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UEFA Nations League wrap: Germany facing relegation; Gibraltar red hot

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Germany’s slump continued Tuesday in Saint-Denis, as Joachim Loew’s men guaranteed they’d finish 2018 with a losing record in a 2-1 loss to France.

[ MORE: Brazil wins at the death ]

The Germans led through a 14th minute Toni Kroos penalty, but fell victim a second half brace from Antoine Griezmann.

The Atletico Madrid superstar continued his claims for the Ballon d’Or with a headed finish of a Lucas Hernandez cross before converting a Blaise Matuidi-won penalty.The Atletico Madrid superstar continued his claims for the Ballon d’Or with a headed finish of a Lucas Hernandez cross before converting a Blaise Matuidi-won penalty.

Germany is now poised for relegation to League B, as its lone point is two behind Netherlands. The Germans need to hope the Netherlands loses to France on Nov. 16, or that the Dutch draw France. Both scenarios will require Germany beating the Dutch in Gelsenkirchen on Nov. 19.

Gibraltar 2-1 Liechtenstein

Gibraltar’s on fire, your defense is terrified.

Three days after Gibraltar stunned Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Armenia to record its first competitive win in national team history, it beat Liechtenstein at Victoria Stadium to make it 2-0.

Joseph Chipolina scored for the second-straight match, as Gibraltar sits second in League D’s Group 4.

American fun fact: Chipolina once played in the United States’ fourth-tier PDL for the Real Colorado Foxes (as opposed to those deplorable non-regal foxes).

Elsewhere
Armenia 4-0 Macedonia
Kazakhstan 4-0 Andorra
Republic of Ireland 0-1 Wales
Ukraine 1-0 Czech Republic
Latvia 0-3 Georgia
Slovenia 1-1 Cyprus
Norway 1-0 Bulgaria

Ballon d’Or: The Case for Messi

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The Ballon d’Or… could it really not wind up in the hands of Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi?

Mohamed Salah is polling very well in the fan vote.

Paul Pogba says he’s not deserving, but give it to N'Golo Kante, Raphael Varane, Kylian Mbappe or Antoine Griezmann.

And Griezmann thinks it has to be a Frenchman, saying, “In this best team in the World, there must be the best player in the world, right? … But I think that a Frenchman must be Ballon d’Or.”

Then there’s Luka Modric, who won FIFA’s Best Player award.

[ PL ROUNDTABLE: The story so far ]

This year has seen more talk of a winner not named Messi or Ronaldo since 2010, when Messi pipped Andres Iniesta to the honor, or 2007 when Kaka finished ahead of the pair.

In fact, those are the only two years since 2007 that Messi and Ronaldo didn’t finish 1-2 in some order, with each claiming five Ballons d’Or.

Our esteemed editor, Joe Prince-Wright, has Ronaldo three and Messi four this year, behind World Cup winner Mbappe and World Cup finalist Modric.

And I get that, really I do. But is there any doubt that Messi and Ronaldo remain the two best players in the world? And is there a really an argument that any player had a better season that either one?

Let’s go strictly cosmetic stats to start to separate the goal producers, which leaves Kante, Modric, and others for another discussion.

Outstanding seasons, no doubt. Ronaldo still managed better than a goal-per-game while helping Real Madrid the first Champions League threepeat since the 1970s. Salah was the best part of the most scintillating non-possession based attack in the world. Griezmann and Messi’s numbers speak for themselves, while Mbappe — sorry Joe — for me sits a clear fifth.

For me, it’s 1) Messi, 2) Griezmann, 3) Ronaldo, 4) Salah, 5) Mbappe

For non-scorers, it’s 1) Kante, 2) Modric, 3) Kevin De Bruyne

Yes, we made it this far without mentioning KDB, or Eden Hazard, or Harry Kane!

This is most certainly the dawn of the post-Messi/Ronaldo era, but I don’t see the 10-year run atop the list ending this season.

Why? Because I cannot fathom a world in which the majority of voters don’t eyeball the game, take the smell test, and say two words.

Lionel Messi.

Spending some time comparing my Top Four attackers on advanced stats site Squawka buttresses the gut feeling. While Salah was better than Messi in the Champions League — the road perhaps a bit easier — Messi was far superior to the field in league play.

Messi rates better in possession and defensive statistics, but here’s what I’d ask you to consider in assessing last season. Your favorite club earns a massive win against Barcelona, Liverpool, Real, Atleti, or PSG. Insert each players’ name, and which one feels more of an indictment on your win:

“Yeah, but (insert player here) didn’t play.”

EPILOGUE: For what it’s worth, there’s a huge sentimental part of me that says Griezmann’s continued stardom on an understated Atleti or Kante’s game-changing performance in three different champion midfields (Chelsea, Leicester City, France) should lift the trophy. But it’s going to go to one of the more prolific scorers… and that means Messi.

La Liga: Sevilla, Atletico jump past faltering Barcelona, Real Madrid

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Real Madrid lost on Saturday and Barcelona drew on Sunday, and those around them made them pay.

Sevilla and Atletico Madrid took over the top two spots in the La Liga table with Sunday victories, pushing Barcelona and Real Madrid back to third and fourth.

Atletico Madrid went first and topped Real Betis 1-0, an impressive feat given that Betis had conceded just two goals over its last eight matches, including seven clean sheets. Atletico held just 36% possession, but they still managed to out-shoot Betis 13-5, including 5-0 on target. The goal came in the 74th minute as substitute Angel Correa, who had come off the bench just before the hour mark, burst through the middle and shot a speculative effort towards the far post which Betis goalkeeper Pau Lopez somehow wasn’t able to reach.

While that momentarily brought Atletico to the top of the league table, Sevilla took that spot hours later as they topped Celta Vigo 2-1 at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium. Pablo Sarabia got things started in the 39th minute with a bullet header on a corner. Celta Vigo then went a man down as Mexican international Nestor Araujo picked up two yellow cards just two minutes apart and was off. He fouled Andre Silva by pulling him back on the break, and then just ticks later he chopped Silva down to earn an early shower. Sevilla then doubled its lead on a beautiful play as Silva expertly chipped the back line to a free Sarabia down the right, and he crossed to Wissam Ben Yedder for an easy tap-in at the far post. Former West Ham forward Sofiane Boufal scored a consolation for Celta just minutes before full-time to make things interesting but it wasn’t enough.

The pair of victory saw Sevilla move to the top of the La Liga table on 16 points, with Atletico right behind them at 15. Barcelona and Real Madrid each have 14 points, only ahead of Espanyol and Alaves on goal differential.

Espanyol got to that position by beating Villareal 3-1 in Barcelona thanks to Sergi Darder’s game winner in the 79th minute. It came on a bad mistake by Villareal’s Manu Trigueros who completely whiffed on his clear, allowing Melendo’s cross to reach Darder near the penalty spot. The home side pummeled Sergio Asenjo’s net, finishing the match with 28 shots, including 12 on target.

Barcelona had the late kick, visiting Valencia needing a win to re-take the La Liga lead, and they were unable to make it happen, only rescuing a 1-1 draw thanks to Lionel Messi’s equalizing goal. Barcelona had 76% possession during the match and out-passed Valencia 901-232, but were only able to get 10 shots off, putting five on target. Meanwhile, Valencia also managed 10 shots, with three on target, and scored just two minutes into the match. 31-year-old Argentinian defender Ezequiel Garay directed a near-post header on net off a corner, and Valencia had a stunning lead. Messi leveled in the 23rd minute on a one-two with Suarez, shooting into the bottom-right corner from outside the top of the box. Still, Barcelona fell back to third in the table thanks to the draw.

Diego Costa’s Atleti woes continue with hamstring injury

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Diego Costa hasn’t scored a La Liga goal since February. That drought is set to remain unbroken for a significant amount of time.

The Spanish international has suffered a hamstring injury that will keep him out for an unspecified amount of time, leaving Atletico Madrid without its top target man. The team confirmed the injury on its official website, but did not give a timetable for his return, only that he is “pending further evaluation.” Local media has reported a potential three-week layoff for Costa, which is normal for hamstring injuries. Should it linger, which hamstring problems have the potential to do, it could potentially leave him sidelined for around four to six weeks.

Costa was hauled off after 69 minutes of Atletico’s 3-1 win over Club Brugge in the Champions League, replaced by 22-year-old midfielder Rodri. It’s unclear who will take over for Costa up front, but it’s possible that 30-year-old Nikola Kalinic – who has just 79 total minutes played so far this season after signing from AC Milan this past summer – could be the man to enter the fray. Star attacker Antoine Grizemann could also move forward to center forward, as he normally sits behind Costa in a second-striker role.

The 29-year-old has three goals on the season, but none have come in league play. He scored a pair in the UEFA Super Cup against Real Madrid way back on August 15, followed by Atletico’s equalizer in an eventual 2-1 come-from-behind win over Monaco in the Champions League group stage opener. Still, he is goalless in La Liga play despite playing 584 out of a possible 630 minutes.

With Costa out of goalscoring form, Atletico has struggled mightily as a whole to score goals. They have only lost one match this season in league play, but have three draws where they’ve scored a combined total of two goals.

Champions League wrap: Atleti, BVB stay perfect

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Premier League clubs may not be enjoying their tournaments so far, but there’s no doubt the Champions League is entertaining all comers this season.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur both lost on Wednesday, while Barcelona, Inter Milan, and Barcelona stayed perfect.

Borussia Dortmund 3-0 AS Monaco

Paco Alcacer, Jacob Bruun Larsen, and Marco Reus entered this match in fine form, and all found the back of the goal in the second half as BVB went 2-0 in the UCL to join its table-topping start to the Bundesliga season.

Atletico Madrid 3-1 Club Brugge

Antoine Griezmann scored in each half and Koke added a stoppage time marker as Atleti joined BVB on six points. Arnaut Groeneveld scored Brugge’s goal.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Tottenham Hotspur 2-4 BarcelonaRECAP

Lionel Messi was full of magic, with two goals and a hand in the other two as Barca outlasted an industrious but injury-hit Spurs side at Wembley Stadium. Ivan Rakitic and Philippe Coutinho also scored, with Harry Kane and Erik Lamela on the board for the hosts.

PSV Eindhoven 1-2 Inter Milan

The Serie A visitors went behind on an outlandish Pablo Rosario goal, but Radja Nainggolan leveled the score before halftime and Mauro Icardi nabbed a 60th minute winner to put Inter level on points with Barcelona ahead of consecutive UCL match-ups.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Napoli 1-0 LiverpoolRECAP

Lorenzo Insigne’s 90th minute winner gave Napoli a deserved three points on a day they kept the dangerous Reds from recording a shot on target.

Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 Red Star BelgradeRECAP

Neymar’s hat trick was joined by three other stars on the score sheet, as Edinson Cavani, Angel Di Maria, and Kylian Mbappe all scored for Les Parisiens. Marko Marin‘s 74th minute goal came with his team down 5-0.

Lokomotiv Moscow 0-1 Schalke

USMNT youngster Weston McKennie scored his first senior goal for Schalke, potting an 88th minute header to give the German side a big win in Russia.

Porto 1-0 Galatasaray

Moussa Marega scored the lone goal as Porto joined Schalke on 4 points.