West Ham 1-4 Man City: Champions smash more records

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Man United 2-1 Arsenal: Fellaini plays hero

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Ramos: Real winning UCL ‘maybe’ worth more than Barca’s double

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Fernando Torres ‘a complete superstar’ – Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic

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Toronto FC stumbled in their first MLS action since losing the CONCACAF Champions League final, relenting a 2-0 lead in a draw with Chicago.

Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic has called Fernando Torres a “complete superstar” amid reports that his former Atletico Madrid teammate could join his MLS club.

Torres, 34, has confirmed he will leave Atletico this summer and is open to offers from different destinations outside Europe, with China, the Middle East and MLS all thought to be options, according to his agents.

Earlier this month, MLSsoccer.com reported that the Fire were interested in signing Torres and already own his internal league rights if the forward wanted to join the North American league.

And though Paunovic made it clear to Marca that he did not want to go too far in talking about players currently under contract elsewhere, he said the Fire’s addition of former Germany, Bayern Munich and Manchester United midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger showed they could bring in “great players.”

“We don’t talk about player who are not part of our squad, respecting that they are at other clubs,” Paunovic said. “But for sure we are able to bring in great players.

“We showed that when we signed Bastian. He is a player who understands his role on and off the pitch. A relaxed guy, who helps his teammates a lot, shares his experience. The truth is it’s a pleasure to have him.”

Paunovic and Torres were regular teammates at Atletico between 2003 and 2005, and the former Serbia international recalled fondly his time playing with a youngster well on the way to becoming a top player.

“We shared many memories together,” he said. “Above all I remember his human qualities and how he has grown as a player. He is a complete superstar.”

Some of Torres’ former international colleagues from Spain’s all-conquering 2008 to 2012 period are now playing around the world. One-time strike partner David Villa is at New York City in MLS, Xavi Hernandez is at Qatari side Al-Sadd, and Andres Iniesta is reportedly close to moving to the Chinese Super League in the coming months.

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan



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Juventus take charge Serie A as Napoli implode Barcelona clinch La Liga Liverpool stress

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If Saturday night at the San Siro really did the decide the Serie A title — and it sure as heck looks that way — then neutrals could not have asked for much more in terms of drama, emotion, incident and controversy.

Juventus took the lead with a deflected Douglas Costa goal, and inside 20 minutes they had the man advantage too, with Matias Vecino’s stamp on Mario Mandzukic earning a VAR-assisted red card. Juve had another goal disallowed (with help from VAR) before Mauro Icardi’s header levelled matters shortly after the break. Just inside the hour mark came the call they’ll be talking about all week: Miralem Pjanic, already booked, collides with Rafinha and isn’t shown a second yellow.

A furious, undermanned Inter nevertheless took the lead as Andrea Barzagli turned Ivan Perisic’s cross into his own net. Inter were taking massive step towards the Champions League, and Napoli, who played the following day, could almost feel their third scudetto in club history.

Then came Luciano Spalletti’s changes, specifically sending on David Santon (a defender) for Mauro Icardi (a striker). And then came Juve’s wild comeback with two goals after the 87th minute. First came a Milan Skriniar own goal off Juan Cuadrado’s cross, and then Gonzalo Higuain, who had done close to nothing until that point other than squandering a sitter, popped up at the very end with the winner.

You get exhausted just writing the above.

Referee Daniele Orsato is obviously in the eye of the storm, and given Juve’s history with referees, even more than a decade after Calciopoli, there’s an ugly tinge to the criticism. As I see it, not showing Pjanic a second yellow for the sort of play a safety might make on a wide receiver over the middle was simply wrong. Orsato does have a reputation of being a guy who lets play run and doesn’t call niggling fouls or hand out cheap cards, but this was tough to swallow.

That said, before we get carried away with conspiracies, he was lenient in real time on Vecino before VAR (and the grisly post-match photos) confirmed it was a cast-iron red. A different official might have sent Barzagli off for going above the ankle on Icardi, but letting it slide in some ways is in keeping with Orsato’s approach, and ultimately what is asked of refs is consistency.

But there are also some basic takeaways that ought not be overshadowed by the Pjanic (non-)decision. Inter were heroic in fighting back with 10 men for some 70-plus minutes. Icardi, Rafinha and Marcelo Brozovic were outstanding: when they’re in this form, they are clearly Champions League knockout material.

Higuain’s late, late winner helped Juventus wrest control of Serie A’s title race once again with just three games left.

Luciano Spalletti’s changes altered the game. He got hammered and rightly so for the Santon-Icardi substitution, not just because Santon was complicit on Juve’s equaliser (mistakes happen) but because football is also about emotion and momentum and removing your captain at that stage deflated the side. What’s more, his first substitution only came nine minutes from time. When you’ve spent most of the game with 10 men and your players are clearly exhausted, as many were, why not act earlier, just not with Icardi? It’s true that Inter don’t have a deep bench but neither do they have Real Madrid-calibre starters. Some fresh legs earlier on might have made a difference.

As for Juve, much praise is given for the nine lives they seem to have in terms of pulling out late winners. But the sterling performance at the Bernabeu seems far away. Allegri is backing in towards the title. For much of the game, they seemed to play with fear and insecurity, incapable of imposing themselves and making the extra man count. It’s true that he sent on Paulo Dybala and Federico Bernardeschi to change it, but that was in a moment when he had few alternatives.

Perhaps peak Allegri was reached after Higuain’s winner. Worried that his players were celebrating too much and wouldn’t be concentrated enough after the restart, he ran on to the pitch to shout at them — and got himself sent to the stands as a result. You can admire the attention to detail, but the confidence we’d seen in in him in past seasons simply wasn’t there.

Meanwhile … Napoli implode

Some 10,000 Napoli supporters gathered to give the team a send-off before Sunday’s match against Fiorentina. You can only imagine how deflated they must have been on Saturday night watching Juventus come from behind to beat Inter, restoring the four-point gap atop Serie A.

Did that carry over into their performance at Fiorentina? Who knows?

It’s more likely that the red card for Kalidou Koulibaly, Napoli’s hero the previous week, after just six minutes had a bigger impact. VAR played a key role. Originally, the referee had booked Koulibaly and awarded a penalty but replays showed the foul was outside the box. That meant no penalty, but a straight red and you’d imagine Napoli would have preferred it the other way around. Maurizio Sarri sacrificed a midfielder, Jorginho, to send on a defender and in one fell swoop, Napoli lost both their best center-back and their midfield playmaker.

Giovanni Simeone’s hat trick sent Napoli crashing to a 3-0 defeat. And while the game was closer than the scoreline suggests, it did feel as if the club ran out of steam. It’s not over yet, of course. But Napoli need to run the table while hoping that Juve drop points not just against Roma away (possible) but also either against Bologna or Verona at home. The likelihood of both outcomes happening appears decidedly remote.

Finally, Barcelona can celebrate their title

Barcelona locked up La Liga by defeating Deportivo La Coruna, who are desperately trying to avoid relegation, by going 2-0 up, getting pegged back to 2-2 and then winning 4-2. Along the way, Lionel Messi notched a hat trick, taking his seasonal total to 43 goals. Thirty-one of those came in La Liga, making it the seventh year that he passed the 30-goal mark in La Liga, which is simply absurd, like most of his career.

Plenty has been written about this Double-winning season. It’s worth reminding ourselves how it started: the traumatic departure of Neymar, calls for Jose Maria Bartomeu’s impeachment, Ousmane Dembele’s long-term injury, Philippe Coutinho only arriving in January — whichever way you spin it, Ernesto Valverde deserves massive credit in squeezing the most out of this team. The fact that he screwed up so royally against Roma (and, perhaps, was fortunate against Chelsea the round before) doesn’t change his body of work. Managers get things wrong; the clever ones, though, learn from their mistakes. The fact remains that this Barca side, starting at a very low ebb, won the Double and is undefeated thus far in the league.

Conventional wisdom has it that Valverde took Barca in a different direction, making them more solid and efficient. That may be true but they’re still on pace to finish with 96 points, which would be their third-highest total ever. That defensive solidity might also be a bit of a myth depending on your vantage point. They’re on pace to concede just 23 goals, which would be their third-lowest total in the past decade. But in terms of expected goals conceded, they’ve given up nearly one a game, which is marginally worse than the past two seasons and substantially worse than 2014-15.

Their priorities now seem pretty obvious. Lock up Samuel Umtiti to a long-term deal. Continue to figure out how to best integrate Dembele and Coutinho. Develop a succession plan for Sergio Busquets. Another striker and another central defender for depth wouldn’t be bad either.

Whichever way you put it though, few would have predicted this nine months ago…

Buvac situation comes at awful time for Liverpool

Buvac, left, has played an integral role at Liverpool as Klopp’s assistant, making news of his hiatus most troubling for the club.

Liverpool were held to a scoreless draw by Stoke on Saturday morning, but the real news from Anfield this weekend came on Sunday, with news that Jurgen Klopp’s right-hand man, Zeljko Buvac, would not be involved with the club for the rest of the season. Buvac is a former teammate of the Liverpool boss and the pair have worked side-by-side for most of the past 17 years. Klopp himself said on several occasions that Buvac was the “brain” of the operation.

The club said Buvac was spending time away for “personal reasons” and dismissed reports of tension between him and Klopp.

It’s always tough from the outside to judge how important an assistant coach is to a team. What we do know is that Buvac wasn’t just the guy with long, jet-black hair who sat next to Klopp; he had a big role on the training pitch, often running sessions directly. We also don’t know the circumstances: “personal reasons” can mean just that or they can be PR-speak for something more serious and some media were speculating that he had grown distant from Klopp in recent weeks.

Whatever the case, we’re 72 hours away from Liverpool’s biggest European game in a decade, the return semifinal against Roma, and the club need this like they need a hole in the head right now.

Wenger’s final game at Old Trafford

With Manchester United having pretty much locked up second place (and thinking ahead to the FA Cup final) and Arsenal with little to play for (and thinking ahead to the Europa League semifinal), Sunday’s 2-1 home win at Old Trafford was almost as anticlimactic as any clash between these two that you can remember.

I say “almost” because it was Arsene Wenger’s last appearance at the home of United. Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, two guys with whom he’s had tons of acrimony in the past, greeted him warmly. I’m not a mind-reader; I don’t know what they really think of him. When you’re as fierce a competitor as those two, odds are the past sticks.

Cynics will be cynical, but I like to think those poses were genuine. Those three are in a very special club of men who have worked in football at the highest level in the most exposed jobs. They may not like each other, but there’s a common bond that remains unbreakable.

Real take it easy against Leganes

Real Madrid only have eyes for the Champions League at this stage, which is why we saw a team chock-full of reserves (with Casemiro at center-back no less) defeat Leganes on Saturday. It finished 2-1 with goals from Gareth Bale and Borja Mayoral.

The only real question is who will join Cristiano Ronaldo in the front three on Tuesday night, especially now that Karim Benzema doesn’t feel as indispensable as he once did. It’s anyone’s guess, but if Isco is fit (he returned to training Sunday), I’d imagine he’d go with Isco and Marco Asensio.

Where does Unai Emery go after PSG?

Last week, Unai Emery announced he will step down as Paris Saint-Germain boss at the end of the season. He will leave the club having won five of six major domestic trophies. (OK, technically he hasn’t won the French Cup yet. PSG are in the final against a third-tier side called Les Herbiers. I’m assuming they’ll win given that Les Herbiers actually beat just one team above them in the French pyramid on their run to the final. That and the fact that if he loses this game, he may as well retire).

You wonder what’s next for him and how the marketplace sees him. After all, he’s still the guy who won three straight Europa League titles at Sevilla, and while those Champions League exits hurt him (as does the title not won last season), it’s worth noting they came against Real Madrid and Barcelona, the latter with rather controversial officiating.

My guess is he’ll have to dial it down a notch with his next job, which may actually suit him just fine. Some people struggle working at the very top.

Can Chelsea get into the top four?

Antonio Conte picked Olivier Giroud ahead of Alvaro Morata (not for the first time) and Chelsea squeezed out a 1-0 victory over Swansea, their third straight away win in the Premier League.

The victory does keep alive their (flimsy) hopes for a top-four finish. They will obviously need to run the table: beating Liverpool and Huddersfield at home and Newcastle away. Tough, but not impossible. They’ll also need Liverpool to drop points against Brighton at home on the last day of the season, and that’s where things get interesting.

On paper, Brighton are relatively safe and might have nothing to play for, but given that their next two games are against Manchester City and Manchester United, they may need a point at Anfield. Equally, Liverpool may want to rest players ahead of the Champions League final.

Depay is the man in Lyon

Lyon are absolutely on fire in Ligue 1, driven by a Memphis Depay who is back to where he was ahead of the 2014 World Cup. The Dutch international has scored in each of the past six games, and Lyon have won seven in a row.

Too often we mistake bad performances for lack of talent. Talent was never Depay’s problem at Manchester United: it was consistency and decision-making. This is the player Louis Van Gaal bought and that United fans didn’t get to see.

Man City’s attack takes many forms

In some ways, it’s perhaps self-fulfilling. Manchester City scored more goals than everybody else in the Premier League so it stands to reason that there would be more City players near the top of the assist table.

But still, it’s pretty remarkable to see this list, with the top four spots all occupied by City players (Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, David Silva and Raheem Sterling). It speaks to City’s scoring, sure, but also to the way they play and spread the chances.

Gabriele Marcotti is a senior writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Marcotti.



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Bayern Munich won’t fear Real Madrid’s Champions League form – Zinedine Zidane

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Two first-half goals from Gareth Bale and Borja Mayoral helped a much-changed Real Madrid side narrowly defeat Leganes at the Bernabeu.
Two first-half goals from Gareth Bale and Borja Mayoral helped a much-changed Real Madrid side narrowly defeat Leganes at the Bernabeu.
Gareth Bale and Borja Mayoral got on the score sheet as Real Madrid topped Leganes while resting several key players for the Champions League.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said a poor record in recent meetings between the clubs will not affect Bayern Munich’s players for the second leg of their Champions League semifinal at the Bernabeu on Tuesday.

Aiming for a third successive victory in the competition, Zidane’s side have a 2-1 first-leg advantage from the first meeting in Munich last week, when Bayern created more chances over the 90 minutes but were unable to make them count.

The result at the Allianz Arena means that Madrid have won their last six matches against Bayern, scoring 15 goals and conceding five, and the Bundesliga side’s honourary president, Franz Beckenbauer, worried that maybe his club now have a “complex” against Madrid.

Zidane said at a pregame news conference that he did not believe that for a second, and that his side would have to be ready to match a “great team” if they are to make the final against either Liverpool or Roma in Kiev, Ukraine, on May 26.

“Bayern will not be concerned,” Zidane said. “They will come here to play a great game. They are a big club, [a] great team, so we must be ready, more than ever, to play a good game ourselves. If we do that, we can do great things. But I have no doubt that Bayern will come here without complexes to play a great game.”

Madrid sat deep for long stages of last week’s first leg and hurt Bayern on the counter-attack. Zidane said his team would not play similarly in front of their own fans in the return.

“We must just think about going out to win the game,” Zidane said. “Not sit back, not do something strange. We must go out to score quickly, which is what we will try to do. We did very well in the first game. The return is now, and we must show that we want to go through.”

Isco and Nacho Fernandez have returned to training following shoulder and hamstring injuries, respectively, but Zidane would not say whether either would be ready for Tuesday night’s game.

“They have trained with us, both of them,” he said. “Now we have a bit of time before tomorrow’s game to think about what we will do. We will see. But as you know for us, it is important that the players are at 100 percent. If they are both on the bench, it is that they are ready.”

Zinedine Zidane speaks during a Real Madrid news conference.
Zinedine Zidane doesn’t think Bayern Munich players will care much about Real Madrid’s recent dominance in the series.

Asked if Isco might take a painkilling injection in his shoulder, Zidane did not rule out the possibility.

“Isco knows what he must do,” Zidane said. “We all want to be there — him too. If he is a problem and must be there, we will do everything possible for that to happen, but without taking risks.”

Barcelona have already secured the La Liga and Copa del Rey double, leading to discussion over whether the achievement would be overshadowed should Madrid win a third consecutive Champions League trophy next month.

“In La Liga, clearly Barcelona have been deserved champions,” Zidane said. “We should congratulate them. We have a chance to make a final [but are] not there yet. They have won two things already [and] had a great season.

“We take nothing away from Barcelona, but what we are interested in is what we do tomorrow.”

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan



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Valverde: Undefeated Barca title would be extraordinary

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Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger thanks Manchester United for ‘very classy’ reception

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Ahead of his final clash with Man United as Arsenal boss, Arsene Wenger greets Jose Mourinho and receives a present from Sir Alex Ferguson pitchside at Old Trafford.

Arsene Wenger thanked Manchester United for a “very classy” reception on his last visit to Old Trafford, as Alex Ferguson presented him with a gift before Sunday’s 2-1 loss.

Wenger was greeted by a big ovation from the home fans and was then handed a metal vase in a box by his long-time rival in a friendly reunion before kickoff.

The Frenchman still left Old Trafford with another loss after Marouane Fellaini’s late winner, but said he appreciated the welcome.

“I am thankful to Manchester United because they gave a nice gesture before the game. It was very classy from them,” said Wenger, who is stepping down after his 22nd season in charge of the Gunners. “It’s the first time I get a trophy before the game, that’s new. [The reception from fans] shows you that once you are not a danger anymore, people love you.”

Wenger fielded a young and inexperienced side as he rested a number of starters ahead of Thursday’s Europa League semifinal at Atletico Madrid but nearly came away with a point after a spirited display. Centre-back Konstantinos Mavropanos impressed on his Arsenal debut while 20-year-old Ainsley Maitland-Niles put in a man-of-the-match performance in central midfield. And Wenger was full of praise for both youngsters.

“Maitland-Niles slowly gets to the player I think he can be in defensive midfield. He can create as well,” Wenger said. “Mavropanos in training has shown top quality. But then you always have a question mark as long as you don’t see that under pressure in big games.

“Can he show that in a big game? You never know. The big players do better in competition than in training. They make a career. We have many players at our level who do less well in the competition than in training. So that was the question mark before the game and I think he did well. He surprised everyone by his quality today. My successor will watch this game today.

Hopefully, he will come to positive conclusions of the players. Can they be part of the future for Arsenal football club? I think some of them have shown today yes, 100 percent.”

Another positive for Arsenal was that Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored on his return from a knee injury, although the Armenian came off in the second half after taking another knock to his knee.

Wenger said Mkhitaryan, Alex Iwobi and David Ospina will all need to be assessed before the Madrid game.

“Mkhitatryan I took off because he had a little knock on his knee again, the same thing, just looking at him in the dressing room,” Wenger said. “Ospina has a rib problem and Alex Iwobi has a hamstring problem. We’ll see how everyone recovers because Thursday will come around very quickly.”

Mattias is ESPN FC’s Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.



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Allegri: Juve must win all remaining games to be champions

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Alavés vs. Atletico Madrid – Football Match Report – April 29, 2018

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Atletico Madrid stayed mathematically in the La Liga title race, for a few hours at least, with a 1-0 victory over Alaves.

They left it late, with Kevin Gameiro scoring the winner from the penalty spot in the 78th minute after Mubarak Wakaso was adjudged to have handled.

It was the second penalty Wakaso had given away in less than 10 minutes, with a foul on Vitolo prompting the referee to point to the spot in the 71st minute only for stand-in keeper Fernando Pacheco to deny Fernando Torres.

Atletico will certainly feel they fully merited the three points, with Vitolo also hitting a post.

The result leaves Diego Simeone’s side eight points behind Barca with three matches left, but the leaders have two games in hand and can wrap things up when they face Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday evening.

More importantly perhaps, the victory restored Atletico’s four-point lead over their city rivals Real Madrid after their win against Leganes on Saturday.

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Atletico Madrid edge past Alaves Fernando Torres four out of 10

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Torres’ woeful form continued as he approaches the end of his time at Atletico, though they still won.

Atletico Madrid won their first La Liga game in their last three as they battled to a 1-0 victory away to Alaves on Sunday afternoon. Under the pouring rain in the Basque country, a ramshackle Atleti team with one eye on Thursday’s Europa League semifinal second leg struggled to click at first but dominated after the break and fully deserved their three points.

Fernando Torres missed a penalty before substitute Kevin Gameiro buried another shortly after as Torres’ shot was handled in the box. Three points, a clean sheet and now all attention turns to midweek.

Positives

The side avoided an unwanted record of not scoring in three consecutive La Liga games for the first time under Diego Simeone. No injuries to key men either.

Negatives

Torres continues to show just why Simeone is happy for him to leave this summer with a missed penalty.

Manager rating out of 10

7 — Simeone recovered from his midweek meltdown and wisely rested some important players. Furthermore, his substitutions eventually proved the difference between the two sides.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Axel Werner, 7 — Given a rare chance with Jan Oblak rested for the return leg with Arsenal, the Argentine showed he can be relied upon when needed with a spectacular save to deny John Guidetti.

DF Thomas Partey, 6 — Showed his versatility by starting off at full-back before slotting into the midfield. Solid if unspectacular in both roles, however he was far too keen to shoot from distance and failed to trouble the keeper.

DF Stefan Savic, 6 — Had very little to do all afternoon as Alaves’ attacking intent was limited. Almost cost the side as he misjudged a cross and the subsequent shot clipped the post late on, however won a couple of decent headers after that.

DF Lucas Hernandez, 8 — Given a rare opportunity to start in his natural position and looked strong, though another referee might have awarded a penalty against him. The France defender’s pace was a particularly useful asset against Munir on the break before he went on to finish the game at left-back.

DF Sime Vrsaljko, 6 — Managed to last more than nine minutes, which was nice! Looked to get forward but his final ball was lacking. Gave away the late free-kick from which Angel Correa was ultimately sent off.

MF Koke, 6 — Looked leggy after his midweek exertions. Used the ball well but the final product was poor. Unsurprisingly, he one of those key players subbed off.

MF Gabi, 7 — Showed his nous with a brilliant tactical foul as Munir broke late on. Shielded the back four well and recycled possession efficiently.

MF Vitolo, 8 — Best player on the park. Saw a great effort hit the post, won the first penalty and saw a header well saved in a dominant second-half display.

MF Angel Correa, 4 — Managed to talk himself into a red card with a game seconds from ending, which means a suspension. Describing that as “idiotic” is kind.

FW Fernando Torres, 4 — His farewell tour continues to underwhelm. Saw a weak penalty saved as the side look to give him every chance to score in his last few outings for the club. It was his shot that was handled for the second spot kick, but a generally underwhelming performance… again.

FW Diego Costa, 6 — Looked very much like a man who has not played for a while, but also one who was determined not to risk anything that might put his place in the side for Thursday in jeopardy.

Substitutes

FW Kevin Gameiro (for Costa), 6 — Should have taken the first penalty and was not letting Torres anywhere near the second, which he finished with aplomb.

DF Diego Godin (for Koke), 6 — Came on, was paired next to Savic and looked nowhere near as good as he was in midweek.

Joseph Walker covers Atletico Madrid for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @Joe_in_espana.



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Milan beat Bologna Hakan Calhanoglu eight out of 10

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Hakan Calhanoglu scored one goal and set up the other as Milan hung on to beat Bologna.

AC Milan made life difficult for themselves due to their wastefulness but were still able to come away with a 2-1 win at Bologna on Sunday. Goals from Hakan Calhanoglu and Giacomo Bonaventura sealed all three points as the Rossoneri continue to hunt for a Europa League qualification spot.

Positives

Milan took their goals really well and showed brief glimpses of their quality in the final third when key players got close and played off each other to open things up. Overall, it was a decent reaction to the defeat to Benevento.

Negatives

With so many chances to kill the game off, Milan faced an unnecessarily tense ending to the game. That wastefulness has cost them previously and will continue to do so in the latter stages of games.

Manager rating out of 10

6 — Gennaro Gattuso spoke openly during the week about how disappointed he was after the loss to Benevento. After initial struggles in the early part of the game, he got a positive reaction from the players and generally got his calls right to manage the game well.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Gianluigi Donnarumma, 7 — Wasn’t overly troubled but made some decent saves to preserve Milan’s lead. Efficient with his distribution and commanding of his area, it was a positive outing for the young goalkeeper.

DF Davide Calabria, 7 — Aside from defending resolutely throughout as he nullified Bologna’s threat down his flank for the most part, Calabria was always a willing runner going forward to offer width and an outlet down the right.

DF Cristian Zapata, 7 — Continues to impress as he used his pace well to cover and his anticipation was spot on to make some key interceptions and keep things tight at the back. He’s deserving of his spot in the team despite pressure from Mateo Musacchio.

DF Leonardo Bonucci, 6 — Marked down as he lost Sebastien De Maio for Bologna’s goal. Had his troubles with a few knocks throughout the game and while it was a decent display overall, the veteran defender was caught out in certain situations too.

DF Ricardo Rodriguez, 6 — Defensively, he did well to keep things tight and deny Bologna too many opportunities to get in down his flank. Still needs to do more going forward, though, as he hesitates too much and keeps it too simple.

MF Franck Kessie, 7 — Improved and grew into the game as it went on. Had a tough physical battle in midfield, which he didn’t always win, but put in a tireless shift for the team and was key in giving Milan a foothold in the game.

MF Manuel Locatelli, 6 — His vision to pick out passes makes him a more effective selection in the deep-lying midfield role against sides ready to sit back. Moves the ball forward quickly to set Milan on their way but has to improve defensively, as seen with his booking as it was another clumsy and messy foul after being caught out.

MF Giacomo Bonaventura, 7 — Took his goal really well as he showed great composure and patience to create an opening and produced a top finish. Should have had a brace with his effort that struck the crossbar, but a positive performance as he made a decisive difference.

FW Suso, 5 — Looked to already be on holiday in the first half as he was a complete no-show. Deserves credit for improving and working harder in the second half, but was wasteful with three efforts which he should have buried.

FW Patrick Cutrone, 6 — More misfortune than profligacy as he struck the post and forced Antonio Mirante into a brilliant save. Arguably should have done better but he worked hard throughout and is improving with his runs in behind to cause opposition defenders problems. Also had an assist for Calhanoglu’s goal.

FW Hakan Calhanoglu, 8 — Without doubt, the best player on the pitch for Milan. Produced a brilliant drilled finish for his goal, then produced an assist for Bonaventura’s goal. If it weren’t for his teammates wasting chances, he could have had more assists too. A top performance after returning from injury and should be a central figure for Milan next season.

Substitutes

FW Fabio Borini, NR — Came on to give Calhanoglu a chance to rest in the latter stages, offering a fresh pair of legs and more defensive coverage.

FW Nikola Kalinic, NR — Didn’t have any real impact on the game in the last 10 minutes or so. Was intended to be an outlet up front but wasn’t involved with much.

MF Riccardo Montolivo, NR — A late switch to add an experienced head in the midfield to keep things under control in the final few minutes.

Sumeet Paul covers AC Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @SP_Calcio.



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Neymar to return to France this week, says Paris Saint-Germain

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Gab Marcotti and the FC crew discuss Unai Emery’s imminent departure from PSG and whether or not he could be successful in the Premier League.
Unai Emery has announced on Friday he is leaving his job as Paris Saint-Germain manager at the end of the season.
With Neymar in Brazil playing poker during PSG’s title celebrations, the ESPN FC guys question his priorities and commitment to his club.

PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain have announced that superstar Neymar is set to return to the French capital this coming week after his lengthy injury layoff.

Neymar, 26, has been out of action since he suffered a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot towards the end of PSG’s 3-0 Ligue 1 win over bitter rivals Marseille in late February.

The former Barcelona man underwent surgery on the problem and has since been rehabilitating in Brazil, and the French champions have seen fit to confirm that his return to Europe is imminent.

“A medical examination of Neymar was conducted on Saturday by doctor Eric Rolland [PSG] and doctor Rodrigo Lasmar [Brazil national team] in Brazil,” read Les Parisiens’ statement.

“This examination confirmed the excellent evolution of the player’s injuries to his right foot and ankle and authorises the removal of all protective and immobilising material.

“Neymar will continue his re-education in the coming days in Brazil and at the Ooredoo Training Centre [PSG’s Camp des Loges training ground].”

Neymar recently revealed publicly that he expects to be given the green light to return to action on May 17, possibly in time for PSG’s final match of the season, before he starts to prepare for this summer’s World Cup in Russia with his country.

Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.



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Bologna vs. AC Milan – Football Match Report – April 29, 2018

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AC Milan revived their pursuit of a Europa League spot and ended a five-match winless streak with a 2-1 victory at Bologna on Sunday.

Hakan Calhanoglu and Giacomo Bonaventura scored in the first half for Milan, who had lost two and drawn three since beating Chievo in mid-March.

Milan remained one point behind sixth-place Atalanta, who beat Genoa 3-1, in the fight for the last Europa League spot.

Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso didn’t give his squad any days off this week following a 1-0 loss at home against Bologna last weekend, acknowledging that the club had “touched bottom.”

Calhanoglu was set up by Patrick Cutrone to score from outside the area in the 34th minute.

Bologna thought they had equalised four minutes later but what would have been Riccardo Orsolini’s first Serie A goal was ruled out by VAR for a handball in the build-up by Rodrigo Palacio.

Bonaventura then took advantage of a defensive mistake and fooled his marker before firing in an angled shot.

Sebastian De Maio pulled one back for Bologna with a header after the break.

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Serie A title race round-up: Week 35

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Swansea 0-1 Chelsea: Blues close the gap

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Gareth Bale shines brightly among dull Real Madrid reserves in narrow win vs. Leganes

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Two first-half goals from Gareth Bale and Borja Mayoral helped a much-changed Real Madrid side narrowly defeat Leganes at the Bernabeu.
Two first-half goals from Gareth Bale and Borja Mayoral helped a much-changed Real Madrid side narrowly defeat Leganes at the Bernabeu.
Gareth Bale and Borja Mayoral got on the score sheet as Real Madrid topped Leganes while resting several key players for the Champions League.

Zinedine Zidane made 10 changes from the side that played Bayern Munich on Wednesday in the Champions League as Real Madrid beat Leganes 2-1 in La Liga on Saturday. They continue to eye Atletico Madrid’s place in the league, which would be some consolation after a poor domestic campaign, and they sit one point behind their city rivals after Saturday’s victory.

Positives

Gareth Bale scored and must be moving up the pecking order in time for the Bayern Munich game on Tuesday. He showed he is down but certainly not out in his fight for meaningful playing time at Real Madrid and shone among Zidane’s reserves.

Negatives

Real Madrid’s B unit continue to falter. They beat a struggling Leganes side but many of the players picked to start are not up to the high standards demanded at the Santiago Bernabeu; this was evident with the whistling and general discontent in the stands when Leganes took over the game in the second half. Casemiro was forced to play 90 minutes and might have done with a rest.

Manager rating out of 10

7 — You get the feeling that Zidane would have rotated himself off the bench if he could have for this one. The Champions League is all he is thinking about and rightly so. He made 10 changes with rest for everyone bar Casemiro, who was sandwiched into the centre of his defence. He gave his reserves chances and still won albeit in unconvincing fashion.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Kiko Casilla, 7 — The reserve keeper didn’t have too many stops to make but kept his makeshift defence in line and made a goalline save in the second half with the score at 2-1.

DF Achraf Hakimi, 6 — His delivery is very good but he remains raw and shaky when defending. Switched off at the back post for Darko Brasanac’s goal.

DF Jesus Vallejo, 7 — Continues to improve when given chances. Showed off some very good passing and looked solid while keeping the strong and energetic Miguel Angel Guerrero quiet for the visitors.

Gareth Bale celebrates during Real Madrid's win over Leganes.
While Real Madrid’s reserves were subdued vs. Leganes, but Gareth Bale shone brightly amid a dull bunch.

DF Casemiro, 7 — Displaced for the good of the team. Lucky not to be booked in the first half for a foul on Nordin Amrabat. He made an important tackle in the second half that was timed perfectly and prevented a goal.

DF Theo Hernandez, 5 — Exposed on the left a couple of times but that’s natural with no left midfielder on his side to help out. Subdued going forward too and struggled defensively. Amrabat had too much time for the cross for Leganes’ goal. Continues to be a liability.

MF Marcos Llorente, 7 — Showed off his defensive instincts a number of times in the first half. Hardly involved enough to really claim he had a big impact but added balance to the side on plenty of occasions. Went missing when Leganes started to pile on the pressure.

MF Mateo Kovacic, 8 — The Croatian keeps knocking on the door of the first XI. He has the requisite talent to feature in most midfields in Europe. Completed 100 percent of his passes in the first half and won the ball back more than any Real Madrid player too. Replaced by Toni Kroos after 62 minutes.

MF Dani Ceballos, 7 — He got on plenty of balls in the final third and had chances but his confidence is lagging. He has the talent but has struggled to execute or show off his skills when given chances.

MF Gareth Bale, 9 — Real Madrid’s most dangerous attacker. He scored and was involved heavily in everything Los Blancos did in the attacking third. Had plenty of chances himself and participated in general play a lot too. His work rate on the right was impressive and general attitude was impeccable.

MF Borja Mayoral, 6 — Managed to poke home a cross late in the first half. Not the best goal but the kind of goal Karim Benzema has not been on hand to score this season. Limited involvement but got on the scoresheet.

FW Karim Benzema, 5 — Continues to be a shell of his former self. He has a handful of games to turn around his career at Real Madrid but with confidence and chances in short supply, it’s looking grim. Hardly involved and replaced just after an hour.

Substitutes

Toni Kroos, 5 — Came on for Kovacic after 62 minutes. He didn’t make Real Madrid any better or worse as a replacement for the Croatian. Real Madrid had lost the momentum when he came on and it never swung back in their favour.

FW Marco Asensio, 5 — He replaced Benzema after 62 minutes and made no discernible impact with Leganes laying siege to Real Madrid’s goal for the last half an hour.

Robbie is based in Madrid and is one of ESPN FC’s Real Madrid bloggers. Twitter: @robbiejdunne



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Sandro Wagner leads experimental Bayern Munich side to 4-1 win vs. Eintracht Frankfurt

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Bayern’s youngest XI in the Bundesliga since 1971 made easy work of Eintracht Frankfurt with a 4-1 victory at the Allianz Arena.

An experimental Bayern Munich eleven eased past hapless Eintracht Frankfurt 4-1 on Saturday courtesy of goals from debutant Niklas Dorsch, Sandro Wagner and substitutes Niklas Sule and Rafinha, with Sebastien Haller scoring a consolation for the visitors.

Positives

Resting key players and fielding their youngest Bundesliga team since 1971 with the Champions League trip to Real Madrid in mind, Treble-seeking Bayern warmed up with another win, with a few relative unknowns putting in a good audition in front of next season’s coach Niko Kovac watching from the opposition bench.

Negatives

None. After losing Arjen Robben, Javi Martinez and Jerome Boateng to injury in midweek, there are no fresh concerns ahead of the return.

Manager rating out of 10

8 — Despite making eight changes from midweek, Jupp Heynckes showed his successor Kovac how it’s done.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Sven Ulreich, 8 — A brilliant save from the onrushing Luka Jovic kept Bayern on level terms and Dorsch soon went up the other end and opened the scoring. Bayern’s backup keeper has been the difference so often this season in the Bundesliga.

DF Juan Bernat, 5 — Gave the ball away too frequently in another uninspiring performance.

DF Lukas Mai, 7 — Buoyed by signing a new professional contract, the talented U19 captain impressed at the heart of Bayern’s defence.

DF Mats Hummels, 8 — Captain for the day and there were shades of Franz Beckenbauer, elegantly galloping forward into space with purpose and grace on his regular forays from the back.

DF Joshua Kimmich, 7 — Bayern’s midweek goal scorer put in a decent 45-minute shift before being given a breather with Madrid in mind.

Sandro Wagner, left, scored one and assisted on another in Bayern’s 4-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt.

MF Sebastian Rudy, 6 — Another unspectacular display but did manage to pick out the waiting Wagner for the second goal.

MF Corentin Tolisso, 6 — Missed a golden opportunity to score in the second half and otherwise failed to impress. Despite injuries, Bayern’s record signing will probably have to make do with a substitute spot on Tuesday.

MF Niklas Dorsch, 7 — The 20-year-old put Bayern ahead on debut on the stroke of half-time with a routine finish. Small consolation perhaps for the reserve-team skipper missing out on a Regionalliga derby against league-leaders 1860 Munich on Sunday.

MF Meritan Shabani, 6 — The 19-year-old Kosovan-German toiled industriously on debut roaming the right-hand side of midfield, before making way for Thiago on 56 minutes.

FW Franck Evina, 7 — Bayern are used to having a Franck playing on the left, but Heynckes called up the Yaounde-born teenager Evina and not Ribery. He is certainly bulky for a 17-year-old, but the Cameroonian-German produced an energetic display, showing massive promise for the future.

FW Sandro Wagner, 8 — Hailed by Heynckes at the news conference for his “outstanding” performance, Wagner’s overtures included a fine assist for the opening goal and doubling the lead with a cool finish on 75 minutes for his eighth league goal since joining in January from Hoffenheim.

Substitutes

DF Rafinha, 7 — A half-time sub for Kimmich, Rafinha ran the length of the pitch to wrap up the three points with the third goal on 86 minutes for his first league goal of the season, almost as if trying to banish his awful midweek mistake from the memory bank.

MF Thiago, 7 — Replaced Shabani 10 minutes after half-time to give Bayern more finesse and stability in midfield.

DF Niklas Sule, 8 — Replaced the tiring Evina and striding forward with purpose, Sule scored with the final touch of the game with a clinical finish into the corner. His second league goal of the campaign to even out his two own goals.

Mark Lovell covers Bayern Munich for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @LovellLowdown.



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Liverpool Danny Ings Joe Gomez struggle Mohamed Salah has off day

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Stoke City picked up a valuable point against an underwhelming Liverpool in a tepid affair, at Anfield.
Stoke City picked up a valuable point against an underwhelming Liverpool in a tepid affair, at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp provides an injury update for Jordan Henderson, Joe Gomez and Sadio Mane ahead of their Champions League semifinal second leg.
Jurgen Klopp discusses how Stoke’s defensive posture frustrated Liverpool, the knock Trent Alexander-Arnold sustained and more.

Liverpool followed up their spectacular win over Roma in midweek with a damp squib of a performance against the Premier League’s second-bottom team. Mohamed Salah inexplicably missed a glorious early chance, Danny Ings had a goal disallowed for offside and the frustrated Reds were also denied a clear late penalty on.

Positives

It’s another point closer to Champions League qualification; a top-four spot will be secured by avoiding defeat at Chelsea next week or by beating Brighton at home on the season’s final day.

Negatives

It’s becoming clear that, when Jurgen Klopp has to dip into the pool of players beneath his best 12 or 13, the drop off in quality is too great. Without the injured Sadio Mane, Liverpool’s front three never clicked and the driving midfield runs of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were also missed.

Manager rating out of 10

5 — Klopp’s options for the first XI were restricted but, nonetheless, his substitutions were utterly baffling. Only Klopp knows how the struggling Joe Gomez survived the full 90 minutes and the decision to introduce full-back Nathaniel Clyne into the forward line was even more puzzling.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Loris Karius, 6 — A little sloppy with his first-half distribution but, otherwise, he was a virtual spectator.

DF Joe Gomez, 4 — Started the game badly and got worse. Repeatedly gave possession away and eventually began to play far too safe to avoid making further mistakes. Improved a little in the closing stages but this was a day to forget for the youngster.

DF Virgil Van Dijk, 7 — Not exactly overworked defensively, but he was typically assured and comfortable in everything he did.

DF Ragnar Klavan, 7 — Another unfussy and composed display from the experienced Estonian. He’s a valuable player to have around, due to his ability to come in and do a consistent job when needed.

DF Alberto Moreno, 7 — Responded well after a poor display at West Brom. Not exactly faultless defensively but kept Stoke dangerman Xherdan Shaqiri quiet and made some useful forays forward. Moreno fizzed a low shot just wide and produced one brilliant cross that Salah was inches away from converting.

Danny Ings was among several Liverpool players to struggle vs. Stoke.

MF Jordan Henderson, 6 — Diligent showing from the captain, who did his best to keep his side on the front foot on an off day. Noticeably stayed close to Gomez to help the full-back through his most difficult period in the game by always being available for a pass.

MF Trent Alexander-Arnold, 6 — Started brightly and could have scored after a surging run into the box to collect a pass from Salah. The balance never seemed right between him and Gomez on the right flank. Klopp revealed after the game that Alexander-Arnold had suffered a knock.

MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 6 — Busy enough, had one or two bright moments around the box and put a snapshot into the side netting in the first half. Like the rest of the side, though, he never quite hit top gear.

FW Mohamed Salah, 5 — Started the game looking very sharp, despite a surprise early miss but, the longer it went on, the less effective he became and he grew increasingly frustrated at the physical approach of his marker Eric Pieters.

FW Roberto Firmino, 6 — No shortage of effort but the absence of Mane seemed to stifle the rest of Liverpool’s attack and particularly Firmino, who looked to be on a completely different wavelength to Ings.

FW Danny Ings, 4 — A little unfortunate with a disallowed goal that was a terrific finish, but Ings is not really a viable option in either of the wide positions of a front three. There is no chemistry between him and Liverpool’s other attackers — understandable given the lack of playing time he’s had — and he made virtually no other impression on the game before he was replaced by Clyne.

Substitutes

FW Nathaniel Clyne, 5 — Looked to be playing as part of a front three, which is bizarre given that his biggest weakness is end product. Unsurprisingly, he made little impression.

MF James Milner, 6 — Did his best to drive the team forward and made some thunderous challenges, but it was not to be.

Dave Usher is one of ESPN FC’s Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.



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PSG must make do without midfield trio Marco Verratti Adrien Rabiot and Lassana Diarra vs Guingamp

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Gab Marcotti and the FC crew discuss Unai Emery’s imminent departure from PSG and whether or not he could be successful in the Premier League.

PARIS — Departing Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery will not be able to call upon Marco Verratti, Adrien Rabiot or Lassana Diarra in his penultimate match at Parc des Princes after all three players were ruled out of the squad.

However, the Spaniard has been boosted by the returns of Angel Di Maria and Thiago Motta’s availability as the French capital outfit continue to chase 100 Ligue 1 points at home to Guingamp on Sunday.

Emery, 46, confirmed on Friday that he will be leaving the club at the end of the season, despite success in Le Championnat and the Coupe de la Ligue already this campaign and the Coupe de France final to come. Champions already with 90 points from 34 matches, PSG have 12 points left to play for and four matches to possibly get that — with maximum points needed.

Di Maria is back from his recent injury against Guingamp, while Motta has been passed fit after some difficulties earlier in the week. However, Verratti, Rabiot and Diarra have all been ruled out through injury, essentially depriving Emery of an entire potential starting midfield trio.

USA international and youth academy graduate Timothy Weah has been included again, even if the 18-year-old has not actually seen much game time of late.

Fellow youngsters Lorenzo Callegari, Kevin Rimane and Sebastien Cibois missed the cut, while Hatem Ben Arfa has been overlooked once again.

Superstar Neymar is still missing but is expected to return to Paris next week as he continues to recover from surgery on a fractured fifth metatarsal.

Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.



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