A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…
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Barcelona 6-0 Alaves
Luis Enrique’s side has looked like a shell of itself at times this season, but Saturday showed just how good Barcelona can be when one top of its game. The Blaugrana throttled Alaves at the Camp Nou behind a brace from Luis Suarez to keep chase in the title race. Neymar, Lionel Messi and Ivan Rakitic also got their names on the scoresheet in the rout, while an own goal from Alexis helped give the hosts a six-goal afternoon.
Osasuna 1-3 Real Madrid
Real received an unexpected fight from Osasuna on Saturday but the league leaders battled past the hosts with a strong second half effort. Cristiano Ronaldo put Los Blancos ahead inside of 24 minutes, but the hosts responded nine minute later through Sergio Leon. Real came away with the points though when Isco and Lucas Vasquez scored in the second stanza to make the scoreline more comfortable.
Elsewhere in La Liga
Real Betis 0-0 Valencia
Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Deportivo La Coruna
Sunday’s La Liga schedule
Villareal vs. Malaga (6 a.m. ET)
Leganes vs. Sporting Gijon (10:15 a.m. ET)
Las Palmas vs. Sevilla (12:30 a.m. ET)
Atletico Madrid vs. Celta Vigo (2:45 p.m. ET)
Fiorentina 1-0 Udinese
The Viola moved into seventh place on Saturday with this match the lone fixture on the Serie A docket. Fiorentina dominated the encounter, scoring on both sides of halftime to pull within three points of the top four. Borja Valero found the back of the net in the opening stanza, while Kouma Babacar and Federico Bernardeschi put the finishing touches on the affair after halftime.
Sunday’s Serie A schedule
Crotone vs. Roma (6:30 a.m. ET)
Inter Milan vs. Empoli (9 a.m. ET)
Palermo vs. Atalanta (9 a.m. ET)
Sassuolo vs. Chievo Verona (9 a.m. ET)
Torino vs. Pescara (9 a.m. ET)
Sampdoria vs. Bologna (9 a.m. ET)
Cagliari vs. Juventus (2:45 p.m. ET)
Zinedine Zidane’s open flirtation with Paul Pogba continues, as the Real Madrid manager was asked about Manchester United’s star midfielder again on Saturday.
“We need to respect everybody, but the only thing I can say from the club is we know what we want to do,” Zidane said. “Something could happen before the end of August. We could have some changes.”
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On paper the purchase of Pogba makes sense to reloading Real, but the problem here is the sheer amount of paper the Madrid side has spent on players this season.
While sales of James Rodriguez, Dani Ceballos, and Gareth Bale could put Real in okay position regarding Financial Fair Play, buying Pogba would move the needle hard in the other direction considering the club has bought Ferland Mendy, Eden Hazard, Eder Militao, Luka Jovic, and Rodrygo.
Plus, Florentino Perez likes to buy only one Galactico per transfer session, and Hazard is undoubtedly this summer’s model.
That said, Real has assets that United could use in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s overhaul of the Old Trafford set.
NYON, Switzerland (AP) Bulgaria will have to close part of its national stadium for European Championship qualifiers against England and the Czech Republic because of fan racism.
UEFA issued the order, saying Bulgarian fans were racially abusive during a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic and a 3-2 loss to Kosovo last month.
Bulgaria hosts England on Oct. 14 and the Czech Republic on Nov. 17.
Romania has also been ordered to close part of its home stadium for a future under-21 game after UEFA ruled its fans behaved in a racist manner during the European under-21 championship last month.
Another racism case against Latvia was dropped.
UEFA also handed out various fines to Romania, Ukraine, and Greece for rowdy behavior by fans.
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.
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.
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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.