Diego Lopez

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Reports: Krul, Lopez could replace Begovic at Chelsea

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It may seem unimportant at first blush, but Chelsea’s backup goalkeeper situation may be in a state of flux right now.

That means the Blues’ very strong title hopes are only a Thibaut Courtois injury away from making it matter a whole bunch more.

Eddie Howe wants Chelsea No. 2 Asmir Begovic to head down south to join Bournemouth,  and the keeper seems interested in a move.

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Chelsea’s current No. 3 is Portuguese national teamer Eduardo. The Blues could wait to sell Begovic until summer, but The Express thinks the move is on.

AC Milan backup backstop Diego Lopez is in the frame for Chelsea, according to that report, but a more intriguing name is Newcastle ‘keep Tim Krul. The Dutchman is on loan with Ajax.

Either would be a fitting replacement for Begovic. Will Conte allow the change in the middle of a relatively-stable (Diego Costa aside) title run?

Cristiano Ronaldo saves Los Blancos as eye-popping Madrid derby ends all square

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Sometimes the best defense is a ton of offense.

In a match with plenty of excitement and a barrel full of heroes, Cristiano Ronaldo provided the final goal eight minutes before full-time to erase a home lead and give Real Madrid a share of the spoils.

Having missed a header he buries 99% of the time, the Ballon d’Or winner atoned by collecting a ball Gareth Bale couldn’t control and rifling past Thibaut Courtois for the leveler.

The end-to-end match featured 26 total shots, a number of which were sights to behold.

Karim Benzema put Real Madrid ahead after just three minutes, but Koke drew back level midway through the first half before a ridiculous strike by Gabi Fernandez from about 40 yards out gave the hosts the lead just before halftime.

It is a disappointing slip for Atletico Madrid, who would have gone above Barcelona and level with Real Madrid on points for the La Liga lead had they held onto the lead.  They do jump Barcelona, but just by the one point with the Catalans still to play this weekend.

End-to-end the entire time, it was almost too exciting of a match for some, as Atletico Madrid coach German Burgos was sent off in the second half for nearly eating the referee (or trying to, at least).

There were plenty of spectacular saves on both ends as well, with Courtois and Diego Lopez adding their name to the list of fireworks.

Atletico manager Diego Simeone received some criticism following the match, as he seemed to wait too long to use any substitutes as his lone change came in the 83rd minute after Ronaldo’s goal. His counterpart Carlo Ancelotti made all three of his substitutions before the 73rd minute to give his side the fresher legs.

Monday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Which big spender has their eye on Yohan Cabaye?

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Monday’s hottest rumor comes courtesy of France, where Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly interested in bringing Yohan Cabaye back to his native land. After Cabaye scored two in Newcastle’s 3-1 victory at West Ham on Saturday, the midfielder’s stock is rising, but rich PSG are rarely hampered by such pedestrian details. The Ligue 1 leaders, who already hold a five-point advantage, would be willing to part with as much as $42.7m to convince Newcastle to sell. Considering the Magpies are currently eighth in the table, thanks in part to Cabaye’s excellent football and seven goals, even that amount may not be enough to pry him away – although Newcastle would certainly rather see Cabaye head to France than to Manchester United.

Keeping to the continent for a moment, there’s talk of Liverpool chasing Mohamed Salah, who most likely caught their eye while playing Champions League football for Swiss side Basel. The 21 year old winger is reputedly angling for a move to the Premier League, although cost could keep the Reds from making a move. It seems Basel want $23m for the Egyptian, but sources differ as to whether Liverpool are prepared to pony up $20m or play it cool with a $13m bid.

Over to Spain now, where it seems Diego López could be on the move away from Real Madrid. The 32 year old goalkeeper re-joined the Spanish giants from Sevilla last January, and has retained his starting spot over Iker Casillas. Still, Manchester City are set to tempt him away, although no details on the offer have been provided. Poor Joe Hart – his form has vastly improved, and he must be hoping that Borussia Dortmund sounds more appealing to López.

Now it’s back to the British Isles, where media outlets are pouncing on the news that not one but two clubs might want Scottish international Alan Hutton. The right back hasn’t played a single match for Aston Villa in the past season and a half, spending last year on loan with Nottingham Forest, then relegation-battling Mallorca. The Spaniards weren’t set to buy, however, and now, one presumes, he’s simply bumming around Birmingham in between international matches. But Stoke City could change all that – if Fulham don’t get there first. Or Norwich. Hutton’s best fit might be with the Potters, however, helping Stoke get back to basics in defense and linking up with compatriot Charlie Adam once more.

Finally we land in East London. Rumor has it that West Ham are in for Arsenal centerback Thomas Vermaelen, although Sam Allardyce admits he’s unlikely to have any chance with the Belgian. Surely Vermaelen must be open to a move away from Arsenal, as the performances of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have kept him limited to just 11 appearances in all competitions, but Big Sam’s likely being realistic when he admits it’s unlikely West Ham will get anyone of Vermaelen’s quality. Especially since Napoli, set for more Champions League play next season and desperate to add another centerback, are rumored to want the defender.

Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid: a thrilling Clasico lifts Barcelona higher

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Real Madrid’s trip to Barcelona on Saturday evening was the year’s first El Clásico, and it certainly provided plenty of drama: delicious goals, controversial refereeing decisions, and a few physical battles from the Spanish rivals. But in the end it was Barcelona that came out on top, giving themselves a six-point cushion over Madrid.

Barcelona were certainly dominant in the first half. The hosts controlled the match right from the start, despite a little heated physicality that saw both sides awarded yellow cards before the 15th minute. But Barcelona’s composure paid off in the 19th minute, when Neymar opened the scoring in his first El Clásico. The majority of the magic came from Andrés Iniesta, however, who had a fabulous game. It was he who got the ball up through the area, drawing in the Madrid defense as Neymar took up a position on the edge of the area. A perfectly threaded past set up the Brazilian, whose low shot flew past Diego Lopéz to settle at the far post.

Just a minute later, Lionel Messi very nearly doubled Barcelona’s lead. But the Argentine’s shot went just wide, settling on the wrong side of the far post (or, perhaps, the right side, if you’re a Madridista).

Despite Barcelona being on top for much of the first 45, Real Madrid very nearly snagged an equalizer just before the whistle. Cristiano Ronaldo sent an absolutely delicious cross into the area, with a sliding Sami Khedira able to get a touch. But Victor Valdés was right there to prevent the ball from slipping into goal. Real Madrid players surrounded the referee, appealing for a handball, but none was given. The replay showed that, although Javier Mascherano did make contact, it was the ball that rolled on to his hand, not the other way around.

Whatever Carlo Ancelotti said in the Camp Nou dressing room seemed to have some affect on the visitors, who looked much more lively after the restart. Luka Modric took greater control in the area, picking out passes and finding his teammates in space. It was his ball that set up Ronaldo in the 58th minute, but Valdés managed a terrific one-armed save. Seconds later, Angel di Maria forced the Barcelona keeper into another great rescue.

In the 71st minute, the visitors had a legitimate penalty call waved away. Javier Mascherano slammed into Ronaldo, putting his shoulder into the Madrid man’s back. Ronaldo went down but the referee failed to bat an eye. Just after, Karim Benzema, on for Gareth Bale at the hour mark, managed to get his shot on target. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, the ball smashed against the crossbar and landed on the wrong side of the goaline.

After all the hard work put in by Madrid, it was almost sad when Barcelona doubled their lead — or, it would’ve been sad, had the goal not been so spectacular. Alexis Sánchez, who’d replaced Cesc Fábregas less than ten minutes before, practically did all the dirty work himself. A through ball from Neymar set him free, but it was Alexis that went left, then right, to shake off Raphael Varane. Once he’d rid himself of the defender, the Chilean chipped the ball over the head of Diego Lopéz and into the back of the net.

Real Madrid did manage to pull one back in the dying minutes of the match. The young Jesé, on in place of the unimpressive Angel di Maria, got on the end of a lovely ball from Ronaldo. He sent the shot straight at Valdés, who managed to fumble it completely, with the ball going through the goalkeeper to end up in the back of the net. In the end, though, it was nothing but a consolation for los galacticos. 

Barcelona: Valdes; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Adriano; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta (Song 77); Messi, Fábregas (Sánchez 70), Neymar (Pedro 84)

Subs not used: Puyol, Montoya, Pinto, Roberto

Goals: Neymar 19′, Sánchez 78′

Real Madrid: Diego López; Carvajal, Varane, Pepe, Marcelo; Ramos (Illarramendi 56), Khedira, Modric; Bale (Benzema 61), Di María (Jesé 76) Ronaldo

Subs not used: Coentrão, Casillas, Isco, Arbeloa

Goals: Jesé 90′

Galatasaray 1-6 Real Madrid: Ronaldo hat-trick as Spanish giants rout on the road (Video)

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Cristiano Ronaldo hit thrice and Karim Benzema grabbed a brace to dominate the Turkish giants at home and ensure Real Madrid their first three points of Champions League play under Carlo Ancelotti in Istanbul.

Gareth Bale did not start the match, having played just 60 minutes in the weekend’s draw with Villareal. Manager Ancelotti said that Bale was still only around 75% fit, so it’s no surprise he did not make the starting eleven.

The Galatasaray midfield surprisingly started on top, pressing both Sami Khedira and Luka Modric hard to prevent build-up play. This forced the creativity out wide, and the defense was able to then concentrate on guarding wingers Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria.

Iker Casillas began the match in goal, having received the blessing of Ancelotti as his chosen Champions League goalkeeper, but Casillas was forced off in just the 15th minute with a rib injury.  He went up for a save and his own defender Sergio Ramos did not concede the position, also attempting to head the ball away and in the process elbowing Casillas in the ribs.

The game got increasingly physical, with Gatatasaray playing for free kicks and Real Madrid obliging.  Felipe Melo had two beautiful chances kept out early, with a long-range strike well saved by a diving Casillas before his injury.  Then, a free header was also pushed wide by substitute keeper Diego Lopez in the 30th minute.

Against the run of play, Isco opened the scoring with Real Madrid’s first shot on target in the 32nd minute, and the match’s first goal.  A very long ball off the mid-line from Di Maria resulted in a contested header in the box.  Emmanuel Eboue failed to get a head on the ball, instead falling down, and it left Isco with a free shot which hit off the post and into the back of the net.

After the halftime break Didier Drogba was replaced by Nordin Amarat due to a shoulder injury Drogba suffered just before halftime in a collision with Madrid defender Pepe.

Galatasaray should have had an equalizer just after the break in the 47th minute, but Burak Yilmaz put his thundering header just wide left.

source: Getty ImagesKarim Benzema took advantage of a Galatasaray mistake for the deathblow in the 54th minute.  Melo headed a ball in the midfield but it landed directly to Benzema behind the defense, and the French striker did the rest himself, slotting it past Fernando Muslera for a 2-0 Real Madrid lead.

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged his team’s third in the 63rd minute, a goal that left the legendary winger chuckling. Di Maria got past Muslera on the right edge of the box, but his cross went over Ronaldo’s head. Thankfully, it fell to Isco who cut it back for Ronaldo to smash in from very short range. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.

He got a second just three minutes later, when Sergio Ramos’s header off a free kick was saved, and the rebound fell to Ronaldo for an easy finish as Real Madrid poured it on.

Benzema got his second in the 81st minute.  A lovely touch from Ronaldo on the left edge of the box popped the ball across the face as the Frenchman got free and he stuck it home with ease. The consolation for Galatasaray came late for substitute Umut Bulut on a great run beating Pepe, but it did nothing to ease the pain for the home side.

Any fleeting happiness from the goal faded fast as Ronaldo secured his hat-trick in stoppage time with a ridiculous back-and-forth ball beating three Galatasaray defenders in the box before a smashing finish from a tight angle. The goal is his 53rd in 93 Champions League matches.

The comprehensive, dominating win is a major statement by the Spanish giants, as they look to impress under Carlo Ancelotti.

Goals:

Real Madrid – Isco 32′, Benzema 54′, 81′, Cristiano Ronaldo 63′, 66′

Galatasaray – Bulut 83′

Lineups:

Galatasaray – Muslera; Nounkeu, Chedjou, Eboue, Riera; Melo, Inan; Sneijder, Baytar (Bruma, 62′); Drogba (Amrabat, 45′), Yilmaz (Bulut, 78′).

Real Madrid – Casillas (Diego Lopez, 15′); Pepe, Ramos, Carvajal, Arbeloa; Khedira, Modric (Illarramendi, 72′); Ronaldo, Di Maria; Isco (Bale, 64′), Benzema.