Spain roundup: Top three all win as Ronaldo, Costa, Messi shine

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There are no style points on the board, though goal differential is close. By those measures, Barcelona made a statement regarding the La Liga title race as the top three all picked up wins but Barca’s was a stomping.

Lionel Messi became Barcelona’s all-time leading goal scorer when he slotted home the second goal of his hat trick in the Blaugrana’s 7-0 shellacking of 15th place Osasuna. Click the link and watch the video if only for Andres Iniesta’s left-footed stunner to make the score 3-0.

Barca was Barca again, boosting their league-best goal differential to 59. Perhaps  buoyed by topping Manchester City mid-week, it was certainly a different side than the club dispatched by Valladolid last weekend. Cristian Tello, Pedro and Alexis Sanchez also scored for Barcelona, which had a 3-0 at the break.

Real Madrid won 1-0 at relegation-threatened Malaga thanks to a 23rd minute marker by Cristiano Ronaldo, but it wasn’t close to their finest. The club’s unbeaten run in La Liga is now at 30 matches, and perhaps they were looking ahead to their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg with Schalke on Tuesday… but who are we kidding? They are up 6-1. It was just an off day for the club whose goal differential sits at 51.

Atletico stayed three back of Real and a point ahead of Barca with a 1-0 win of its own. Diego Costa put home a David Villa pass for the match’s only goal, as Atletico stayed unbeaten at home this season. It was a nice bit of pass and pace, as Costa simply outraced Espanyol defender Diego Colotto for the ball.

Elsewhere

  • Getafe 3-3 Granada — The goals started in the sixth minute and kept coming all night as Getafe let three leads disappear. Moroccan forward Youssef El Arabi bagged a brace in the comeback(s).
  • Levante 0-1 Celta Vigo — Nolito’s 19th minute goal moved the visiting side five points clear of the drop.
  • Rayo Vallecano 3-1 Almeria — Joaquin Larrivey’s brace vaulted Rayo out of the relegation zone and placed the visitors La Liga future in peril
  • Elche 0-0 Real Betis — Full credit to Betis, who keeps picking up points despite an unlikely bottom position nine points from safety. Elche carried 64 percent possession in the draw.
  • Sevilla 4-1 Valladolid — Kevin Gameiro stayed hot, striking twice, while Ivan Rakitic and Diogo Figueiras also netted for Sevilla. Javi Guerra scored late for the visitors.
  • Real Sociedad 1-0 Valencia — Sociedad is within five points of a Champions League spot thanks to Imanol Agirretxe’s 61st minute marker.
  • Villarreal vs. Athletic — Monday

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Real Madrid 28 22 4 2 77 26 51 12-0-1 10-4-1 70
Atlético Madrid 28 21 4 3 64 21 43 12-3-0 9-1-3 67
Barcelona 28 21 3 4 81 22 59 13-0-1 8-3-3 66
Athletic 27 15 6 6 50 31 19 10-3-1 5-3-5 51
Real Sociedad 28 13 7 8 49 39 10 9-3-2 4-4-6 46
Villarreal 27 13 5 9 47 33 14 7-4-3 6-1-6 44
Sevilla 28 12 8 8 51 43 8 7-3-4 5-5-4 44
Valencia 28 10 6 12 39 39 0 7-3-4 3-3-8 36
Espanyol 28 10 6 12 32 34 -2 7-2-5 3-4-7 36
Levante 28 9 9 10 26 35 -9 5-5-4 4-4-6 36
Celta Vigo 28 9 6 13 33 39 -6 3-6-5 6-0-8 33
Granada 28 9 4 15 27 39 -12 5-1-8 4-3-7 31
Elche 28 7 9 12 24 40 -16 5-5-5 2-4-7 30
Málaga 28 7 8 13 26 36 -10 5-2-7 2-6-6 29
Osasuna 28 8 5 15 24 48 -24 5-2-6 3-3-9 29
Rayo Vallecano 28 9 2 17 32 62 -30 5-0-9 4-2-8 29
Getafe 28 7 7 14 26 45 -19 4-6-5 3-1-9 28
Valladolid 28 5 11 12 30 48 -18 4-6-3 1-5-9 26
Almería 28 7 5 16 27 52 -25 4-4-5 3-1-11 26
Betis 28 4 7 17 23 56 -33 4-3-7 0-4-10 19

USMNT striker Sargent out for rest of 2019

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American forward Josh Sargent will be shut down for the rest of 2019 thanks to a groin injury.

Werder Bremen said the injury first arose during USMNT duty and has bothered the 19-year-old in recent weeks.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Sargent has two goals and three assists in 13 matches this season, playing mostly a center forward or primary striker role.

Here’s Bremen head coach Florian Kohfeldt:

“Since this is a small, deep-set muscle, the problems only occur at certain, very specific loads, which is why he was able to play and train for so long with problems. We will now give Josh’s injury time to properly heal, then he will get back to training in January.”

There are four more match days in the Bundesliga before the league goes on holiday break until mid-January.

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 15

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The congested schedule means we’ve had two match days since we last took stock of the Premier League.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

We’ve got a brand new Top Five (well, in terms of the four behind eventual champions Liverpool) and two teams dipping to season lows on our ol’ litmus test.

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Watford — As many losses as goals (9), and that figure is one more than the Hornets’ total points. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them on the verge of full-time manager No. 3, as full-time manager of Watford is a bit more like seasonal help.
Last week: 18
Season high: 17
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Southampton

19. Everton — A top half team in terms of talent seeks the manager who can organize its way out of the drop zone. Might it be this guy? Better than the alternatives.
Last week: 17
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Norwich City
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Leicester City

18. Norwich City — The first team to 10 losses is four points shy of 17th.
Last week: 16
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-0 at Everton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Arsenal

17. West Ham United — A gigantic ball of “blah.” Should thank Everton for existing so people aren’t more focused on this particular collection of currently squandered talent.
Last week: 20
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-2 v. Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Chelsea

16. Bournemouth — It’s just not good enough, is it? To have held onto Callum Wilson and get another step up in class from Philip Billing and still be so wildly inconsistent.
Last week: 11
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Wolves
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Spurs

15. Southampton — It really feels like the Danny Ings revival show could rival any story for the best individual one in the league this season. Happy to see Ralph Hasenhuttl get some good performances, as he was being scapegoated in a hurry.
Last week: 19
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 2-2 at Arsenal
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Watford

14. Aston Villa — Allowing a league-worst 18.8 shots per game, but staying in the mix thanks to Tom Heaton and Tyrone Mings.
Last week: 13
Season high: 8
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Newcastle United
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Sunday at Manchester United

13. Arsenal — The Gunners back line gets a lot of heat, and rightly so, but maybe a little help from the midfield would be nice considering Sokratis Papastathopoulos and David Luiz have combined for 39 blocks. Sokratis is third in the PL and Luiz fourth.
Last week: 12
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Drew 2-2 v. Southampton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Norwich City


12. Brighton and Hove Albion — First win ever away to Arsenal is another feather in the cap of Graham Potter, especially nice considering they had lost four on the bounce.
Last week: 14
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Liverpool

11. Newcastle United — No one is punching above its weight more than Steve Bruce‘s Magpies, and they’ve been aided in a big way by Martin Dubravka. The Slovakian goalkeeper has a league-best 44 saves from shots inside the 18.

Also, according to Understat’s xG numbers, they should’ve lost to the Blades. In fat, the xG table says they should be dead last. Life’s funny like that. It’s Steve Bruce’s world and we’re living in it.
Last week: 15
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Aston Villa
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Man City

https://understat.com/match/11786

10. Sheffield United — Just lost for the first time since September. That’s amazing.
Last week: 6
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 3-3 v. Manchester United
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

9. Burnley — Striker Chris Wood has been credited with 12 “big chances missed” by Sofascore, more than any player in the league.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 3-0 at Watford
Up next: 10 a.m. Saturday v. Crystal Palace

8. Spurs — Jose Mourinho learned Wednesday that Moussa Sissoko is nice for the squad, but not to be leaned on.
Last week: 9
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 3-2 at West Ham United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

7. Crystal Palace — Wilfried Zaha‘s 68 dribbles are 13 more than anyone else in the league.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

6. Manchester United — Ole had himself a moment in outfoxing Mourinho without Pogba or Martial.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Drew 3-3 at Sheffield United
Up next: 11:30 a.m. Sunday v. Aston Villa

5. Chelsea — We told you, Frank. WE TOLD YOU.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. West Ham United

4. Manchester City — Aymeric Laporte is still two months away and that’s two months too long.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Chelsea
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Newcastle United

3. Wolves — This is going to sound nuts, but there are days I’d rather see Liverpool on my schedule than Wolves. The Reds are obviously better weaponized, but Wolves come at you in waves, man, and Nuno Espirito Santo is doing it without his best center back.
Last week: 5
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-1 at Bournemouth
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Sheffield United

2. Leicester City — How’s this for an unsustainable stat? Wilfred Ndidi and Ricardo Pereira rank first and second in the league in tackles, with 67 and 62.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 2-0 at Brighton and Hove Albion
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Everton
1. Liverpool — Big Virgil Van Dijk is on track to become the first Premier League player to complete 1000 passes this season, currently at 953.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 at Crystal Palace
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Brighton and Hove Albion

Report: Everton targeting former Porto, Fener boss Pereira

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Everton might be looking to the Chinese Super League for its next manager.

Vitor Pereira is the top target for the Merseyside set, report our partners at Sky Sports, as the Toffees begin life after Thursday’s firing of Marco Silva.

Pereira, 51, has been in management since 2002, leading Porto, Olympiacos, Fenerbahce, and current club Shanghai SIPG amongst others.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

He’s won titles in Greece, China, Saudi Arabia, and his native Portugal, but there are suitors beyond the Toffees’ reported interest.

The 51-year-old is currently one of the highest paid coaches in the world and was recently offered the job of managing the Chinese national team.

It is understood he is currently considering a new contract offer from Shanghai, which will guarantee he earns £30m a year.

Duncan Ferguson is the interim boss as Everton hosts Chelsea this weekend.

MLS teams no longer will play every opponent each season

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NEW YORK (AP) Major League Soccer is breaking away from soccer’s tradition of having each team play every opponent in its league.

MLS is expanding to 26 teams in 2020 with the additions of Miami and Nashville but will keep a 34-game regular-season schedule. A team will play each of its 12 conference opponents home and away, and will face only 10 of the 13 teams in the other conference.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Nashville opens Feb. 29 at home against Atlanta and David Beckham’s Inter Miami starts March 1 at Los Angeles, the league said Thursday in announcing all home openers. Defending champion Seattle opens March 1 against Chicago.

Other Feb. 29 openers are Colorado at D.C., New England at Montreal, LA Galaxy at Houston, Toronto at San Jose, Philadelphia at Dallas, Salt Lake at Orlando and Kansas City at Vancouver. Games the following day include New York City at Columbus, Cincinnati at New York Red Bulls and Minnesota at Portland.

Home openers on March 7 are Chicago at New England, Red Bulls at Salt Lake, NYC at Toronto, Cincinnati at Atlanta, Houston at Kansas City, Orlando at Colorado and Vancouver at LA Galaxy. Four more home openers are set for March 14: Dallas at NYC, LA Galaxy at Miami, D.C. at Cincinnati and San Jose at Philadelphia.

The final home openers are Red Bulls at Minnesota on March 15 and Atlanta at Chicago on March 21 as the Fire return downtown to Soldier Field, their home from 1997-2005. The played in suburban Bridgeview from 2006 through last season.

More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports