Arturo Vidal

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La Liga roundup: Last-place Espanyol equal Barcelona late in Catalan Derby

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Espanyol’s thrilling, late draw against cross-town rival Barcelona highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Espanyol 2-2 Barcelona

With a late goal from Wu Lei, Espanyol pulled off a stunning 2-2 derby draw against league leaders and rival Barcelona, who failed to regain their two-point lead at the top of La Liga on Saturday at RCDE Stadium.

Luis Suarez leveled the score with a right-footed, leaping volley in the 50th minute and assisted Arturo Vidal only nine minutes later with a superlative outside-of-the-boot cross well within the box. The Uruguayan ace has either scored or assisted in Barcelona’s last 10 league goals.

Espanyol, playing under newly-appointed manager Abelardo for the first time ever, made it difficult to believe that it was a derby between the best team in the Spanish league against the worst. Los Periquitos came out confident and poised, drawing first blood 23 minutes after David Lopez’s zoomed passed Neto.

The hosts went into halftime up a goal, and even though Barcelona benefited from Arturo Vidal’s inclusion, Espanyol fought back.

Chinese star Lei sent the home fans over the moon after striking the back of the net against a Frenkie de Jong-less, 10-man Barcelona with a minute to play in regular time.

With only a goal differential advantage on Real Madrid, Barcelona host Atletico Madrid on Thursday in the Supercopa semifinal. Espanyol, on the other hand, look to carry their positive momentum to their second round Copa del Rey bout in a weeks time.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Getafe 0-3 Real Madrid

Valencia 1-0 Eibar 

Atletico Madrid 2-1 Levante

La Liga roundup: Messi, Suarez, Griezmann score as Barcelona thump Alaves (video)

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Barcelona’s near-flawless performance against Alaves highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Barcelona 4-1 Alaves

On Saturday at the Camp Nou, Barcelona demonstrated what they can be on a good day: a dangerous force, spearheaded by an unstoppable front three.

After a sloppy 0-0 draw against Real Madrid, the defending champions came out firing against a visiting Alaves side. The star-studded trio of Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez scored, while Arturo Vidal also scored.

In the 56th minute, Pere Pons’ unstoppable header jetted past Marc-Andre ter Stegen, putting the visitors one goal behind Ernesto Valverde and company.

It wouldn’t take long for the hosts to respond, however.

In quintessential Messi fashion, Barcelona’s No. 10 struck the ball from distance with his left foot. The ball, traveling with obvious pace, guided itself directly into the back of the net. For a sixth consecutive year, Messi’s goal count has hit 50 goals.

“All matches require a lot,” Valverde said after the match. “When they scored, they were spurred on and they had the chance to equalise, but Leo scored a great goal and things are seen in a different way from there.

“I think we played the game well, I would say the first half was very good, then we had less momentum at the beginning of the second. We got a boost with the third goal.

“These things happen with Messi. We see it all the time. Something like that can happen, and it’s a huge advantage that we have Messi.”

“Leo appears and makes you a goal from anywhere,” he added.

Suarez capped off the night, converting from the spot and earning Barcelona a much-needed victory to stay atop of La Liga.

Barcelona now prepares for the Derbi Barceloní, while Alaves sets their sights on Real Betis.

Elsewhere in La Liga

RCD Mallorca 0-2 Sevilla

Villarreal 1-0 Getafe

Real Valladolid 1-1 Valencia

Medel: Chile players decline friendly over civil unrest

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Chile had already canceled a home friendly with Bolivia this international break, and now the players will not play Tuesday in Peru either due to unrest in their country.’

A nationwide strike and protests against the government, spurred by a rise in metro fares, have Chile on edge.

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La Roja stars Gary Medel and Arturo Vidal both posted lengthy messages on their Instagram accounts, saying that the decision was made “in response to the social moment in our country.”

They urged both protestors and law enforcement to turn away from violence.

From Mega.CL:

“We are soccer players, but above all people and citizens. We know that we represent a complete country and today Chile has other priorities much more important than next Tuesday’s game.”

Chile is ranked No. 17 by FIFA and 22 in Elo Ratings.

Vidal tells Dembele he must ‘mature’ to reach Barcelona potential

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32-year-old Arturo Vidal has been playing for Champions League contenders nearly his entire career, and with 501 first-team professional appearances plus another 113 international caps, younger talent would be wise to listen to his advice.

Even the advice that might be hard to hear.

Vidal came down hard on his 22-year-old Barcelona teammate, saying the French international “has to mature” and “become aware of what he really wants in life.”

Dembele arrived at Barcelona as a highly-touted young Borussia Dortmund talent in the summer of 2017 for a hefty $140 million fee. In his two years at Barcelona thus far, Dembele has yet to truly grasp a first-team place thanks to injuries and inconsistent form. Vidal believes an improved attitude could help Dembele become a true contributor.

“Ousmane is a football player who has a crazy talent,” Vidal told French publication L’Equipe. “When he reaches maturity, he will be an important player for Barça and for France. But, clearly, he has to mature. Listen to his body, be better prepared to avoid injuries. If you want to be the best, you should get up, eat and go to bed thinking about football. I think Ousmane will realize at some point that he has to do more.”

Those are harsh words from a teammate, but Vidal may be onto something. Dembele has been the subject of many stories regarding his personality, from the distancing of his mother to a possible video game addiction. Former Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel called him “a little crazy.” He is reportedly late to everything which has cost him a significant amount of money.

“I talk to him a lot. He is a good boy and he is the first to want to be the best. He arrived at Barça at age 20, without much experience. Ousmane must become aware of what he really wants in life, know where he plays and who he plays with. But I think I see an evolution. It must continue like this.”

Dembele has just three league appearances this season thanks to a hamstring problem, and was sent off in his last appearance against Sevilla before the international break. He remains one of the brightest young talents in the European game, but is slowly creeping towards consideration as a bust if he can’t put together a good run in the Barcelona first team and help the club kick into a new gear.

Chile feeling rejuvenated in search for third straight Copa America crown

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With all eyes on Tuesday’s heavyweight bout between Brazil and Argentina, Chile is pumping its chest as two-time defending Copa America champions, but there’s an unexpected feeling of rebirth around the aging squad as well.

Alexis Sanchez, who struggled through last season at Manchester United, has suddenly returned to form at the competition with a pair of goals and an assist. According to Chile head coach Reinaldo Rueda, there’s one secret ingredient Sanchez is missing at Manchester United which has seen him back to his best this summer.

“Love,” Rueda tabbed as the special sauce in his pre-match press conference. “In the national team and because of the attention they receive, the players don’t want to leave. Despite not playing for their clubs, they come here with commitment and forge a strong group.”

Rueda pointed to others in the South American competition who struggled at their clubs this season and are experiencing a rebirth at the Copa America. “That’s why players like [Barcelona’s Philippe] Coutinho, [Real Madrid’s] James [Rodriguez], or Alexis, who didn’t have a great season, become themselves again with the national team.”

Midfielder Arturo Vidal is on board with that mentality, motivated not only by the camaraderie among the players and adoration fromt he fans, but the goal in front of them: a historic third straight Copa America.

“We want to leave our legacy as triple champions, that’s our dream,” Vidal said. “That’s why we want to play our best match of the Copa against Peru. It would be something historic for us to get to the final and that’s our aim.”

Argentina is the only country to ever win three straight Copa America titles, securing it between 1945-47. Even as Uruguay and Argentina dominated South America in the 1910’s, 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s and the competition was held on a more regular basis, it was still difficult to sustain repeated success.

As Chile meets a Peru side that held Uruguay off the scoresheet before winning on penalties, the old guard in Sanchez, Vidal, Jean Beausejour, Mauricio Isla and captain Gary Medel – all over the 30-year-old mark – has to continue tapping into its youthful edge to attain a period of domination unmatched in over 70 years.