Getty Images

Sevilla signs forward Munir El Haddadi and defender Woeber

Leave a comment

SEVILLA, Spain (AP) Spanish club Sevilla says it has signed forward Munir El Haddadi from Barcelona and defender Maximilian Woeber from Ajax.

Sevilla did not give the length of the contract or the transfer fee for either player.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The 23-year-old El Haddadi had made 11 appearances for Barcelona this season, scoring two goals as a substitute.

El Haddadi had played the previous two seasons on loan at Valencia and at Alaves, where last season he scored 14 goals. He joins a strong Sevilla attack featuring Portugal striker Andre Silva and Wissam Ben Yedder.

The 20-year-old Woeber had played for Ajax since 2017, making 30 appearances in the Dutch league and six in the Champions League.

Sevilla is in third place in the Spanish league and visits Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Forecasting the Top Five title races in Europe

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
Leave a comment

We’re at, near, or past the midway points of the season for the top five leagues in Europe, and only two look like complete runaways.

[ MORE: FA Cup draw ]

Let’s face it: the ideas that unbeaten Juventus blowing a nine-point lead over Napoli or Paris Saint-Germain would throw away a 13-point lead (with two matches-in-hand!!) is absurd.

But will Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool, and/or Barcelona hold on to multi-win leads atop their respective tables? Let’s dissect this a little bit.


Bundesliga

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Borussia Dortmund 17 13 3 1 44 18 26 8-1-0 5-2-1 42
 Bayern Munich 17 11 3 3 36 18 18 4-3-1 7-0-2 36
 Mönchengladbach 17 10 3 4 36 18 18 8-0-0 2-3-4 33
 RB Leipzig 17 9 4 4 31 17 14 7-2-0 2-2-4 31
 VfL Wolfsburg 17 8 4 5 27 22 5 3-3-3 5-1-2 28
 Eintracht Frankfurt 17 8 3 6 34 23 11 4-1-3 4-2-3 27

Niko Kovac’s first season at Bayern Munich has not gone according to plan, though the Bavarians have climbed back to within six points of leaders Borussia Dortmund.

The big match between the two clubs is April 6 at Bayern’s Allianz Arena, and Bayern has taken two of three matches between the pair this season. Bayern last lost a home league match to BVB in 2014, and has won the last six titles.

The pressure on BVB will be immense as the season moves toward May, and incredibly FiveThirtyEight’s forecasting model has Bayern with a 65 percent chance to win the league.

Will Christian Pulisic leave Dortmund a Bundesliga champion? (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Serie A

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Juventus 19 17 2 0 38 11 27 9-1-0 8-1-0 53
 Napoli 19 14 2 3 37 17 20 8-2-0 6-0-3 44
 Inter Milan 19 12 3 4 31 14 17 7-1-1 5-2-3 39

On one hand, Napoli hosts Juve in their second match of the Serie A season. On the other, Juve just wins everything every darn year and would likely have to drop 10 more points than the Neapolitans the rest of the way. FiveThirtyEight says it’s a 92 percent likelihood Juve wins again.

Will Ronaldo add a scudetto to his Premier League and La Liga crowns? (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

Ligue 1

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Paris SG 17 15 2 0 50 10 40 9-0-0 6-2-0 47
 Lille 19 10 4 5 29 19 10 6-3-1 4-1-4 34
 Lyon 18 9 5 4 30 21 9 6-2-2 3-3-2 32

Hahaha. Hahahahah. Hahahahahahahaha.

Yeah, just let PSG have the second half of the season off to focus on the UEFA Champions League. FiveThirtyEight has it at better than 99 percent.

“We won already?!?” — Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, probably. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

La Liga

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Barcelona 18 12 4 2 50 20 30 6-2-1 6-2-1 40
 Atlético Madrid 18 9 8 1 26 13 13 7-2-0 2-6-1 35
 Sevilla 18 9 6 3 31 18 13 6-2-1 3-4-2 33
 Alavés 18 9 4 5 21 18 3 5-4-0 4-0-5 31
 Real Madrid 18 9 3 6 26 23 3 6-1-2 3-2-4 30
 Betis 18 7 5 6 21 21 0 4-3-2 3-2-4 26
 Getafe 18 6 7 5 19 15 4 4-1-4 2-6-1 25

The draw between Atleti and Sevilla on Sunday is just the latest nice moment for Barcelona’s title hopes, as the Blaugranas boast a five-point lead on the field and a 10-point advantage on traditional rivals Real Madrid.

Really, though, the title could be sorted in a one-week stretch in late February and early March. After a Champions League first leg at Lyon, Barca goes to Sevilla and Real Madrid on back-to-back league weekends. Win both, and call it a season. It’s 86 percent for Barcelona, according to FiveThirtyEight, with three teams boasting single-digit hopes.

Barca has one really tricky stretch to navigate, and the Champions League. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Premier League

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Liverpool 21 17 3 1 49 10 39 9-1-0 8-2-1 54
 Manchester City 21 16 2 3 56 17 39 10-0-1 6-2-2 50
 Tottenham Hotspur 21 16 0 5 46 21 25 6-0-3 10-0-2 48
 Chelsea 21 13 5 3 38 16 22 6-4-1 7-1-2 44
 Arsenal 21 12 5 4 46 31 15 8-2-1 4-3-3 41
 Manchester United 21 11 5 5 43 32 11 6-3-1 5-2-4 38

We saved the best for last (with apologies to BVB and Bayern).

Four of the Top Six — no Manchester United is not really in the discussion — are still alive in the Champions League, and both Chelsea and Arsenal know they can qualify for the UCL via the Europa League crown (how about a UEL final together, draw fixers?).

Yes, Liverpool has lost back-to-back games, but they don’t play Man City again and didn’t use most of their best talents in Monday’s FA Cup loss at Wolves.

The idea that the Reds will drop four more points than Man City isn’t insane, but there are few really tricky stretches for Liverpool. They’ll face Bayern Munich and Manchester United in a five-day February span, but get Spurs and Chelsea at home.

Man City has Arsenal, Spurs, and Chelsea at home, with the Manchester Derby away, a favorable mix, while Spurs host Man Utd and Arsenal while traveling to City, Liverpool, and Chelsea (the last one Sunday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Put another way — and barring a prolonged injury issue — Liverpool losing a hold of their first PL title would be a legitimate choke job, to the tune of a Reds title being 73 percent according to FiveThirtyEight.com.

Liverpool is in pole position to win its first title of the Premier League era. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Transfer rumor roundup: Morata, Coutinho to find new homes?

AP Photo/Alastair Grant
Leave a comment

Alvaro Morata could be set for his fourth team in as many years, if a Goal.com report is correct.

Sevilla reportedly wants to pay Morata’s full wages for the rest of the season as it bids for a La Liga title, sitting seven points back of first place Barcelona.

[ MORE: Sarri says Pochettino “needs to win trophy” ]

The report says Chelsea will only let Morata leave if it acquires a suitable replacement for the 26-year-old, who has 24 goals and six assists in 72 matches with the Blues.

There’s also a wild rumor that Philippe Coutinho could be leaving Barcelona for Manchester United should someone reach the $110 million or so that the Blaugranas paid Liverpool.

Man City, Paris Saint-Germain, and Chelsea are also said to be interested, perhaps solely by virtue that they are the only clubs outside of Real Madrid who have paid more than $100m for a player. The City part seems especially egregious… on what wing?

— TeamTalk says that 18-year-old Brazilian goalkeeper Gabriel Brazao is now being chased by Arsenal, Manchester United, Inter Milan, and AS Roma.

La Liga roundup: It was a truly splendid day to be Barcelona

Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Getafe 1-2 Barcelona

Sunday could not have gone any better for current leaders — now five points clear of their closest title competition — Barcelona. Not only did everyone else drop points — more on that in a moment — but Ernesto Valverde’s side picked up its fifth straight win, with many thanks to the contributions of two familiar faces.

You shouldn’t give Lionel Messi one look at goal, let alone two. Alas, that’s exactly what Getafe did in the 20th minute. David Soria did well to make the save on Messi’s initial effort, but an unlucky ricochet saw the undisputed greatest player of all time reclaim possession with a suddenly empty net. The outcome was predictable.

Speaking of Getafe not fully clearing dangerous balls into the penalty area, Luis Suarez’s sensational volley might still be soaring on a perfectly level plane if not for the back of the net.

There was also the small matter of Messi playing one of the most impossible through balls to ever be completed, even if the chance wasn’t converted on the other end.

Sevilla 1-1 Atletico Madrid

Coming into the weekend, second-place Atletico Madrid trailed Barca by just three points; Sevilla, in third, were five back. In the eyes of anyone who subscribes to “anyone but Barcelona again,” a draw was the worst possible outcome. To Barca, it’s like killing two birds with one stone.

Sevilla took the lead through Wissam Ben Yedder in the 37th minute, but Antoine Griezmann had Atleti level, by way of a stellar free kick, before halftime.

On the plus side, Atleti’s unbeaten run now stands at 15 league games, while Sevilla haven’t lost in nine.

Real Madrid 0-2 Real Sociedad

As if Barca increasing their lead to five points wasn’t enough, Sunday also saw Real Madrid, who can now be discarded as completely irrelevant in the title race at 10 points back, lose to 15th-place Real Socieded, at home.

Madrid finished the game with just 10 men after Lucas Vazquez picked up his second yellow card in the 61st minute, but Los Blancos had been a goal since Willian Jose’s 3rd-minute penalty. Ruben Pardo made it 2-0 with just seven minutes of regular time left to play.

The result, coupled with Alaves’ victory on Saturday, sees Santiago Solari’s side slip to fifth in the league table.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Eibar 0-0 Villarreal

Transfer rumor roundup: Arsenal, Man City linked with mids; New home for Mourinho?

Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Pep Guardiola may’ve changed his mind on the whole “no January signings” stance.

The Manchester Evening News has quotes from Porto center midfielder Juan Fernando Quintero saying he’s having conversation with Manchester City.

[ MORE: Chong debuts for Man Utd ]

Quintero is adamant that he will only move if the deal is perfect, as he’s quite happy on loan at River Plate.

The purchase would be the latest big money sale for Porto, having been a regular loanee from the Portuguese outfit. The attack-minded soon-to-be 26-year-old midfielder can also play on the right side of the pitch.

Unai Emery is close to getting a much-desired reunion with Denis Suarez, who’d like an equally-needed change of scenery.

Suarez, who turns 25 on Sunday, has made just six appearances, scoring twice for Barcelona and has a reported $25 million price tag.

The pair spent a season together at Sevilla, where Suarez scored six goals with five assist but was not used in the final two rounds of the Europa League title run.

Meanwhile, Barcelona may be adding a midfielder after the season in mercurial Adrien Rabiot of Paris Saint-Germain.

Ernesto Valverde knows how to handle big personalities, and the lack of a transfer fee would make the risk worthwhile even at a reported $12 million salary.

And Jose Mourinho may be in the frame for his next job already, at the site of his first, very-brief foray into management.

Record (Portuguese link) says Mourinho could move to Benfica, where he presided over a nine-match run in 2000 before resigning after being denied a contract extension.

That was the only controversial stint in his managerial career, period (What’s that you say?).

Finally, The Daily Mirror says Nice outcast Mario Balotelli is preparing a move to Marseille, spuring Newcastle United after falling out of favor with manager Patrick Vieira.