La Liga & Serie A roundup: Barcelona, Madrid clubs keep winning; Juventus, Roma drop points

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A roundup of all the weekend’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights:

Real Madrid 3-0 Celta Vigo

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his record-setting 23rd La Liga hat trick and his 200th goal for Real Madrid (178 games) since joining the Spanish giants in 2009. The Portuguese superstar opened the scoring after winning a penalty with a blatant dive 10 minutes before halftime. He was then the beneficiary of a poorly headed clearance, which fell to him inside the Celta Vigo penalty area and was rifled into the back of the net on a full volley. Marcelo set up Los Blancos‘ third of the game with a cross from the left which Ronaldo easily redirected into an open net.

Barcelona 5-1 Espanyol

Lionel Messi saw what Ronaldo had done the day before and refusing to be outdone this weekend, went ahead and netted a hat trick of his own. The first was a low, hard-hit curler through traffic that snuck inside the left post. For his second, Messi nutmegged a defender outside the 18-yard box before again firing a perfectly placed shot into the bottom corner. To complete Barcelona‘s scoring on the day, he redirected a low, near-post cross past the goalkeeper just inside the far post. Gerard Pique and Pedro were the other Barca scorers.

Elche 0-2 Atletico Madrid

The defending La Liga champions kept pace with this year’s frontrunners, thanks to goals from Jose Gimenez (16th minute) and Mario Mandzukic (53rd). Of Atletico Madrid‘s mere eight shots in the game, three were on target and two found the back of the net.

Real Madrid (36 points) stay top of La Liga, two points clear of Barcelona and four above Atletico.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Athletic Bilbao 0-1 Cordoba
Deportivo La Coruna 0-1 Malaga
Rayo Vallecano 0-1 Sevilla
Villarreal 4-0 Real Sociedad
Granada 1-1 Valencia


source: Getty Images
Adem Ljajic, AS Roma

Fiorentina 0-0 Juventus

League-leaders Juventus failed to turn 52 percent of the game’s possession and 10 shots (three on goal) into three points. Luckily for them, someone else at the top of the Serie A table had an even more adventurous outing this weekend.

Roma 2-2 Sassuolo

The Giallorossi couldn’t capitalize on Juve’s slip-up and dropped two points of their own, though they’ll not think of it that was after going two goals and a man down after 50 minutes. Simone Zaza scored a quick double in the 15th and 18th minutes before Daniele De Rossi earned his second yellow card of the game just after halftime. Adem Ljajic scored once from the penalty spot (78th minute) once from open play (third minute of stoppage time) to rescue a point and keep the Romans three behind the league leaders.

Genoa 1-0 AC Milan

Luca Antonelli headed home a corner kick in the 32nd minute to give Genoa all three points and push the Rossoblu into 3rd place, Serie A’s final Champions League place. Meanwhile, AC Milan slipped to 7th after Lazio‘s 2-1 victory over Parma catapulted them all the way into 5th.

Inter 1-2 Udinese

Misery loves company, doesn’t it? There’s plenty to go around in the city of Milan these days. Inter slipped to 12th place in Serie A after Bruno Fernandes (60th minute) and Cyril Thereau (71st) completed a second-half comeback following Mauro Icardi‘s 44th-minute opener.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Torino 2-2 Palermo
Napoli 2-2 Empoli
Atalanta 3-2 Cesena

Transfer rumor roundup: Everton join Zaha chase; Matuidi to Man Utd?

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A roundup of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors from around the world, including those involving a few Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly” ]

Wilfried Zaha is one of the most wanted men in England, with Arsenal reportedly hot on his trail all summer. An deal between the Gunners and Crystal Palace is yet  to transpire, though, which has perhaps left the door open for Everton to sneak through and sign the 26-year-old Ivory Coast international.

Arsenal would obviously pay more in wages, but are yet to meet Palace’s valuation of their talisman. If Everton is the club that calls with the requisite figures on offer, it wouldn’t be the worst landing place for Zaha. With Arsenal yet to make a meaningful signing this summer, and the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny already gone or on their way out, the 2019-20 season could see the Gunners take a step back, opening the door for — you guessed it — Everton to break into the top-five… or -four.

Speaking of Ramsey, his arrival at Juventus has perhaps made Blaise Matuidi surplus to requirements, which means he could be available for cut-rate price.

Manchester United seem to be perennially in need of influential central midfielders, especially this summer after the departure of Ander Herrera and the failure of a signing that was Fred last summer. Man United have reportedly been in contact with Juve about the 32-year-old, as have Paris Saint-Germain and Everton.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is another midfielder who’s been linked with United, but he’ll likely just as much as, if not more than, the $59-million fee paid for Fred. Milinkovic-Savic seemed a surefire target for the world’s top clubs after a star’s showing at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, but the 24-year-old remained at Lazio and is still yet to move 12 months later.

Patrick Cutrone was one of Europe’s breakout stars of the 2018-19 season, now the 21-year-old AC Milan forward is reportedly high atop Wolverhampton Wanderers’ shopping list this summer. He won’t come cheap — Milan are expected to demand nearly $30 million — but he could offer some serious insurance in the event of an injury to Raul Jimenez.

PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly”

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Premier League interim chief executive Richard Masters says that referees have ben instructed “to use the referee review area a bit more sparingly” and rely on the numerous video-assistant referees (VAR) at their disposal to make simple calls upon review when video review is instituted in the PL next month.

[ MORE: Lukaku latest: Man United reject $67-million bid from Inter Milan ]

Following the 2019 Women’s World Cup, where far too many trip to the monitor were made by the center referees, the PL is keen on ensuring that “the Premier League or English football [is not] interrupted, or the pace of the game [is not] changed.” It sounds very much like a “less is more” approach  — quotes from the BBC:

“I think fans want to see those clear and obvious mistakes changed and put right. But they don’t want to see the Premier League or English football interrupted, or the pace of the game changed.

“I think the only difference you might see is the referees using the referee review area a bit more sparingly and relying more on the VAR for the more subjective decisions.

“But we are putting something new into the Premier League and if it needs to be refined or improved or tweaked we will look at it when the moment arises.”

In theory, this should work quite well for the PL. Many of the decisions that referees go to the monitor to review themselves could easily be made by the “fifth official.” If it’s obvious to the VAR and he/she can make the call with 100 percent certainty, the center ref should always take their decision in the name of keeping the game flowing. If the VAR isn’t so sure, or it’s a more subjective call that should be made by the person making 99 percent of the game’s calls, go to the monitor. But do so quickly.

Lukaku latest: Man United reject $67-million bid from Inter Milan

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Given two key factors — the date on the calendar and how far apart the two sides appear to be in their respective valuations — it’s looking increasingly likely that Romelu Lukaku will still be a Manchester United player when the upcoming Premier League season starts, despite numerous bids by Inter Milan this summer.

[ MORE: Borussia Dortmund tops Liverpool 3-2 at Notre Dame ]

According to reports out of the UK, Man United have rejected Inter’s latest bid, said to be for $67.5 million. The Red Devils paid $96 million for the big Belgian forward just two summers ago and appear hellbent on recouping most, if not all, of their investment.

Antonio Conte called Lukaku “an important player for us” this week in an attempt to further unsettle the 26-year-old, but that doesn’t appear to have shaken United’s resolve in holding out for the fee they desire.

[ MORE: Wolves top Man City on penalties in PL Asia Trophy final ]

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is growing tired of answering questions about the saga, especially since there has been little to no progress made in recent days and weeks. When pressed on the topic again this week, he said he had “no more updates.”

Wolves top Man City on penalties in PL Asia Trophy final

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The 2019 Premier League Asia Trophy wrapped up on Saturday, as four PL sides took the field in Shanghai, China…

[ MORE: Borussia Dortmund tops Liverpool 3-2 at Notre Dame ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-0 (3-2 PKs) Man City

Wolves turned in a fantastic defensive display against the two-time reigning PL champions, indicating that Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side is very much ready for the start of the season. Man City had plenty of the ball in dangerous areas, but Wolves were quick to close off the passages when City typically dominate.

Wolves captain Conor Coady was part of the stellar defensive performance and he lauded some of the young players who entered the game as second-half substitutes and saw the game out to 0-0.

“To beat City at any point is a great accomplishment for us,” he said after the game. “We rode our luck at times but I thought the young boys were outstanding”

David Silva had perhaps the game’s best scoring chance in the 78th minute, but Rui Patricio made a top-drawer save to deny the Spaniard’s curling effort at the last possible moment.

Silva and Ilkay Gundogan began the penalty shootout with back-to-back efforts saved by Patricio. 20-year-old forward Lukas Nmecha was also denied on City’s fifth and final attempt.

Newcastle United 1-0 West Ham United

Newly appointed head coach Steve Bruce watched as an observer, due to “the terms of his visa,” as his Newcastle side beat Manuel Pellegrini‘s West Ham 1-0 in the third-place playoff.

Yoshinori Muto bagged the game’s only goal in the 34th minute. Jamie Sterry whipped in a cross from the right wing that curled around a pair of defenders at the near post and presented itself to Muto, still with plenty of work to do, for a first-time finish.