Julen Lopetegui

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La Liga roundup: Sevilla edges Alaves, takes lead of league

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Sevilla becoming league leaders headlines Sunday’s La Liga action.

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Alaves 0-1 Sevilla

As far as the standings go, there is no better team in Spain’s top-flight than Sevilla. 

With a free-kick goal from Joan Jordan in the 37th minute, Julen Lopetegui’s side earned a 1-0 victory against Alaves, climbing to the summit of La Liga with 10 points, one ahead of Atletico Madrid. 

The visiting side controlled the majority of the match, dominating control of the ball and putting seven shots on frame. In the late stages of the game, off of a counter-attack, Lucas Ocampos’ rifling shot struck the post.

Alaves, who lost their first match of the season, only recording no shots on target on seven total shots. But nearly shocked everyone in attendance when Manu Garcia’s diving header went inches wide of Tomáš Vaclík goal.

Mexico international Javier “Chicharito” Hernandezmade his Sevilla debut, coming on in the 70th minute for Luuk De Jong.

The league leaders host Real Madrid next, while Alaves look to bounce back against red-hot Athletic Bilbao.

Celta Vigo 0-2 Granada

The reflectors aren’t not on them, but Granda are off to a formidable start.

To be exact, following a 2-0 win against an in-theory superior Celta Vigo, the recently-promoted side sits seventh in the table, tied with Barcelona with seven points.

The visiting side did get a big boost: a numerical advantage on the field. By the 29th minute, Celta were playing with nine players, following the direct red cards to midfielder Fran Beltran and defender Jorge Saenz. It was a one-sided game from there on out.

Right before heading into the dressing room, German Sanchez headed one home for Granada. In the 54th minute, former NYCFC midfielder Yangel Herrera’s a rocket of a shot was impossible for Ruben Blanco to save.

Granada host Barcelona next. Elsewhere, Celta Vigo hope to not look half as bad as they travel to nation’s capital to take on Atletico Madrid.

Eibar 1-2 Espanyol

Valladolid 1-1 Osasuna

Real Betis 1-1 Getafe

Sevilla go top of La Liga with 1-0 win at Alaves

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) A masterfully taken free kick by Sevilla midfielder Joan Jordan earned a 1-0 victory at Alaves and lifted his team to the top of the standings in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Jordan struck a dipping free kick over the defensive wall that goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco could only watch land in his net in the 38th minute.

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Jordan, who joined Sevilla from Eibar before the season, also scored in a 1-0 win at Granada in round two.

Sevilla didn’t threaten Alaves again, but both sides’ defenses and the heavy rain made the rest of the match a pedestrian slugfest.

The match ended with a small scuffle that earned bookings for a pair of players on each team.

Coach Julen Lopetegui, who was fired by both Spain’s national team and Real Madrid during a turbulent 2018, has made an impressive start in Seville. Sevilla is undefeated in four rounds after also winning at Espanyol and drawing with Celta Vigo.

Next weekend Lopetegui’s Sevilla will host Madrid.

The win at Alaves pushed Sevilla into first place. Atletico Madrid is one point behind, followed by Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao two points back. Defending champion Barcelona and Real Sociedad are three points off the pace.

FIRST GOALS

Espanyol scored its first goals of the season and got its first win after fighting back for a 2-1 victory at Eibar.

Facundo Ferreyra and Esteban Granero scored in the final 15 minutes to pull off the comeback.

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

Sevilla confirms appointment of Julen Lopetegui as manager

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Sevilla confirmed the appointment of former Spain and Real Madrid manager Julen Lopetegui on Tuesday, marking the 52-year-old’s return to management for the first time since his disastrous Los Blancos spell that lasted just 10 league matches.

The Sevilla position is open after a sixth-placed finish in La Liga, failing to pip Getafe on head-to-head results after finishing level on points. Pablo Machin was dismissed in mid-March after suffering through a five-match league winless run and Europa League elimination, with Joaquin Caparros installed as caretaker manager through the end of the season.

Lopetegui’s managerial resume is quite the mixed bag. After earning his first job at then-second division Rayo Vallecano – the club where he spent most of his playing career – in 2003, Lopetegui was fired after just 10 matches in a season that ultimately ended in relegation to the Spanish third tier. He then rose through the Spanish youth team ranks, and by 2014 earned another top tier job with Porto where he reached the Champions League quarterfinals but failed to win any silverware in his two years in charge.

The Spaniard then found himself hired by the Spanish national team to replace the legendary Vicente del Bosque in 2016, and he proceeded to win 14 of his 20 games in charge and not losing once, confirming qualification to the 2018 World Cup as one of the favorites alongside Germany. Just days before the start of the tournament, Lopetegui was dismissed in infamous fashion after Real Madrid announced he would take over after the World Cup, a move which the Spanish national team setup felt as betrayal.

Without the opportunity to lead Spain at a major international tournament, Lopetegui completed the awkward transition to Los Blancos where things turned sour quickly amid a five-match winless run culminating in a 5-1 El Clasico defeat that proved his undoing.

The appointment at Sevilla seems like a make-or-break position for Lopetegui, given his managerial tenure appears less than convincing. Should he fail to challenge for a Champions League place or take them deep in the Europa League, it would be hard to imaging Lopetegui receiving interest for another job after yet another club failure.

Report: USMNT turned down Lopetegui meeting request

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The United States men’s national team has been missing a full-time head coach for a long time, and is set to appoint a boss — probably Gregg Berhalter — within the next week or two.

But Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl dropped a bomb on a weary and leery U.S. fan base after FS1’s broadcast of the USMNT’s 1-0 loss to Italy in Belgium on Tuesday.

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Wahl says that former Spain and Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui recently approached U.S. Soccer about the vacancy, but was told the program was too far along in its process.

From Wahl on SI.com:

U.S. Soccer, the source said, replied that it was too far down the line in its process to entertain the interest of Lopetegui, who was undefeated in 20 matches (14-0-6) across two years as the Spain coach. U.S. Soccer offered no comment when asked for a response.

The report will only add more consternation as Berhalter, well-qualified in his own right, attempts to right the good ship USMNT.

How in the world, at any point in the process, a program like the USMNT refuses the chance to speak to Lopetegui would be hilarious most times, though it certainly is likely very late in the process (which has not been anywhere near transparent).

If Berhalter had been told he was hired, that’s about the only acceptable answer (and even if he was, some would still have wanted the U.S. to say ‘Tough break, Gregg. We owe the process this conversation’).

Also a former Porto boss, Lopetegui led Spain’s U-19 and U-21 sides to EURO titles. He was fired by Real on Oct. 29, which would’ve given the Yanks a chance to reach out to him.

Again, I think Berhalter has everything it takes to be a wildly successful USMNT boss, but this process has not been covered in glory.

Real Madrid officially fires Julen Lopetegui

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Real Madrid chief executive Florentino Perez is not known for his patience with those who struggle at the helm of his club. He tried to hold out as long as he could as Julen Lopetegui looked for a way through the recent darkness, but a dismantling at the hands of a bitter rival forced his hand.

Following a 5-1 defeat to Barcelona in El Clasico over the weekend, Real Madrid finally pulled the trigger and officially sacked manager Julen Lopetegui on Monday after weeks of speculation as the club has fallen further and further into La Liga obscurity. On the heels of three consecutive Champions League titles, Madrid sits in ninth in the La Liga table, with just a single win over its last seven matches across all competitions – a 2-1 victory over Czech club Viktoria Plzen. Madrid suffered through a near-club-record goal drought of over 450 minutes during that span.

The Spanish giants issued a scathing statement to confirm his departure. “The Board of Directors understands that there is a great disproportion between the quality of the staff of Real Madrid – which has 8 players nominated for the next Golden Ball, something unprecedented in the history of the club – and the results obtained to date.”

Taking over on an interim basis is reserve team manager Santiago Solari. Multiple reports across Europe have claimed that the club is targeting Antonio Conte to take over on a permanent basis, as the former Chelsea man has been without a job since departing the Blues this summer.

Lopetegui’s departure is an expensive one for Madrid. Reports state his contract is worth a whopping $20.5 million, a sum the club will have to pay out to honor his deal.