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La Liga: Messi hat-trick, Getafe goes 4th

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Lionel Messi was the star of La Liga’s Sunday slate, scoring the 50th hat-trick of his career as he single-handedly carried Barcelona to a 4-2 victory over Sevilla to move 10 points clear at the top of the table.

Messi scored a pair of absurd goals and finished his hat-trick with the eventual winner, before Luis Suarez finally ended his long goal drought in stoppage time to finish the scoreline. The first was especially delicious, an inspired side-volley that powered home a cross from Ivan Rakitic.

[ WATCH: Messi’s 50th hat-trick sparks Barca win ]

It wasn’t always a sure thing for Barcelona, who trailed at two different points in the match, including at halftime when goals from Jesus Navas and Gabriel Mercado saw Sevilla ahead. Messi’s second brought Barcelona level past the hour mark when he curled in a right-footed effort from near the top of the box. The winner came five minutes from full-time as a stroke of luck saw Carles Alena’s shot clatter into Sevilla defender Simon Kjaer and trickled perfectly into the path of Messi clean through on goal for a chip finish past Tomas Vaclik.

Meanwhile, the La Liga Champions League places has a surprising new member as Getafe moved to 4th in the league with a 2-1 win over relegation-threatened Rayo Vallecano. Jamie Mata and Jorge Molina scored the necessary goals, moving Getafe into what would be its highest-ever La Liga finish. Mata in particular is red-hot, scoring his seventh goal in the club’s last eight league games. Mata then assisted Molina’s winner, giving him four assists in that span as well, and helping the club to its fourth win in the last six matches. Getafe has lost just two games since mid-November – to Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

Relegated in 2016 and then promoted back to La Liga the following year, Getafe finished 8th last season and continues to climb, potentially qualifying for European competition for only the third time in club history. A 6th place finish in 2010 remains its best-ever league result, while a 2007 Copa del Rey finals appearance marked the first time they ever qualified for a continental competition.

[ SERIE A: Dzeko steals Roma a vital win in 95th minute ]

Celta Vigo pulled out of the relegation zone with a grinding away point at Alaves as the two teams drew 0-0. The home side whipped off 17 shots, but could only put four of them on target. Celta Vigo proved dangerous one-on-one, but could never put together anything of note. The biggest chance of the game fell to Takashi Inui just past halftime but missed wide right, and while they accumulated a ton of chances inside the penalty area, they could never find the winning moment.

Finally, Athletic Bilbao leapfrogged Eibar for the ninth spot in the table after a 1-0 win over Eibar. The only goal came inside the first minute, with Raul Garcia pouncing immediately after the opening whistle. That was it for the match, as the two sides were only able to accumulate five total shots on target. Athletic should have had a second soon after halftime, but Inigo Martinez was unable to put his doorstep header on target.

Report: Six Barcelona board members quit, recommend new election

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Barcelona might be atop La Liga, but the behind the scenes atmosphere is ugly.

A day after reports that president Josep Maria Bartomeu asked four board members to leave the club, the quartet and two others have resigned and called for new leadership.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Marca translated the letter signed by Emili Rousaud, Enrique Tombas, Silvio Elias, Josep Pont, Maria Teixidor and Jordi Calsamiglia (Spanish report here). The first four were asked to leave, with Teixidor and Calsamiglia joining them.

That leaves the board at 13 members.

“We ask that once the results of the audit entrusted to PWC are presented, all responsible to be swept away with the eventual corresponding compensation.

“As a last service to our club, we recommend that as soon as circumstances allow it to call new elections to allow to direct the club, with all the ‘authority’ and in the best possible way in the face of the important challenges of the most immediate future.”

It’s been a terrible season for Barca off-the-field, and Bartomeu’s leadership simply must be questioned given the actions of him and some of the people under his watch. Former players and legends have spoken out against the club’s hierarchy, including Pep Guardiola.

The ouster of Ernesto Valverde was handled without much class, and director Eric Abidal threw the players under the bus for the managerial change. The club has also dealt with “Barcagate,” in which a contracted social media company was fired for posting Tweets against Barca’s players.

Both drew the ire of Lionel Messi, who can exercise a clause to leave the club this summer (though that seems unlikely). Messi also admitted he “sees weird things happening” after Bartomeu spoke to the players after “Barcagate.”

Messi also refuted Thursday rumors of a move to Inter Milan in a since-deleted IG post.

Bartomeu has been Barca’s president since January 2014, and the club has won the 2014/15 Champions League and four of five La Liga crowns during his full seasons in charge. There have, however, been a lot of misses in the transfer market.

It might get uglier before it gets better, but there isn’t too much room for worse.

Premier League March Madness: Handicapping the Final

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There was a thriller when Wolves and Everton met at Goodison Park on Sept. 1, and we’re hoping for the online poll equivalent when our Premier League March Madness concludes on Friday.

Wolves already gave us one on Thursday, blowing a lead they held for most of the day to see a 50-50-to-the-vote deadlock before a sizeable win in extra time (30 minutes of added voting).

Everton had an interesting win of its own, destroying Merseyside Derby rivals Liverpool with more than 80 percent of the vote.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Before we go any further, if you’re unfamiliar: To make sure you’re not missing out on either March Madness or the business end of the PL season, we’ve gone ahead and merged the two competitions. The March Madness Final Four and Championship game were due to take place this weekend in Atlanta but now you will be voting on Tottenham v. Arsenal instead of Duke v. Kansas.

Teams are seeded from 1-16 based on their current spot in the table, with Aston Villa winning the relegation playoffs on Monday to remain in the Premier League.

Road to the Final

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final – Aston Villa prevailed, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford relegated
TuesdaySweet 16 results
WednesdayElite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The Toffees are the favorites here, having knocked off Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool.

But this will be the first time in the tournament where Everton won’t have the benefit of a club many other teams hate as the opposition.

Wolves’ extra time win over Sheffield United was a first real scare of the tournament, and the Molineux set will hope its extra time performance was a showing of what it will do when faced with elimination.

It’s difficult to choose against Everton here, even if the Anfield faithful will move to the side of the Wolves. We’ll call it 54-46 to the blue side of Liverpool.

RESULTS: Premier League March Madness Final Four

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Everton has its first Merseyside Derby since 2010 thanks to the voters of ProSoccerTalk.

The Toffees’ 21-match run without a win over Liverpool “ended” Thursday in Premier League March Madness, the fusion of two of our favorite sporting competitions.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

We hinted at this win on Wednesday given the exits of all the Premier League giants besides Liverpool, as supporters of Manchester United, Man City, Arsenal, Spurs, and Chelsea might leap at the chance to take the Reds off any throne.

But to say we saw this margin? The Toffees didn’t just beat their rivals; Carlo Ancelotti’s men stomped the Reds into online oblivion.

So who will Everton meet in the final after knocking off Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool?

The winner of Sheffield United and Wolves came in nail-biting fashion, the two sides nearly as evenly-matched as their 1-1 draw at the Molineux on Dec 1.

Wolves led for much of the day but saw their lead slip to 50.4-49.6 with minutes left in voting.

At 6:30 p.m. ET, it was dead-even. 50-50.

So we extended voting to extra time, and Nuno Espirito Santo must’ve deployed a ridiculous substitute because Wolves ran away with the thing to the tune of 59.6-40.4. #Swing.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ]

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final – Aston Villa prevailed, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford relegated
TuesdaySweet 16 results
WednesdayElite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

Much-chased Havertz reportedly prefers Bayern move

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The latest transfer gossip regarding rumor mill regular Kai Havertz pours a lot of cold water on the hopes of several Premier League giants.

Havertz, 20, has been linked with Liverpool, Manchester United, and Manchester City this season with his odds of leaving Bayer Leverkusen at an all-time high. He’s also been connected to Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham to cover most of the Top Six bases.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

But Sky Sports says the German playmaker is keen to stay in his home country and make a move to Bayern Munich, who has been linked with Havertz, Leroy Sane, and Timo Werner in a bid to revolutionize its UEFA Champions League credentials.

Havertz has 10 goals and eight assists in 34 matches this season after exploding for 20 and seven in 42 last year. He doesn’t turn 21 until June.

The youngster provides little defensively but averages 2.3 key passes and 2.3 dribbles per match in Bundesliga play while passing at a tidy 87 percent despite living in the danger areas.

Whoever gets Havertz has a gem on its hands, but perhaps the Premier League will amp up their interest and recruiting efforts after these reports (if they haven’t already).