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Atleti escapes major punishment for fans’ Griezmann threats

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MADRID (AP) Atletico Madrid escaped major punishment Wednesday after its fans made threatening chants against former player Antoine Griezmann during last weekend’s La Liga match against Barcelona.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

The Spanish league had denounced the club after some fans chanted “Die Griezmann” in Sunday’s match, won by Barcelona at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid.

The Spanish soccer federation said it would fine Atletico $333 because the game was disrupted, but it did not cite the chants against Griezmann. The fine was prompted mainly because fans threw objects — including an umbrella — onto the field.

The Spanish league had denounced the club to the federation’s anti-violence committee, saying about 2,000 fans from Atletico’s “ultras” section made the chants for about 20 seconds before the start of the second half, and again later in the game.

[ MORE: Ole gushes over “the best performance Rashford has had under me” ]

Griezmann left Atletico for Barcelona at the end of last season in a transfer worth more than $132 million.

The France forward was jeered nearly every time he touched the ball at the Metropolitano on Sunday. It was his first match at Atletico’s stadium since leaving the club.

Hazard has muscle tear, could miss El Clasico

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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid midfielder Eden Hazard has a more serious right-leg injury than the bruise that was first diagnosed, and it could rule him out of El Clasico against Barcelona on Dec. 18.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

Madrid said Thursday that new tests found a micro-tear of a muscle that had gone undetected since the injury occurred on Nov. 26 in a 2-2 draw with Paris Saint-Germain.

Hazard joined Madrid from Chelsea this year on a club-record transfer of $113 million, plus add-ons. He missed the first three games of the season after injuring a thigh muscle in the preseason.

[ MORE: Ole gushes over “the best performance Rashford has had under me” ]

Madrid said it will also likely be without left back Marcelo for Saturday’s home game against Espanyol because of a muscle injury.

Madrid is in second place in the Spanish league behind Barcelona on goal difference.

UEFA to boost Women’s Champions League with new group stage

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) In a move to raise the quality, profile and value of women’s soccer, UEFA is changing the Champions League format to include a group stage.

The 2021-22 edition will have a 16-team group stage with increased revenue from the sale of centralized broadcast and sponsor deals, the European soccer body’s executive committee decided Wednesday.

Top European leagues will likely have more entries – three instead of two – joining at an earlier stage, with at least 10 different countries to be represented in the groups.

“We expect the Women’s Champions League to take off more than it has today,” UEFA deputy general secretary Giorgio Marchetti said. “Certainly there is also more interest from the market.”

Currently, the Women’s Champions League is a 32-team knockout tournament with few games shown by national broadcasters. French club Lyon has won the past four titles.

This season’s winner will earn 460,000 euros ($510,000) in prize money – about 0.5% of what the men’s Champions League winner will get.

UEFA also confirmed its preferred qualifying path for Europe’s quota of 13 places at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which FIFA must approve. The winners of 10 qualifying groups will advance directly to the final tournament. Three will advance through playoffs.

The playoffs in March 2022 will include the 10 group runners-up and the two best remaining teams from the next Nations League standings. The 12 playoff nations will be drawn into three four-team knockout brackets playing single-game semifinals and a final.

The 2020 Nations League groups will be drawn on March 3, on the sidelines of UEFA’s annual congress in Amsterdam.

Amid uncertainty across Europe about how video review, and the interpretation of offside and handball, are affecting referees’ decisions, UEFA will ask soccer’s law-making panel for clearer guidance.

The video assistant system, introduced by FIFA for the 2018 World Cup, will stay, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said, but “it is far from clear.”

“We have to make it (the technology) clearer. We have to make it faster. We have to make it less invasive,” he said.

UEFA plans to make a detailed proposal to the rule-making panel, known as IFAB, before its annual meeting on Feb. 29 in Northern Ireland.

Ceferin said the tight offside lines drawn by video officials were not giving the same clear, accurate decisions as goal-line technology succeeded in doing.

“Goal-line technology, it works perfectly but offside cannot work that way,” Ceferin said. “I still think that football needs uncertainty. The referees on the pitch have to take responsibility and not some people hidden somewhere in a van or in a building 500 kilometers from the venue.”

Ceferin declined comment when asked if Russia’s hosting of the 2021 Champions League final in St. Petersburg could be threatened by an expected decision next Monday by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

WADA’s executive committee has been advised by an expert panel to recommend banning Russia from hosting major sports events for four years as punishment for state authorities corrupting data and documents from the long-disgraced Moscow testing laboratory.

UEFA is not a formal signatory of the World Anti-Doping Code – FIFA is – and is technically not bound by any WADA decision.

“As a lawyer and the UEFA president,” Ceferin said, “I cannot comment on something that hasn’t been decided.”

Atletico Madrid faces punishment after fans made Griezmann threats

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MADRID — Atletico Madrid is facing punishment after its fans made threatening chants against former player Antoine Griezmann during last weekend’s La Liga game against Barcelona.

[ MORE: Spurs’ Mourinho quotes Mandela in discussing Man United return ]

The Spanish league said Wednesday it denounced the club after some fans chanted “Die Griezmann” early in the match won by Barcelona at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid.

The Spanish soccer federation’s anti-violence committee will analyze the case. The club is mostly likely to be fined if found guilty.

The league said about 2,000 fans from Atletico’s “ultras” section made the chants for about 20 seconds in the seventh minute of the match. The chants were repeated in the second half.

[ MORE: Liverpool ready to spend in January ]

Griezmann left Atletico for Barcelona at the end of last season in a transfer worth more than $132 million.

The France forward was jeered nearly every time he touched the ball at the Metropolitano on Sunday. It was his first match at Atletico’s stadium since leaving the club.

Barcelona won 1-0 with an 86th-minute goal by Lionel Messi.

La Liga leader Tebas triggers new election to seek new term

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MADRID (AP) The president of the Spanish league resigned – and immediately made himself a candidate again – to try to give the league greater “institutional stability” before negotiating new television rights.

Javier Tebas offered his resignation on Monday, triggering a new election for a four-year term.

In a letter sent to the clubs, Tebas said the move was aimed at giving the league the “greatest possible stability” to “maintain the trust” of national and international television operators which will be negotiating new rights.

Tebas’ current term would end in early October, while the new tender for domestic television rights for the period 2022-25 is set to take place from March to June 2021. Tebas said he believed the new tender process would be “too close to the electoral period.”

Tebas said the stability was also important as Spain faces government changes that could affect the league and the clubs, and to keep the league in a strong position to fight against proposed changes to major European competitions.

Tebas has been in charge at the league since 2013, spearheading a transformation that included the implementation of a centralized sale of television rights and the creation of financial control measures that helped Spanish clubs significantly reduce their debts.

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