Diego Costa

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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.

Report: Eriksen turns down another contract offer from Spurs

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According to a report by journalist Graeme Bailey, Tottenham has seen another contract offer rejected by attacker Christian Eriksen, and with the European transfer deadline approaching, they fear growing interest from abroad.

Bailey’s report states that Spurs’ offer has been in the works “for weeks” and that while Eriksen has turned it down, it remains on the table should he change his mind. The offer is reportedly enough to make Eriksen the highest paid player at the club, passing Harry Kane, but the club has yet been unable to extend him past the expiration of his current contract next summer.

The English window has passed, and the report states that Manchester United pressed for a move before the deadline but Eriksen wished to leave the Premier League.

Bailey states that La Liga clubs are the most interested, and while Real Madrid could look to Eriksen to counter Barcelona’s rumored approach for Neymar, Atletico Madrid has the biggest financial power following Antoine Griezmann’s big-money sale to Barca. Atleti’s attacking ranks are loaded, but Eriksen would give them even more firepower behind Diego Costa, Alvaro Morata, Joao Felix, Thomas Lemar, and the incoming Kieran Trippier down the flank.

While Eriksen could still stay should no offers come in, but it would seem the club may have no option but to sell.

Atleti phenom Felix upstages MLS All Stars

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It’s not about the result nor even the action, but Major League Soccer’s All-Stars lost their third-straight outing on Wednesday, a 3-0 defeat to Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.

Really, though, it’s about Joao Felix, the 19-year-old $140 million star who posted a goal and an assist in just over a half hour of play.

[ MORE: Lampard praises Pulisic ]

The All Stars had most of the ball and few of the chances, with Marcos Llorente and Diego Costa joining the score sheet during a wet match in Orlando.

Llorente took a back heel from impressive 19-year-old Rodrigo Riquelme and finished his chance to make it 1-0, but Felix’s second half was the story.

Felix tore into a bouncing ball to swerve a shot off Nick Rimando and into the goal, then sent a delightful ball through to Costa for a suave finish deep in stoppage time.

History of MLS All Star Game
1996: East 3-2 West
1997: East 5-4 West
1998: USA 6-1 World
1999: East 4-6 West
2000: East 9-4 West
2001: East 6-6 West
2002: MLS 3-2 USMNT
2003: MLS 3-1 Chivas Guadalajara
2004: East 3-2 West
2005: MLS 4-1 Fulham
2006: MLS 1-0 Chelsea
2007: MLS 2-0 Celtic
2008: MLS 3-2 West Ham United
2009: MLS 1-1 Everton (Everton wins in PKs)
2010: MLS 2-5 Manchester United
2011: MLS 0-4 Manchester United
2012: MLS 3-2 Chelsea
2013: MLS 1-3 AS Roma
2014: MLS 2-1 Bayern Munich
2015: MLS 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
2016: MLS 1-2 Arsenal
2017: MLS 1-1 (2-4 PKs) Real Madrid
2018: MLS 1-1 (3-5 PKs) Juventus
2019: MLS 0-1 Atletico Madrid

MLS All-Star Game preview: Joao Felix visits Florida

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Some of the biggest generational names of soccer will be in the lineup when the MLS All Stars face Atletico Madrid in Orlando on Tueday, but many eyes will be trained on a teenager.

$134 million teenager Joao Felix will be in the fold for Atleti on Wednesday in Florida, on the heels of a 1-goal, 2-assist performance against Real Madrid and ahead of a La Liga debut in August.

[ MORE: Lukaku, Dybala swap? ]

So while it’ll be pretty cool to see Diego Costa test the MLS All-Stars, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney and Co. go up against Diego Simeone’s stingy defense, there will be a special focus on a youngster getting as much international focus as any teen star not named Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in the past decade.

Once-capped by Portugal, Felix burst into stardom last season with Benfica. Felix scored 20 times in all competitions, including 15 in league play, and earned the big purchase from Atleti.

Now, he’ll show us what a 19-year-old megawatt potential can do against USMNT center back Walker Zimmerman, World Cup champion Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Atlanta United star defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez.

And if Felix is supposed to be worried about going up against physical defenders, let alone La Liga’s stars, he’s not letting on (via AS):

“Nothing can stop me playing my football. I might not have a lot physically, but I have other things that the rest don’t have. And that will help me a lot.”

The match kicks off after 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Atletico crushes Real in U.S. friendly

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It took less than a minute for Atletico Madrid to open the scoring, and it was only the beginning.

Diego Simeone’s squad demolished city rivals Real Madrid, 7-3 in a preseason friendly at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The match featured ten goals, dozens of chances and two red cards.

[READ: Report: Bale close to move to China]

Diego Costa finished the match with four goals and a red card, of course, for retaliating after a strong tackle from Dani Carvajal, who was also sent off in the second half.

New Atleti signing Joao Felix impressed in the first half and scored as well, showcasing his talent for Real Madrid and the fans at MetLife stadium to see. It was an embarrassing night for Real Madrid as Zinedine Zidane’s midfield was overrun. Perhaps it could ignite new rumors linking Paul Pogba to Real Madrid, or get the club’s front office working overtime to secure another big transfer.

Gareth Bale, who’s reportedly close to agreeing a deal to move to China, came on in the second half off the bench, with Real Madrid not holding him back to ensure he’d be able to move without an injury scuppering a deal.

Watch some of the goals below: