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Barcelona ships four goals in loss to Real Betis

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The top of the La Liga table is nowhere near straightforward this season.

Barcelona failed to build a gap at the summit as they fall 4-3 at home against Real Betis on Sunday. Lionel Messi scored twice in his return from a broken arm, but was unable to overcome a multitude of defensive mistakes.

Junior Firpo, Joaquin, Giovani Lo Celso, and Sergio Canales all found the scoresheet for the visitors at the Camp Nou as they routed the Barcelona back line.

The first came from 22-year-old Firpo in the 20th minute who finished with his right foot one-on-one against Sergi Roberto after a brilliant long-distance feed from William Carvalho. Barcelona would fall 2-0 behind before halftime as Clément Lenglet whiffed attempting to clear a cross that skittered across the face of goal, and with the defenders all sucked towards net by the fast paced counter-attack, Cristian Tello cut the ball back into the middle where Joaquin was waiting to finish with a nifty little flick. Messi brought Barcelona a goal back from the penalty spot past the hour mark, but Giovani Lo Celso found space in the box just three minutes later and powered it home past Marc-Andre ter Stegen who got a touch.

Arturo Vidal again drew Barcelona within one before Betis would find the ultimate winning goal in the 83rd minute in a vicious flurry. Betis forced ter Stegen to come off his line and make a smothering save near the left post, which he did before booting the chance clear. It came right back at the Barcelona defense, however, as a streaking Junior Firpo cannoned the ball across the face of goal where Sergio Canales split Lenglet and Roberto with a sliding finish.

Barcelona’s defense has suffered greatly in the absence of Samuel Umtiti, who was unable to return from his knee injury in time to be fit for the match against Real Betis, having missed nearly six weeks. Lenglet has filled in during Umtiti’s absence, and Barcelona has conceded nine goals over the last four matches with the understudy in the lineup. Thomas Vermaelen has also been absent with a hamstring injury suffered after he played 90 minutes against Valencia in early October.

With the loss, Barcelona holds just a one-point lead over Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, and Alaves at the top of the La Liga table, with Espanyol three points back and Real Madrid still seven points behind.

Reports: Barcelona completes Vidal move ahead of Inter

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It seemed like 31-year-old Arturo Vidal would be headed back to Serie A, but oh how things can change in the course of a few days.

With Inter appearing to close in on the Chilean international, Barcelona swooped in and snatched Vidal out from under the Italian club’s nose, reportedly completing the deal for $35 million.

Vidal has won a league title in each of his last seven seasons, the last three at Bayern Munich and the four prior at Serie A giants Juventus. The midfielder has proven his world-class status time and again, as a rock in the midfield for both clubs and in exactly 100 caps for his country. However, injuries last season limited him to just 22 Bundesliga appearances, pushing Bayern to let him go.

The Chilean will serve as a direct replacement for Paulinho, who was stellar in his year at Barcelona before returning to the Chinese top flight. Paulinho struggled mightily in the World Cup with Brazil, and was then shipped back to Chinese club Guanzhou Evergrande a year after leaving.

Meanwhile, at Bayern, the rise of Corentin Tolisso made Vidal expendable, with the French international proving a viable option for title-hungry club. Between Tolisso, Thiago, Sebastian Rudy, Javi Martinez, and the versatile Joshua Kimmich, Bayern will be just fine in the middle of the pitch.

Vidal’s capture pushed Barcelona’s expenditure this summer over $130 million, having already secured French defender Clement Lenglet, plus Brazilian duo Malcom and Arthur.

Transfer rumor roundup: Vidal to Man Utd; West Ham chases Marcelo

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Both Milan sides are bidding to bring a Copa America star to their clubs, with a Premier League giant perhaps the dark horse.

Corriere dello Sport reports that Bayern Munich haymaker Arturo Vidal is ready to leave the club, and that Inter Milan and AC Milan are interested.

[ MORE: Wolves set to add Moutinho ]

Bild, however, cites Chilean media in saying that Manchester United would like to see the spiky-haired 31-year-old reunited with Alexis Sanchez at Old Trafford.

The CdS report says Bayern has been said to value Vidal at $35 million, while Inter has been rejected with a bid of $23 million.


West Ham may want to bring Marcelo to London.

No, not that Marcelo. We’re talking about the Brazilian center back.

Le Dauphine says Manuel Pellegrini sees Marcelo as a potential option for him in the heart of his claret defense.

The big 31-year-old scored five goals in 49 appearances for Lyon, and was one of the top-rated players on the side.

Int’l friendlies: Sweden fall to Chile; Canada win Herdman’s debut

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A roundup of Saturday’s (less-than-stellar) slate of international friendlies…

[ MORE: France blow a lead, lose to Colombia; England top Holland ]

Sweden 1-2 Chile

Sweden, who’ll be at the 2018 World Cup, fell 1-0 behind Chile, who won’t be joining them in Russia, when Arturo Vidal hit a simply stunning, off-balance volley into the upper-90 from the edge of the box in the 22nd minute. Ola Toivonen brought Sweden back to 1-1 just a minute later, but Marcos Bolados broke Blagult hearts in the 90th minute, when he pounced on a bouncing rebound and hammered the ball into an open net.

[ MORE: New USMNT kits for 2018 World Cup ]

Northern Ireland 2-1 South Korea

Speaking of World Cup-bound sides falling to those who failed to qualify themselves, South Korea went ahead away to Northern Ireland after just seven minutes, but watched helplessly as Kwon Chang-Hoon’s opening goal slipped away from the Taeguk Warriors.

Min-Jae Kim scored a mostly unavoidable own goal in the 20th minute, and Paul Smyth slipped through a sea of South Korean defenders to fire home a wonderful winner in the 86th minute.

Canada 1-0 New Zealand

Among the national teams not currently preparing for this summer’s tournament, but instead building toward qualification in 2022, there’s Canada, who knocked off New Zealand in Murcia, Spain, to begin the John Herdman era with a victory on Saturday.

Tosaint Ricketts scored the game’s only goal, a 54th-minute volley from the Toronto FC forward, courtesy of a long, searching ball out of the back from defender Dejan Jakovic.

Herdman took over the Canadian men’s post in January, when he stepped down as head coach of the women’s team, which he led to two straight appearances in each the World Cup and Olympics during eight years on the job.

Come September, the Canucks will be competing in the CONCACAF Nations League, a 34-team tournament featuring all but the six nations to have competed in the Hexagonal of World Cup qualifying. The top 10 finishing sides will qualify for the 2019 Gold Cup, alongside the Hex combatants. Canada will face the U.S. Virgin Islands in September, followed by Dominica in October, Saint Kitts and Nevis in November, and finally French Guiana in March 2019.

Elsewhere in int’l friendlies

Israel 1-2 Romania
Togo 2-2 Ivory Coast
Georgia 4-0 Lithuania
Zambia 0-2 South Africa
Kenya 2-2 Comoros
Kosovo 1-0 Madagascar
Armenia 0-0 Estonia

Transfer Talk: Ronaldo to Chelsea? Hazard to MCFC?

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Sunday’s transfer rumors are coming in hot, so you better buckle up.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news ]

Perhaps Real Madrid’s inconsistency this season could bring good fortunes to the defending Premier League champions.

The Sun is reporting that Cristiano Ronaldo is considering a move to Chelsea this summer, with the Portuguese international content on leaving the Santiago Bernabeu.

While London may seem a bit strange as a choice of destination for Ronaldo, especially given his past at Manchester United, the Red Devils likely cancelled out any chance of bringing back the star forward when they recently acquired Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal.

However, any move to bring Ronaldo to Stamford Bridge is likely contingent on Chelsea losing Eden Hazard over the summer.

Although the Belgian star is under contract with the Blues until 2020, Hazard has been linked time and time again with Real and Paris Saint-Germain, so if the 27-year-old does leave then Ronaldo would clearly be a suitable replacement.


Hazard could very well stay in the PL though, whether that be with Chelsea or another top English side.

One report states that Pep Guardiola and Manchester City are preparing to launch an astonishing $212 million bid for the Chelsea attacker.

Hazard, who has scored 12 goals this season for the Blues, nearly joined the Citizens back in 2012 when he first came to Stamford Bridge.

Complications in the deal with Man City stopped the move from going through, and allowed the Blues to acquire the Belgian.


Arturo Vidal could be on his way to the PL this summer, with Bayern Munich reportedly interested in selling the Chilean international.

Chelsea have been linked with the veteran midfielder for some time now, however, the Manchester Evening News is reporting that Manchester United could make a play for the 30-year-old.

A move to Stamford Bridge makes a bit more sense given Conte’s track record having coached Vidal at Juventus, but Jose Mourinho seems intent on adding more to his Red Devils squad, too.