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Top European teams roll in domestic Cup action

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Manchester City advanced in the Carabao Cup despite losing to Manchester United, but otherwise most top teams across Europe advanced in domestic Cup action with little trouble.

Real Madrid hammered Real Zaragoza 4-0 in the Copa del Rey behind four different goalscorers. Raphael Varane opened the scoring just six minutes in, and it was elementary from that point on. Lucas Vazquez doubled the lead past the half-hour mark, while Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema tacked on goals inside the final 20 minutes. The Vinicius goal was the pick of the lot, poking home the finish with the outside of his foot. Zaragoza held its own in front of net, actually out-shooting Madrid 15-13, but only put three of its 15 efforts on target and struggled to cope with Madrid’s ruthlessness in front of net, and overall it was just too easy for the La Liga leaders who advanced to the quarterfinals of the competition.

In other Copa del Rey scores, defending champions Valencia needed penalties to pass by Segunda Division side Cultural Leonesa after a 0-0 draw. Santi Cazorla scored as Villareal topped Rayo Vallecano 2-0, with both Villareal goals coming inside the final 10 minutes of the match.

In France, both Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Marseille advanced by two-goal margins, also moving into the quarterfinals.

PSG started a second-choice eleven against third-tier Pau and worked a 2-0 victory behind goals from Pablo Sarabia and Leandro Paredes. Mauro Icardi led the lines for PSG supported by the likes of Julian Draxler and Eric Maxim Chupo-Moting, while Ander Herrera held down the midfield.

Marseille topped fellow Ligue 1 challengers Strasbourg 3-1 with Dimitri Payet on the scoresheet alongside Bouna Sarr and Boubacar Kamara. It was tight through the end until Kamara put the game away in the 95th minute. Payet’s goal came from the spot, while Sarr’s opener just past the half-hour mark featured a dizzying, sparkling run through the penalty area past three defenders before finishing with the left foot.

Inter had a tougher task, squeaking by Fiorentina 2-1 to reach the semifinals of the Coppa Italia. Antonio Candreva poached a goal in the 44th minute on a goalmouth scramble to put Inter in front, and while Fiorentina drew level on the hour mark off a corner, Nicolo Barella delivered a venomous blast seven minutes later to seal the win. The match featured the debut of Christian Eriksen off the bench, seeing time on the field alongside four other former Premier League players for Inter in starters Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, and Ashley Young plus substitute Victor Moses.

The one side that fell in disappointing fashion was French club Lille who slumped to a 2-1 defeat to fourth-tier side SAS Epinal. Former Chelsea striker Loic Remy scored just eight minutes into the match to put Lille in front early, but the minnows managed a pair of second-half goals from Jean-Phillipe Krasso to pull off the enormous upset.

The only top European league that did not feature any domestic Cup action this week was Germany, whose DFB-Pokal is still in the Round of 16. Those matches will take place next week with RB Leipzig taking on Eintracht Frankfurt while Bayern Munich hosts Hoffenheim, Bayer Leverkusen meets Stuttgart, Schalke hosts Hertha BSC, and Borussia Dortmund visits Werder Bremen.

Payet slams former coach Garcia

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Dmitri Payet has spiced up the latest edition of the Choc des Olympiques with some choice comments for former Marseille coach Rudi Garcia.

Garcia coached Marseille for three seasons until the end of May, 2019. However, instead of staying through the end of his contract – which reportedly was extended through the 2021 season – Garcia decided to leave and eventually landed at Lyon, which sacked former Arsenal defender Sylvinho after a poor start to the season. Payet, who was never one in England to hold his tongue, revealed he was surprised to see Garcia join Lyon, especially because he had spoken passionately before about Lyon when it was just an opponent.

“Yes. Already, it’s weird to see him in the opposite side,” Payet said at a press conference. “A few months ago (May 12) , we faced Lyon, and heard (Garcia’s) talk about Lyon players, Lyon fans, the Lyon president … I will not go into detail, because it is not the goal either, but I would not like him to talk about us like that. It’s odd that he postulates three months later for this club. But he did well, since he is there. We must not begin to put our feelings in a match like that, it could make us thwart. We have to put it in a corner of our head, use it to boost ourselves.”

Payet’s comments surely turn up the heat in this year’s first leg of the French Olympique Classico. Though there isn’t an intense rivalry between the clubs, Payet’s accusations could lead to the game having a higher importance. It would be ineresting too to see what Payet thought of some of his coaches in England.

It’s no secret that Payet didn’t get along with Garcia, and likely was glad to see him go at the end of he season.

“I do not know how to say,” Payet said. “There were times when it was rather hot, the communication did not pass, – I speak of my personal case. There were headaches, I have a strong character, it did not help either. We did not separate on good terms.”

All eyes will be on Payet this Sunday to see if he has anything else to say to Garcia, or whether it’s gone in his mind now.

Report: Marseille suspends Rami for lying about attending game show

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According to French publication La Provence, Olympique Marseille has suspended defender Adil Rami amid an internal investigation into his actions this summer. Until today, little had been known about why he was suspended with some suspecting it had to do with his public breakup with actress Pamela Anderson, but the new report has shed a different light on the issue.

The report states that Rami lied to the club about his whereabouts in late May, asking for a training session off so he could attend to “personal concerns” but in reality he had gone to film an appearance on French game show Fort Boyard where he participated in a slime wrestling challenge despite being injured. The training session in question took place May 20, two days after a match against Toulouse in which he was withdrawn in the 74th minute, and he missed the next match – the final league game of the season – due to injury.

The Marseille manager at the time, Rudi Garcia, was apparently unaware of this appearance and believed Rami to be taking care of his personal matters. Fort Boyard is a French game show that focuses on physical and mental challenges.

Rami, a 33-year-old French international who was part of the World Cup winning squad last summer despite failing to appear in a match during the competition, has been banned from taking part in preseason training with the squad and is instead training on his own. According to the report, Rami had a hearing at the training ground with Marseille president Jacques-Henri Eyraud on Wednesday and has yet to be allowed back in training.

Garcia has since been removed as manager and Andre Villas-Boas is the new Marseille boss.

Rami has been with the club since joining from Sevilla in the summer of 2017, making 75 appearances across all competitions, although last season was a struggle for the defender, with injuries leaving him on the sidelines through most of the second half. His recent breakup with Anderson was messy, with the actress accusing him over social media of cheating and abuse while calling him a “monster.”

Marseille hires Andre Villas-Boas as coach

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MARSEILLE, France (AP) French club Marseille has hired Andre Villas-Boas as coach, hoping he can turn the former European champion into a contender again.

The 1993 European Cup-winning club, which is owned by former Los Angeles Dodger owner Frank McCourt, says Villas-Boas has signed a two-year contract.

The 41-year-old Portuguese previously coached Chelsea, Tottenham, Zenit St. Petersburg and Shanghai SIPG.

Villas-Boas takes over a team which last won the French league in 2010. A fifth-place finish this season meant Marseille failed to qualify for European competitions.

Marseille was the Europa League runner-up a year ago but failed to advance from the group stage this season under coach Rudi Garcia.

Marseille suffers damaging defeat at Bordeaux

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Olympique Marseille suffered a massive blow in its chase for a Champions League place, losing at Bordeaux by a 2-0 score thanks to goals by Francois Kamano and Nicolas de Preville.

Bordeaux has been a house of horrors for Marseille, and Friday’s result did nothing to change that sentiment. Marseille, having not won at Bordeaux in 42 years, suffered a blow to its Champions League hopes with the defeat as the visitors remained a point back of fourth-placed St. Etienne who now has two games in hand.

A hand-ball by Nemanja Radonjic in the 27th minute put Bordeaux at the penalty spot, and Kamano converted the spot-kick with a stutter step that sent Steve Mandanda the wrong way, easily burying the ball after the goalkeeper found the turf. The second came with 20 minutes to go as de Preville took a Marseille turnover just past midfield and burst forward all by himself, splitting two defenders in the box before slotting home.

Bordeaux defender Pablo was sent off with eight minutes to go for barging into Mario Balotelli off the ball, but Marseille had no response. Ultimately, while Marseille finished with 65% possession and 20 total shots, they put just five of those efforts on target. Meanwhile, Bordeaux miraculously put all seven of its shots on target, sealing the win.

The defeat secures Marseille’s embarrassing and lightning-quick collapse. The club rose from seventh to fourth in just a month, finding themselves in a Champions League place by mid-march thanks to a five-match unbeaten run that included four wins, highlighted by a defeat of St. Etienne. They immediately slumped, winless in the next three matches with two defeats in that span, falling out of the Champions League race as quickly as they’d risen into it.

Bordeaux’s streak of dominance at home over Marseille is something to behold. In those 42 years, they’ve gone 34 matches unbeaten, with 21 wins and 13 draws. It is the longest such streak in French top flight history. In addition, Bordeaux’s opener was the ninth penalty goal conceded by Marseille this league season, the most by any Top 5 team in Europe this season.