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Top five storylines for Champions League final

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One all-Premier League European final down, one to go. The Champions League final pits Liverpool against Tottenham on Saturday, and there is plenty to lap up across the 90 minutes or more.

1. Liverpool looks for redemption

Liverpool has fallen just short of reaching a few monstrous pinnacles, and supporters have had to endure brutal second-place finishes over the past 12 months.

First, they lost last year’s Champions League final to Real Madrid 3-1 on a Gareth Bale brace to break the deadlock. Many Reds fans feel they were slighted after Sergio Ramos tackled Mohamed Salah and forced him off injured just 31 minutes in with the game still scoreless.

Second, the Reds put up a vicious fight in this year’s Premier League, giving defending champions Manchester City a battle to the wire, but came up just short despite a record points haul for a Premier League second-place finisher. It was a season that would have won the title in almost every other English top-flight season, but with Manchester City up to the task, Liverpool has been forced to accept the consolation prize.

“I took a lot of experience from it; hopefully I can use that,” Virgil van Dijk said to BBC Sport in reference to last year’s loss to Madrid. “Losing a final is painful.”

Which brings us to our next storyline…

1a. Jurgen Klopp hoping to break his finals streak

Dating back to his days with Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has lost six straight Cup finals. The Reds are hoping that Klopp’s brutal record in silverware games does not become intertwined into a larger club narrative of second-place finishes.

Finishing as runners-up can be sustainable for only so long, and the Reds will not want to waste this window of opportunity completely. Despite the fabulous season bringing Man City to the final week and reaching the Champions League final, finishing the year with nothing to show for the fight would be painful for players and supporters alike. It has undoubtedly been a fabulous campaign, but no trophy haul would severely dampen the luster on the season and bring Jurgen Klopp’s ability to lead Liverpool to the pinnacle of their ascent into question.

2. Mauricio Pochettino searches for accelerant to his Spurs project

The Argentine took over Spurs in 2014 hoping to mold the London club into a perennial Premier League challenger. While they have yet to become a consistent title contender in the Premier League, a Champions League crown would no doubt boost those plans and give Pochettino a tangible sign that his project is speeding along.

It’s clear that turning even a consistent European participant into a Premier League giant takes years of planning and sustainable squad growth, but success in a top-level tournament setting would boost the club’s pedigree significantly and turn it into an even more attractive destination for incoming players who wish to prevail in Europe’s top competition.

Amid reports that Pochettino could leave to take a bigger-name job like Manchester United and Juventus, Pochettino could cement his status as the usher of the club’s next chapter with Champions League glory, and in doing so, giving him the unique opportunity to stay in North London long-term as a Wenger-esque club legend in a league familiar with managerial turnover.

3. Club talismans Eriksen, Salah battle for tangible justification

Christian Eriksen and Mohamed Salah share a lot in common. They both serve as the face of the club’s attacking threat, and they both have nothing to show for their time at the club aside from fan admiration. That will change as one of them will win a Champions League winners medal, solidifying themselves as more than just a bunch of goals and fan favorite status.

For Eriksen, it could mean even more as the Dane is rumored to be leaving the club this summer. With Tottenham reportedly chasing Giovani Lo Celso, it could signal that Eriksen is off to the greener pastures (literally $$$) of Real Madrid, ending a sparkling six-year run in West London. What a way to go out on top and leave your legacy at a club.

4. Harry Kane‘s return

Imagine suffering an injury and thinking your season was over, only to come back for the biggest game in club history.

It has been seven weeks since Harry Kane hobbled down the tunnel in London, out with ligament damage to his troublesome ankle. His ability to impact the game is a complete unknown, and it’s not even a guarantee he will make the starting lineup. Still, should Spurs need a goal either early or late, what a story it would be for Kane to come back and provide a landmark goal in the club’s history.

Kane defiantly declared himself fit, having returned to training and saying, “at the moment I feel good, I feel strong.” A rest may have done Kane well, as he struggled early this past campaign after a long previous season and busy World Cup summer, but has been successful in the past after coming back from injury layoffs. This season, Kane scored in three of his first four games back from his January ankle problems, and two seasons ago the story was the same. In November 2016 he scored five goals in four Premier League games back after missing a month, and later that year he missed three matches in early April before coming back to finish the season with 10 goals in the final eight matches. With just 90 minutes to make his mark, can Kane provide the same goalscoring threat he has so many times before for Tottenham?

5. First time finalists

Tottenham has reached the finals of the Champions League for the first time in club history, and that doesn’t bode well for Spurs. Each of the previous five first-time finalists have tasted defeat, with Borussia Dortmund the last club to reach the pinnacle on its first try back in 1997. Will Liverpool’s experience from last season be the key to victory for the Reds, or can Spurs develop a game plan to take down Klopp’s juggernaut and prevail in the club’s first go?

La Liga: Real Madrid shocked by Mallorca; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann send Barca top

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Lampard “pleased for Pulisic,” praises subs in Chelsea win ]

Eibar 0-3 Barcelona

Lionel Messi goal – check; Luis Suarez goal – check; Antoine Griezmann goal – check; clean sheet – check. If there exists a perfect recipe for a Barcelona victory this season, the Blaugrana put it to good use en route to a fourth straight La Liga victory and top spot in the league table on Saturday.

Griezmann opened the scoring in the 13th minute, followed by Messi in the 58th and Suarez in the 66th. Marc-Andre ter Stegen didn’t have to make a single save as Eibar managed just five shots in the game.

Mallorca 1-0 Real Madrid

Real Madrid’s unbeaten start to the season was snapped at eight games on Saturday, when Los Blancos went to Mallorca and suffered a hugely underwhelming 1-0 defeat. Zinedine Zidane’s side — already without the likes of Gareth Bale (calf), Luka Modric (bruise), Toni Kroos (adductor) and Marco Ascensio (knee), among others — finished the game with 10 men after Alvaro Odriozola earned his second yellow card in the 74th minute. The defeat sees Madrid fall off the top spot, now sitting second behind Barca.

Lago Junior scored the game’s only goal in the 7th minute and Mallorca held on for 83 more, allowing just four shots on target (12 in total). The early goal was Mallorca’s only shot on target over 90 minutes.

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Valencia

Atleti coughed up a late lead and settled for a 1-1 draw with Valencia, but the worst news of the day comes in the form of an injury suffered by Joao Felix. The 19-year-old’s ankle buckled underneath him late in the second half. Atleti finished with 10 men after their $140-million superstar was forced off.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Getafe 2-0 Leganes

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Alaves v. Celta Vigo — 6 a.m. ET
Real Sociedad v. Real Betis — 8 a.m. ET
Espanyol v. Villarreal — 10 a.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao v. Real Valladolid — 12:30 p.m. ET
Sevilla v. Levante — 3 p.m. ET

Haringey Borough abandon FA Cup qualifier after racist abuse

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LONDON (AP) An FA Cup qualifier between Haringey Borough and Yeovil Town was abandoned Saturday when the home team walked off the field after one of its players was racially abused.

[ MORE: Analyzing a day of VAR drama in the Premier League ]

Haringey, a London-based non-league club, walked off in the 64th minute after claims its Cameroonian goalkeeper Valery Pajetat had been targeted by racial abuse by visiting fans minutes earlier, when Yeovil took a 1-0 lead from a penalty.

Haringey manager Tom Loizou told BBC Radio 5 Live that defender Coby Rowe was also racially abused, and that “there was no way I could let him continue.”

The match at Coles Park Stadium was in the fourth qualifying round for the FA Cup, with the winner advancing to the first round of the tournament.

[ MORE: Lampard “pleased for Pulisic,” praises subs in Chelsea win ]

“The abuse a few of my players got was disgusting,” Loizou said. “Yeovil’s players and manager were different class. Their team tried to calm their supporters down, they tried their best and they supported us. They said, ‘If you’re walking off, we’re walking off with you.’ I took the decision to take my team off and I don’t want Yeovil Town to get punished for it. If we get thrown out of the FA Cup and they go through, there is no hard feelings there.”

The incident comes four days after England’s European Championship qualifier in Bulgaria was stopped twice in the first half as home fans hurled racial abuse at England’s black players. However, England decided to play on and won 6-0.

In a statement on Twitter, the football anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out praised the “swift and decisive action” taken by the Haringey manager Tom Loizou and his players.

Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund beats leaders Gladbach; Bayern draws

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Another Saturday in the Bundesliga, another nutty set of results allowing a side the chance to claim the top of the league on Sunday.

David Wagner, Weston McKennie and Schalke are the ones licking their lips this time, knowing that a win at Hoffenheim will boost them into first.

[ MORE: Lampard “pleased” for Pulisic ]

Wolfsburg remains unbeaten with a draw, and dropped points for Borussia Monchengladbach, RB Leipzig, and Bayern Munich means an absurd nine teams are within two points of the top of the table.

Nine!

Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

Gladbach’s stay atop the league could last just one match day, as Thorgan Hazard set up Marco Reus for a 58th minute goal and a place one point back of the top.

Werder Bremen 1-1 Hertha Berlin

Josh Sargent’s 7th minute goal didn’t stand up, thanks to Hertha’s electric Dodi Lukebakio scoring with 20 minutes to play. Watch the American striker’s goal, here.

Augsburg 2-2 Bayern Munich

The champions’ stumbles continued, with first minute concession providing a test. Bayern’s red hot pair delivered a lead, with Robert Lewandowski answering in the 14th minute, and Serge Gnabry supplying a 49th minute lead.

Stoppage time was the downfall, though, as Alfred Finnbogason helped himself to the equalizer with all kinds of questions for the Bayern defense.

Elsewhere

Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 Bayer Leverkusen — Friday
Union Berlin 2-0 Freiburg
Fortuna Dusseldorf 1-0 Mainz
RB Leipzig 1-1 Wolfsburg
Koln v. Paderborn — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Hoffenheim v. Schalke — Noon ET Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Mönchengladbach 8 5 1 2 15 7 8 2-1-1 3-0-1 16
 VfL Wolfsburg 8 4 4 0 11 5 6 2-2-0 2-2-0 16
 Bayern Munich 8 4 3 1 22 10 12 2-1-1 2-2-0 15
 Borussia Dortmund 8 4 3 1 20 11 9 3-1-0 1-2-1 15
 RB Leipzig 8 4 3 1 16 8 8 1-2-1 3-1-0 15
 FC Schalke 04 7 4 2 1 14 7 7 2-1-1 2-1-0 14
 SC Freiburg 8 4 2 2 15 9 6 1-2-1 3-0-1 14
 Eintracht Frankfurt 8 4 2 2 14 10 4 3-2-0 1-0-2 14
 Bayer Leverkusen 8 4 2 2 12 11 1 2-2-0 2-0-2 14
 Hertha BSC Berlin 8 3 2 3 13 13 0 2-0-1 1-2-2 11
 Werder Bremen 8 2 3 3 13 17 -4 1-1-2 1-2-1 9
 1899 Hoffenheim 7 2 2 3 6 11 -5 1-0-2 1-2-1 8
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 8 2 1 5 10 14 -4 1-1-2 1-0-3 7
 1. FC Union Berlin 8 2 1 5 8 13 -5 2-0-3 0-1-2 7
 FC Augsburg 8 1 3 4 10 21 -11 1-2-1 0-1-3 6
 FSV Mainz 05 8 2 0 6 7 18 -11 1-0-2 1-0-4 6
 1. FC Köln 7 1 1 5 5 16 -11 0-0-3 1-1-2 4
 SC Paderborn 7 0 1 6 9 19 -10 0-0-4 0-1-2 1

Brilliant Barco assist helps Atlanta outlast New England

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The game in 200 words (or less): Highly-favored at home, the reigning champions needed their goalkeeper to keep them alive against a New England Revolution side that only made the postseason via MLS’ decision to let almost everyone make it. Yes, Atlanta United dodged a bullet as Brad Guzan made six saves and Ezequiel Barco’s slick pass set up Franco Escobar for a brilliant winner with about 20 minutes to play. New England fought to the very death, but couldn’t take advantage of the absence of Miles Robinson.

[ MORE: Lampard “pleased” for Pulisic ]

Soon-to-retire Michael Parkhurst appeared to dislocate his shoulder late in a challenge with Cristian Penilla, and needed a lot of help to get off the field. Hopefully that wasn’t the last we see of him.

Atlanta will host either Philadelphia or the New York Red Bulls on Thursday evening.

Three things we learned

1. Guzan overcomes blip to stand tall: The longtime USMNT backup made a major error and nearly allowed New England in front but was otherwise sensational over 90 minutes in Georgia.

2. Martinez off, and Martinez off: While Frank De Boer opted to keep Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez out of the Starting XI, it was his star striker who nearly made him pay for the decision. Josef Martinez was not on his game, and lashed a should-be winner from his office over the goal in the first half before being stopped on by Turner on a 1v1 as the match neared stoppage time.

3. Barco makes the difference: Who knows if the 20-year-old Argentine will ever fully deliver on his promise, but the plays he made to set up Escobar’s goal was sensational. After dancing around a pair of defenders, he cut a shot pass between two defenders for the on-running Escobar to blast past Matt Turner.

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Man of the match: Barco

Goalscorers: Escobar (70′)