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Messi scores two, leads Barcelona to 5-1 rout of Valladolid (video)

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MADRID (AP) It was one of those special nights for Lionel Messi, filled with beautiful goals, pinpoint assists and plenty of praise from teammates and opponents.

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Messi scored two goals and set up two more as Barcelona extended its winning streak and regained the Spanish league lead by comfortably defeating Valladolid 5-1 on Tuesday.

“We can only applaud and enjoy,” Valladolid captain Michel Herrero said.

Messi scored a goal in each half, including his 50th from a free kick, as Barcelona won its seventh straight game in all competitions since the Argentina star returned to the starting lineup after a long injury layoff.

“I don’t know what else to say,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “We always know he will do something special. His talent can’t be compared to anything.”

Clement Lenglet, Arturo Vidal and Luis Suarez also scored at the Camp Nou Stadium to give Barcelona a two-point lead over Granada, which visits Getafe on Thursday. Atletico Madrid, which was held to a 1-1 draw by Alaves on Tuesday, also stayed two points off the lead.

Barcelona has a game in hand because the “clasico” against Real Madrid last weekend was postponed until December because of a separatist rally held in the Catalan capital.

Barcelona struggled without Messi but has won all of its matches since he returned as a starter following a right calf injury he picked up in the preseason. He has scored five goals in Barcelona’s last four matches.

“When Messi is on a day like this, the whole team feels it and everything becomes easier,” Vidal said. “He is from another planet.”

Messi’s first goal was a spectacular curling free kick shot into the top corner in the 34th minute, and his second came with a shot from inside the area after he beautifully controlled a long pass by Ivan Rakitic in the 75th.

The free kick goal was Messi’s 44th with Barcelona, adding to the six he scored with Argentina’s national team.

Lenglet opened the scoring two minutes into the match and Kiko Olivas equalized for Valladolid in the 15th before Vidal put the hosts ahead again in the 29th. Suarez netted Barcelona’s final goal after a perfect through pass by Messi in the 77th. Messi also set up Vidal’s goal with a great pass over Valladolid defenders.

[ VIDEO: Every touch from Christian Pulisic v. Burnley ]

Messi missed out on a hat trick when his close-range shot in stoppage time went wide.

It was the 11th win for Barcelona in 12 league matches against Valladolid, which stayed ninth in the 20-team standings.

Valverde started the match with 16-year-old Ansu Fati in place of Antoine Griezmann. The French forward entered the game in the second half.

Atletico Madrid had to settle for another draw after conceding a late equalizer at Alaves.

It was the fourth draw in the last five league matches for Atletico, which could drop to sixth place after the other matches are played.

Substitute striker Alvaro Morata put Atletico ahead from inside the area in the 70th minute, but Lucas Perez equalized in the 83rd with a beautiful long-range shot after going past two defenders. It was the fifth consecutive match with a goal for Perez.

“I went for the top corner and luckily it went in,” he said.

Morata has scored in three straight games, always coming off the bench.

Atletico had drawn three straight in the league before a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao at home on Saturday.

“We have to forget this match and keep working,” Atletico midfielder Thomas Partey said.

The result extended Atletico’s unbeaten streak against Alaves to nine league matches.

Barcelona ends contract with company accused of fake posts

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona has ended its contract with a company that made negative comments on social media about people within the club.

Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu said Tuesday the decision was made after the club found out that one of its service providers used an account to make “inadequate” comments about people in the club. He did not name the company nor give any detail about the comments.

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Bartomeu reiterated the club’s denial of accusations it hired a company to make negative comments about its own players and opponents on social media in order to boost the image of senior club officials.

The Cadena Ser radio network said Monday a company used fake social media accounts to discredit opposition figures and some of Barcelona’s players when they expressed views that went against the club. Cadena Ser said some of the figures included star players Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique as well as former coach Pep Guardiola.

Bartomeu said other companies will continue to monitor social media on behalf of the club.

“It’s the responsibility of the club to know what is said on social media around the world,” he said. “But the club has never contracted services to discredit anyone, and we will do whatever is needed to defend ourselves from such accusations.”

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Premier League Preview: Man City v. West Ham

Premier League Preview: Man City v. West Ham
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Manchester City takes the pitch at the Etihad Stadium for the first time since UEFA hammered it with a two-year Champions League ban when it hosts West Ham United on Wednesday (Watch Live at 3 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via

Manager Pep Guardiola has reportedly stated his commitment to the club ahead of the match, which was rescheduled from last weekend after Storm Ciara hit England.


Second-place City opens the day 25 points back of leaders Liverpool, while West Ham is one point behind 17th place.

The Irons have not won a Premier League match since New Year’s Day, David Moyes‘ first match in charge.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 


Man City: OUT —  Oleksandr Zinchenko, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane. QUESTIONABLE — Aymeric Laporte, Benjamin Mendy

West Ham: OUT — Jack Wilshere, Andriy Yarmolenko. QUESTIONABLE — Felipe Anderson

Probable lineups

Man City: Ederson; Cancelo, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Walker, Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne, D. Silva, Aguero, Mahrez.

West Ham: Fabianski; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Diop, Zabaleta, Rice, Soucek, Noble, Snodgrass, Haller, Antonio.

What they’re saying

West Ham’s David Moyes on the relegation fight: “I’m more than confident we will climb the table. I think the players here are more than capable. I think we have got a good group. I think they are all fully aware of the situation we’re in and the improvement we need to make to make sure we’re not in the bottom three, and I’m sure come the end we will do.”


A blowout. While West Ham has the urgency to get out of the drop zone, City will be pouring its full focus into finding form for next week’s Champions League tie with Real Madrid. City, 4-1.

Champions League preview: Spurs host Leipzig, Valencia visits Atalanta

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Two more UEFA Champions League Round of 16 ties kickoff Wednesday, including one being labeled as the biggest in a club’s existence.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

That would be Serie A side Atalanta, which hosts Valencia at 3 p.m. at Gewiss Stadium.

Atalanta had played in two consecutive Europa Leagues, but this is their first move into the Champions League. To make the knockout rounds is exceptional, and club president Antonio Percassi is fired up.

“We must be honest, this is the most important game in the history of this club,” Percassi told Sky Sport Italia. “It doesn’t seem real. It’s exciting just thinking that tomorrow we’ll be in a Champions League Round of 16. It’s wonderful for our fans too. … This is going to be a unique experience that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.”

Atalanta finished second in its group to Manchester City, and is fourth in Serie A. Valencia won its group.

There’s a Premier League side in action on Wednesday, too, as Spurs begin life without Heung-Min Son.

Jose Mourinho spun a tale about how badly Tottenham will need its fans against RB Leipzig, comparing the home-field advantage to an emergency rescue crew of sorts.

Leipzig is led by Julian Nagelsmann, who was once referred to as “Baby Mourinho” by his players.

The 32-year-old was quick to distance himself from the story.

“Tomorrow it is Leipzig against Tottenham, not Mourinho v. Baby Mourinho,” he said. “I have great respect for Mourinho. He has won lots of titles with big clubs, the Champions League twice. He has made his mark on European football at some big European clubs. I think it his 59th knockout game in the CL and it is my first so there is obviously respect there.”

Liverpool’s Robertson not a fan of Atletico Madrid theatrics

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Liverpool fullback Andy Robertson was not impressed with Atletico Madrid’s display as his side fell 1-0 in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The Reds fell behind on a fourth-minute Saul Niguez goal and couldn’t get a shot on target despite 73 percent possession in Spain.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Atleti executed its plan to near-perfection, slowing restarts and taking advantage of counterattacking opportunities to assuage the constant pressure of Liverpool.

At times it was reminiscent of early-century Italian national team play, and both neutrals and Liverpool knew what they were in for once Atleti took the lead.

“We gave them the best possible start to get the fans behind them and then they can start falling over and things like that, trying to get under our skin a bit which I think we handled quite well to be honest,” Robertson told BT Sport. “We know we are better than (how they played). We put in a decent performance and we can be better than that. Luckily we have got a second leg to put it right.”

Given the performance and the reputation, you’d still fancy the Reds to “put it right” at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp thinks Atleti will feel plenty of pressure at Anfield, and he will certainly feel the officiating will be more to his liking.