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Real Madrid v. Eibar preview
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La Liga preview: Real Madrid v. Eibar

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No one wanted a pandemic, but Real Madrid will have benefited from this break as much as any club.

Madrid’s only win in its last four outings before the coronavirus pause was El Clasico, which is terribly fortunate or La Liga’s title race would be closer to run.

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Take that relative slump into account and now throw in that Sunday’s visitors to the Bernabeu did not put up much of a fight in conceding thrice in a half-hour earlier this season.

Real hammered Eibar 4-0 at Ipurua Municipal Stadium in November as part of an impressive season start that included just one loss in its first 24 matches (to Mallorca nonetheless).

That said, Eibar’s status two points above the drop zone is largely due to three shocking wins over Sevilla, Villarreal, and Atletico Madrid. Those were all at home, though, and this one’s at the Bernabeu.

Eibar’s two leading scorers’ combined age is 70, as Charles (8 goals) and Fabian Orellana (7) pace the club in all competitions. Orellana also has six assists, and has been the club’s top weapon with 1.7 key passes and 2.6 dribbles per match.

Real is two points back of Barcelona and two goals shy in differential, too, as Zinedine Zidane’s men try to break Barca’s run of two-straight titles. The Blaugranas have also won four in five Spanish crowns.

Both Real and Barca are out of the Copa del Rey and have Champions League concerns after one leg at the Round of 16 stage. La Liga may be their best hope for silverware in 2020.

La Liga score, how to watch

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Players of Spanish team Eibar ‘afraid’ of soccer’s return

Eibar
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MADRID — Players and coaches at Spanish soccer club Eibar are deeply worried about playing again amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A day after the Spanish league said teams can start practicing again this week, the Eibar players and coaches – not the actual club – released a statement on Tuesday saying they fear for everyone’s health if the season restarts soon.

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“We are afraid of starting an activity in which we won’t be able to comply with the first recommendation of all health experts, physical distancing,” the statement said. “We are concerned that by doing what we love the most we could get infected and infect our family members and friends.”

They added they were concerned about another wave of the coronavirus in Spain in part because of soccer’s return.

“Everyone’s health has to be prioritized,” they said. “It’s time to make that count with actions, not only words. Only with that clear premise it would make sense to return to competition. We ask for guarantees. We demand responsibility.”

Eibar said it would not comment on the statement by its players and coaches. It said the team’s practice schedule for this week remained in place.

Spanish league clubs have been sidelined by the outbreak for nearly two months.

“Of course we understand that people have various emotions, including fear,” the league said in a statement.

“This is an unprecedented time. However, we are taking many precautions for a safe and controlled return of football. Playing football will be safer than, for example, going to the supermarket or pharmacy.”

The league aims to restart in June without spectators. It’s new compulsory protocols say all players, coaches and club employees must be tested for COVID-19 before training resumes, then regularly after that. All clubs’ training facilities must be properly prepared and disinfected before players can start practicing individually. Smaller group sessions and full squad sessions will be allowed in the following weeks.

Spain was one of the hardest hit countries by the pandemic but has started loosening some of its restrictions on movement as the number of people infected has waned. The country first went into a state of emergency on March 14.

Eibar was in 16th place, just above the relegation zone, when the league was suspended in March.

La Liga: VAR saves Barcelona, Atletico defense breached again

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Lionel Messi has saved Barcelona’s bacon on plenty of occasions throughout his illustrious career, and while officially today he’s once again led the club to three points with his 81st minute penalty to earn a 1-0 victory over Real Sociedad, VAR was the true hidden hero.

Replay caught Robin Le Normand miss with a headed clearance in the box, instead the ball just catching him in the shoulder, and the referee in the booth called for a penalty. Messi dispatched the spot-kick to earn the win and doom La Real to a harsh result. Still, Barcelona completely dominated the match ripping of 13 shots with six on target to Real Sociedad’s just one shot on frame.

Real Madrid loanee Martin Odegaard was kept relatively in check by Barcelona’s midfield while Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong were calming forces throughout for the home side. The three points sends Barcelona top of the La Liga table, with Real Madrid a chance to reclaim the lead tomorrow at Real Betis.

Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid was held to a third draw in its last four league games with a 2-2 home result against Sevilla, with the defense breached for the fourth straight match. Luuk De Jong put Sevilla up at the Wanda Metripolitano 19 minutes in after a miserable challenge from Stefan Savic saw the Dutchman’s first touch put him through. A penalty from Alvaro Morata brought Atletico back level past the half-hour mark, and they went in front just four minutes later through Joao Felix after Koke stole the ball in midfield and did all the hard work on the break.

Still, it wasn’t enough as Lucas Ocampos struck from the penalty spot just before halftime and the second half was goalless to see Atletico fall a full 13 points back of the La Liga leaders, potentially 14 back if Real Madrid wins tomorrow. Currently, that’s just good enough for fifth as Atletico Madrid sits outside the Champions League places. Sevilla, meanwhile, sits in third on 47 points, 11 back of the leader.

Elsewhere, Real Madrid youngster Takefusa Kubo gave Mallorca a 2-1 win over Eibar. The 18-year-old’s 78th minute goal proved the winner as he beat two defenders at the top of the box and delivered a low effort off the inside of the left post. The win was enormous for Mallorca who rose to 18th, still in a relegation position but only based on goal differential. Eibar sits in 16th just two points ahead of the drop.

Getafe and Celta Vigo played to a scoreless draw at Coliseum Alfonso Perez as the hosts ripped off 16 shots to Celta Vigo’s three but could not find the back of the net. Jamie Mata missed the biggest chance for Getafe just past the half-hour mark as he fired over from a central spot just outside the six-yard box. Getafe midfielder Mauro Arambarri was sent off for a second yellow card with eight minutes to go as the hosts looked for a winner, making the late push even more difficult. The draw is a disappointing result for fourth-placed Getafe who could have used the opportunity to pull away from Atletico Madrid after their draw against Sevilla. For Celta Vigo, the point is enormous amidst a relegation battle, sitting in 17th now two points above the drop.

La Liga roundup: Messi puts four goals past Eibar in one-sided Barcelona victory

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Lionel Messi’s masterclass against Eibar highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Eibar 0-5 Barcelona 

It seemed as if nothing was going to wake up Barcelona from their nightmare, but then Lionel Messi went on to put on one if his traditional magic shows.

The Argentine pelted four goals on Eibar on Saturday, sending the Blaugrana to the top of La Liga following Real Madrid’s loss to Levante.

 

 

 

Just how bad was Barcelona’s nightmare, one may ask? So bad that Barcelona supporters waving white handkerchiefs during a part of the game, expressing their frustration towards club’s board and chanting for president Josep Maria Bartomeu to resign.

As it’s been for the past decade or so, Messi was at the right place and at the right time to put the fires away.

Barca’s No. 10 broke the deadlock in the 14th minute, before completing his first-half hat-trick. He added a fourth in stoppage time, stretching his season goal count to 18 – the best in the league.

The goal-heavy performance ended Messi’s four-match goal drought – the longest for the Argentine since the 2013-14 season.

Messi’s masterclass proved to be quintessential potion to Barcelona’s illness. They needed it, especially with Napoli up next in the Champions League, which leaves the Catalans with no options then to win.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Celta Vigo 1-0 Leganes

Real Sociedad 3-0 Valencia 

Levante 1-0 Real Madrid

La Liga roundup: Messi ties Ronaldo’s La Liga hat-trick record (video)

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Lionel Messi’s emphatic performance against Celta Vigo highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Barcelona 4-1 Celta Vigo

There’s great, and then there’s Lionel Messi great.

Against Celta Vigo at Camp Nou on Saturday, the Argentine put together one of his finest performances this season, scoring a hat-trick in 48 minutes that included two free kicks. The hat trick marks Messi’s 34th of his La Liga career (459 games), tying Cristiano Ronaldo’s record.

“It’s clear that when it’s so close we have the advantage of having the best player in the world and the best free-kick taker in the world,” teammate Sergio Busquets said following the game. “He’s been improving and that’s an advantage, I hope he keeps scoring them.”

 

Messi opened the scoring in the 23rd minute from the penalty spot, only to commit the foul that would lead to Celta’s equalizer  – a well-placed free kick from Lucas Olaza – three minutes before the end of the second half.

If anything, the yellow card he earned and subsequent goal from the visitors served as motivation for Messi, because magic from Barcelona’s No. 10 was on its way.

Minutes before the whistle that would see both sides head into their respective dressing rooms, Messi netted his first well-stuck free kick. Minutes after both teams took the field after the break, his second inch-perfect free kick found the back of net. Both free kicks were fired over the wall and curled into the top corner.

Messi has scored nine goals in his last seven games throughout all competitions. With eight league goals to his name, only Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema has more goals than Messi’s seven this season.

In the 85th minute, Busquets’ strike from the top of the 18-yard mark helped Barcelona seal their victory, ending a two-game winless streak in league play.

Barcelona, who are now level with rivals Real Madrid with 25 points, travel to Leganes following the international break, defending, while Celta Vigo, who continue in a crisis despite recently appointing Oscar Garcia Junyent as manager, will look for their third win of the season against Villarreal.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Eibar 0 – 4 Real Madrid 

Alaves 3-0 Real Valladolid 

Valencia 2-0 Granada