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Griezmann: Playing for Barcelona is ‘not the easiest’

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Over the summer, Barcelona shelled a whopping $135 million to land Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid.

It was a match made in heaven; the rest was supposed to be history.

Only that hasn’t been the case for the Frenchman in Barcelona.

Despite scoring a brace in his debut at the Camp Nou, Griezmann’s impact and influence on the field has quickly dwindled. In 11 league appearances with the Catalan giants, the 28-year-old has scored four goals and added three assists, signs that the World Cup winner is, in fact, struggling with his new team.

Speaking to Telefoot, Griezmann revealed that playing for Barcelona is not an easy thing to do, but that with hard work, his fortunes will turn around for the best:

“It is hard, I knew it would be, it is not the easiest place. This is a new team, a new club, new tactics, a new position. I have to work, try to understand my team-mates, after they will understand me too and it will work just like that… Critics will always be there. But I am good, I am proud of where I am. Only work pays off. I have to take confidence and it will all come just like that.”

This season, Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has frequently deployed the Frenchman as a left winger, with the hope that he will link up with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. The positives form such an ideology have yet to be reaped, however. Griezmann is scoring a goal every 224 minutes, a career worst.

The 28-year-old, too, has played in a central role on a couple of occasions, specifically during the absences of Messi and Suarez, but it hasn’t worked out for a player that has made a career from roaming that part of the field.

The building clamor at the Camp Nou is borderline justifiable – mainly because it’s now evident that Griezmann is wrestling with adapting to the expectations and systems in place in Barcelona.

But the high-flying attacker has proven he’s worth the price time and time again, and now he’s on the record saying that he’ll do everything in his power to do so with his new club.

Pique: Griezmann growing into Barca role ‘little by little’

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This summer, there was plenty of talk that Barcelona’s players wanted Neymar in town and quite the opposite regarding Antoine Griezmann.

The Atletico Madrid star was the player purchased by Barcelona.

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Griezmann, 28, has four goals and three assists in 15 matches, but the bulk of that outlay came in two matches and he’s without a goal or assist in the UEFA Champions League.

A bit different from his 21 goals and 10 assists in 48 matches last season, at least on the goals end, but the Frenchman is settling into a new club and city.

While it’s not like his new teammates think he’s garbage, they aren’t sugarcoating their opinion of his transition nor downplaying their lofty opinion of Barca.

Here’s Gerard Pique, via AS.com:

“Real Sociedad and Atlético were teams who played for Griezmann. That’s not the case at Barca, because the level is higher and he has to find his place in the side. Little by little he’s finding it. He’s got the quality and talent for it.”

Pique also blew off Barca’s extra rest before the new El Clasico date, and talked about Leo Messi’scontract talks as well as his relationship with Sergio Ramos. It’s all here.

Court again prevents La Liga game from being played in U.S.

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MADRID — The Spanish league lost another battle against the Spanish soccer federation on Friday and won’t be allowed to take a regular-season match to the United States, at least not for now.

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The game between Villarreal and Atletico Madrid next month was called off after the league lost a court battle against the federation.

A Madrid commercial court denied an injunction to force the federation to approve the staging of the match abroad, which is part of the league’s strategy to expand internationally.

The league hasn’t fully given up, though, and its “unfair competition” case against the federation will continue despite Friday’s ruling. It contends the federation has no right to block the match and is acting anti-competitively.

The league hopes to be able to stage a regular-season game in the U.S. beginning in February, when the full case will be heard.

“Staging an official La Liga match abroad is part of a long-term La Liga strategy for international growth,” the league said in a statement. “We hope that from February forth LaLiga will be able to organize an official match beyond Spanish borders.”

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The league has a 15-year partnership with the group Relevent to promote soccer and bring games to the United States.

“Bringing clubs closer to their global fans represents a significant opportunity to connect with them and to continue working to increase La Liga’s followers around the world,” the league said. “This international growth leads to benefits for the clubs, their players, their fans, La Liga as a whole, Spanish football and the brand of Spain.”

Last season, the league unsuccessfully tried to take a match between Girona and Barcelona to Florida, an attempt also hindered by the federation’s lack of approval. Barcelona pulled out citing a lack of agreement between those involved.

The league complained the federation opposed the games but at the same time is organizing its own matches abroad, like the four-team Spanish Super Cup that it will host in January in Saudi Arabia. The Spanish Super Cup also was played abroad last season, in Morocco.

The federation argued it was different to play a league game abroad because it would affect the other 18 clubs participating in the competition. Real Madrid and Barcelona had reportedly expressed their opposition to the game in the U.S. because it would be played in a neutral venue, thus favoring Atletico, the away team.

Instead, the game will be played as originally scheduled in Villarreal, an industrial city of 50,000 a short drive from Valencia.

The dispute is the latest between league president Javier Tebas and federation president Luis Rubiales, two outspoken figures who have been at odds over a series of issues involving Spanish soccer.

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The federation said in Thursday’s court hearing the league’s attempt to play abroad breached FIFA regulations and could hurt Spain’s bid with Portugal to host the 2030 World Cup.

Although FIFA’s permission for the game is not mandatory, president Gianni Infantino last season expressed his concerns when the league tried to play the game between Girona and Barcelona near Miami.

Villarreal season ticket holders would have been compensated for losing out on a home game. They could have received a 40 percent discount on their next season ticket purchase, free entry, and travel for up to 3,000 fans to the away game at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium or a paid-for trip to Miami for up to 600 people.

Similar compensation packages were offered to Girona fans last season, and many had already accepted them when the game was called off.

Spanish court to decide fate of Spanish league game in USA

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish court will decide whether the Spanish league will be allowed to play the Villarreal-Atletico Madrid game in the United States next month.

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A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Madrid to hear arguments from the league and the Spanish soccer federation, which is against taking the regular-season match abroad.

The league has called for an injunction to force the federation to give its approval. It accuses the local soccer body of unfair competition.

The league also needs the approval of UEFA and American soccer bodies to be able to play the match, which is scheduled for Dec. 6 in Miami.

The commercial court hearing the case is expected to issue a ruling within the next few days.

More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

La Liga: Morata the hero as Atleti keep up with Barca, Real Madrid

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MADRID (AP) Atletico Madrid was heading for another disappointment on Sunday before Alvaro Morata came to the rescue again.

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The striker provided the spark Atletico needed after his team had conceded a goal in the first half at home against Espanyol, which increased the pressure on Atletico following its three-match winless run and victories by Spanish league leaders Barcelona and Real Madrid a day earlier.

Morata led Atletico’s rally with an assist to Angel Correa’s goal just before halftime. He then scored his sixth goal in as many matches after the break to put the team back on top before Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion sealed the 3-1 victory in injury time.

“What matters is that we won,” Morata said. “In the end, it’s all about us sticking together in the difficult moments. Today we found a way to earn the three points that allowed us to stay near the top of the standings.”

The home win moved Atletico to third place with 24 points, one point behind Barcelona and Madrid. The Spanish powerhouses have a game in hand because their “clasico” match was postponed until December due to last month’s separatist rally in the Catalan capital.

Atletico was coming off a loss at Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League and two league draws at Sevilla and against Alaves. It had won only two of its last nine league matches entering the weekend.

“Today we showed the consistency that we lacked in the last few matches,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said.

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Espanyol opened the scoring with a shot from outside the area by Sergi Darder in the 38th minute, but Correa equalized with a close-range header off a cross from Morata in first-half stoppage time. The goal was initially disallowed for offside by Morata, but video review determined he was in a legal position.

Morata, who was recalled to Spain’s national team this week, put Atletico ahead with a shot into the top corner from inside the area in the 58th. Koke netted his goal from near the penalty spot in the final minutes.

It was the third straight league loss for Espanyol, which stayed second-to-last in the 20-team standings with eight points. It has lost nine of its 13 matches, with two wins and two draws.

Atletico had lost three of its last four league matches against Espanyol, which is one of only two teams – Real Madrid is the other – to beat Atletico at its home in the league since the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium was inaugurated in 2017.