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Transfer Rumor Roundup: Gabriel to Chelsea, Kante to Real Madrid

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Chelsea is all over the transfer news today.

According to an ESPN report, Chelsea has tabbed 22-year-old Lille center-back Gabriel Magalhaes as one of their top targets this coming transfer window. The Brazilian has been a regular in the Lille lineup this season, making 24 league appearances and helping the squad to the league’s fourth-best defensive record.

The report states that both sides are “optimistic of a deal” with Chelsea ready to pay the $37 million fee.

With transfer targets are identified at Stamford Bridge, it seems the club has also figured out some sort of strategy regarding transfers out. A report by 90min states that while Chelsea is more than happy with N’Golo Kante, roster congestion may allow them to be flexible with his status at the club.

With Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic developing a solid partnership during Kante’s extended injury struggles this season, plus the return of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the availability of Ross Barkley, and the emergence of young Billy Gilmour, Kante is expendable. The report states that while Chelsea is not looking to shop the Frenchman, Real Madrid has held longtime interest and Los Blancos are likely to explore that likelihood in the upcoming transfer window.

Kante has three years left on his deal, and while Chelsea is under no hurry to sell, he will be 32 years old by the time his deal expires so any longer and the midfielder’s value is sure to begin falling.

A familiar name with Premier League transfer rumors is Portuguese midfielder William Carvalho. Linked with PL clubs for years, the Real Betis man is now connected with Leicester City as well as French side Monaco, according to the Leicester Mercury which cites unnamed reports in Portugal. The 28-year-old has 59 caps for Portugal, including a starting role in the side’s Euro 2016 title. He would reportedly cost around $25 million with three years still remaining on his Real Betis contract.

Real Madrid loses 2-1 at Betis as Barcelona stays top in Spain

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BARCELONA, Spain — Real Madrid lost 2-1 at Real Betis in the Spanish league on Sunday and wasted its chance to reclaim the lead from Barcelona.

Barcelona, which beat Real Sociedad 1-0 on Saturday, was left two points ahead of Madrid at the top, one week after the Catalan club had lost the “clasico” to its rival.

Led by France forward Nabil Fekir, Betis outplayed Madrid for long stretches of the match in Seville.

Betis defender Sidnei scored one goal and unintentionally helped Madrid claw back an equalizer just before halftime.

Sidnei rifled in Betis’ goal in the 40th minute before he committed a foul that Karim Benzema converted to level the score in first-half stoppage time.

Zinedine Zidane sent on more attacking players to seek the winner, but Betis substitute Cristian Tello scored the hosts’ second goal in the 82nd after a passing mistake by Benzema that led to a quick counterattack.

Betis was winless in six games before taking down Madrid.

Barcelona targeting special ’emergency transfer’ after Dembele injury

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Ousmane Dembele’s long-term injury will allow Barcelona to make an emergency transfer from inside of Spain.

Dembele’s projected six-month absence will send Barca into the market, where they are mentioned by Marca as suitors of Willian Jose, Lucas Perez, Angel Rodriguez, Loren Moron, and Luis Suarez.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

That’s the other Luis Suarez, as Barcelona waits on the health and fitness of the well-known Uruguayan striker.

Here’s the low down on the list of possible signings:

Willian Jose, Real Sociedad — Currently out of favor with his club and the likeliest to move should Barca pony up the $40-plus million it will take, Jose has eight goals on the season and 52 during his time with the club.

Lucas Perez, Alaves — Yes, the formal Arsenal and West Ham man. Perez remains comfortable in Spanish football, and has nine goals and four assists through 22 matches.

Angel Rodriguez, Getafe — The elder statesman of the group, soon-to-be 33-year-old Rodriguez has 13 goals and two assists this season, including three in six Europa League matches.

Loren Moron, Real Betis — At 26, Moron has bagged 10 goals with three assists in 25 appearances this season.

Luis Suarez, Real Zaragoza — The 22-year-old Colombian’s full name is Luis Javier Suárez Charris and he is on loan from Watford. His LaLiga2 stars are a strong 14 goals and three assists in 25 outings.

With Messi’s set pieces, Barcelona finds a way to get back on track

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MADRID — Under pressure and needing a victory, Barcelona didn’t mind leaving aside its ball-possession game for a while.

It was with set pieces that the team salvaged a crucial win this weekend to get back on track after a turbulent start to the year under coach Quique Setién.

Lionel Messi had three assists – two from free kicks – as Barcelona twice came from behind to defeat Real Betis 3-2 in Seville on Sunday. The victory kept the Catalan club three points behind Spanish league leader Real Madrid, which earlier had won 4-1 at Osasuna.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Barcelona didn’t fully abandon its traditional passing game, but it only got the goals it needed at Benito Villamarín Stadium thanks to the set pieces. The team was losing 2-1 when Messi found Sergio Busquets inside the area for the equalizer just before halftime, and after the break it was a header from Clement Lenglet off another cross from Messi that gave Barcelona the win.

“What hurts the most is that their team can score a thousand different ways but we conceded two goals from free kicks far from the area,” Real Betis coach Rubi said.

Barcelona continued to improve despite the narrow victory, relieving some of the pressure over Setién since he replaced Ernesto Valverde at the beginning of the year.

“We’ve played more games and had more time to practice under him,” Barcelona midfielder Sergi Roberto said. “After a change, you always need some time to adapt, but it’s a lot easier to work after victories.”

Next for Barcelona will be a league game at home against third-place Getafe, which has been playing some of the best soccer in Spain recently.

GETAFE’S RUN

Getafe again has become the sensation of the Spanish league.

For the second straight season, the modest club from southern Madrid is hanging around near the top of the standings, contending for a Champions League spot and outplaying some more traditional Spanish teams.

Getafe is in third place after 23 matches, ahead of Atlético Madrid, Sevilla and Valencia. It trails second-place Barcelona by seven points and Real Madrid by 10.

“It’s a tough team to beat,” Valencia coach Albert Celades said. “It plays very solidly on defense and it doesn’t concede many goals. When a team is in third place like that, it’s because it does a lot of things well, there is no doubt about that.”

Valencia was Getafe’s latest victim on Saturday, routed 3-0. In the previous round, Getafe had won 2-0 at Athletic Bilbao.

Getafe was in contention for a Champions League spot until the end of last season, holding on to fourth place until being overcome by Valencia with two rounds to go. It will face Ajax in the round of 32 of this season’s Europa League.

EFFECTIVE STRIKERS

Real Sociedad’s Alexander Isak and Espanyol’s Raúl de Tomás have been among the hottest strikers in Europe.

Isak has scored eight goals in his last six games, including one in Sociedad’s 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Basque Country derby in the Spanish league on Sunday. A few days earlier he had scored twice in the team’s stunning 4-3 win at Real Madrid in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

The 20-year-old Isak, who already plays for Sweden’s national team, joined Sociedad from Borussia Dortmund last year.

De Tomás, Espanyol’s most expensive transfer after joining from Benfica in January, has scored in each of his first five matches with the Barcelona club. His latest goal was a 58th-minute winner against Granada on Sunday, giving his team its first home victory in the Spanish league this season.

He was signed for a reported 20 million euros ($21.9 million) plus add-ons, surpassing the nearly 10 million euros ($10.9 million) the Spanish club had paid for Matías Vargas last year.

The 25-year-old de Tomás has a contract with Espanyol until 2026. He used to play in the youth squads of Real Madrid before joining second-division club Rayo Vallecano on a loan. He was eventually sold to Benfica for 20 million euros ($21.9 million).

La Liga roundup: Messi fuels Barcelona win over Real Betis (video)

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Lionel Messi’s genius in Barcelona’s win over Real Betis highlights La Liga’s Sunday action.

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Real Betis 2-3 Barcelona

Lionel Messi assisted three times on Sunday in Quique Setien’s anticipated return to the Estadio Benito Villamarin, as Barcelona edged Real Betis 3-2.

The victory marks Barcelona’s second consecutive league win, who remain three points behind league leaders – and winners on Sunday – Real Madrid.

The match got off to a burning start as Sergio Canales converted from the spot six minutes in after a handball was called by VAR on Clément Lenglet, who wound up exiting the pitch after cumulated yellow cards in the 79th minute.

Just three minutes later, Frenkie de Jong canceled out Betis’ lead with a delicate finish of his own. Nabil Fekir, however, would put the home side up with a long-range shot in the 26th minute. Setien’s return to Seville was off to a rocky start.

Like in many cases in the past, Messi’s dominance would wind up saving Barcelona.

The Argentine’s desperate ball into the box was pushed in by Sergio Busquets in the final seconds of the first half, while his lofting cross was met by Lenglet’s well-placed header in the second half to give the Blaugrana the much-needed victory.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Espanyol 1-0 Mallorca

Real Sociedad 1-0 Athletic Bilbao

Osasuna 1-4 Real Madrid 

Celta Vigo 2-1 Sevilla