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Barcelona taking ‘cautious’ approach with Messi’s broken arm

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde says he will not rush Lionel Messi’s return to action from a broken arm.

[ MORE: Kevin De Bruyne out 5-6 weeks with new injury ]

Messi has been practicing with the rest of the squad only two weeks after breaking his right forearm, but Valverde says it’s probably too early to have him back for the team’s Champions League match at Inter Milan on Tuesday.

Valverde says “it’s only been two weeks since the injury. It’s early, we’ll wait. We are cautious because we want him to recover fully, without any problems.”

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Barcelona predicted Messi would be out for about three weeks because of the injury sustained in the game against Sevilla in the Spanish league on Oct. 20.

Barcelona has a one-point lead over Alaves at the top of the standings after 10 matches.

Lopetegui hopes to save the season (and his job) in El Clasico

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Julen Lopetegui heads into his first clasico against fierce rival Barcelona still believing he can succeed as Real Madrid coach.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 10? | Sunday preview ]

Speculation of his imminent firing has been rampant in Spain since Madrid went on a five-game winless streak that included its longest ever scoring drought.

An unconvincing 2-1 win over Viktoria Plzen this week did little to change the mood that Lopetegui is in serious danger of losing his job.

Lopetegui said on Saturday he still hopes to turn around Madrid’s season a day before his team visits Barcelona’s Camp Nou.

When pressed about his future after the match, he said: “I hope I am still breathing, I don’t think I am going to die. Our situation is not irreversible, we are in October.”

Madrid has fallen to eighth place after back-to-back Spanish league losses against Alaves and Levante. Even so, it is only five points behind new leader Atletico Madrid, which won on Saturday.

Blasted in the Spanish media, Lopetegui has so far maintained the public support of players such as captain Sergio Ramos and heavyweights Marcelo and Francisco “Isco” Alarcon.

“They believe in me and I believe in them,” Lopetegui said. “And that goes to show that we are working well and working hard, and have the motivation to please our fans. We are heading (to Barcelona) with the maximum ambition.”

[ MORE: Reports: Leicester owner’s helicopter crashes outside stadium ]

Madrid hasn’t lost in its last four visits to Barcelona, although those results came under coach Zinedine Zindane and with Cristiano Ronaldo leading the team that he left in the offseason for Juventus.

Barcelona will also be without Lionel Messi, who is mending a broken right forearm.

That will make this clasico the first to be played without either star since 2007.

Barcelona beat Inter Milan 2-0 this week in its first match since Messi’s injury, but despite the strong performance coach Ernesto Valverde rejects the label of favorite against Madrid.

For Valverde, Madrid is even more dangerous when it is desperate for a victory over its top rival.

“We know how Madrid is, the more badly it is hurt, the more dangerous it is,” Valverde said. “The crises in teams like Madrid are always blown out of proportion, and then the players step up. There were moments at the start of the season when Madrid was playing brilliantly.”

Barcelona, which enters the match in second place at one point behind Atletico, will entrust Luis Suarez to lead the attack.

The only question is whether Valverde will give a second straight start to Rafinha after he scored against Inter, or opt to play forward Ousmane Dembele in Messi’s spot.

“We have to be able to play our style, that is the key,” Valverde said. “With or without Messi, that is what earned us the league title last year.”

Atleti rebound from Dortmund debacle to take La Liga lead

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Atletico Madrid bounced back from its worst defeat under coach Diego Simeone by beating Real Sociedad 2-0 to take the lead of the Spanish league on Saturday.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 10? | Sunday preview ]

Atletico was one point ahead of Barcelona and Espanyol. Barcelona can reclaim the lead on Sunday when it hosts Real Madrid in the season’s first clasico.

Atletico produced the convincing home victory over Sociedad three days after it lost at Borussia Dortmund 4-0 in the Champions League, its biggest loss in 390 matches since Simeone took charge in 2011.

Atletico hemmed Sociedad in its own area for most of the first half until Diego Godin broke through just before halftime when he swept in a clearance of a pass by Angel Correa.

[ MORE: Reports: Leicester owner’s helicopter crashes outside stadium ]

Fellow defender Filipe Luis added a second goal as a substitute in the 61st when he cut inside from the left flank and fired into the far corner of the net.

Simeone made four changes to his starting 11 from the collapse at Dortmund, starting Correa, Rodrigo Hernandez, Stefan Savic and Santiago Arias instead of Filipe Luis, Thomas Lemar, Thomas Partey and Juanfran Torres.

“I was convinced that my players would respond in the best way possible and once again they showed the inner strength of this team,” Simeone said.

Report: Real Madrid to fire Lopetegui within 24 hours

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Fire a coach early in the season? Don’t threaten Florentino Perez with a good time.

Real Madrid will reportedly cut ties with Julen Lopetegui, heaping misery on a man whose 2018 has gone about as poorly as possible.

[ WATCH: Schurrle’s stunner ]

Dismissed from the Spain job on the eve of the World Cup for negotiating with Real Madrid, Lopetegui’s tenure at the Bernabeu is reportedly over after a 2-1 home loss to Levante left the three-time reigning Champions League winners with 14 points through nine matches.

VAVEL’s Mootaz Chehade has the report, saying the announcement will come in the next day.

Real started 4W-1D in La Liga, but has now lost three of four in the league. Los Meringues beat Roma but lost to CSKA Moscow so far in the Champions League, and lost to Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.

A trip to Barcelona is next for El Clasico after a midweek Champions League visit from Viktoria Plzen.

Ramos posts video to refute ‘stamp’ on Sterling

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Let’s start here: Sergio Ramos is a darn good center back and a filthy player. Both of those things are true.

And opponents are always going to try to use the latter to deprive a match of the former.

[ MORE: Henry looks to Pep, Wenger ]

But the Real Madrid center back is having the last laugh regarding the latest furor over one of his tackles.

It all started when a Twitter user spied what he believed to be a Ramos stamp on Raheem Sterling in Spain’s 3-2 loss to England in the UEFA Nations League (although the still frame of the video shows you where this is going).

Perhaps knowing that Ramos would come near, it turns out Sterling is playacting or having an extremely delayed response to another tackle.

Check the other angle.

Sure he probably stamped on someone else during the match, especially after being trucked by Eric Dier, but this is pretty funny from the Real Madrid antagonist.