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La Liga: Alaves remain unbeaten at home, rise to 4th

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Alaves extended its impressive form in the Spanish league by fighting back to beat Valencia 2-1 on Saturday, remaining undefeated through all nine games at home.

The small team from the northern Basque Country climbed past Real Madrid and into fourth place at six points behind leader Barcelona. Alaves also established its best record for the first half of a league with 31 points after 19 rounds.

“You have to appreciate what this team has done,” said Alaves coach Abelardo Fernandez, who took over the team last season and turned it around. “Alaves deserves a monument for what these players have done through the first half of the season. I am proud to be their coach.”

Valencia dominated possession with its flashier attack, but Alaves got its goals by outmuscling rivals to balls in the area.

Dani Parejo gave Valencia the lead in the 14th minute at Mendizorroza Stadium where the midfielder bent a free kick over the defensive barrier.

Alaves forward Borja Baston fought off Mouctar Diakhaby to win a ball from a corner kick and level in the 21st.

Midfielder Tomas Pina added to the fightback in first-half injury time when he scrambled home a ball after Alaves pinned Valencia in its area and came close to scoring twice.

“We know that, while not superior, we can compete with anybody at home,” Pina said. “We feel how much our fans push us. That is one of our strengths. We hope that this harmony with our supporters continues.”

Valencia was left in 11th place as its disappointing season continues for a side that finished fourth last season.

“We knew they were good at set-pieces and that they had scored six or seven goals that way this season, but we let our concentration down and committed two errors,” said Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno, who missed one of Valencia’s few chances to get a second goal.

Pique: Copa-losing Barca still “really hurting” from UCL exit

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Barcelona was the favorite to win La Liga, the UEFA Champions League, and the Copa del Rey for the majority of the season, but only claimed one.

Liverpool’s amazing comeback to beat Barca in the second leg of the UCL semifinals met Saturday’s loss to Valencia in the Copa del Rey Final to give Barca a league title alone.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Even with that La Liga advantage being decisive — Barca carried the table by 11 points over Atletico Madrid and finished 19 ahead of Real Madrid — there’s a very dour mood and promised change for the Camp Nou set.

And Gerard Pique says it all traces back to the loss against Liverpool. From The Liverpool Echo:

“I believe that if we had gotten through at Liverpool, we would have won the treble. We would have come here [to the Copa del Rey final] with a different mood, and I’m convinced we would have won the Champions League final, but that is football. We are really, really hurting.”

There are hints of a massive clear-out at Barcelona, with Lionel Messi and Pique two of the only safe bets to stay. When will Barca get over it?

Brazilian team tangles in locker room futmesa (video)

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It was defense versus attack in the Brazil dressing room.

Neymar and Gabriel Jesus squared off with international teammates Filipe Luis and Ederson in a game of futmesa/table soccer this week.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Neymar and Filipe Luis are used to be on different sides of the field from their time in La Liga, while Jesus and Ederson are teammates at Manchester City.

Brazil is hosting this summer’s Copa America and is the favorite to win its first tournament since 2007, when it claimed its fourth in five tries.

It’s really impressive stuff for us normal to subpar athletes, even if standard for those with such deft talent.

Quite a winner from Man City’s young striker.

Jovic could see himself in Premier League, Serie A

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Maybe Luka Jovic’s presumed move to Real Madrid won’t happen this summer.

Or at all.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

The Eintracht Frankfurt striker has been tipped for a move away from the Bundesliga after another strong campaign, and taking the center forward reins from Karim Benzema at Real Madrid.

Several outlets reported the deal as done, but Jovic isn’t speaking that way (or at least the Serbian is throwing us off the scent.

From Goal.com:

“In terms of the physique, the Bundesliga is very demanding, but after the games against Chelsea or Inter Milan, I personally had the feeling that I could feel even better [playing] in the Premier League or Serie A. … The way the teams play there suits me better.”

Jovic scored 27 times in 48 appearances for Frankfurt, adding seven assists at the tender age of 21. Ten of those came in the Europa League, and we’re not talking about flooding the nets of minnows; Jovic scored against Chelsea (twice), Marseille (three), Lazio (two), and Inter Milan (once).

Report: Chelsea, Real $38M apart on Hazard

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How much for Hazard?

Real Madrid are willing to pay $127 million, no small fee, to bring Eden Hazard from Chelsea, but that’s well off the Blues’ evaluation according to Sky Sports.

Chelsea sees Hazard’s price as $165 million. Belgian writer Kristof Terreur told Sky that Hazard wants his future sorted by June 4.

[ MORE: Bayern wins double ]

The Blues’ superstar is entering the final year of his contract, and could begin negotiating with other clubs in January and leave on a free transfer.

Hazard turns 29 in January. He recorded 19 goals and 16 assists in 51 matches this season, his best output in a Blues uniform.

The report says Chelsea feels no pressure to sell Hazard, but it would be a surprise if it dug in its heels too deeply considering the state of the Belgian’s contract.

Even for Chelsea, letting over $100 million walk out the door is wild, and for all Hazard’s won with Chelsea there’s also been consternation under several managers and a more than occasional habit of disappointing on the table.