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Atletico, Barcelona, Sevilla power through in Copa

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MADRID (AP) Atletico Madrid was so poor in the first half against fourth-division visitor Sant Andreu that a shock Copa del Rey elimination wasn’t a far-fetched possibility on Wednesday.

But three goals in the opening 10 minutes of the second period guided Atletico’s second-string team to a 4-0 victory at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

Barcelona and Sevilla also beat lower division clubs, while Villarreal recorded an 8-0 rout of second tier Almeria with four goals by Cameroon striker Karl Toko-Ekambi.

Thomas Lemar scored for Atletico in the 48th minute, Nikola Kalinic in the 53rd, Angel Correa in the 55th and Victor “Vitolo” Machin in the 81st to secure Diego Simeone’s team a place in the last 16 following a 5-0 aggregate victory.

“We struggled in the first half. We weren’t able to play with quick transitions,” said Simeone after his 400th Atletico match. “Everything changed in the second half. After the first goal the team played more freely.”

Atletico was without Diego Costa because of injury, while Antoine Griezmann and several other regular starters were rested by Simeone, who was banned from the bench as he served the second of a three-game suspension following a rant in a Copa match against Sevilla last season.

Substitute Lemar went on at halftime and was key for Atletico, opening the scoring with a right-footed shot from outside the area. Kalinic added a header and Correa produced a fine finish with the outside of his right foot. Vitolo’s goal from close range came after a pass by Saul Niguez.

BARCELONA BOOST

Barcelona advanced 5-1 on aggregate after its reserves cruised past third division Cultural Leonesa 4-1 at Camp Nou Stadium.

Denis Suarez scored a goal in each half while Munir El Haddadi and Malcom were on target before halftime. Josep Sene netted in the second period for Cultural, the club owned by the Qatari state.

Barcelona midfielder Ricard “Riqui” Puig, 19, set up one of Suarez’s goals on his debut.

“It was a dream come true,” Puig said. “I used to come to this stadium when I was three.”

Malcom went off in the final minutes with an apparent knee injury.

TOKO-EKAMBI’S NIGHT

Toko-Ekambi became the first Villarreal player to score four goals in a match this century, leading the club to an 11-3 aggregate win. He netted three times in the first half and once in the second.

Carlos Bacca scored twice, while Gerard Moreno and Dani Raba added a goal each.

TOP-TIER CLASHES

In all first-division ties, Girona came from behind to defeat Alaves 2-1 and advance 4-3 on aggregate, while Real Sociedad beat Celta Vigo 2-0 to go through 3-1 overall.

Alaves struck first at Montilivi Stadium in Catalonia with an own-goal by Pedro Alcala in the 62nd minute, but the hosts rallied through Alex Granell in the 74th and Cristian “Portu” Portugues in the 79th to reach the last 16 for the first time.

Sociedad sunk Celta with two superb goals by Mikel Oyarzabal and Adnan Januzaj.

Oyarzabal netted in the 10th with a booming long-range shot into the top corner, and Januzaj scored in the 27th with a curling strike.

OTHER RESULTS

Sevilla edged third division Villanovense 1-0 to advance following a 0-0 first-leg draw. Andre Silva scored the winner early in the second half, converting the rebound after missing a penalty.

Valladolid came from behind to defeat second tier Mallorca 2-1 and progress 4-2 on aggregate.

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

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

New Premier League schedule for April released

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The new schedule for Premier League games in April has been released and plenty of massive games in the title race and relegation battle will take center stage in primetime slots.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Games selected for TV broadcasts have been moved to the new dates, with multiple matches involving Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and Man United moved.

Below is the new schedule for April, with plenty of conditions attached if certain teams progress further in the FA Cup and Europe.


Tuesday 2 April
2:45 p.m. ET: Wolves v Man Utd *Because of participation in FA Cup semi-finals

Friday 5 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Southampton v Liverpool

Saturday 6 April 2019
7:30 a.m. ET: Man City v Cardiff City *Subject to FA Cup participation

Sunday 7 April 2019
9:05 a.m. ET: Everton v Arsenal
11:30 a.m. ET: Spurs v Brighton *Subject to Spurs’ UEFA Champions League match date and FA Cup participation

Monday 8 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Chelsea v West Ham

Friday 12 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Leicester v Newcastle

Saturday 13 April 2019
7:30 a.m. ET: Spurs v Huddersfield *May move to 14 April because of PL clubs’ participation in UEFA Champions League the Tuesday after
12:30 p.m. ET: Man Utd v West Ham

Sunday 14 April 2019
9:05 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace v Man City*
11:30 a.m. ET: Liverpool v Chelsea*
*May move to 13 April because of PL clubs’ participation in UEFA Champions League the Tuesday after

Monday 15 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Watford v Arsenal

Saturday 20 April 2019
7:30 a.m. ET: Man City v Spurs
12:30 p.m. ET: Newcastle v Southampton

Sunday 21 April 2019
8:30 a.m. ET: Everton v Man Utd
11 a.m. ET: Cardiff v Liverpool

Monday 22 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Chelsea v Burnley

Wednesday 24 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Man Utd v Man City *Moved due to FA Cup quarter-final participation

Friday 26 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Liverpool v Huddersfield

Saturday 27 April 2019
7:30 a.m. ET: Spurs v West Ham *May move to 28 April because of UEFA Champions League participation the Tuesday after
12:30 p.m. ET: Brighton v Newcastle

Sunday 28 April 2019
9:05 a.m. ET: Burnley v Man City *
11:30 a.m. ET: Man Utd v Chelsea *
*May move to 27 April because of UEFA Champions League participation the Tuesday after

Monday 29 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Leicester v Arsenal *Will move to 12:00 28 April if Arsenal reach UEFA Europa League semi-finals

Martial, Lingard could be fit for Man United v. Liverpool

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Manchester United could be given a huge boost ahead of their battle against bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday (Watch live, 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: Rashford to Barcelona?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed that both Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard are much closer to returning from injury than previously thought.

The star wingers, who have shone under Solskjaer since he arrived as caretaker boss in December, were both injured in the first half of United’s 2-0 UEFA Champions League defeat to Paris Saint-Germain on Feb. 12.

Speaking to the media ahead of the massive game against Liverpool, a promising update on the duo arrived from Solskjaer.

“Jesse is looking OK. I hope with Anthony,” Solskjaer said.” Anthony’s was a different muscle, so we think he might be ready and hope that Jesse will. We’ve got two more days so they’ve got to get through these two sessions. They’ve not been part of training yet but they’ve been doing some recovery work.”

Now it is all about one thing: is it worth risking the duo suffering further injury?

Quite likely. The dropoff in United’s display against PSG was stark when Martial and Lingard went off and although the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata have stepped in well in recent weeks, the balance between Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Martial and Lingard just felt right in United’s front four positions.

You get the felling that if Solskjaer has a chance of reuniting that quartet on Sunday, even if it’s only for an hour, he will take it. And when you add in the factor that a win against Liverpool would seriously scupper the title chances of the latter, and it’s safe to say at least one of Lingard or Martial will be in the starting lineup at Old Trafford.

Both Martial and Lingard are essential to the new dynamic Manchester United playing at full throttle.

Report: Barcelona make Marcus Rashford main target

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Marcus Rashford is a local lad who is living his best life by being Manchester United’s main man right now.

[ MORE: Chelsea hit with transfer ban

The 21-year-old is yet to sign a new contract with the Red Devils though, and reports suggest some of Europe’s biggest clubs are sniffing around the United academy product.

A report from Mundo Deportivo says that Barcelona have made Rashford their “dream” target, as the Catalan club look to replace the brilliant but ageing Luis Suarez.

Per the report, it is believed it would cost Barca over $135 million to sign Rashford. If he does sign a new long-term contract over the next few weeks (expected to be worth over $250,000 per week), then we expect that transfer fee to push closer to $200 million.

All in all, this move seems unlikely for Rashford and United. Right now.

Selling the crown jewel from your academy and a local hero who is finally getting a run of games as a central striker and has improved his output under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would cause huge uproar among United’s fans. He has scored 42 goals in 155 appearances for United since making his debut under Louis Van Gaal in 2016. Under Jose Mourinho he was often played out wide and used as a sub, but Solskjaer has rejuvenated the English striker in recent months and he’s taken Romelu Lukaku‘s place in the lineup.

That said, if Rashford does stall on signing a new contract then this could turn into a bit of a saga as his current contract runs out next summer but he has the option to extend it for another year.

Rashford’s searing pace and ability to cut inside and finish from wide positions is clear and under Solskjaer he has become more clinical and has added end product to his game with some wonderful crosses for teammates to score.

His ability as a star of the future for Man United and England is undoubted, and although Barcelona would love to pry Rashford away from his hometown club it is unlikely that is going to happen.

File this rumor under “if it happens, I’ll eat my hat.”

Europa League last 16 draw: Chelsea, Arsenal avoid big boys

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Is it too early to start predicting an all-Premier League final in the UEFA Europa League…

Both Chelsea and Arsenal were handed favorable draws in the last 16 draw of the Europa League on Friday.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule

Chelsea will play Dynamo Kiev, while Arsenal will face Stade Rennais for a place in the quarterfinal.

Of course, both Chelsea and Arsenal would prefer to be playing in the UEFA Champions League instead of Europe’s second-tier club competition, but with both teams battling hard to finish in the top four of the Premier League this season, winning the Europa League is becoming a very attractive proposition given the UCL spot for the 2019-20 campaign that the winners receive.

As for the other six games lined up for the quarterfinals, one in particular stands out as Eintracht Frankfurt face Inter Milan. The Bundesliga side have a young, hungry squad full of talent and Inter’s star names speak for themselves.

Below is the full list of fixtures with the games to be played on Mar. 7 and 14.


UEFA Europa League last 16 draw

Arsenal v. Stade Rennais
Chelsea v. Dynamo Kiev
Valencia v. Krasnodar
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Inter Milan
Sevilla v. Slavia Prague
Dinamo Zagreb v. Benfica
Zenit v. Villarreal
Napoli v. Red Bull Salzburg