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Atletico Madrid and Valencia draw in Spanish league debut

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MADRID (AP) Atletico Madrid and Valencia couldn’t manage more than a 1-1 draw in the opening match of the season for potential contenders for the Spanish league title on Monday.

Both teams debuted new signings and came boosted by great seasons a year ago, but it was an even match from the start at Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium, with neither finding an edge to earn the victory.

[ RECAP: Palace 0-2 Liverpool ]

The hosts came closer to winning and squandered a few great chances in the final minutes.

Angel Correa gave Atletico the lead in the 25th minute with a shot from close range after a great set up by Antoine Griezmann, who cleared a few defenders before sending a perfect ball to the forward behind the defense. Correa had only goalkeeper Neto to beat and easily found the corner.

Atletico held on for the rest of the first half but Valencia equalized shortly after halftime with a great goal by striker Rodrigo, who controlled the ball with his chest after a cross into the area and fired a left-footed shot into the top of the net.

“We can’t say it was unfair, but if we had won the match it wouldn’t be a crazy result,” Rodrigo said. “We faced a great rival and showed that we are playing on a high level. That’s what we want to keep doing the whole season.”

Gabriel Paulista nearly scored again for Valencia less than 10 minutes after Rodrigo’s goal, but his header off a corner struck the post. Daniel Wass had a chance on a breakaway with a few minutes left, but his shot was saved by Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak. Kevin Gameiro also missed a clear opportunity just before the final whistle.

“We lacked organization in the end and I didn’t like that,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “But I’ll stick to what we did well. These teams are very similar and we had our chances to win the match.”

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Atletico finished runner-up to Barcelona in the league last season, while Valencia was fourth and secured a Champions League berth. Atletico was coming off a victory over city rival Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.

Simeone started Monday’s match with one of the team’s top signings in the offseason, France forward Thomas Lemar, playing up front with Griezmann and Diego Costa. Other recently arrived players began on the bench, including Gelson Martins, Nikola Kalinic and Rodri. Martins came in as a substitute in the second half, replacing Griezmann.

Wass, one of Valencia’s new signings, was in the starting lineup, while Gameiro, Denis Cheryshev and Michy Batshuayi began on the bench. Gameiro and Batshuayi entered in the second half.

Defending champion Barcelona made its league debut on Saturday with a 3-0 win against Alaves with a pair of goals by Lionel Messi at Camp Nou Stadium.

Real Madrid opened with a 2-0 win over Getafe with Gareth Bale scoring and setting up Dani Carvajal’s goal at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Athletic Bilbao hosts Leganes later Monday to close out the first round.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Season restart preview: Brighton and Hove Albion

Brighton season restart
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

Brighton is next.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Seagulls when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: If there’s a team whose results don’t show the way they’ve played, it’s Brighton. Graham Potter’s Seagulls have the sixth-best possession percentage in the league, are a tidy seventh in passing, and are mid-table in tackles per game, interceptions per game, and shots per game.

[ MORE: Ranking every Brighton player in 2019-20 ]

The expected goals stats show even less reward for good work, with Brighton scoring 8.35 goals less than expected in open play and 4.38 less from corner kicks.

Despite all these good things, Brighton is two points clear of the drop zone with nine matches to play and has a terribly challenging schedule especially at the Amex Stadium.


Tactical analysis: Graham Potter has put the Seagulls in myriad formations this season, though he’s been utilizing at least four at the back since the calendar turned to 2020. He’s ready to attack but pragmatic given the club’s hopes of staving off the teams below it in the fight for PL survival.

[ MORE: The 2 Robbies assess Brighton’s chances ]


Possible XI (4-2-3-1) 

—– Ryan —–

— Montoya — Webster — Dunk — Burn —

—– Propper —– Mooy —–

— Trossard — Gross — Alzate —

—– Maupay—–

Glenn Murray and Alireza Jahanbakhsh are excellent weapons to have on the bench, and Brighton’s also got a very good center back in reserve in the form of Shame Duffy and an underrated center mid in Dale Stephens who will see playing time, too. On paper, this team is too good to go down.


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle
Away: Leicester, Norwich, Southampton, Burnley

Predicted finish: They’ll do enough to get by, though that home fixture list is simply brutal. Safe before the final weekend.

Social media wrap: All 20 Premier League clubs, many players stand against racism

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The protests in the United States have inspired anti-racism statements from around the world, including all gestures from all 20 Premier League clubs and many players and managers.

There have been ongoing protests and horrible violence in the U.S. since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes even after he stopped moving and pleaded for air in Minnesota.

Newcastle United’s American defender DeAndre Yedlin issued an emotional thread (below) as one of a great deal of players to express hopes for change and solidarity, while Schalke’s Weston McKennie explained his wearing a black armband reading “Justice For George” in the Bundesliga this weekend.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

From Ancelotti to Zaha, Antonio to Yedlin, Arsenal to Wolves, we’ve collected many of their sentiments below in what we hope serves as universal disdain for racial prejudice.

Some players like Leicester City’s Wes Morgan and even entire clubs (Arsenal) changed their online identity photos to reflect these troubled times.

All PL clubs issued messages of solidarity, many using the Black Lives Matter hashtag and making no bones about where they stand.

And we’ll start with a longtime PL club currently in the Championship, who blasted a season ticket holder’s rejection of their unifying Tweet.

Here are some other clubs and players worldwide to have noticed what’s happening in the United States.

 

Season restart preview: Bournemouth

Bournemouth season restart
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Bournemouth when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: Tough sledding for the Cherries, who face zero of their fellow bottom-six sides (though 13th place Newcastle and 14th place Saints both visit the Vitality Stadium).

There’s been an element of bad luck to Bournemouth’s woes, with its expected goals stats showing Ryan Fraser, Joshua King, and Callum Wilson have deserved better end product and that the Cherries’ 14 goals from open play should be closer to 22. The defense has been bad and xG says it could’ve been worse, too. Injuries had hit Bournemouth’s defense corps in a big way, too. How much better will they be after the break?

[ MORE: Ranking every Cherries player in 2019-20 ]


Tactical analysis: Eddie Howe utilized a 4-4-2 with two defensive midfielders for much of the early season, but has gone between a lone striker with a packed-in midfielder and a 4-3-3 when he thinks an opponent is exploitable.

Howe started a 4-4-2 against almost all of the Cherries’ remaining opponents, choosing a 5-4-1 against Wolves and Man City. There’s no guarantee he’ll continue that, especially when some matches may dictate a draw or limited goal differential damage over wins.


Possible XI (4-3-3) 

—– Ramsdale —–

— Smith — S. Cook — Ake — Rico —

—– Lerma —– Billing — L. Cook —

— Fraser —– C. Wilson —– King —–

Howe prefers to attack when at all possible, but the points will be at a premium against some very challenging opponents. It’s a safe bet that he’ll ask a lot from his forwards while trying to deploy his three relentless midfielders together whenever possible. The question here is whether Aaron Ramsdale returns quickly from his COVID-19 positive test, or if it’ll be Artur Boruc or someone else between the sticks.


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Crystal Palace, Newcastle, Spurs, Leicester City, Southampton
Away: Wolves, Manchester United, Man City, Everton

Predicted finish: The Cherries stay up, just, as King and Callum Wilson deliver the goods in front of a determined and improved midfield.

Premier League clubs will reportedly be allowed preseason friendlies

Premier League return
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Premier League clubs will be allowed to play preseason matches ahead of the 2019-20’s restart season later this month.

There will be strict protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, and the matches will likely be officiated by club coaching staffs (We have so many Jose Mourinho as ref quips to make here, but let’s keep going anyway).

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Sky Sports says clubs will be limited to opponents within 90 minutes of their venue, and that players will have to drive themselves to the stadiums and go directly to the field in uniform.

With the League One and League Two seasons still hanging in the balance, it’s likely PL sides will be limited to each other and Championship sides. Presumably clubs will not want to meet others still on their fixture list.

We assume some players will get dressed in their vehicles outside the ground, but allow yourself some levity in these challenging times and imagine a fully kitted-up Virgil van Dijk driving the roads from Liverpool to Wigan Athletic.