Luis Suárez

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Griezmann: Playing for Barcelona is ‘not the easiest’

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Over the summer, Barcelona shelled a whopping $135 million to land Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid.

It was a match made in heaven; the rest was supposed to be history.

Only that hasn’t been the case for the Frenchman in Barcelona.

Despite scoring a brace in his debut at the Camp Nou, Griezmann’s impact and influence on the field has quickly dwindled. In 11 league appearances with the Catalan giants, the 28-year-old has scored four goals and added three assists, signs that the World Cup winner is, in fact, struggling with his new team.

Speaking to Telefoot, Griezmann revealed that playing for Barcelona is not an easy thing to do, but that with hard work, his fortunes will turn around for the best:

“It is hard, I knew it would be, it is not the easiest place. This is a new team, a new club, new tactics, a new position. I have to work, try to understand my team-mates, after they will understand me too and it will work just like that… Critics will always be there. But I am good, I am proud of where I am. Only work pays off. I have to take confidence and it will all come just like that.”

This season, Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has frequently deployed the Frenchman as a left winger, with the hope that he will link up with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. The positives form such an ideology have yet to be reaped, however. Griezmann is scoring a goal every 224 minutes, a career worst.

The 28-year-old, too, has played in a central role on a couple of occasions, specifically during the absences of Messi and Suarez, but it hasn’t worked out for a player that has made a career from roaming that part of the field.

The building clamor at the Camp Nou is borderline justifiable – mainly because it’s now evident that Griezmann is wrestling with adapting to the expectations and systems in place in Barcelona.

But the high-flying attacker has proven he’s worth the price time and time again, and now he’s on the record saying that he’ll do everything in his power to do so with his new club.

La Liga roundup: Barcelona fall to Levante; Real Madrid held to draw

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Barcelona’s collapse in Levante and Real Madrid draw at home highlight La Liga’s Saturday action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Levante 3-1 Barcelona

In seven minutes, Barcelona conceded three goals, all of which came in the second half and handed the league leaders a 3-1 loss against Levante.

The collapse was so palpable that manager Ernesto Valverde couldn’t avoid the fire. The 55-year-old was asked a handful of questions regarding his future with the club. As expected, he didn’t hesitate to defend his job security, stating that Saturday’s loss was like any other.

It wasn’t, though.

Very rare are the times that Barcelona blackouts for consecutive minutes in a game, which was certainly the case on Saturday.

Lionel Messi converted from 12 yards out in the 38th minute, putting the better team ahead minutes before the first half culminated. But just shortly after both sides settled for the final 45 minutes, Levante pounced on a halfhearted Barcelona.

The first, a composed, right-foot finish from Jose Campañi, opened the floodgates. Two minutes later, an old foe, ex-Real Madrid forward Borja Mayoral, put the home side ahead. Five minutes after the second fell, when an opportunistic Nemanja Radoja’s left-footed volley took a deflection from Sergio Busquets and into the back of the net.

With draws from Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, Barcelona remain atop of the league. But the pressure is on, and being tied with Real Madrid with 22 points after 11 games doesn’t help, that’s for sure.

The defending champions look to regain some confidence as they host Slavia Praha in Champions League play midweek, while Levante hope to carry their momentum to the Basque Country as they take on Athletic Bilbao.

Real Madrid 0-0 Real Betis

With the opportunity to surpass league leaders Barcelona, Real Madrid were held to a draw by Real Betis after several close calls (and some controversy).

A spectacular goal from Eden Hazard was called back by VAR. When Los Blancos turned to the officials for a suspicious handball from Zouhair Feddal, the appeal felt short.

Sergio Ramos, who ruled Saturday’s draw as “bittersweet,” had a clear shot on target, only for it to be blocked by Betis’ Joel Robles. More chances appeared for Zinedine Zidane, specifically Ferland Mendy in the dying minutes of the game. The Frenchman’s shot went just wide of Betis’ goal, however.

Tied with Barcelona and only a point ahead of archival Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid host Turkish giants Galatasaray midweek in Champions League competition. Betis, who are slowly but surely building back from a tough start, host Sevilla in the Seville derby.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Sevilla 1-1 Atletico Madrid

Espanyol 1-2 Valencia

Messi scores two, leads Barcelona to 5-1 rout of Valladolid (video)

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MADRID (AP) It was one of those special nights for Lionel Messi, filled with beautiful goals, pinpoint assists and plenty of praise from teammates and opponents.

[ MORE: Cryptic Zlatan Ibrahimovic hints at return to Spain ]

Messi scored two goals and set up two more as Barcelona extended its winning streak and regained the Spanish league lead by comfortably defeating Valladolid 5-1 on Tuesday.

“We can only applaud and enjoy,” Valladolid captain Michel Herrero said.

Messi scored a goal in each half, including his 50th from a free kick, as Barcelona won its seventh straight game in all competitions since the Argentina star returned to the starting lineup after a long injury layoff.

“I don’t know what else to say,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “We always know he will do something special. His talent can’t be compared to anything.”

Clement Lenglet, Arturo Vidal and Luis Suarez also scored at the Camp Nou Stadium to give Barcelona a two-point lead over Granada, which visits Getafe on Thursday. Atletico Madrid, which was held to a 1-1 draw by Alaves on Tuesday, also stayed two points off the lead.

Barcelona has a game in hand because the “clasico” against Real Madrid last weekend was postponed until December because of a separatist rally held in the Catalan capital.

Barcelona struggled without Messi but has won all of its matches since he returned as a starter following a right calf injury he picked up in the preseason. He has scored five goals in Barcelona’s last four matches.

“When Messi is on a day like this, the whole team feels it and everything becomes easier,” Vidal said. “He is from another planet.”

Messi’s first goal was a spectacular curling free kick shot into the top corner in the 34th minute, and his second came with a shot from inside the area after he beautifully controlled a long pass by Ivan Rakitic in the 75th.

The free kick goal was Messi’s 44th with Barcelona, adding to the six he scored with Argentina’s national team.

Lenglet opened the scoring two minutes into the match and Kiko Olivas equalized for Valladolid in the 15th before Vidal put the hosts ahead again in the 29th. Suarez netted Barcelona’s final goal after a perfect through pass by Messi in the 77th. Messi also set up Vidal’s goal with a great pass over Valladolid defenders.

[ VIDEO: Every touch from Christian Pulisic v. Burnley ]

Messi missed out on a hat trick when his close-range shot in stoppage time went wide.

It was the 11th win for Barcelona in 12 league matches against Valladolid, which stayed ninth in the 20-team standings.

Valverde started the match with 16-year-old Ansu Fati in place of Antoine Griezmann. The French forward entered the game in the second half.

Atletico Madrid had to settle for another draw after conceding a late equalizer at Alaves.

It was the fourth draw in the last five league matches for Atletico, which could drop to sixth place after the other matches are played.

Substitute striker Alvaro Morata put Atletico ahead from inside the area in the 70th minute, but Lucas Perez equalized in the 83rd with a beautiful long-range shot after going past two defenders. It was the fifth consecutive match with a goal for Perez.

“I went for the top corner and luckily it went in,” he said.

Morata has scored in three straight games, always coming off the bench.

Atletico had drawn three straight in the league before a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao at home on Saturday.

“We have to forget this match and keep working,” Atletico midfielder Thomas Partey said.

The result extended Atletico’s unbeaten streak against Alaves to nine league matches.

Suarez, Cavani set to play for Uruguay in friendly v Hungary

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MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) Strikers Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani are set to return for Uruguay in a friendly game against Hungary in November.

Both men missed two games against Peru in October as they recovered from injuries.

All 24 players named by coach Oscar Tabarez on Friday do not play in Uruguay.

Defender Jose Maria Gimenez is out because of muscle injury he picked playing for Atletico Madrid this week.

Uruguay faces Hungary on Nov. 15 at the Ferenc Puskas stadium in Budapest. The country’s soccer body is yet to pick an opponent for another friendly on Nov. 19.

Squad:

Goakeepers: Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Martin Campana (Independiente).

Defenders: Diego Godin (Inter Milan), Sebastian Coates (Sporting Lisbon), Gaston Silva (Independiente), Martin Caceres (Fiorentina), Bruno Mendez (Corinthians), Mathias Suarez (Montpellier).

Midfielders: Matias Vecino (Inter Milan), Nahitan Nandez (Cagliari), Federico Valverde (Real Madrid), Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus), Brian Lozano (Santos Laguna), Lucas Torreira (Arsenal), Giorgian de Arrasacaeta (Flamengo), Gaston Pereiro (PSV), Diego Laxalt (Torino).

Strikers: Luis Suarez (Barcelona), Edinson Cavani (PSG), Cristhian Stuani (Girona), Jonathan Rodriguez (Cruz Azul), Darwin Nunez (Almeria), Brian Rodriguez (Los Angeles FC), Maximilano Gomez (Valencia).

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

Carragher apologizes to Evra over Suarez t-shirts

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Jamie Carragher has apologized to Patrice Evra after Liverpool wore t-shirts in support of Luis Suarez in 2011.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The day after Suarez was banned for eight games by the English Football Association, who found him guilty of racially abusing Evra, Liverpool’s players put on t-shirts with Suarez on the front and back during their warm up in a Premier League game against Wigan Athletic.

Carragher and Evra were both analysts for our partners at Sky Sports in the UK on Monday Night Football for the clash between Sheffield United and Arsenal, and discussed the current problems with racism in the game.

“There is no doubt we made a massive mistake; that was obvious,” Carragher said.

Liverpool’s former vice-captain asked Evra how he felt regarding the situation with Suarez, and the former Man United, Juventus and Monaco left back revealed his disgust at the way the situation was handled.

“When I saw it I was like, this is ridiculous. This is unbelievable,” Evra said. You put your own club in danger when you do those things. You always have to support your player because he is from your team but this was after the ban. If it was before and we were waiting for the sanction, I would understand. What message do you send to the world? Supporting someone being banned because he used some racist words.”

Click play on the video above for the full discussion between Carragher and Evra.