, can I play or not. He was telling me his feelings.”

Spurs will finish the weekend four points back of the top four and as many as two back of fifth. They have eight days until another big match, March 1 versus Wolves.