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Transfer rumor roundup: Man City joins race for Spanish playmaker

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Manchester City is now looking to win the race to sign former Barcelona academy winger Dani Olmo after the Spaniard shined brighter than most in the nation’s championship run at the U-21 EUROs.

They’ll have to beat out a host of clubs including Barca, with Manchester United, Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, and Real Madrid also said to be on the laundry list of clubs eyeing up the Dinamo Zagreb 21-year-old.

[ MORE: Herrera to PSG ]

Olmo just posted a 12-goal, nine-assist season with the Croatian side, including two and four in the Europa League. He got on the board against Benfica, Anderlecht, and Fenerbahce amongst others, so not like he’s picking on the minnows.

The Catalan youngster started his academy career at Espanyol before spending seven seasons with Barcelona’s youth set-up.

Plus if you go to the 1:12 mark of this video, you can watch him dribble through fog to score (although perhaps fog is to the advantage of the ball handler?).

Spanish striker Alvaro Vazquez is off to Canada, but for which team?

Reports say the 28-year-old has an offer from one of the three Major League Soccer teams north of the border, and is currently there.

Vazquez scored 10 goals in Spain’s second flight last season for Real Zaragoza, and is two seasons removed from a pair of productive seasons in the top flight with Getafe.

Mainly a center forward, Vazquez can also handle being deployed out wide and was on loan with Toronto FC’s Pozuelo when the pair were with Swansea City in 2013-14.

Some internet sleuths are positing a reunion due to the following Instagram comments:

La Liga: Real Madrid win to stay within striking distance of second

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: PSG crowned Ligue 1 champions with five games left ]

Real Madrid 3-0 Athletic Bilbao

Karim Benzema bagged a hat trick (WATCH HERE) — his 19th, 20th and 21st goals of the league season (second-most, 12 behind Lionel Messi) — to send Real Madrid to a comfortable victory over Athletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu. The result also keeps Los Blancos within four points of capital rivals Atletico Madrid in something of a battle for second place behind runaway leaders Barcelona.

Benzema has scored 10 goals in his last seven La Liga appearances, a run in which Madrid have complied a 5W-1D-1L record. Benzema failed to score in Zinedine Zidane’s re-debut as Madrid manager, but has scored eight goals in five games since.

Sunday’s game marked the 300th league appearance for midfielder and 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric in a Real Madrid shirt.

Getafe 3-0 SevillaWATCH HIGHLIGHTS

Sevilla’s hopes of returning to the UEFA Champions League following a one-year hiatus took a serious hit on Sunday, as Pablo Machin’s side was hammered by Getafe, the side which now occupies fourth place, two points ahead of them. Getafe continue to enjoy their meteoric rise through the Spanish ranks, as they were competing in the second division this time two years ago.

Two of the three goals the scored on Sunday came from the penalty spot, as Jaime Mata and Jorge Molina converted in the 35th and 45th+4′, respectively. Molina completed the scoring eight minutes into the second half.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Betis 1-2 Valencia
Levante 2-2 Espanyol
Villarreal 2-1 Leganes

La Liga: Morata double helps Atletico Madrid keep La Liga pace

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A pair of Alvaro Morata headers was all Atletico Madrid needed to move past Real Sociedad 2-0 and keep pace with Barcelona at the top of the La Liga table.

Morata scored his brace three minutes apart just past the half-hour mark, setting Atleti up for the rest of the match. They would fall a man down on 61 minutes as Koke earned his second yellow card, but they held on for not just the win but the clean sheet as well. Thanks in large part to the half-hour man advantage, Real Sociedad out-shot Madrid 19-8, but could only muster three on target.

The win leaves Atleti seven behind Barcelona, but keeps pace with the La Liga leaders with 12 matches to go. Atletico has won three games in a row and has the club’s third three-match league winning streak since the start of December after failing to generate one at all before that time.

Leandro Cabrera headed Getafe into the lead 20 minutes in, and Jaime Mata put the game away just before halftime in a 2-1 road win at Real Betis to keep the visitors in a Champions League place. While Betis held 65% of the possession, they managed just six total shots, with only two on target.

Eibar picked up all three points as Sergi Enrich scored in the 87th minute to secure a 1-0 victory over Celta Vigo. The home side completely dominated the match, pummeling relegation-threatened Celta Vigo with 15 shots, coming close multiple times in the second half including a 67th minute penalty miss by Charles before the late winner when Marc Cardona did all the hard work weaving through defenders down the left before his blocked shot fell right to Enrich on the doorstep for the tap-in.

The win does more harm to Celta Vigo than help Eibar, as the visitors are still just two points above the relegation zone. Eibar, meanwhile, sits in no-man’s land in ninth, eight back of a Champions League place and 11 above the drop.

Finally, in the late Sunday game, a timid first-half between Valencia and Athletic Bilbao gave way to a 2-0 win for the hosts as Rodrigo scored just after the break and Kevin Gameiro finished it off late. The victory moved Valencia up to seventh just a point behind Sevilla.

La Liga: Messi hat-trick, Getafe goes 4th

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Lionel Messi was the star of La Liga’s Sunday slate, scoring the 50th hat-trick of his career as he single-handedly carried Barcelona to a 4-2 victory over Sevilla to move 10 points clear at the top of the table.

Messi scored a pair of absurd goals and finished his hat-trick with the eventual winner, before Luis Suarez finally ended his long goal drought in stoppage time to finish the scoreline. The first was especially delicious, an inspired side-volley that powered home a cross from Ivan Rakitic.

[ WATCH: Messi’s 50th hat-trick sparks Barca win ]

It wasn’t always a sure thing for Barcelona, who trailed at two different points in the match, including at halftime when goals from Jesus Navas and Gabriel Mercado saw Sevilla ahead. Messi’s second brought Barcelona level past the hour mark when he curled in a right-footed effort from near the top of the box. The winner came five minutes from full-time as a stroke of luck saw Carles Alena’s shot clatter into Sevilla defender Simon Kjaer and trickled perfectly into the path of Messi clean through on goal for a chip finish past Tomas Vaclik.

Meanwhile, the La Liga Champions League places has a surprising new member as Getafe moved to 4th in the league with a 2-1 win over relegation-threatened Rayo Vallecano. Jamie Mata and Jorge Molina scored the necessary goals, moving Getafe into what would be its highest-ever La Liga finish. Mata in particular is red-hot, scoring his seventh goal in the club’s last eight league games. Mata then assisted Molina’s winner, giving him four assists in that span as well, and helping the club to its fourth win in the last six matches. Getafe has lost just two games since mid-November – to Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

Relegated in 2016 and then promoted back to La Liga the following year, Getafe finished 8th last season and continues to climb, potentially qualifying for European competition for only the third time in club history. A 6th place finish in 2010 remains its best-ever league result, while a 2007 Copa del Rey finals appearance marked the first time they ever qualified for a continental competition.

[ SERIE A: Dzeko steals Roma a vital win in 95th minute ]

Celta Vigo pulled out of the relegation zone with a grinding away point at Alaves as the two teams drew 0-0. The home side whipped off 17 shots, but could only put four of them on target. Celta Vigo proved dangerous one-on-one, but could never put together anything of note. The biggest chance of the game fell to Takashi Inui just past halftime but missed wide right, and while they accumulated a ton of chances inside the penalty area, they could never find the winning moment.

Finally, Athletic Bilbao leapfrogged Eibar for the ninth spot in the table after a 1-0 win over Eibar. The only goal came inside the first minute, with Raul Garcia pouncing immediately after the opening whistle. That was it for the match, as the two sides were only able to accumulate five total shots on target. Athletic should have had a second soon after halftime, but Inigo Martinez was unable to put his doorstep header on target.

Late winner moves Betis into 6th in Spanish league

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MADRID (AP) Sergio Leon scored an 89th-minute winner as Real Betis defeated Getafe 1-0 in the Spanish league on Monday, moving into the qualification zone for the Europa League.

Betis jumped from eighth to sixth in the standings with its third straight victory. It is one point behind fifth-place Villarreal.

The teams in fifth, sixth, and seventh places qualify for the Europa League.

Getafe, which dropped to 11th, missed a 65th-minute penalty kick when goalkeeper Antonio Adan stopped Francisco Portillo’s shot from the spot.

Getafe also came close when defender Vitorino Antunes struck the post with a free kick in the 73rd, and the hosts were denied an injury-time goal when the officiating crew ruled that a ball headed into the far corner did not fully cross the goal line. Getafe also had a first-half goal disallowed for offside.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga