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01-12-2017, 10:30 AM

Barcelona 3-1 Athletic (agg. 4-3): Marvellous Messi comes to Catalans' rescue



Lionel Messi was Barcelona's free-kick hero once more as the holders sunk Athletic Bilbao 3-1 to claim a rousing 4-3 aggregate triumph in the last 16 of the Copa del Rey.

Trailing following a contentious 2-1 defeat in Bilbao last week, Barca had to wait for their breakthrough before it arrived in landmark fashion 10 minutes from half-time.

Luis Suarez volleyed his 100th goal for the club on the end of a move that fittingly featured Messi and Neymar – it was the 300th goal for MSN since the awesome forward trio began playing together in 2014.

Neymar won and converted a penalty early in the second period, but Athletic hit back through wideman Enric Saborit, a Barcelona-born product of the Espanyol youth system.But Barcelona, looking for a win at their third attempt in 2017, were not discouraged and a familiar hero stepped forward.

Having arrowed a set-piece into the top left corner to snatch a 1-1 draw at Villarreal on Sunday, Messi deftly whipped an effort from similar range across the Bilbao wall and in off the right-hand post to stylishly book a quarter-final spot.

The first leg at San Mames prompted Gerard Pique's week-long critique of Spanish officials and controversy arrived again after 26 keenly fought minutes, when Barcelona briefly though they were level on aggregate.

Neymar squared for Suarez to slot in a routine finish, but the Brazil captain had been incorrectly flagged offside when Andres Iniesta threaded a wonderful throughball Athletic were forced into a change before the half-hour mark, with defender Xabier Etxeita coming off worse after hacking down Neymar.

Presented with a free-kick opportunity in a similar position to his last-gasp equaliser versus Villarreal on Sunday, Messi curled an attempt over, with Neymar having come in for more robust attention.

The visitors' concerns over the damage Neymar might cause proved well-founded in the 35th minute when he collected Messi's pass and floated a cross from the left channel for Suarez to gleefully smash home on the volley and bring up his landmark.

MSN's collective triple century became 301 three minutes into the second half, with the latest foul on Neymar coming when Athletic right-back Eneko Boveda went to ground as his man burst into the left-hand side of the area.The 24-year-old picked himself up and, following a prolonged stuttering run-up, he sent Gorka Iraizoz the wrong way.

But any sense of Barca having completed a turnaround proved short-lived when first-leg goalscorer Inaki Williams – passed fit to play despite a bout of illness - crossed from the right for Saborit to head back across goal and beyond Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Suarez stabbed an effort the wrong side of the post after Messi sublimely scooted around Aymeric Laporte, while left-back Jordi Alba surged on to a trademark Iniesta pass but shot too close to Iraizoz.

Alba's give-and-go with Neymar presented with Suarez with a 68th-minute chance that the usually masterful marksman slashed wide.Messi did not lack for precision when the Uruguay striker was felled by Benat Etxebarria 13 minutes from time, sending Camp Nou into raptures.

Ivan Rakitic, reportedly unsettled and the subject of transfer interest from Manchester City, was rapturously welcomed by the home faithful when he appeared as a late substitute.

Nevertheless, the focus at full-time rightly remained on Barca's mercurial front three at full-time - 302 not out.
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01-12-2017, 10:31 AM

'I'm fine at Juventus' - Dybala shrugs off Real Madrid and Barcelona talk



Juventus star Paulo Dybala is happy to shun interest from Real Madrid and Barcelona to sign a contract extension with the Serie A champions.

The Argentina international has struggled to recapture his stellar debut-season form in his second campaign, but he scored one and set up another to help Juve into the Coppa Italia quarter-finals with a 3-2 win over Atalanta.

Dybala is reportedly on the radar of La Liga's giant duo, but Giuseppe Marotta recently said he expects the 23-year-old to remain and sign a new deal which the club have offered him.

Dybala reiterated that no news of a potential move to Spain has reached him and he is ready to go along with negotiations.

"Barcelona or Real Madrid? There's no offers, for me there are no problems for the renewal," Dybala told reporters on Wednesday."I'm fine at Juventus, my agent will be in Turin in the coming days for the renewal."I'm thinking only about Juventus."Dybala has scored five goals in 17 games in all competition for Juventus, who take on Fiorentina in Serie A on Sunday.
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laugh Copa del Rey 2nd Leg Fixtures 2017.01.12 - 01-12-2017, 10:33 AM

Copa del Rey 2nd Leg Fixtures 2017.01.12

Celta Vigo Vs Valencia

Eibar Vs Osasuna

Sevilla Vs Real Madrid
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smile Coppa Italia Fixture 2017.01.12 - 01-12-2017, 10:35 AM

Coppa Italia Fixture 2017.01.12

AC Milan Vs Torino
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01-13-2017, 10:00 AM

Wantaway Payet refusing to play for West Ham, reveals Bilic



West Ham midfielder Dimitri Payet is refusing to play for the club as he tries to force a move, manager Slaven Bilic has revealed.

The 29-year-old was on the shortlist for the PFA Player of the Year award in 2016 after a sensational first season in English football, also helping France to the final of Euro 2016.Speculation has linked him with an exit ever since and, earlier in January, Payet liked a Tweet suggesting that he could return to his previous club, Marseille.

Bilic is adamant that his star man, who signed a new contract in February lasting until 2021, will not be allowed an exit but confirmed that he will not train with the first team nor play any part against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

"Let's get serious," the Croatian told reporters. "I have a situation with a player. It is Dimitri Payet. He wants to leave."This team, the staff, we gave him everything, we were always there for him. I feel let down. I feel angry."We have said we don't want to sell our best players but [Payet] does not want to play for us. We are not going to sell him.

"I spoke to the chairman and this is not a money issue. We gave him a long contract because we want him to stay."I am concentrated on the game and don't want to talk about transfers. There are still over two weeks to go.

"I expect from him to come back and to show commitment and determination to the team like the team has shown to him."The Frenchman has scored two goals and registered six assists in the Premier League this term, with West Ham sitting in 13th place in the table.

Arsenal and Manchester United have both been linked with January bids for Payet, while Marseille are also said to be willing to offer up to €40 million (£34.7m) to recapture their former player.
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01-13-2017, 10:01 AM

Enough is enough: West Ham MUST sell petulant Payet



As far as bombshells go, this one will have left a huge crater around the London Stadium. Slaven Bilic gave a press conference on Thursday morning ahead of a somewhat nondescript London derby against Crystal Palace, and ended it with a Hammer blow to the hearts of the majority of West Ham fans; Dimitri Payet wants to leave and, worst of all, is outright refusing to play for the club.

We’ve been here before, of course, with the age of the mega-money transfer leading many players to force moves elsewhere, but it is rare that the totem of a club, the leading light, the one most adored, seeks a move in acrimonious circumstances.

Payet has long been considered too good for West Ham but, like all of the best players, he made them better. Signed for a mere £10 million in 2015, Payet took the Hammers to within an inch of the Champions League, his skill and poise drawing comparisons with the likes of Dennis Bergkamp. He scored nine goals and had 12 assists in 30 league games. Bilic’s men ultimately finished seventh but they were only four points behind Manchester City in fourth.

Yet, conversely, West Ham also launched Payet into the stratosphere. Links with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United came about not just because of his performances, but because he was given a platform on which to truly shine.

There is, as ever, an argument of Payet being the biggest fish in a small pond, a la Memphis Depay at PSV Eindhoven, and the proof will be in the pudding should the Hammers decide to cash in on their prized asset.

The facts must remain that no player is bigger than the club, and the evidence can be found across London at Tottenham. While the experiment of buying numerous foreign players in the wake of Gareth Bale’s departure did not immediately pay off, Spurs now look to be a more rounded unit than at any time in Premier League history. Shorn of their star they have rallied to become one of the best-drilled teams in the division.

West Ham must learn a lesson from their bitter rivals, then, and they must sell up. Of course, Bilic has claimed that the club wishes to keep Payet, as evidenced by their willingness to give him a huge pay rise in February, but the club will be mindful of him throwing his toys further out of the pram.

The Hammers are currently 13th and appear to have risen above the grim spectre of relegation; they are seven points clear of beleaguered Sunderland. Efforts are being made to strengthen the squad and while their transfer strategy is slapdash at best, the potential signings of Jermain Defoe and Robert Snodgrass would improve the squad and inject some much-needed energy into a somewhat lethargic season thus far.

Furthermore it is imperative that West Ham drive a hard bargain whenever potential suitors – and it is not hard to imagine that there will be many – come knocking. The club valued Payet at £60 million before Euro 2016, amid fears that Real would pursue the player as a potential “Galactico” addition.

No bids were forthcoming then, but the trend of Chinese clubs spending huge fees to sign Premier League stars shows no signs of slowing down, and the Hammers would not be able to resist a lucrative approach were it forthcoming.Wherever Payet ends up, he has let both himself and the club down in going about his potential exit in such a way. It cannot be forgotten that while West Ham would have been considerably worse off without Payet last season, the same can be said in reverse.

Payet owes West Ham a debt of gratitude for allowing him to attract the interest of elite European teams, and the fact that he has effectively gone on strike is nothing more than a slap in the face to both the club and their fans.With the January transfer window open, West Ham should sell fast, and wash their hands of a player behaving like a petulant child.
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01-13-2017, 10:02 AM

West Ham reject £20m Payet bid from Marseille



West Ham have rejected a £20 million bid from Marseille for want-away Dimitri Payet, despite the player going on strike, Goal understands.

Manager Slaven Bilic confirmed on Thursday that Payet has told the club that he wishes to leave and it is understood that an offer was subsequently tabled by his former club.

Sources have confirmed that the bid from Marseille was made in recent days and was quickly rejected, with the fee deemed to be too low by the Hammers. It is understood that the bid included a bonus of £2.5m if they qualified for the Champions League.

Nevertheless, the 29-year-old will not be a part of the matchday squad for Saturday's encounter with Crystal Palace and Payet has informed the club that he does not wish to play for them again.West Ham had reportedly promised to sell the Frenchman in the summer but it is understood that he wishes to leave this month.The Hammers valued Payet at £60m in the summer amid fears of an influx of offers from elite clubs and their current stance is that they will not sell their prized asset.

Payet left Lille to join Marseille in 2013 and spent two years at the club prior to his £10m switch to the Hammers, though the player suggested in October of 2015 that he was "forced" to leave the club.

Despite links with the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona during Euro 2016, where Payet shined, no bid has been forthcoming from a European giant and he has now set his heart on a return to Stade Velodrome.

Marseille are now bankrolled by American billionaire Frank McCourt and it is unclear if a second bid will be tabled, as the transfer saga threatens to run until deadline day.

Since moving to England, Payet has scored 18 goals and produced 25 assists in only 66 outings with West Ham and Bilic did not attempt to hide his disappointment at developments on Thursday.

"We have said we don't want to sell our best players but Dimitri Payet does not want to play for us," the manager told reporters. "We are not going to sell him."I spoke to the chairman and this is not a money issue. We gave him a long contract because we want him to stay.

"He is refusing to play for us. I have a team to manage. He's probably been tapped up. Until he changes his attitude and shows the commitment the club have shown him he is out of the team."We had a conversation a couple of days ago but this began 10 days or so ago when the window opens.

"I feel angry. We gave him everything. I feel let down, angry, disappointed. I understand the players now are being tapped up. The team gave him everything."
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01-13-2017, 10:03 AM

'He is happy' - Pochettino shrugs off Alli links to Barcelona and Real Madrid



Mauricio Pochettino says Tottenham cannot give Dele Alli a new contract every time there are rumours over his future amid speculation linking him with Barcelona and Real Madrid.Reports suggested Spurs were ready to hand in-form Alli a new deal worth in excess of £100,000-per-week due to interest from the two La Liga giants.

But the 20-year-old signed new contracts twice in 2016, the most recent coming in September - tying him to Spurs until 2022 – and Pochettino does not think his contract can be extended every time there is interest.

"It is not the moment to talk about that - he is happy," Pochettino said ahead of Spurs' home match against West Brom on Saturday."I don't like to talk about rumours but the most important thing is he is happy, natural and performing well.

"It is not a question of improving his contract and salary every few months. He is performing well, scoring a lot of goals and helping the team achieve their objectives."People have been talking about him a lot in the last few weeks and that is fair because his performances have been fantastic."

Pochettino will only be without Erik Lamela against West Brom.The winger has not played for 11 weeks due to a hip injury suffered in training, but is closing in on a comeback."Erik is doing well but is still away for another week to finish his recovery," said Pochettino.

"It's important he feels well and recovers. Everyone else is fit and we will arrive on Saturday in good condition."
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01-13-2017, 10:05 AM

OFFICIAL: Schneiderlin escapes Man Utd with £24m Everton switch



Morgan Schneiderlin has ended his Manchester United exile by sealing a £24million switch to Premier League rivals Everton.

France midfielder Schneiderlin was unable to break into Jose Mourinho's first-team plans at Old Trafford, playing just 11 minutes in the Premier League across three last-gasp substitute appearances.

Signed from Southampton in July 2015, United have allowed Schneiderlin to leave for an initial £20million, with Everton signing the 27-year-old to a four-and-a-half-year deal.

He is the second player to join the Toffees this month, following former Charlton youngster Ademola Lookman in moving to Goodison Park, and links up with Ronald Koeman again after the pair previously worked together at Southampton.

Mourinho said of his impending exit this week: "I'm sad and I'm happy. I'm sad because I like him and he could be an option for us in a long season. I'm happy because this is what he wants, he wants to play every game and wants to be an important player in the team."If this is what he wants I'm happy for a very good professional and someone that I can only say good things about."

Schneiderlin told Everton's official website: "Everton is a big club in the history of English football. I've always loved the atmosphere in the stadium. "I've always liked playing here. I can't wait to play and to represent this great club.

"There is a manager in place here that I know, I know he can get the best out of me, I know his style and how he likes to play football. He was very good with me from the start and I enjoyed playing football under him.

"When I spoke with the manager and the people in place at Everton I understood immediately that they have a very good plan for the future of the football club. "I just want to play football. I want to put my print on this club and do everything to get Everton where it belongs."
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01-13-2017, 10:05 AM

Congratulations & Good Luck Schneiderlin!
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