The top of the La Liga table is nowhere near straightforward this season.
Barcelona failed to build a gap at the summit as they fall 4-3 at home against Real Betis on Sunday. Lionel Messi scored twice in his return from a broken arm, but was unable to overcome a multitude of defensive mistakes.
Junior Firpo, Joaquin, Giovani Lo Celso, and Sergio Canales all found the scoresheet for the visitors at the Camp Nou as they routed the Barcelona back line.
The first came from 22-year-old Firpo in the 20th minute who finished with his right foot one-on-one against Sergi Roberto after a brilliant long-distance feed from William Carvalho. Barcelona would fall 2-0 behind before halftime as Clément Lenglet whiffed attempting to clear a cross that skittered across the face of goal, and with the defenders all sucked towards net by the fast paced counter-attack, Cristian Tello cut the ball back into the middle where Joaquin was waiting to finish with a nifty little flick. Messi brought Barcelona a goal back from the penalty spot past the hour mark, but Giovani Lo Celso found space in the box just three minutes later and powered it home past Marc-Andre ter Stegen who got a touch.
Arturo Vidal again drew Barcelona within one before Betis would find the ultimate winning goal in the 83rd minute in a vicious flurry. Betis forced ter Stegen to come off his line and make a smothering save near the left post, which he did before booting the chance clear. It came right back at the Barcelona defense, however, as a streaking Junior Firpo cannoned the ball across the face of goal where Sergio Canales split Lenglet and Roberto with a sliding finish.
Barcelona’s defense has suffered greatly in the absence of Samuel Umtiti, who was unable to return from his knee injury in time to be fit for the match against Real Betis, having missed nearly six weeks. Lenglet has filled in during Umtiti’s absence, and Barcelona has conceded nine goals over the last four matches with the understudy in the lineup. Thomas Vermaelen has also been absent with a hamstring injury suffered after he played 90 minutes against Valencia in early October.
With the loss, Barcelona holds just a one-point lead over Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, and Alaves at the top of the La Liga table, with Espanyol three points back and Real Madrid still seven points behind.
West Ham has called baloney on Sporting CP’s claims that bids for William Carvalho were manufactured in the press.
The Portuguese powers took shots at West Ham for what it feels was play-acting in terms of interest in the combative Portuguese center midfielder.
Carvalho, 25, has been a transfer rumor mill fixture for some time, and perhaps this story shows us why he hasn’t made the move to West Ham, or Newcastle, or Everton, or Arsenal…
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Anyway, Sky Sports has published photos of emails that Sullivan sent to Sporting, making a $30 million bid on Aug. 11. The bid is shy of Carvalho’s $52 million release clause, but further emails promised bonuses and other add-ons.
Now West Ham is saying it will pursue legal action against Sporting, whose communications director Nuno Saraiva took some adult and below the belt jabs at the Irons’ hierarchy.
Late last week, Sky reported that Sporting called West Ham on transfer deadline day to try and revive the deal, but the Irons said it was too late.
The 2017-2018 Premier League season is underway, and Tottenham have yet to make any signings this summer. But that may be changing soon.
According to the Guardian, Spurs officials are in Amsterdam to negotiate a transfer for Ajax’s highly-rated centerback Davinson Sanchez. The 21-year-old Colombian international signed for Ajax last summer and quickly became a star in the club’s backline, leading the team to the UEFA Europa League final.
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But with four years left on his contract, Ajax are reportedly asking Tottenham to pay nearly $52 million. Tottenham’s initial offer, the report says, is closer to $32 million.
Sanchez reportedly has his heart set on moving to North London and if he joins Tottenham, he’d be a terrific partner in a back three alongside Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld. Sanchez’s unique combination of speed, strength and aerial ability should make him a standout once he adjusts to the pace of the Premier League, should he join Tottenham.
One possible issue with a proposed deal is that because Sanchez featured for Ajax in the UEFA Champions League qualification rounds this year, he could be cup-tied for Tottenham’s Champions League matches come the group stage and beyond.
Here’s a look at more transfer rumors and reports around Europe:
Alvaro Morata is one of the hottest properties on the planet. Like James Rodriguez, he doesn’t get the time at Real Madrid he’d receive at most other clubs in the world. And like James, he’s been linked with plenty of clubs including Premier League powers Chelsea and Manchester United.
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But Italian site Gazzetta says Morata will skip over the Premier League for a return to Serie A, this time heading to AC Milan. The ex-Juventus star, 24, scored 20 goals in 42 appearances for Real this year.
Morata is said to be flying to Italy, hours after Marca claimed that Jose Mourinho would insist on his inclusion in any deal for David De Gea.
Newcastle United is the latest club linked to Portuguese center midfielder William Carvalho, and the Magpies are said to be looking into a $78 million bid. The 25-year-old Sporting CP dynamo is a regular in the transfer rumor mill, and has 31 caps for Portugal. The Angola-born Carvalho played nearly every minute of Portugal’s EURO 2016 winning run.
William Carvalho has been running through the rumor mill for ages, and Sporting Lisbon has made sure they’ll get their due if he ever stops somewhere else.
The Angola-born Portuguese defensive midfielder with 15 caps has extended his contract with Sporting through 2020, a date that carries him through his 28th birthday.
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Carvalho is 23 now, and has been linked with loads of big name clubs from Manchester United to Chelsea, Arsenal to PSG.
His new buyout clause is said to be as high as $53 million, and Carvalho hopes his commitment calms his supporters.
“Sportinguistas, I say to you that I am very happy with the deal which I signed up to 2020 and that you will have total effort on my part to be champions.”
Sporting is tied with Benfica atop the Portuguese table, second on goal differential. The club leads third-place Porto by six points, and is still alive in the Europa League. Bayer Leverkusen is up next.