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Watford re-hires Quique Sanchez Flores

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Quique Sanchez Flores is heading back to Vicarage Road, taking over for fired Javi Gracia at Watford.

Flores managed the Hornets from 2015-16, and has since led Espanyol and Shanghai Shenhua.

[ MORE: Kane scores hat trick v. Bulgaria ]

The Hornets have just one point from four matches to start the Premier League season, having drawn Newcastle United 1-1 in Week Four. Their only win came against Coventry City in the League Cup.

The club announced that Gracia was fired earlier Saturday, and that a new hiring was imminent. Gracia led Watford to the FA Cup Final and was the first manager in nine to manage the Hornets for more than 50 matches (51).

Flores, 54, won 16 matches, drew nine, and lost 19 in a single season at Watford. The Hornets finished 13, eight points clear of the drop zone, drew Chelsea twice and beat Liverpool 3-0 amongst their more memorable results of the season.

Watford also made it to the semifinals of the FA Cup, knocking Newcastle United and Arsenal out of the competition.

La Liga roundup: Griezmann shines in Barcelona’s 5-2 drubbing of Betis

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Wins from Barcelona and Atletico Madrid highlight La Liga’s Sunday action.

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Barcelona 5-2 Real Betis

Antoine Griezmann’s Camp Nou debut was one for the books.

With Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez sidelined with injuries, the floor was all Griezmann’s. He didn’t disappoint.

Down 1-0, Griezmann, sneaking past his markers inside the box, acrobatically tapped a lofting ball from Sergi Roberto into the back of the net.

The best was yet to come, however.

In the second half, as Barcelona pinned Real Betis back in their defensive third, the Frenchman’s magic came to life.

Soon after, the floodgates opened – Barcelona’s skill effortlessly began to pick apart a weaker Betis side. Just 30 minutes after the 28-year-old’s second goal, Ernesto Valverde’s side posed a 5-1 lead.

Loren Moron’s superb strike gave Betis a second, but the defending champions had already done the damage behind goals from Carles Perez, Jordi Alba, Arturo Vidal and Griezmann.

With Sunday’s performance in mind, how will Barcelona function with Messi, Suarez and Griezmann spearheading the attack?

Osasuna may soon find that out firsthand as they host the Catalonians next. Elsewhere, looking for their first points of the season, Betis host Leganes.

Leganes 0-1 Atletico Madrid 

With a goal in the 70th minute, Vitolo played the unlikely hero for Atletico Madrid in their 1-0 win over Leganes.

Following a smooth lay-off from Joao Felix, the 29-year-old calmly slotted the ball past Juan Soriano, ten minutes after replacing Mario Hermoso.

The goal certainly meant a lot to Vitolo and Atletico Madrid, who along with Sevilla, are one of two teams to start the season with six points after two matchweeks.

Although not entirely dominant throughout the course of the match, the home side was inches from stripping two points from Los Colchoneros with Jonathan Silva’s free-kick hitting the crossbar.

Despite having a pair of clear-cut opportunities on Sunday, Atletico’s $142 million summer signing is yet to celebrate his first La Liga goal. Alvaro Morata, too, is waiting to catch fire.

With Atletico hosting an underperforming Eibar next, the narrative that Simeone’s side is lacking efficiency in the attack can soon fall flat. On the other hand, no points to their name, will look to exploit a confidence-battered Real Betis.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Alaves 0-0 Espanyol

RCD Mallorca 0-1 Real Sociedad

La Liga roundup: Atletico Madrid win first opener in four years

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Spain’s top flight is two days into a new season, and here’s a roundup of all of Sunday’s action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Getafe

It wasn’t done in aesthetically pleasing fashion, but Atletico Madrid won their first opening season game in four years.

In fact, the first half was rough with both Atletico and Getafe loosing players to straight red cards. Getafe’s Jorge Molina saw red for a studs-up challenge in the 38th minute, while Renan Lodi was asked to leave the field in his debut for Los Colchoneros. 

Summer signing Alvaro Morata proved to be the difference for Atletico, however. Assisted by former Tottenham fullback Kieran Trippier, the team’s academy product scored early on in the 23rd minute – the goal made Atletico one of eight clubs to start the season with three points.

$140 million signing Joao Felix also made his La Liga debut, and impressed the home crowd with a dazzling run in the second half that ended drawing a penalty for Atletico. Morata missed.

Not the smoothest of games for Diego Simeone’s side, but like Real Madrid, they already have an edge on Barcelona.

Espanyol 0-2 Sevilla 

Julen Lopetegui can finally breathe (and coach) in peace.

Following a series of unfortunate events with the Spanish national team and Real Madrid, Lopetegui and Sevilla started their new era in a winning way.

Sergio Reguilon got things started for the visiting side with a tap in inside the six-yard box. And in the final minutes, no stranger to stepping up for Sevilla, Nolito slotted one past Diego Lopez.

With only two shots on frame to speak for them, Espanyol was one, two steps behind Los Hispalenses, who look for another top-six finish in Spain’s top-flight league.

Sevilla’s young quest for that continues as they travel to Granada. Meanwhile, Espanyol have no time to waist with a Europa League play-off bout against Ukrainian side Zorya lined up midweek.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Betis 1-2 Real Valladolid

Alaves 1-0 Levante

Europa League preview: Wolves return to Europe

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Surely when PSV Eindhoven knocked Wolverhampton Wanderers out of the 1980-81 UEFA Cup, the West Midlands club didn’t think a nearly 40-year wait to return was in the cards, but that angst has given way to joy.

Wolves are back in Europe, and begin a Europa League campaign on Thursday.

[ UCL WRAPS: Tuesday | Wednesday ]

“Tomorrow is a big game for the club, for the years without European football,” said manager Nuno Espirito Santo. “It’s up to us to make something special so people are proud of us once again. It’s fantastic to be back at Molineux, what Molineux gives us is huge and a real adrenaline punch that we must take on to the pitch.”

The opponents at the Molineux are Northern Irish side Crusaders, but 1950s, 60s, and 70s saw some of the biggest names in world football arrive to Wolves, with Schalke, Juventus, Barcelona, and Porto on the docket.

An extended UEFA Cup run in 1971-72 saw Wolves come up one-goal short of silverware against Spurs at White Hart Lane.

So this isn’t new, even if it’s new.

“I have visited the museum a couple of times, so know the history of the club, and it proves how big Wolves are,” Espirito Santo said.

The first and second legs should give Wolves a leg-up for one of the most interesting matches of the Premier League’s first week: Wolves at Leicester City.

Europa League fixtures and results
Avan Academy 2-0 Lincoln Red Imps — Tuesday
HB 2-2 Linfield — Tuesday
Shkendija 1-2 Dudelange — Tuesday
Santa Coloma 0-0 Astana — Tuesday
Tre Penne 0-5 FK Suduva — Tuesday
Slovan Bratislava 2-1 Feronikeli — Wednesday
Pyunik v. Jablonec — 9:30 am. ET Thursday
FK Ventspils v. Gzira United — 10:45 a.m. ET Thursday
Gabala v. Dinamo Tbilisi — 11 a.m. ET Thursday
Partizani v. Sheriff — 11:30 a.m. ET Thursday
AEK Larnaca v. Levski Sofia — 11:30 a.m. ET Thursday
Utrecht v. HSK Zrinjski Mostar — 12:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Chikhura Sachkhere v. Aberdeen — 12:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Budapest Honved v. Uniersitatea Craiova — 12:55 p.m. ET Thursday
Lechia Gdansk v. Brondby — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Haugesund v. SK Sturm Graz — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Arsenal Tula v. Neftchi — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Mlada Boleslav v. Ordabasy — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Flora v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Alashkert v. FCSB — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Shakhtyor v. Esbjerg — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Yeni Malatyaspor v. Olimpija NK — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Molde v. Cukaricki — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
CSKA Sofia v. Osijek — 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Connah’s Quay Nomads v. Partizan — 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Hapoel Be’er Sheva v. Kairat — 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Lokomotiv Plovdiv v. Spartak Trnava — 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Piast Gliwice v. Riga — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Norrkoping v. Liepaja — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vidi v. Vaduz — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Luzern v. KI — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Aris v. AEL — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Dunajska Streda v. Atromitos — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Gent v. Viitorul — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Jeunesse Esch v. Vitoria — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
AZ Alkmaar v. BK Hacken — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Domzale v. Malmo — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Strasbourg v. Maccabi Haifa — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Rangers v. Progres — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Wolves v. Crusaders — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Buducnost v. Zorya — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Shamrock Rovers v. Apollon Limassol — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Valur v. Ludogorets Razgrad — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Torino v. Debrecen — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Espanyol v. Stjarnan — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Legia Warsaw v. KuPS — 3 p.m. ET Thursday

Messi wins derby for Barca, scores 40 goals for 10th-straight season

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How did Barcelona’s Catalan Derby with Espanyol go on Saturday? Let’s just say we’ve got two words which could sum up a lot of days for the Camp Nou set, and they are posted below.

Lionel Messi.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the PL? ]

The world’s greatest player scored a pair of goals in the second half as Barcelona won 2-0 to move to 21W-6D-2L this season.

The goals were his 30th and 31st in La Liga play this campaign, and 40th and 41st across all competitions to give him an otherworldly stat: Messi has scored 40 goals in each of the last 10 seasons.

He’s 31 years old. Do the math.

Messi’s first goal was especially wonderful, a spinning free kick from atop the 18 that was deflected into the net before a goalkeeper could get there.

But would he have? Probably not.

Many are calling it a “Panenka free kick.” We’re just opting for, again, wonderful: