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La Liga preview: Three-peat for Barcelona?

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As we close out the decade, Barcelona has been far and away the best team in Spain, and possibly Europe, over the last ten years. This summer, they may have gotten even stronger.

The La Liga season kicks off on Friday, with Barcelona going for its third-straight league title and eighth in the last ten years. Barcelona won the 2019 title by 11 points over Atletico Madrid and a stunning 19 points over rivals Real Madrid. Now, as Barca gets set to face Athletic Bilbao in the season opener, it’s upgraded at key positions that could give Barcelona what it needs to win the league again, and even potentially the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule ]

Barcelona this summer signed France World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann, French defender Jean-Clair Todibo and Spanish defender Junior Firpo. But the crown jewel could be central midfielder Frenkie de Jong. The former Ajax star has trained in the Dutch possession model for the last two years, which Barcelona bears a strong resemblance to.

As such, de Jong has seamlessly transitioned to the Barcelona squad, and could make Barcelona the team to beat in Europe for many years to come. Imagine de Jong spraying passes to Lionel 2Messi, and Barcelona could start winning matches 4-1, 5-0, on a consistent basis.

Nipping on Barcelona’s heels this coming season will likely be Atletico Madrid. Diego Simeone, in his ninth season in charge, has probably had the best transfer window of any team in La Liga. Despite losing veterans like Griezmann, Diego Godin, Juanfran, Felipe Luis and young stars like Rodri (Man City) and Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Simeone and the Atletico board have brought in some of the brightest stars that can light up La Liga.

The star of the bunch is Joao Felix. The 19-year-old has started life incredibly with Atletico as he’s scored three goals and dished out four assists in preseason action. Atleti also added former Tottenham right back Kieran Trippier and brought untested but talented midfielder Marcos Llorente over from Real Madrid. The new improvements have helped make Atleti an even better attacking team. That may seem against Simeone’s principals, but perhaps with Diego Costa leading the line this season and Felix on the left, we could see an Atleti squad outscoring its opponents, rather than grinding out low-scoring games.

On the other side of Madrid is Real Madrid, and at the moment, it’s not looking good. Los Blancos had plenty of hope last spring, when Zinedine Zidane returned to take over as coach and Real fans hoped for a big change this summer.

Instead, it’s been just more of the same. Yes, Real Madrid has brought in Eden Hazard, Eder Militao and Luka Jovic among others. But according to reports, the one player Zidane wanted Real Madrid to sign the most was Paul Pogba. Unless something drastic changes at Old Trafford, that won’t happen.

Meanwhile, the backline has hardly changed. Marcelo, Sergio Ramos and Nacho are still around, and while Militao and Ferland Mendy bring some youth to the backline, it’s still not a world-class unit. Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro struggled at times during the season, and while Vinicius Jr. is a talent, Hazard’s arrival means there’s less playing time for the Brazilian.

Plus, there’s the distraction of James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale still in the squad, plus Marco Asensio’s season-ending injury. It may be a somewhat tough year in the center of Madrid this year.

Watch Live: Brazil v. Mexico in U-17 World Cup final

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The 2019 U-17 World Cup final takes place in Bezerrão Stadium on Saturday as favorites Brazil host an inspired Mexico.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

With four goals and one assist, Kaio Jorge has been Brazil’s most productive attacking player this tournament, while Mexico’s and Los Angeles Galaxy’s Efrain Alvarez is hoping to end an incredible tournament in triumphant fashion.

History between both national teams in a U-17 World Cup final dates back to 2005, when LAFC’s Carlos Vela and Mexico routed Marcelo and Brazil 3-0 in Lima, Peru.

Click on the link above to watch the game live.


U-17 World Cup final
Brazil v. Mexico – 5 p.m. ET

England finishes EURO 2020 qualifying by beating Kosovo

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England’s 2020 European Championship qualification campaign wrapped up on Sunday with a slightly flattering 4-0 victory away to third-place, and playoff qualifiers, Kosovo.

[ VIDEO: Game stopped for racist chanting; player targeted later scores goal ]

Gareth Southgate‘s side was hardly at its best just three days after thrashing Montenegro and securing qualification to this summer’s tournament. They only led by a score of 1-0 through 78 minutes, before scoring a trio of late goals to put the game out of reach and rob the hosts of any potential moral victory.

Harry Winks opened the scoring, and his England account, in the 32nd minute. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain found Winks near the top of Kosovo’s penalty area and though Winks’ first touch appeared quite poor, every player in blue stopped and stood as the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder walked in on goal and coolly slotted the ball home to make it 1-0.

[ PREVIEW: Brazil v. Mexico in U-17 World Cup final ]

From that point forward, Kosovo enjoyed control of the game’s tempo and looked every bit the Three Lions’ equal. That is, until Harry Kane finished an open chance at the back post in the 79th minute and opened the floodgates.

Marcus Rashford added a third four minutes later, followed by another first England goal — this time, scored by Mason Mount — in the 91st.

England finishes EURO 2020 qualification with a record of 7W-0D-1L and a +31 goal differential, which is second only to Belgium who sit at +32 with one game still to play. England required Sunday’s victory to confirm its place as a Pot 1 team at the draw for the group stage.

Arsenal beat Spurs in front of WSL-record crowd of 38,262

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LONDON (AP) The first north London derby in the Women’s Super League produced a record crowd of 38,262 for the competition on Sunday when Arsenal claimed a 2-0 victory at Tottenham.

[ PREVIEW: Brazil v. Mexico in U-17 World Cup final ]

The newly fully professional side held out until the 66th minute when Kim Little struck for the champions and Vivianne Miedema extended Arsenal’s lead in the 82nd minute.

It was the first time Tottenham, in its first top-flight campaign, had staged women’s football at its main 61,000-capacity stadium, which opened earlier this year.

The crowd surpassed the 31,213 at Manchester City for the visit of Manchester United on the opening weekend of the season in September.

Tottenham hosted Arsenal on the first designated Women’s Football Weekend in England which also saw 23,500 at Anfield for Liverpool’s 1-0 loss to Everton.

[ MORE: Barcelona, Lionel Messi negotiating a new deal ]

Chelsea opened the season by hosting Tottenham in front of around 25,000 at Stamford Bridge.

League leaders Chelsea were back at their usual home of Kingsmeadow on Sunday. Maren Mjelde’s penalty sealed a 1-0 victory over promoted Manchester United in front of 4,790 fans – a WSL record crowd for a game not played in a large stadium usually used by the men’s team.

VIDEO: Dutch 2nd-division game stopped for racist abuse; player later scores goal

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A Dutch second-division game between Den Bosch and Excelsior was temporarily stopped on Sunday due to suspected racist chanting and Nazi salutes performed by some of Den Bosch’s fans.

[ MORE: Barcelona, Lionel Messi negotiating a new deal ]

The game was halted by referee Laurens Gerrets in the 30 minute. Dutch winger Ahmad Mendes Moreira, who plays for Excelsior, was the player targeted by the racist chanting. He was at that time seen gesturing toward the crowd, indicating to Gerrets and teammates that he was hearing racist abuse from the stands.

In a mixed zone for media availability after the game, Den Bosch manager Erik van der Ven is reported to have called Mendes Moreira a “pathetic little man” for pointing out the racist abuse to Gerrets. Den Bosch released a statement claiming that no racist abuse occurred, that the fans were instead making “crow sounds” and treating Mendes Moreira to a “crow concert,” which they claim is part of customary treatment of opposing players.

[ PREVIEW: Brazil v. Mexico in U-17 World Cup final ]

Mendes Moreira appeared emotional after scoring a goal to put Excelsior 2-1 ahead fewer than 15 minutes after the game was restarted.