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Valencia to sign Russia forward Denis Cheryshev on loan

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MADRID (AP) Valencia says it has reached an agreement with Villarreal to get Russia forward Denis Cheryshev on loan.

The club says the loan is “pending” and will be valid until the end of the season.

Cheryshev scored four goals at the World Cup, helping Russia reach the quarterfinals.

[ MORE: Ramos takes shots at Klopp ]

The 27-year-old player had already been with Valencia on a loan in 2016. He was previously with Real Madrid but had few opportunities with the team’s main squad.

Valencia also added forward Kevin Gameiro from Atletico Madrid and striker Michy Batshuayi from Chelsea.

Valencia finished fourth in the Spanish league last season.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage:

Valencia clinches Champions League berth after Betis loss

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Valencia was assured of a top-four finish in the Spanish league and a berth in next season’s Champions League after Real Betis lost at Athletic Bilbao 2-0 on Saturday.

The defeat left fifth-place Betis eight points behind Valencia in fourth with two games left for the Seville-based club.

Iker Munian headed in a cross from Inigo Lekeu for Bilbao’s opener in the 76th minute, and Aritz Aduriz scored from a pass by Inaki Williams in stoppage time.

Betis hit the crossbar twice when pressing for a late equalizer before Aduriz scored on the final kick of the match.

Valencia, which visited Villarreal later Saturday, finished in 12th place the last two seasons.

Champion Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid are also heading back to the Champions League next season.

Also, Eibar rolled to a 4-1 win at Girona in the first match since Jose Luis Mendilibar agreed to stay on another season at the Basque Country club.

La Liga: Barca’s 31-game unbeaten run ties longest in club history

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

[ FA CUP: Man United advance, drawn against PL opposition in QF ]

Eibar 0-2 Barcelona

Barcelona, the last remaining unbeaten side from Europe’s five major domestic leagues, warmed up for Tuesday’s Champions League round-of-16 clash with Chelsea by dismantling seventh-place Eibar side away from home on Saturday and extending their unbeaten run to 31 games in the league, tying the club’s all-time record in the process.

The Blaugrana took the lead after 15 minutes, when Lionel Messi slotted an inch-perfect through ball for Luis Suarez who rounded the goalkeeper and slotted home (WATCH HERE) for his 17th league goal of the season (20 in all competitions).

Messi played his part in Barca’s second goal, which came three minutes before full-time. The Argentine’s shot was initially saved, but Jordi Alba arrived on the scene moments later to clean up and finish off the 10-man Basque minnows.

The victory sends Barca 10 points clear of second-place Atletico Madrid, who play on Sunday, and 20 points clear of fourth-place Real Madrid, who have played two fewer games thus far.

Malaga 1-2 Valencia

Valencia, who spent the majority of the season’s first half as Barca’s nearest title rivals (while never really challenging), fell to third when they recently lost three straight league games, but have since regained their footing with back-to-back wins, including Saturday’s come-from-behind triumph away to last-place Malaga.

Brown Ideye put Malaga ahead just before the half-hour mark, a lead which remained intact for more than 50 minutes. Alas, Francis Coquelin bagged his first goal for Valencia in the 80th minute to draw level, followed by a penalty kick converted by Dani Parejo five minutes later.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 1-2 Sevilla
Alaves 1-0 Deportivo La Coruña

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Real Sociedad vs. Levante — 6 a.m. ET
Atletico Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao — 10:15 a.m. ET
Espanyol vs. Villarreal — 12:30 p.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Real Madrid — 2:45 p.m. ET

WATCH: Suarez to Coutinho, and it’s Barca into the Copa del Rey Final

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Liverpool supporters will be familiar with both ends of Barcelona’s Copa del Rey Final-berth clinching duo.

Philippe Coutinho slid to meet a Luis Suarez cross just after halftime of Barca’s 2-0 second leg semifinal win over Valencia, as the Blaugranas aim for their fourth-straight Cup.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings – 2017-18 ]

Ivan Rakitic scored Barca’s other goal, with the tie ending 3-0 on aggregate.

The goal is Coutinho’s first for Barcelona, coming in his fifth match with the club following a big money transfer from Liverpool.

Barca will face Sevilla in the April 21 final.

Arsenal’s Francis Coquelin joins Valencia

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Francis Coquelin has swapped Arsenal for Valencia.

[ MORE: Pulisic to Liverpool, Man United?

The combative midfielder arrived in England in 2008 after catching Arsene Wenger‘s eye at Laval as a teenager, but after a decade at Arsenal he has signed for La Liga side Valencia.

It is believed Arsenal agreed a fee of $16.2 million for the French midfielder who spent spells on loan at Charlton Athletic, Lorient and Freiburg during his time in north London.

Per the official release from Valencia, Coquelin has signed a contract until the summer of 2022 and has a release clause of $96 million.

Coquelin, 26, has become a cult hero at Arsenal over the past few years as his tough tackling displays in midfield helped the Gunners to win the FA Cup in 2015 and 2017 and his steely determination was lauded by fans.

However this season he has made just seven appearances for Arsenal in the Premier League and will be joining a Valencia side battling for the La Liga title as they sit 11 points behind leaders Barcelona but well in the hunt for a return to the UEFA Champions League.

Coquelin’s departure is yet another indication that central midfielder Jack Wilshere will extend his stay at Arsenal beyond this summer as his current contract runs out on July 1.

Apart from Wilshere, the Gunners have a plethora of midfield options with Granit Xhaka, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey plus emerging talents Ainsley-Matiland Niles and Krystian Bielik coming through.

This deal works out well for everyone at Coquelin has certainly improved massively since 2015 when he was given a run in the first team after a successful loan spell at Charlton.