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La Liga: Leaders Barcleona held, Sevilla rescues late draw

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Barcelona’s lead at the top of the La Liga table shrunk after they were held off the scoresheet in a 0-0 draw with Athletic Bilbao at San Mamés Stadium. Lionel Messi rattled the post in the 26th minute on what would have been a wild strike, but otherwise managed just two shots on target.

The visitors held two thirds of the possession, but they were unable to find a breakthrough. Messi sailed a free-kick over the bar in the 57th minute in another of Barcelona’s few good chances, but otherwise there was little for them to savor. Ousmane Dembele thought he had a penalty won with the last kick of the game, but referee Carlos del Cerro waved it off after a chat with his VAR team.

Athletic nearly gave Barcelona something bigger to think about in the 17th minute, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen was on hand to produce a wonderful save, denying a curling effort from Markel Susaeta that was destined for the top corner. The hosts also saw defender Oscar de Marcos sent off in the 91st minute for a second yellow after a handball prevented a Barcelona break.

The draw moves Barcelona to 51 points, six clear of Real Madrid on 45 points, with Atletico Madrid one back of their cross-town rivals in third.

Elsewhere, Sevilla saw the gap between third and fourth increase after a 2-2 draw against Eibar at home. Sevilla only rescued the point on a 92nd minute goal from Pablo Sarabia with the team down to 10 men. With Ever Banega sent off in the 84th minute for a second yellow card, Sarabia slotted home a cross from Dutch winger Quincy Promes. With Sevilla now on 37 points, they sit seven behind Atletico Madrid.

Valencia drew 0-0 with Real Sociedad in a game that featured just five shots on target, including just one by visitors Sociedad despite holding nearly 60% possession. Despite the possessional disadvantage, Valencia was unlucky not to come away with the win, with Kevin Gamiero missing right in front of goal in the 65th minute.

Finally, Leganes hammered Real Betis 3-0 on a hat-trick from 21-year-old Moroccan Youssef En-Nesyri who scored his sixth goal in the last three league matches. En-Nesyri’s hot streak has been critical for Leganes, with the team garnering seven points in that three-match stretch to jump out of the relegation scrap and into 11th, six points clear of the drop.

Video shows Lazio fans’ racist chants aimed at Chelsea loanee Bakayoko

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ROME (AP) A video has emerged of Lazio fans directing a racist chant at AC Milan midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko.

The video posted on the Gazzetta dello Sport website shows fans singing, “This banana is for Bakayoko,” during Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Udinese at the Stadio Olimpico.

[ MORE: Pochettino “not optimistic” on Kane ]

It was an apparent response to Bakayoko and Milan teammate Franck Kessie waving the shirt of Lazio defender Francesco Acerbi in front of their supporters like a trophy after a 1-0 win on Saturday.

Bakayoko, who is black, is on loan from Chelsea.

Lazio fans have a long history of racist and anti-Semitic episodes.

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

Chelsea, Pulisic may tour U.S. in 2020

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Chelsea has announced intent to visit the United States in the Summer of 2020.

Blues chairman Bruce Buck says the club “has work to do in Middle America” as it’s built up what he believes to be significant support on the coasts of the United States.

[ MORE: Pochettino “not optimistic” on Kane ]

Chelsea will be in Boston next month to play MLS side New England Revolution in a friendly billed “The Final Whistle on Hate.”

But Buck knows that Americans have plenty of interest in new signing Christian Pulisic, who will still be with Borussia Dortmund when Chelsea visits the U.S. in May.

“He’s a personable boy. He’s well-liked in this country,” Buck told the Associated Press. “So of course I would expect him when we come here and play some friendly matches, which is what our objective is in the summer of 2020. Then, yes, I think he will be helpful.”

American fans have been skeptical about how much of Chelsea’s interest in Pulisic was based on potential for stardom versus potential for marketing appeal in the States, but it’s important to note that this article could’ve been written about signing a top Mexican player and touring Mexico, or a Japanese star and heading to Asia.

The morning after: Pochettino on returning home, Kane recovery

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Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham Hotspur flew back to North London after Wednesday’s memorable triumph in the UEFA Champions League, a few days before the club will make the same trip to visit Manchester City in the Premier League.

“We are tired after an amazing and crazy and unbelievable night,” Pochettino said, via the BBC. “We flew late and didn’t sleep too much, but the happiness made us feel strong and with energy. We need to forget the Champions League now and be ready for Saturday, for a battle.”

[ MORE: Klopp on 1st time facing Messi ]

Good luck on the forgetting part, Poch. The advancement past Man City over two legs came after VAR correctly ripped a stoppage time City goal off the board and plunged Spurs from despair into euphoria.

And now they go again.

Pochettino said he elected to bring the team back to London to sleep in their own beds and recover at their own facilities.

It also allows Spurs to keep a close eye on Harry Kane, who missed the second leg and has been expected to miss most if not all of the season with an ankle injury.

“We are not optimistic but you know Harry Kane and with Harry Kane all is possible,” Pochettino said. “We are not going to say he is not going to play again or not. We will assess him day by day.”

We have to imagine that Spurs going from, “Can we beat City and stay in the Top Four without Harry?” to “We are three wins from a Champions League title” might help Kane heal a bit faster (and he’s already a bit of a specimen when it comes to that.

Barton “emphatically denies” attacking fellow League One manager

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It seems like there is much more to the incident reportedly involving Joey Barton and a fellow League One manager.

Barnsley launched a complaint after Fleetwood Town manager Barton allegedly attacked his counterpart Daniel Stendel after a match on Saturday.

[ MORE: Klopp on 1st time facing Messi ]

Police stopped Barton from leaving the stadium after the match, and Barnsley player Cauley Woodrow has now taken down a Tweet saying that Stendel was left with “blood pouring down his face.”

Now Barton is denying allegations that he attacked Stendel, and is expected to be in the dugout for the Fishermen, who sit 11th in League One.

From FleetwoodTownFC.com:

“With regards to the alleged incident on Saturday following our game against Barnsley, I emphatically deny the allegations made. Given this matter has not been formally closed, it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment.”

Barton’s checkered past is well-documented, but this tale continues to develop in fascinating ways.