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La Liga: Messi’s hat trick; Barca tie record of 38 games unbeaten

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi scored a hat trick and ensured Barcelona equaled a Spanish league record of 38 matches without a loss after beating Leganes 3-1 on Saturday.

Barcelona matched Real Sociedad’s milestone set in 1979-80 by remaining undefeated through 31 rounds this season after finishing the last campaign without a loss over the final seven games. The runaway leader hasn’t lost in La Liga in a year.

Ernesto Valverde’s side can establish a new unbeaten record if it doesn’t lose to Valencia next weekend. It will then have another six rounds left in its quest to finish the entire campaign without a defeat.

“This is one of those records that goes down in history,” Valverde said. “I am excited to have matched it because of what it means, and what it meant at that time for Real (Sociedad). Over time you realize its importance.”

Reaching the mark set by Sociedad underscores the exceptional job Valverde is doing in his first year with the team. Despite having Messi and other top players, Barcelona entered the season reeling from the unwanted departure of star striker Neymar and back-to-back losses to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup.

Eight months later and Barcelona is marching toward the recovery of the Liga title from Madrid. It opened a 12-point lead over second-place Atletico Madrid before it faces third-place Madrid in a derby on Sunday.

Messi scored from a free kick for the seventh time this season before completing his third league hat trick in 2017-18.

The Argentina forward earned a foul from Leganes defender Dimitrios Siovas a few meters outside the top of the area, to the right. It was a perfect spot for him to curl a left-footed strike high beyond the reach of diving goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar.

Messi followed up on his 27th-minute opener with a second goal five minutes later, slotting a low strike in after Coutinho met his run into the box.

Barcelona paid for its complacency in the second half when Leganes forward Nabil El Zhar stuck on a counterattack in the 68th, after his shot grazed Sergi Roberto beat goalie Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Messi flipped his third goal over Cuellar after receiving a pass from Ousmane Dembele in the 87th.

The treble took Messi’s league-leading tally to 29.

Roberto, who has already shown his versatility playing as a midfielder, right back, or forward, added to his repertoire by playing his first match at left back for Barcelona. That let Jordi Alba rest until he went on as a late substitute along with Andres Iniesta.

Sergio Busquets and Samuel Umtiti also rested ahead of Barcelona’s return-leg Champions League quarterfinal at Roma on Tuesday. Barcelona won the first leg 4-1.

Liga MX wrap: Xolos beats Chivas as Apertura begins

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Liga MX’s Apertura season is off and running with all 18 clubs partaking in a match this weekend.

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Club Tijuana 2-1 Chivas Guadalajara

Scoreless at the half, the weekend’s marquee match sprang to life in the final 45. Juan Martin Lucero gave TJ a 54th minute lead before Jose Van Rankin knotted it up five minutes later.

Lucero assisted Jose Rivero’s 75th minute winner, which was helped in its status when Michael Perez took a red card in the 80th.

Cruz Azul 3-0 Puebla

Elias Hernandez scored a goal and added an assist, and Milton Caraglio put one of his five shots on goal into the net. Andres Renteria also scored in the win.

Tigres 2-0 Leon

Andre-Pierre Gignac scored, and Lucas Zelarayan marked a goal and an assist in the win.

Elsewhere
Necaxa 2-1 Club America
Toluca 2-0 Morelia
Santos Laguna 2-1 Lobos BUAP
Pachuca 0-1 Monterrey
Veracruz 0-2 Pumas UNAM
Atlas 0-0 Queretaro

Report: Colorado acquires USMNT mid Acosta for Badji

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The West’s first place team is switching it up in a big way.

FC Dallas is sending Homegrown Player and USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta to Western foes Colorado Rapids in exchange for striker Dominique Badji, according to a report by The Dallas Morning News.

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Acosta, 22, has 17 caps and a goal for the U.S., and is primarily a defensive midfielder. He’s also played right and left back.

He’s appeared 139 times for Dallas, scoring 13 times with nine assists, but had fallen out with head coach Oscar Pareja. He’s also struggled mightily on the field, according to WhoScored.

Badji, 25, has seven goals and three assists in 16 matches for the Rapids this season, building on an eight-goal, five-assist campaign last season.

FCD has gotten six goals out of forward Maxi Urruti, and there’s been little production from anyone else. Cristian Colman is out with an ankle injury and managed just a pair of goals in 399 minutes.

The risk of trading Acosta is mitigated by the continued speculation that he may test the waters of European soccer. Badji’s a quality player, but Colorado may’ve gotten a bargain in its push to escape the dregs of the West.

Quintero, Loons pick LAFC apart in five-star win (video)

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Minnesota United throttled LAFC on Sunday, using a Christian Ramirez brace to batter the hot expansion team 5-1 in Minnesota.

Darwin Quintero had a goal and two assists for the Loons, who took advantage of LAFC’s decision not to start dominant forward Adama Diomande and center back Walker Zimmerman.

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Quintero ripped off seven shots, putting five on goal. He now has 10 goals and five assists since joining the Loons after scoring two and eight in 29 matches for Club America last year.

Miguel Ibarra recorded a goal and an assist, while Rasmus Schuller also scored. LAFC’s goal came courtesy Benny Feilhaber.

Minnesota’s Bobby Shuttleworth and LA’s Tyler Miller each made six saves in their goals.

LAFC fails in a bid to make up points on Western Conference first seed FC Dallas, while the Loons now can eye a playoff spot in the West.

Already-thin Liverpool center back corps loses Matip to quad injury

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Liverpool’s 3-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund featured an injury to a position with very little depth.

The Reds lost Joel Matip to what Jurgen Klopp said could possibly be a “small tear” in one of his quads.

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If Matip, 26, needs any significant time to heal up, he’ll put a major question mark into Liverpool’s opening day center back pairing.

Virgil Van Dijk, who scored against BVB on Sunday, already won’t have Dejan Lovren as a partner thanks to a post-World Cup vacation.

That leaves Joe Gomez and Ragnar Klavan as options next to Van Dijk.

Matches at Crystal Palace and home to Brighton and Hove Albion follow the Aug. 12 visit from West Ham.