La Liga & Serie A roundup: Real, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Roma all victorious

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A roundup of Wednesday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights:

Real Madrid 3-0 Almeria

Following Barcelona’s 6-0 victory on Tuesday, Real Madrid had to win to keep pace in the La Liga title race, and did just that to remain just two points behind the Catalan giants (84 to 82).

James Rodriguez opened the scoring just before halftime with a stunning full volley from more than 20 yards out that no ‘keeper in the world could have saved. Mauro Dos Santos put the ball into his own goal to make it 2-0 and Alvaro Arbeloa add that late insurance goal (84th minute) to complete Real’s sleepwalk-over of Almeria.

Villarreal 0-1 Atletico Madrid

One place below Real and Barca, down on 75 points, are Atletico Madrid, who used a 1-0 victory to maintain their six-point lead on Sevilla for the third and final automatic UEFA Champions League qualification place in La Liga.

Fernando Torres scored the only goal of the game after rounding the ‘keeper and sending a couple of onrushing defenders to ground and cutting back inside to slot the ball into an open net with just over 15 minutes left to play. It was just Torres’s second league goal since rejoining Atleti in January.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Eibar 1-3 Sevilla
Celta Vigo 1-0 Malaga
Elche 4-0 Deportivo La Coruna

Thursday’s La Liga schedule

Rayo Vallecano vs. Valencia (2 pm ET)
Granada vs. Espanyol (4 pm ET)


 


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Juventus 3-2 Fiorentina

Thanks to a thrilling 3-2 victory over Fiorentina on Wednesday, Juventus now need just two points from their final five league games to be crowned 2014-15 Serie A champions.

Gonzalo Rodriguez gave Fiorentina the lead from the penalty spot in the 33rd minute, but the advantage was short-lived, as Fernando Llorente equalized three minutes later. Carlos Tevez headed home during the first minute of first-half stoppage time and scored again in the 70th minute, shortly after Rodriguez’s unsuccessful second penalty attempt. Josip Illicic pulled one back for Fiorentina in the 90th minute, but Juve held on for their 23rd league victory of the season.

Lazio 4-0 Parma | Sassuolo 0-3 Roma

The race for second and Roman superiority is on, as Lazio and Roma remain just a point apart in the standings, on 62 and 61 points, respectively.

Marco Parolo, Miroslav Klose and Antonio Candreva all scored for Lazio inside the first 16 minutes of their 4-0 thrashing of Parma. Balde Keita added the fourth, as Lazio hold onto third place. Meanwhile, Roma were busy putting together their own flurry of goals, scored by Seydou Doumbia, Alessandro Florenzi and Miralem Pjanic, en route to a 3-0 victory over Sassuolo.

Elsewhere in Serie A

AC Milan 0-3 Genoa
Cesena 2-2 Atalanta
Chievo 1-0 Cagliari
Sampdoria 1-1 Hellas Verona
Palermo 2-2 Torino

Thursday’s Serie A schedule

Empoli vs. Napoli (2:45 pm ET)

Hodgson speaks out after Zaha reveals racial abuse

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Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha awoke to vile racist messages on his social media feeds prior to Sunday’s visit to Aston Villa from an account claiming to represent an AVFC fan.

The winger posted them on Twitter and both Palace and Villa — as well as the soccer world at large —  have leapt to the defense of the Ivorian.

“This is an absolute disgrace and should not be happening,” Tweeted Palace along with a RT of Zaha’s shared examples. “We stand with you, Wilf, and anyone else who has to suffer such horrific abuse.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Villa added a message rejecting the messages and promising both Palace and Zaha that the Midlands club would find the offending party and issue him a lifetime ban.

The commentary from the offending account included Ku Klux Klan and Blackface imagery as well as gross personal attacks.

Palace manager Roy Hodgson commented on the incident during our pregame coverage (above).

“It’s important. It’s being highlighted very much at the moment with the Black Lives Matter. Everyone seems to be making such an effort to eradicate this type of behavior. It’s very sad on the day of a game that player wakes up to this cowardly and despicable abuse but I think it’s right that Wilf made people aware of it. I don’t think this is something you should keep quiet about.

“It’s very good that our club, Aston Villa, and the Premier League are doing everything they can to find out who this despicable individual is and one can only hope that he’ll get identified, called into account, and he will pay for these actions. There is literally no excuse at all. He wants to put off one of our best players but to do it in the way he’s chosen to do it is inexcusable.”

Toronto FC-DC United postponed due to COVID-19 tests

Toronto - DC United postponed
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
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It happened just like that, after a day’s worth of hype for Sunday morning’s MLS is Back Tournament debuts from Toronto FC and DC United.

Two COVID-19 tests — an unconfirmed positive COVID-19 test and an inconclusive one — were enough to postpone the 9am ET kickoff from Orlando, where the participating teams are living for the month-long affair.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

MLS will announce details for the rescheduled match later Sunday.

Nashville SC and FC Dallas have been withdrawn from the tournament due to a series of COVID-19 tests while LAFC star Carlos Vela removed himself due to concerns for his growing family.

From TorontoFC.ca:

Under the league’s health and safety protocols, clubs are tested the day before each match.  The results of yesterday’s tests for D.C. United and Toronto FC produced an initial unconfirmed positive COVID-19 case for one player and an inconclusive test for another player.  Because of the arrival time of the clubs in Orlando, the league’s protocol called for retesting both teams this morning and to await the results of those tests prior to playing the match.

Wolves throttle sorry Everton

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Wolves overran sleepy Everton to snap a two-game losing skid with a 3-0 win at the Molineux on Sunday.

Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota, and Leander Dendoncker scored for Wolves, who are back within four points of the top four before Manchester United and Leicester City stage their 35th matches.

 [ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Wolves face Burnley, Palace, and Chelsea, and will be considering a berth in the top four with a little help on the out-of-town scoreboard.

Everton remains 11th with 45 points and will finish the season with Villa, Sheffield United, and Bournemouth.

WATCH WOLVES – EVERTON FULL MATCH REPLAY


Three things we learned

1. Everton awakened from European dreams: Carlo Ancelotti’s 2020-21 plans officially start now. The Toffees are five points back of the Europa League with three matches left and could be seven or eight behind should there be a winner of the North London Derby later Sunday. It just hasn’t come together for the Toffees starting with the myriad injury troubles for Jean-Philippe Gbamin — out until 2021 — in his bid to take over for influential Idrissa Gana Gueye. There were other long-term injuries like Andre Gomes as well as the continued decline of Jordan Pickford, but there are too many bright spots for this side to be bottom-half. A mentality shift must be coming to Goodison, but you would’ve expected that to be cemented over the coronavirus pause.

2. Podence deputizes: January buy Daniel Podence has found it hard to find a place in Nuno Espirito Santo’s Starting XI but he’s taking his chances well. Podence forced a good save out of Jordan Pickford early, then won a penalty. He converted four of his five dribble attempts and claimed 67% of his ground duels (SofaScore).

3. Carlo needs a keeper: Carlo Ancelotti has gone out of his way to defend Jordan Pickford in the past and it’s certainly nice to have an England keeper as your No. 1 if you’re a Premier League boss, but the Toffees aren’t firing on to Europe any time soon with shot-stopping of his quality. Pickford nearly fumbled a ball over the with the score line 2-0. He’s still capable of the show-stopping saves but he’s not producing them as often and he’s not as consistent with the average to above average stuff he consistently displayed while making his name at Sunderland.

Man of the Match

Ruben Neves — He is a special, special talent. Neves’ assist on Jota’s goal was just marvelous and capped off a day of both tidy and ambitious passing. He’s been one of their best players since the restart, a physical force with technical gifts.

LOOK. AT. THIS. PASS.


Wolves – Everton recap

A slow-enough start was highlighted by Lucas Digne’s sliding intervention on Raul Jimenez in the 18.

Everton keeper Jordan Pickford then had to make a low save at the near post on Daniel Podence following a slick 1v1 move.

Yerry Mina didn’t last the first half thanks to a thigh injury, replaced a half-dozen minutes before halftime by Seamus Coleman.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Podence drew a penalty off Digne in stoppage time, sending Raul Jimenez to the spot. The Mexican center forward did not miss.

Everton took off Leighton Baines and handed a PL debut to 18-year-old January signing Jarrad Branthwaite.

Wolves made it 2-0 within moments and at the expense of the debutant, Dendoncker staying in front of Branthwaite to nod Pedro Neto’s free kick on goal.

Pickford nearly fumbled a low shot into his own goal but Goal Decision System proved he rescued the ball when it was half over the line.

Aston Villa – Crystal Palace stream: How to watch, team news, start time

Aston Villa - Crystal Palace stream
Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images
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Aston Villa – Crystal Palace preview: Dean Smith’s Villans need a win over Crystal Palace to keep hope of remaining in the Premier League alive (Watch live at 9:15am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Villa has just left a brutal run of fixtures and finds itself seven points back of safety with four matches to play. If that figure remains seven with three to play, well, the math is grim even with West Ham as the last name on that fixture list.

WATCH ASTON VILLA – CRYSTAL PALACE STREAM LIVE ONLINE

Palace’s European hopes have settled into a valley, eight points away from the 42 points and 14th place.

Team news

Both Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings start for Villa along with John McGinn in the middle and Pepe Reina at the back.

It’ll be the usual suspects for Palace, with possible subs including James McCarthy, Andros Townsend, and Max Meyer.

 

How to watch Aston Villa – Crystal Palace

Kickoff: 9:15 am ET Sunday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com