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La Liga & Serie A: Barca cruise in derby; Mertens bags four for Napoli

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A roundup of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Chelsea go 9 points clear; Man Utd streaking ]

Barcelona 4-1 Espanyol

The gap between Barcelona and Real Madrid is now just three points after the Blaugrana thrashed Espanyol in the Catalan derby on Sunday (though Madrid now have a game in hand due to their trip to the Club World Cup). Luis Suarez scored twice, his 11th and 12th goals of the 2016-17 La Liga season, with Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba also netting for Barca.

Suarez’s second, and Barca’s second, stands out as the pick of the litter, not for the Uruguayan’s finish, but for the mesmerizing passage of dribbling by Messi during the build-up (WATCH HERE). Messi was made to wait until the 90th minute to notch his 10th goal of the league season, but it was well worth the wait, even if only for the sequence of passes between himself and Suarez.

[ MORE: La Liga — Atleti end poor run of results; Sevilla go 2nd (for now) ]

Elsewhere in La Liga

Deportivo La Coruña 2-0 Osasuna
Leganes 1-1 Eibar

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Real Madrid 15 11 4 0 40 14 26 6-2-0 5-2-0 37
 Barcelona 16 10 4 2 41 16 25 4-3-1 6-1-1 34
 Sevilla 16 10 3 3 32 21 11 7-0-1 3-3-2 33
 Villarreal 16 8 5 3 25 11 14 6-1-1 2-4-2 29
 Real Sociedad 16 9 2 5 28 21 7 5-2-1 4-0-4 29
 Atlético Madrid 16 8 4 4 29 14 15 5-2-1 3-2-3 28
 Eibar 16 6 5 5 22 20 2 5-2-1 1-3-4 23
 Athletic 15 7 2 6 20 18 2 5-1-1 2-1-5 23
 Espanyol 16 5 7 4 20 22 -2 2-4-2 3-3-2 22

Napoli 5-3 Torino

Dries Mertens scored not one, not two, not three, but four goals as third-place Napoli blitzed ninth-place Torino early and held on for dear life late. Mertens had his hat trick after 22 minutes, and former Tottenham Hotspur defender Vlad Chiriches made it 4-1 (following Andrea Belotti’s league-leading 12th goal of the season) after 70 minutes.

Then came the comeback attempt, as Torino pulled one back six minutes later, only to be rebuffed by Mertens’ fourth of the game in the 80th minute, followed by another for former Tottenham man, Iago Falque, pulling the visitors back to within two goals. The victory pulls Napoli to within a point of Roma in the race for second, but still only fourth in the league table after Lazio made easy work of Fiorentina to remain third.

[ MORE: Serie A — Juventus beat 2nd-place Roma, go 7 points clear ]

Lazio 3-1 Fiorentina

Keita put the home side ahead after 23 minutes, and Lucas Biglia made it 2-0 during first-half stoppage time. Former West Ham United forward Mauro Zarate pulled Fiorentina back to 2-1 in the 64th minute, but that’s as close as the Viola would get, as Stefan Radu put a tidy bow on the victory in the 90th minute.

[ MORE: Ligue 1 — Pressure increasing on Emery as PSG lose 4th league game ]

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sassuolo 0-1 Inter Milan
Udinese 2-0 Crotone
Pescara 3-0 Bologna
Chievo 2-1 Sampdoria
Genoa 3-4 Palermo

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Juventus 17 14 0 3 36 14 22 9-0-0 5-0-3 42
 Roma 17 11 2 4 36 17 19 8-0-0 3-2-4 35
 Napoli 17 10 4 3 37 18 19 6-2-1 4-2-2 34
 Lazio 17 10 4 3 32 18 14 6-1-2 4-3-1 34
 AC Milan 17 10 3 4 27 20 7 6-2-1 4-1-3 33
 Atalanta 17 9 2 6 25 20 5 5-0-3 4-2-3 29
 Inter Milan 17 8 3 6 25 21 4 5-2-1 3-1-5 27
 Fiorentina 17 7 5 5 25 21 4 4-4-0 3-1-5 26
 Torino 17 7 4 6 35 27 8 5-2-1 2-2-5 25

Finlay goal gives Minnesota win over former club Columbus (video)

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It had to be him.

As Columbus continues to search for itself under new management, it’s no surprise that one of its old heroes broke its heart on Saturday.

[ RECAP: Man City 6-0 Watford ]

Ethan Finlay, he of the 166 Crew appearances before being traded to Minnesota United, said earlier this week, “I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t want to beat up on them pretty bad.”

So of course Finlay scored a 70th minute tap-in to give his Loons a 1-0 win over Columbus on Saturday in St. Paul. It wasn’t “pretty bad,” but it probably felt pretty good.

The goal was Finlay’s first of the season for United, keeping the hosts unbeaten at home.

Columbus falls to 1-5 away from home under Caleb Porter, and has won just once in its last seven outings.

Brighton ready to pay release clause for Swans manager

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Brighton and Hove Albion is ready to bring one of England’s brightest managerial prospects into the Premier League.

The Seagulls are set to pay a $3 million release clause to lure Graham Potter away from Swansea City, one year after the manager left Swedish club Ostersunds FK.

[ RECAP: Man City 6-0 Watford ]

Potter was 35 when he was hired by the Swedish club in 2010, and helped Ostersunds to three promotions before moving to Wales in 2018.

Swans finished 10th this season, its first in the Championship after relegation from the Premier League.

Brighton regressed in a big way during the second half of this season, and remains in the top flight largely because Cardiff City was unable to take advantage of the Seagulls’ huge struggles.

The report says Swansea offered Potter a new deal to stay at the Liberty Stadium, but the manager wants to try the Premier League.

If he takes the job, Potter will manage against one of his former clubs; Potter played eight times for Southampton in the Premier League.

Pep: Domestic treble harder than winning Champions League

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Manchester City won its third tournament of the season on Saturday, battering Watford 6-0 at Wembley Stadium to add an FA Cup to its League Cup and Premier League titles.

[ RECAP: Man City 6-0 Watford ]

In doing so, City is the first club to win a domestic treble. Manager Pep Guardiola wants to win every competition he enters, but said winning all three is extra special.

“I love the Champions League but it is more difficult to do what we have done than to win the Champions League,” Guardiola said.

Wait, what?

From ManCity.com:

“It’s not easy being there every three days. We lacked a little bit of energy but it’s normal. It’s been so tough this week. We could not have had more energy but we kept it at the right time.”

Well, that makes sense. Whereas Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp risked less with his cup lineups, knowing his desire for the Premier League and Champions League, Guardiola’s lineups were aimed at winning everything.

And that’s largely why they’ve done it. City might’ve needed penalty kicks to beat Chelsea in the League Cup Final and a John Stones clearance to win the Premier League (or a Vincent Kompany thunderbolt), but the treble is impressive.

AC Milan boss Gattuso insists fifth “not a failure”

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For a solid four months, it appeared AC Milan was on track for a return to the Champions League for the first time in six years. Then, it all fell apart.

Still, manager Gennaro Gattuso is insisting their season is not a failure, adamant that a fifth-placed finish would not be considered a disappointment for the club. His reasoning will not be exactly endearing to fans.

“Fifth place absolutely wouldn’t be a failure, not because I want credit myself, plus what would Roma and Lazio say?” Gattuso said during his pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday’s game against Frosinone. “There’s regret because for two months we’ve had our fate in our hands and we dropped so many points, but it’s not a failure.”

Milan was as high as third place in the Serie A table in mid-March and seemed close to wrapping up a return to Champions League play, but a stretch of one win in seven league matches saw them tumble down into the crowded battle below, with Atalanta, Roma, Torino, and Lazio all in a pack. AC Milan now sits sixth, and while they still remain in the mix for the fourth position, they would need to make up a three-point deficit in just two matches. Fifth-placed Roma drew today, so they can jump to fifth with a win against Frosinone.

Milan was a European powerhouse for decades until the club declined following its 2007 Champions League victory, ultimately falling out of the running for Europe’s top competition, with just a few Europa League appearances since 2014. Gattuso’s comparison to Lazio and Roma, two strong Italian clubs without Milan’s history, is bound to infuriate fans, along with his acceptance of the club’s shortcomings.

The late-season collapse has called Gattuso’s job security into question, but he said that will wait until the end of the season. “Both the club and I have put aside our small talk to reach our objective,” Gattuso said during the presser. “There will be time to talk about the future.”

“There are two games left and we’re still playing for our objective.”