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Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema injures right hand

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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema had to be substituted at halftime of Sunday’s Spanish league match at Real Betis after hurting his right hand.

Madrid coach Santiago Solari said Benzema had fractured his hand.

“He was in a lot of pain,” Solari said.

Madrid was already without Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos, Marco Asensio, Mariano Diaz and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois due to injury.

Benzema needed to be attended by team doctors when he fell after a brush with a Betis defender in first-half stoppage time.

He was replaced by reserve-team player Cristo Gonzalez during the break.

Benzema leads Madrid in scoring with 12 goals in all competitions this season.

Pochettino: “That is the best 45 minutes I have seen” at Spurs

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Tottenham Hotspur suffered the narrowest of defeats on Sunday, at the hands of Manchester United, yet Mauricio Pochettino called his side’s performance “the best” he has seen in his time at the club.

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 22 ]

Particularly during the second half, Tottenham poured on the pressure and likely would have scored two or three goals against any goalkeeper not named David De Gea. Despite seeing his side lose for the second time in three Premier League games, Pochettino was full of nothing but praise, for his players and the villainous De Gea, after the game — quotes from the BBC:

 

“It was an amazing second half, I am so pleased. … The team was fantastic. That is the best 45 minutes I have seen Tottenham play since I took in charge.

“Sometimes you win a game and you are disappointed, like when we won 3-0 at Old Trafford (in August). Today the result should be different and I am happy. That is the way that we want to grow and play — taking risks, playing football that we are going to play.

21 shots in the game, including 14 in the second half. 11 shots on target, all thwarted by an otherworldly performance by De Gea.

“Eleven saves from De Gea who was outstanding. He fully deserved to be man of the match.”

Despite the result, Spurs remain third in the PL table, a point ahead of fourth-place Chelsea and still seven clear of fifth- and sixth-place Arsenal and Man United, respectively.

Ligue 1: Fabregas nearly the hero on Monaco debut

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PARIS (AP) — Cesc Fabregas almost had a dream debut for Monaco in the French league only for teammate Youri Tielemans to waste a late golden chance in a 1-1 draw at Marseille on Sunday.

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 22 ]

Despite only signing from Premier League Chelsea on Friday, Fabregas went straight into the team and added poise and assurance to Monaco’s midfield.

In the first minute of injury time, Fabregas cleverly chipped the ball over the Marseille defense, only for Tielemans to drag his shot wide.

[ MORE: Messi scores 400th goal in route; the Madrids hold serve ]

Watching from the sideline, Monaco coach Thierry Henry could barely contain his frustration. Still, it was an important point for 19th-placed Monaco in its relegation fight.

Next up for Henry’s Monaco is eighth-placed Nice at home on Wednesday, a match which pits Henry against his former Arsenal and France teammate Patrick Vieira, who is now coach of Nice. Both Henry and Vieira were also teammates of Fabregas when he started his Arsenal career late in 2003.

La Liga: Messi scores 400th in rout; the Madrids hold serve

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

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 22 ]

Barcelona 3-0 Eibar

Lionel Messi became the first player to ever score 400 goals in one of Europe’s top five leagues (WATCH HERE), because of course he did. Other than that, Sunday was little more than a routine day out for Barcelona, who maintained their five-point lead in the title race with a 3-0 victory over Eibar.

Luis Suarez put the home side ahead after just 19 minutes; Messi made it 2-0 in the 53rd; Suarez grabbed another to complete the scoring six minutes later.

That’s six straight league victories for Barca, and seven straight without defeat.

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Levante

Atleti have prevailed as the main — if not only — formidable title challengers to Barca, now five points clear of third-place Sevilla and fourth-place Real Madrid. Alas, the same gap still exists between themselves and the defending champions.

All Diego Simeone’s side can do is keep winning and hope that Barca slip up somewhere along the way. Sunday’s home clash with 11th-place Levante was something of a grind, but Antoine Griezmann’s 57th-minute penalty kick was just enough to extend Los Rojiblancos‘ unbeaten run to 16 games. The trouble, of course, is that they have dropped points in seven of them.

Real Betis 1-2 Real Madrid

Dreams of the title have long since gone for the other Madrid — probably — as their attention should now turn to a full-on rebuild of an aging squad. In the meantime, Los Blancos are still made up of a number of world-class players. Take, for instance, 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric, who scored one of the best goals of his brilliant career on Sunday.

Betis equalized in the 67th minute, though, setting the stage for one of the club’s former favorites, Dani Ceballos, to break the home fans’ hearts in the 88th.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Girona 1-1 Alaves (Saturday)
Villarreal 1-2 Getafe (Saturday)
Leganes 1-0 Huesca (Saturday)
Valencia 1-1 Real Valladolid (Saturday)
Athletic Bilbao 2-0 Sevilla

Premier League Preview: Man City v. Wolves

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  • Another must-win for Man City’s title hopes
  • Man City 2nd in PL table; Wolves sit 11th
  • Wolves held City to a 1-1 draw in August

Manchester City did the really hard part of reinserting themselves into the Premier League title race — beating leaders Liverpool to cut the Reds’ lead to just four points — but now comes the next challenge for Pep Guardiola‘s side: maintaining that same level of performance in every single game for the next five months so as to, at a minimum, match Liverpool stride for stride, just to remain within four points.

When 11th-place Wolverhampton Wanderers visit the Etihad Stadium on Monday, Man City will already be playing from behind after Liverpool secured a hard-fought victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Since their top-of-the-table showdown with Liverpool, City have put together two of the most lopsided results you’re bound to see all season — albeit against vastly inferior Cup competition. A 7-0 victory over Rotherham United (Championship) in the FA Cup, followed by a 9-0 demolition of League One side Burton Albion in the first leg of the League Cup semifinals, has the defending champions overflowing with confidence once again, and at just the right time.

On the other side, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side is riding the roller coaster that is a newly promoted club’s first season back in the PL. Wolves have won back-to-back games in four times this season, while also enduring a six-game winless skid that featured five defeats.

What they’re saying

Man City midfielder Bernardo Silva: “(The) win (over Liverpool) was super important, particularly because it was against the leaders and we must show that we are chasing after the title. Our team has great experience. Each one of us has won and lost games and we know how to react to defeats. That’s why, when we’re at the very top, we don’t think we’re the best in the world and when we’re very low, we don’t see that we are the worst. … We are certainly going to give our best in order to keep the higher level.”

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo: “It’s not about who you face, it’s about what you want to put on the pitch, your idea, the way you want to develop. It’s how you want to grow and how you want to do things on the pitch, that’s the philosophy we try. It’s about the approach. … I know the reality of the game, the reality of football. … They are a very good team, one of the best in the world, so there’s no doubt on Monday they’re going to be as good as they always are.”

Prediction

City didn’t put in that kind of effort and performance against Liverpool just to throw it all away and had the title over their next time out in league play. Don’t be surprised when they look like the City of 2017-18 the next few weeks or months, and that’s a frightening proposition for Wolves.