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Barca and Real Madrid to continue head-to-head in La Liga

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MADRID, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) — FC Barcelona retained a three-point lead over Real Madrid at the top of La Liga after both sides won on Sunday.

Pedri’s 35th-minute goal gave Barca a 1-0 win at home to Getafe, who complicated things for the league leaders for most of the game.

Barca lacked spark in attack without Robert Lewandowski, but goalkeeper Marc Andre Ter Stegen produced another solid display in goal to snuff out any threat from Getafe.

Barca’s win meant Real Madrid kicked off their game away to Athletic Club Bilbao six points off the back of the table, but an excellent goal from Karim Benzema in the 24th minute (his 19th against the Basques) put them ahead in an even first half.

Athletic had Madrid on the back foot for nearly all of the second half but struggled to provide a finish to some good approach play. When Inaki Williams did get the ball in the net, it was ruled out for an offside against Gaizka Guruzeta.

With the home side pressing for an equalizer, Toni Kroos scored Madrid’s second goal in the last minute.

Real Sociedad claimed a club record ninth consecutive win that strengthens their position in third, thanks to first-half goals from Alexander Sorloth and Ander Barrenetxea away to Rayo Vallecano.

Imanol Alguacil’s team impressed in the first half and were able to control the match as Rayo tried to get back on level terms after the break.

Atletico Madrid had an easy 3-0 win at home to Valladolid (who have now lost their last five matches), with all three goals coming in a 10-minutes spell.

Alvaro Morata opened the scoring in the 17th minute, with Antoine Griezmann adding a second five minutes later and Mario Hermoso making it 3-0 in the 27th minute.

Villarreal beat Girona 1-0 with a 98th-minute penalty from Dani Parejo, who decided the game just five minutes after Gerard Moreno had seen an earlier spot kick saved by Paulo Gazzaniga.

Girona played the last 20 minutes with 10 men after Santiago Bueno was sent off.

Memphis Depay came off the bench for his debut in the second half, but the bad news was an apparent muscle problem for midfielder Marcos Llorente ahead of next week’s Copa del Rey tie against Real Madrid.

Martin Braithwaite’s 42nd-minute goal gave Espanyol their second league win in two matches to lift them clear of the bottom three while ending a poor week for Betis, who were knocked out of the Copa del Rey in midweek by Osasuna.

Sevilla climbed out of the bottom three thanks to Ivan Rakitic’s 88th-minute penalty, which gave them a nerve-wracking 1-0 win at home to Cadiz in a game that saw Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli was sent off in the second half.

Elche remain bottom of the table without a win all season, although Pablo Machin’s side took a draw from their home game with Osasuna after Jose Angel Carmona’s 66th-minute shot canceled out Chimy Avila’s 19th-minute opener for the visitors.

The round of matches began on Friday with Dani Rodriguez’s precise second-half shot giving Mallorca a 1-0 win at home to Celta Vigo, who remain in the battle to avoid relegation.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Analysis: Bayern remains in unrest, Nagelsmann’s future depends on success against Paris

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by Oliver Trust

BERLIN, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) — Seven days ahead of the last-16 duel against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, Bayern Munich remains in a state of deep unrest.

The delicate statements of keeper Manuel Neuer create a decisive rift in the Bavarian side and in the club’s surroundings.

The 2014 world champion accused the club’s leaders of “brutal” actions when firing his favorite goalkeeper coach Toni Tapalovic.

Everything between the noisy departure of the currently injured 36-year-old German international and the dismissal of coach Julian Nagelsmann seems possible.

The outcome of the showdown against the French giant seems to play a vital role when it comes to predictions.

Not only that former Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel is mentioned as a possible Nagelsmann successor. Further involved parties such as chairman Oliver Kahn and sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic seem exposed to great pressure.

An opinion battle of pundits and former Bayern players endangers the team’s efforts to concentrate on sportive issues.

THE COACH

Nagelsmann is mentioned as the initial point for the Tapalovic sacking while Neuer is sidelined due to a skiing injury.

Inside reports speak of a damaged relationship between the coach and the captain. The Bayern manager is said to need success against Paris to secure his future at the club.

While Nagelsmann called Neuer’s statements far from helpful considering the team is ahead of important games, the Bayern coach triggered indignation among rival Paris assuming the news of the injury loss of star striker Kylian Mbappe is a bluff.

The coach is said to have lost support in the locker room while he claims it’s on Neuer to put things back to normal. “My doors are open,” he said.

SALIHAMIDZIC/KAHN

The leaders face the allegation to disturb the team’s internal harmony and not consider players’ demands.

Both claim Neuer is putting personal issues above the club’s purposes. “We expected other reactions from him,” Salihamidzic said while Kahn announced “straight talking” with Neuer shortly.

Both are under fire after Nagelsmann failed to lead the team to calm waters despite the club having paid 25 million euros to secure his signing from Leipzig 18 months ago.

NEUER

The goalkeeper’s statements are considered a direct attack on Nagelsmann as the Bayern coach is said to have neglected the relationship with his team captain.

Reports speak of the coach consulting midfielder Joshua Kimmich instead of Neuer when discussing team issues.

TEAM DIVIDED

Several squad members expressed understanding for Neuer and revealed the team’s inner struggle.

Nagelsmann and the club leaders’ harsh comments on the free day trip of striker Serge Gnabry to a fashion fair in Paris between two league games have been taken by surprise by most players.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Premier League announces charges of breach of financial rules against Manchester City

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LONDON, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) — Premier League champions Manchester City have been charged by the Premier League with a series of breaches of the competition’s financial rules.

The Premier League issued a statement on Monday morning confirming it had “referred a number of alleged breaches of the Premier League Rules by Manchester City Football Club to a commission under Premier League Rule W.3.4.”

The Premier League explains the commission is “independent of the Premier League and member clubs” and that the members of the commission will be appointed by the independent chair of the Premier League judicial panel, in accordance with Premier League rules.

“The proceedings before the commission will, in accordance with Premier League rule W.82, be confidential and heard in private. Under Premier League rule W.82.2, the commission’s final award will be published on the Premier League’s website.”

“This confirmation is made in accordance with Premier League rule W.82.1. The Premier League will be making no further comment in respect of this matter until further notice,” reads the statement.

The charges are thought to come from an investigation which opened in March 2019 in relation to the seasons from 2009 to 2018. They relate to financial information, over the club’s income, payments to playing and coaching staff, profitability and financial sustainability.

Manchester City are currently second in the Premier League, five points behind Arsenal and it is so far uncertain what punishment they would face if found guilty, although it is possible they could have points taken away from them and face a heavy fine.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Lautaro’s header decides Milan Derby

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ROME, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) — Lautaro Martinez continued his scorching form with his header deciding the Derby della Madonnina on Sunday, as Inter Milan beat AC Milan 1-0 in Serie A.

The Nerazzurri lost the Milan Derby back in September but took revenge on their city rivals in the Supercoppa last month, while AC Milan were looking for a resounding response after a dismal run since the start of 2023.

Inter Milan had a relatively full squad to choose from, but AC Milan still had to do without Mike Maignan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Head coach Stefano Pioli made a tactical tweak to opt for a 3-5-2 system, as Rafael Leao was benched again. The Italian manager Roberto Mancini also presented on the stand for the showdown.

Hosts Inter pressed high from the start, trying to use their aggression and tempo to good effect as a couple of attempts from Lautaro threatened goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu.

The efforts paid off in the 34th minute as Hakan Calhanoglu’s corner found Lautaro, whose twisting header went beyond Tatarusanu.

Inter Milan kept creating havoc after the break, but AC Milan were poor in their attacking quality, they had the chance to level the scoring, but Olivier Giroud’s awful first touch fumbled a golden opportunity.

Romelu Lukaku came off the bench and found the net in the 83rd minute, but the goal was wiped out while Lautaro’s second was also canceled for offside.

With the win, Inter still rank second with 43 points, 13 points behind Napoli who staged a second-half show to crush Spezia 3-0, while the third consecutive defeat in the league dropped AC Milan to sixth place.

Also on Sunday, Torino edged Udinese 1-0, Fiorentina lost to Bologna 2-1 on home turf.

Source(s): Xinhua

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