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Bale set to return to Madrid s squad after injury layoff

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Gareth Bale is expected to make his return to Real Madrid's lineup in a Copa del Rey match this week after being sidelined for more than two months because of injuries. Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said Monday that the Wales forward has recovered from a left leg muscle injury and will play at least part of Tuesday's match against Fuenlabrada at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Madrid won the first leg 2-0 against the third-division club. Bale hasn't played since Madrid's 3-1 win at Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Sept. 26. Plagued by injuries this season, his latest ailment came in practice while trying to recover from another muscle injury. "He will be with us tomorrow and will play," Zidane said. "But I still don't know for how long he will play. We will see how the match goes." The coach did not say whether the 28-year-old Bale will start or come off the bench. Bale has played only nine matches with Madrid this season, scoring three goals. He missed the final World Cup qualifiers with Wales, which was eventually left out of next year's tournament in Russia. Zidane said he is looking forward to seeing Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema playing together again, although that is not likely to happen on Tuesday. "We will take a look at some of the players from the youth team," Zidane said. "It's important to do that." Ronaldo and many other regular starters were left out of the first leg last month. Zidane said goalkeeper Keylor Navas is fully fit again and will be available for Tuesday's match, as will defensive midfielder Mateo Kovacic, who also had been nursing an injury. Defender Sergio Ramos, who broke his nose in the Spanish league match against Atletico Madrid nearly 10 days ago, has been practicing with a protective mask but will not play Tuesday. In other matches this week, Barcelona defends a 3-0 first-leg win against Murcia, while Atletico Madrid looks to overcome a 1-1 draw against Elche......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnNov 28th, 2017

Dominant at home, Europe where Bayern & City measure success

By Rob Harris, Associated Press Three of the teams in the Champions League quarterfinals are in a luxurious position, and running away with their domestic competitions allows them to concentrate on European glory. Manchester City and Bayern Munich could even secure trophies between the first and second legs in Europe over the next week or so. City, which travels to Liverpool in an all-northwest England quarterfinal on Wednesday, has a 16-point lead in the Premier League. Bayern, which is a point better off at the Bundesliga summit, visits on Tuesday a Sevilla side that is in the European Cup quarterfinals for the first time in 60 years. Barcelona has a nine-point lead at home as it prepares to host Roma on Wednesday, with defending champion Real Madrid trailing by 13 points in third place. Madrid, though, is a European force. Champions League winners in three of the last four seasons, Zinedine Zidane's side visits Serie A leader Juventus on Tuesday. A closer look at the quarterfinal match-ups: ___ JUVENTUS-REAL MADRID Has Gareth Bale done enough to retain his place in Madrid's starting lineup? Either side of the recent international break, Bale scored three goals in two matches. But he wasn't entrusted with a starting place in the round of 16 against Paris Saint-Germain — reflecting the uncertainty surrounding the Wales forward's status in the squad. "I'm pleased with his performance," Madrid coach Zidane said after Bale scored twice in a 3-0 win at relegation-threatened Las Palmas on Saturday. "You'll have to wait and see if he plays on Tuesday." Lucas Vazquez could drop out if Zidane restores the "BBC" front-line of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Bale. Bale, though, could miss out again if Madrid decide to add an extra midfielder for the first leg in Turin by including Marco Asensio or Francisco "Isco" Alarcon. Madrid and Juventus are meeting for the first time since last season's final when the Spanish capital club swept to a 12th European title. The only Champions League final Madrid has failed to reach in the last four seasons was in 2014-15 — when it lost to Juventus in the semifinals. Juventus must raise its game after struggling in Serie A recently. After a 0-0 draw at lowly Spal, the team was outplayed by AC Milan for much of Saturday's match before Juan Cuadrado came off the bench to turn things around. On his first appearance after more than three months out with a groin injury, Cuadrado grabbed the crucial second goal in a 3-1 win. "He's come back well and has astounded me," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said, "because often in the past he hasn't done well coming off the bench." Juventus is once again in the hunt for a treble, leading Serie A by four points and through to the Italian Cup final. ___ BARCELONA-ROMA Barcelona can count on Lionel Messi again but how fit is he? After missing recent Argentina games with a muscular problem, he made a scoring return from the bench on Saturday against Sevilla to preserve Barcelona's unbeaten La Liga record this season. Coach Ernesto Valverde, however, said Messi is still bothered by pain heading into the game against Roma. The Italian capital club is awaiting a prognosis on Radja Nainggolan's thigh injury. The Belgium international, who has started all of Roma's Champions League matches, limped off 16 minutes into Saturday's 1-1 draw at Bologna. Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco is doubtful Nainggolan will recover in time "He is the 'Ninja,'" Di Francesco said. "He told me to wait and tried to run it off, but if he had to give up and leave the pitch that means there's really something wrong and the problem is serious." With Roma prioritizing the game against Barcelona, the lack of depth was evident on Saturday when Edin Dzeko had to come off the bench to salvage a draw. __ LIVERPOOL-MAN CITY City makes a return trip to the only stadium where it has lost during an otherwise unbeaten Premier League campaign. With Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane boasting 75 goals between them this season, Liverpool has an impressive attacking armory to take on Pep Guardiola's side. "They are almost unstoppable," Guardiola said. "The way Liverpool play is so complicated for us. We know that. They are so quick, they are so good." The 4-3 loss at Anfield in January was a blip in City's progression to the Premier League title that can be sealed with a win against Manchester United on Saturday. With the European first leg on Wednesday and the return at the Etihad Stadium next Tuesday, Guardiola's predicament will be whether to rest players for the Manchester derby and potentially miss out on winning the Premier League in perhaps the sweetest way. Guardiola is hoping to welcome Sergio Aguero back from a knee injury that has kept the striker out of action for a month. While Liverpool is England's most successful side with five European Cups, City has never won the competition. Guardiola, though, led Barcelona to two Champions League titles. ___ SEVILLA-BAYERN MUNICH Bayern's players must be dreading the sight of Sevilla: Spanish teams have eliminated them in the past four seasons. Before then, Bayern lifted the European Cup in the all-German 2013 final against Borussia Dortmund when Jupp Heynckes completed a treble before stepping down. The 72-year-old coach was brought out of retirement to return in October when Carlo Ancelotti was fired after losing to PSG. Heynckes has overseen a remarkable turnaround, with Bayern on course to repeat the 2013 treble. Sevilla, though, keeps on upsetting more illustrious sides. Not only was Jose Mourinho's Manchester United stunned in the round of 16 but Barcelona was held to a draw on Saturday. Sevilla, which won the Europa League in 2014, 2015 and 2016, is contesting its first European Cup quarterfinal since 1958. ___ Tales Azzoni in Madrid, Daniella Matar in Milan and Ciaran Fahey in Berlin contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 3rd, 2018

Madrid and Atletico draw in derby, Barcelona stays ahead

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Barcelona is getting some help from its rivals to stay ahead in the Spanish league despite falling into its worst slump in two years. The defending champion failed to win for the third straight game on Saturday, being held by Athletic Bilbao to 1-1 at home. But it was enough to retain its lead after Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid couldn't manage more than 0-0 in the derby at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Real Madrid hasn't won in two consecutive games, being unable to take advantage of Barcelona's struggles. Atletico has won two in a row, but hasn't reached the top because of a poor start. Real Madrid and Barcelona are tied on points, one more than Sevilla, and two more than Atletico, which extended its unbeaten streak in league matches at the Bernabeu to six. Sevilla moved up after defeating Eibar 3-1 in a match marked by the collapse of a railing that left a few fans injured as they fell onto the pitch while celebrating a goal. DERBY DRAW The Madrid derby ended with goalkeepers Jan Oblak and Thibaut Courtois getting the better of the attackers in the few times the teams got near the goal. "I'm not satisfied with the result because we deserved the victory," Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui said. "We created some clear scoring chances." The loudest celebration by Real Madrid fans came when Brazilian teenage sensation Vinicius Junior made his first-team debut, but he entered in the final minutes and didn't do much. Lopetegui couldn't count on left back Marcelo and midfielder Francisco "Isco" Alarcon because of injuries. Gareth Bale was replaced at halftime with an apparent injury. "It was a difficult match, as it always is when we play here," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. "We were better in the first half but in the end it was a fair result." Atletico beat Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup final in the beginning of the season. BARCELONA'S STRUGGLES Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde put Messi in the game early in the second half, but the playmaker couldn't rally the team to victory. He did set up an 84th-minute equalizer by Munir El Haddadi, but it was already too late. Athletic, winless since the first round, opened the scoring before halftime through Oscar De Marco. Sergio Busquets also was rested ahead of Barcelona's Champions League match at Tottenham on Wednesday. He entered the match early in the second half to replace the injured Sergi Roberto. "We have the squad and players to remain strong without depending on only one player," Messi said. "We have to improve on many things, but this is just the beginning, the league is very long." Messi said Barcelona has to stop "conceding goals in every match." The team has conceded five goals in its last three matches, and eight in total in the league this season. RAILING COLLAPSE Sevilla followed its 3-0 rout of Real Madrid with a 3-1 win at Eibar, a match that had to be stopped for a few minutes in the second half because fans fell onto the pitch when a railing collapsed. Some fans were carried away on stretchers, although local media said no serious injuries were immediately reported. WINLESS NO MORE Valencia's winless streak is finally over. A first-half goal by Kevin Gameiro — and a second-half penalty kick save by goalkeeper Neto — gave Valencia its first win in eight matches in all competitions. It was the fifth winless game for Sociedad in the last six league rounds, keeping the Basque Country club near the middle of the table. Sociedad has yet to win at its renovated Anoeta Stadium this season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 30th, 2018

I believe is Roma s slogan vs. Liverpool in CL semifinal

By The Associated Press Roma already erased a three-goal deficit once in this season's Champions League. The Giallorossi believe they can do it again against Liverpool on Wednesday. "We've already shown we're capable of coming back and we should have the belief that we can do it again," Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said. Liverpool won the first leg 5-2, so Roma needs a repeat of its 3-0 second-leg victory over Barcelona in the quarterfinals to reach next month's final in Kiev. A 4-1 win — Roma's result against Chievo Verona on Saturday — would also suffice. "I believe. That's my slogan and that's what I want to transmit to my players," Di Francesco added. However, Roma will have to find a way to stop its former striker, Mohamed Salah, who scored the opening two goals of the first leg. Security will also be a concern following clashes at the first leg that left a Liverpool fan in critical condition. Italian state police said "special attention" will be paid to the arrival and movements of 5,000 Liverpool supporters in the capital. Wednesday's game is a rematch of the 1984 European Cup final that Liverpool won in a penalty shootout in Roma's stadium. In the other semifinal, Real Madrid will look to protect a 2-1 lead against Bayern Munich on Tuesday as it seeks a third consecutive title. REDS REUNITE Liverpool should have its devastating front three intact for the second leg, with coach Juergen Klopp saying Sadio Mane will be fit after a minor thigh injury. Mane, who missed the 0-0 draw with Stoke in the Premier League on Saturday, will link up again with Salah and Roberto Firmino — reuniting the players who scored all of Liverpool's goals in the first leg. They have scored 28 goals between them in this season's Champions League, more than any other team in the competition. Klopp does have issues in midfield, though, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain out for the rest of the season after sustaining a serious knee problem in the first leg to join fellow midfielders Adam Lallana and Emre Can on the injury list. Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum are Klopp's only fit senior midfielders. Liverpool, a five-time European champion, has proved to be the master of the counterattack domestically and in the Champions League this season, so is the last team that Roma will want to be gung-ho against. The Reds did, though, squander a three-goal cushion against Sevilla in the group stage to draw 3-3. MADRID OPTIONS Madrid may not be as depleted as expected for the return match against Bayern. Right back Dani Carvajal is still set to miss Tuesday's match because of a muscle problem, but Francisco "Isco" Alarcon appears to have recovered from the shoulder injury that everyone expected to keep him from playing at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Isco, a key piece in Zinedine Zidane's midfield, had to be replaced at halftime in the first leg in Germany because of a sprained left shoulder. He practiced with the rest of the squad for the first time since the injury on Sunday. If Isco can't play, Zidane will likely start with Marco Asensio, who came off the bench to score the winner on Wednesday. Another player who may be available for Zidane on Tuesday is defender Nacho Fernandez, who had been out for a while because of a muscle injury but also practiced with the squad on Sunday. Zidane rested Cristiano Ronaldo and most of the regular starters in the team's 2-1 win against Leganes in the Spanish league on Saturday. Casemiro was the only player who started in the first leg against Bayern and also on Saturday. "They'll come here with nothing to lose," Zidane said of Bayern. "We'll have to put in a huge performance." BAYERN'S BELIEF Bayern is taking heart from the number of chances it created in the first leg and from its 2-1 lead in Madrid last year before Zinedine Zidane's side ultimately won their quarterfinal in extra time. "I think they were floundering for every cross and for every long ball, so we know what we have to do," Bayern striker Sandro Wagner said. Thomas Mueller, one of a host of players including Franck Ribery, James Rodriguez and Robert Lewandowski left out of Bayern's 4-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, says the side is traveling with confidence to Madrid. "We all know that we need a top performance on Tuesday. We all know as well, however, that there's everything to play for," Mueller said. Arjen Robben, Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez all missed the Frankfurt game through injury. Robben reportedly is still out and won't make the trip, while Bayern hopes David Alaba can make his comeback from a back injury. Bayern, which faces Frankfurt again in the German Cup final on May 19, needs to beat Madrid to keep alive its hopes of a treble after clinching the Bundesliga with five rounds to spare. "We swore that we'd throw everything into the return game," Wagner said. "I'm looking forward to it. I'd play it right now if I could.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 30th, 2018

Madrid wins with Ronaldo rested for Champions League semis

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Real Madrid rested Cristiano Ronaldo and other regulars for the Champions League and still got the win it needed to stay in contention for second place in the Spanish league. Gareth Bale and Borja Mayoral scored first-half goals as Madrid defeated Leganes 2-1 on Saturday to move within a point of second-place Atletico Madrid, which plays at Alaves on Sunday. Ronaldo and captain Sergio Ramos weren't included for the match at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, while Marcelo, Luka Modric and Lucas Vazquez stayed on the bench. Madrid defeated Bayern Munich 2-1 in Germany last week to take the edge going into Tuesday's second leg of the Champions League semifinals at the Bernabeu. Madrid is trying to return to the European final for the fourth time in five seasons. Bale and Karim Benzema, who didn't start in the first leg against Bayern, were in the lineup against Leganes. Casemiro was the only player to start in both matches. "I'm happy with the attitude of my players, it was exemplary," Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. "The first half was phenomenal." Darko Brasanac scored midway through the second half for Leganes, which earlier this season eliminated Madrid in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. The southern Madrid club dropped to 16th in the 20-team standings and is not fully clear of relegation with three matches left. Leganes midfielder Gabriel Pires was sent off in injury time. Barcelona needs a draw at relegation-threatened Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday to win its third La Liga in four seasons. "We can't be happy with how things unfolded in La Liga," Zidane said. "We lost too many points in the beginning." Madrid has a game in hand, at Sevilla. Sevilla coach Vincenzo Montella was fired on Saturday because of poor results, and replaced by Joaquin Caparros, who coached the team in the early 2000s. VILLARREAL WINS Villarreal strengthened its grip on sixth place and a Europa League spot by defeating Celta Vigo 4-1 at home thanks to a first-half hat trick by Carlos Bacca. The win gave Villarreal a six-point gap to seventh-place Sevilla, which holds the final Europa berth. Villarreal is two points behind fifth-place Real Betis, which hosts last-place Malaga on Monday. Villarreal has a game in hand, at Barcelona. BASQUE DERBY Real Sociedad defeated Basque Country rival Athletic Bilbao 3-1 to keep alive its chances of earning a Europa League spot. The host took advantage of two own-goals by Athletic defender Mikel San Jose. Mikel Oyarzabal also scored for Sociedad, while Raul Garcia put Athletic on the board by converting a second-half penalty kick when his team already trailed by three goals. Sociedad midfielder Ruben Pardo was sent off near the end only a few minutes after being substituted in. Sociedad moved to 10th place, two points from Sevilla in the Europa League qualification zone. ESPANYOL DRAWS Espanyol was unable to secure its salvation after being held at home by already relegated Las Palmas 1-1. A victory would have been enough for Espanyol to stay in the first division, but it needs to hope Deportivo La Coruna loses points against leader Barcelona at home on Sunday to be able to guarantee its salvation this weekend. Espanyol is 12 points in front of Clarence Seedorf's Deportivo, the first team inside the relegation zone. There will be three rounds left after this weekend. Espanyol is winless in seven games and had lost four in a row entering the weekend......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 29th, 2018

Madrid has depleted defense for 2nd leg against Juventus

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Scoring hasn't been a problem for Real Madrid recently, especially with Cristiano Ronaldo in top form. But the European champions could have issues in defense when they host Juventus in the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday. Madrid will try to protect its three-goal advantage from the first leg with coach Zinedine Zidane unable to use his best players in central defense. Madrid captain Sergio Ramos is suspended and his immediate substitute, Nacho Fernandez, is out injured. Raphael Varane just returned from injury, and the other central defender in the squad, 21-year-old Jesus Vallejo, hasn't been fully fit and it remains unclear if he will be able to make it to the match at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Madrid won the first leg 3-0 in Turin, with Ronaldo scoring with a spectacular bicycle kick for his second goal of the match. Madrid can reach the semifinals for the eighth straight year even if it loses Wednesday's game by two goals. Zidane probably would have liked not to force Varane's return in the Spanish league derby against Atletico Madrid this weekend, but he couldn't rest him because Vallejo was bothered by muscle discomfort in practice last week. Exams showed no major injury to Vallejo, but he trained separately from the squad on Monday before joining the rest of the team on Tuesday. "Jesus had a good practice session, he didn't feel anything," Zidane said. "Tomorrow (Wednesday) we will see who gets to play. We shouldn't have any problems. If we do, we will adapt." Vallejo is Zidane's last option to play in central defense, and the youngster didn't impress in the few times he got to play this season. He has made only eight appearances, mostly when Zidane chose to rest his regular starters. His last match was against Las Palmas following the international break last month. Vallejo's last Spanish league match before that was against Sevilla in December. "Jesus is a good player," Varane said. "He doesn't have experience in this competition (Champions League) but he has a lot of quality. From what we've seen in practice, he is fine. If he plays, all of us will be confident that he can get the job done." Madrid didn't concede against Las Palmas, but before that it conceded at least once in five straight matches, including three times against Girona in a league game at home. In the attack, Madrid has scored in seven straight matches, with Ronaldo continuing to impress. He has found the net 20 times in his last 10 games, including in the 1-1 derby against Atletico on Sunday. The match against Juventus will be Ronaldo's 150th in the Champions League. If Vallejo can't play, Zidane will have to improvise in central defense, likely using midfielder Casemiro to play alongside Varane. Mateo Kovacic would likely enter the lineup to replace Casemiro in the midfield, or Zidane could choose a more aggressive setup with an extra attacking midfielder such as Marco Asensio or Francisco "Isco" Alarcon. "Casemiro is used to playing in the midfield but he has practiced in the back many times," Varane said. "We know how he defends, how he plays." Madrid has won three Champions League titles in the last four seasons, including the last two in a row. The team defeated Juventus 4-1 in last year's final. No team has ever overturned a 3-0 home loss in the Champions League. "We'll need to play a complete game against a complete team if we are to get a positive result," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. "Nobody expected us to concede after two minutes in Turin, so why can't we do the same tomorrow (Wednesday)." If Juventus can't come back, it could be the final Champions League match for veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. "Trying to achieve the impossible will help us achieve the possible," the 40-year-old Buffon said. "This is what we need to do. We need to play with this kind of spirit against an amazing side.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 11th, 2018

Atletico holds Real Madrid 1-1 in fight for 2nd place

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo scored for the 650th time in his career on Sunday but Antoine Griezmann responded with a goal of his own to leave Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid even in a city derby that allowed Barcelona to move closer to the Spanish league title. Atletico held Madrid 1-1 at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to keep a four-point lead over its city rival in the fight for second place. Valencia later defeated Espanyol 1-0 to move past Madrid for third place, and within three points of Atletico. The draw at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium benefited league leader Barcelona, which defeated Leganes 3-1 on Saturday with a hat trick by Lionel Messi to stay 11 points in front of Atletico at the top with seven matches left. Atletico won La Liga in 2013-14 but has finished third behind either Barcelona or Madrid in all other years since 2012-13, which was the team's first full season under coach Diego Simeone. "I'm not happy because we wanted to win, we wanted the three points to try to stay close to Barcelona," Simeone said. "We needed more. Our goal is always to try to do the best we can against the powerhouses of Real Madrid and Barcelona. As an Atletico fan I would have been proud of how we have been competing against them." Madrid hasn't finished worse than second since 2014, when it trailed Atletico and Barcelona. Before then, the last time it failed to finish in the top two was in 2003-04, when it was fourth behind Valencia, Barcelona and Deportivo La Coruna. Ronaldo opened the scoring with his 650th career goal — for clubs and country — early in the second half with a shot from near the far post after a long cross by Gareth Bale from the left flank. Griezmann equalized less than five minutes later with a strike from near the penalty spot after a move started by Vitolo inside the area. "We deserved more, it's a shame," Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. "But in the end we also could have lost the match. This is how it goes in football." Of Ronaldo's 650 goals, 446 came with Madrid, 118 with Manchester United, 81 with Portugal and five with Sporting Lisbon. Ronaldo has scored 20 goals in his last 10 matches in all competitions, including his acclaimed bicycle kick in the 3-0 first-leg win at Juventus in the Champions League quarterfinals midweek. Zidane rested some of his regular starters ahead of the return leg against Juventus on Wednesday at Bernabeu, including midfielders Luka Modric and Casemiro. Striker Karim Benzema also started from the bench, replacing Ronaldo in the 64th. Atletico hasn't lost at Bernabeu in five seasons now in the Spanish league. Madrid, which had won six in a row, had the most dangerous scoring chances throughout. But the hosts brought out a great performance by Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak, who made one of his best saves on a last-minute free kick taken by Sergio Ramos. "Oblak is a great player, he has been showing it game after game," Zidane said. ___ VALENCIA MOVES UP Rodrigo scored with a close-range header in the seventh minute against Espanyol and Valencia held on for its fifth straight victory. It was the sixth goal in the last five matches for Rodrigo, the Brazilian-born striker who is among Spain's attacking options for the World Cup in Russia. Espanyol, winless in three matches, stayed 14th. ___ HUGE WIN FOR LEVANTE Levante took a big step toward avoiding demotion by defeating Las Palmas 2-1 with an injury-time winner by Jose Campana, opening an eight-point gap to the relegation zone with seven matches left. Las Palmas is in second-to-last place and two points behind Deportivo La Coruna, which on Friday earned its first win in nine matches under coach Clarence Seedorf by defeating last-place Malaga 3-2 at home. Levante opened the scoring at Ciutat de Valencia Stadium with a goal by Jorge "Koke" Andujar in the 35th, but David Garcia equalized in the 50th before Campana calmly found the far corner for the winner in a late breakaway for the hosts. Levante's winner came while the team played with 10 men as Koke was sent off for a hard foul in the 86th. Levante also had Ruben Rochina ejected in the fourth minute of injury time. ___ SOCIEDAD THRASHES GIRONA Mikel Oyarzabal scored twice as Real Sociedad routed Girona 5-0 at home for its first win in four matches. The result moved Sociedad to 12th place. Girona, winless in three matches, is eighth......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 9th, 2018

Best in history Ronaldo put to test by Messi in clasico

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo has made his claim. Now he has to live up to it. Ronaldo will face Lionel Messi on Saturday for the first time since the Portugal forward declared himself “the best player in the history” of soccer after equaling the Argentine’s five Ballon d’Or awards this month. Basking in the spotlight of a glitzy ceremony under the Eiffel Tower, Ronaldo felt confident enough to put himself at the pinnacle of the sport, ahead of Messi and other greats like Pele and Diego Maradona. “You will go and say that I have a big head, but when you’re at the top, it’s normal that you’re criticized,” he told France Football. “I am the best player in history, in both good and bad times.” Personalities aside, Ronaldo has a tough case to make. He and Messi both have four Champions League titles, but Messi’s eight Spanish league titles double Ronaldo’s tally for Madrid and Manchester United. Messi also has the edge in their head-to-head duels. Messi has outscored Ronaldo 19-17 since Ronaldo joined Madrid in 2009. Prior to that, Messi scored in a 2-0 win over Ronaldo’s Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League final. The Barcelona-led Messi has also had a clear advantage over Ronaldo’s Madrid. Messi has helped Barcelona beat Ronaldo’s side 13 times, to eight wins for Madrid and seven draws. Overall, Messi holds the “clasico” record with 24 goals in 36 matches. Ronaldo is one goal shy of matching Madrid great Alfredo Di Stefano’s 18 goals against Barcelona. The camera-shy Messi insisted again on Monday when he was recognized for leading the Spanish league in goals last campaign that he put more value on team titles than individual honors. “Titles are our goal,” Messi said. “If individual statistics are there also, that’s even better, but they are not the objective.” Ronaldo has no doubt closed the gap with Messi after he led Madrid to back-to-back Champions League titles in the last two seasons. But for Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres, this past decade is still set to bear Messi’s mark. “If it wasn’t for (Ronaldo), Messi would have won twice as much,” Torres said Wednesday. “What Ronaldo has done in the age of Messi says a lot about him.” Ronaldo will need to be at his best on Saturday because anything other than a victory will deal a huge blow to Madrid’s title defense before the season reaches its midway point. Madrid enters the match in fourth place and trailing Barcelona by 11 with a match in hand. Atletico Madrid and Valencia are in second and third. “Given the situation we are in we are obligated to win,” Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said. Messi had one of his most memorable performances at Madrid last season when he scored his second of two brilliant goals in stoppage time to silence the Santiago Bernabeu. Madrid got revenge with wins of 3-1 and 2-0 in the Spanish Super Cup in August, when Barcelona was reeling from the departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain. Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde, however, quickly rallied his team and the Catalan club has not lost since, a run of 24 matches. With Neymar gone, Valverde has succeeded in tightening up Barcelona’s defense. “It would be important to win for everything that would represent, since the match is so special, and we are playing at their ground,” Messi said. “There would still be a long way to go for the league title, but a victory would be a nice before the Christmas break.” Here are some other potential keys to the “clasico.” ___ SUAREZ Striker Luis Suarez has rediscovered his scoring touch at just the right time for Barcelona. After only scoring three times in the first 11 matches, Suarez has six goals in his last five league games. They will need him even more with backup forwards Paco Alcacer and Gerard Deulofeu injured. ___ BENZEMA Karim Benzema has only scored two goals in 11 league appearances for Madrid this season. The drop in production has contributed to Madrid’s stumbles, leading many fans to lament the exit of Alvaro Morata to Chelsea. ___ ALBA Jordi Alba has flourished going forward into the hole that Neymar used to occupy. The Spain left back is a favorite of Messi to weave together short-passing combinations that unlock packed defenses. His matchup against Madrid right back Dani Carvajal should be key. ___ BALE Gareth Bale is playing for his future. Recurrent injuries have cost the Wales winger his spot in Madrid’s starting lineup, with coach Zinedine Zidane preferring the playmaking — and sturdier legs — of Francisco “Isco” Alarcon. Bale returned after his latest injury layoff to help Madrid win the Club World Cup, but as a second-half substitute. He is likely to have that role against Barcelona and will need to make the most of the minutes he gets. ___ VERMAELEN Thomas Vermaelen was considered a lost cause. That was until defenders Samuel Umtiti and Javier Mascherano got injured, giving the Belgian another chance to find his spot in Barcelona’s rotation. Vermaelen has played six consecutive matches, a personal record for him at Barcelona. Injuries limited him to 11 league appearances in two seasons before he was loaned out to Roma last year. Now that he is back, the former Arsenal player will be critical to Barcelona’s chances of stopping Ronaldo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 21st, 2017

Messi scores record 400th goal in Spanish league

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — That's 400 and counting. Lionel Messi took his all-time Spanish league scoring record to 400 goals on Sunday after contributing to a 3-0 win over Eibar to keep defending champion Barcelona comfortably at the top of the Spanish league. Messi scored Barcelona's second goal shortly after halftime to reach a milestone in the competition after 435 league matches. Former Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo is second all-time in La Liga with 311 goals. In all competitions, Barcelona says the 31-year-old Messi has scored an astonishing 575 goals in 658 appearances. "He is from another galaxy," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. "They are incredible numbers. But he does much more than score goals, he also does so much to generate scoring chances for others." Barcelona's all-time top scorer got the landmark goal in the 53rd minute after Luis Suarez passed to him inside Eibar's area. The Argentine did the rest by opening an angle around a defender and driving in a low left-footed shot. It was also Messi's league-leading 17th league goal and his 23rd goal overall this season. "He should be proud," said Suarez, who scored Barcelona's other two goals. "Game after game he shows what a great player he is. I am happy for him and for the history that he is writing for this club." Barcelona stayed five points ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid, which edged Levante 1-0 thanks to a penalty from Antoine Griezmann, as the league reached its midway point. Real Madrid lost Karim Benzema to a right-hand injury in a 2-1 win at Real Betis to stay 10 points back in fourth place. HAPPY SIMEONE After 90-plus minutes of prowling the sideline, yelling at his players and stoking his fans, Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone normally hurries off the pitch when the final whistle sounds. But after the victory over Levante, Simeone took time to embrace each of his players — a show of appreciation for their efforts that kept Atletico in the title chase. "I felt the need to hug them," Simeone said. "I congratulated them because they maintained the same level of play throughout the entire match." Despite only scoring one goal, Simeone called it "one of, if not our best, performances of the season." True to Simeone's defense-first approach, Atletico stifled a Levante attack that is among the best in the league. Griezmann did the rest, scoring his team-leading ninth league goal of the season when he fired a spot kick over Levante goalkeeper Oier Olazabal in the 57th minute following a handball by defender Nikola Vukcevic. CEBALLOS TO THE RESCUE Dani Ceballos was greeted with jeers when he went on as a late Real Madrid substitute to face his former club, Real Betis. But he silenced the crowd, and saved his current club from another setback, when he sent a free kick through a gap in the defensive wall to grab the win with two minutes remaining. "I was eager to show what I can do," Ceballos said. Luka Modric struck from distance to open the scoring for Madrid, only for Sergio Canales to equalize in the second half. SEVILLA SLIPS Sevilla lost 2-0 at Athletic Bilbao, ending its unbeaten run in nine rounds. Bilbao forward Inaki Williams scored both goals for the hosts to help lift them out of the relegation zone. Sevilla remained in third place, level on points with Madrid. Sevilla had won 3-1 at Bilbao's San Mames Stadium in the Copa del Rey on Thursday. They will meet again on Wednesday in Seville in the return leg of their round-of-16 game......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2019

Steelers edge Bengals 16-13 but miss out on AFC North title

By Will Graves, Associated Press PITTSBURGH (AP) — The win they needed but at times didn't act like they particularly wanted finally secured, the Pittsburgh Steelers lingered on the Heinz Field turf after a sluggish 16-13 victory over Cincinnati on Sunday and turned their eyes to the massive videoboard in the south end zone. A season filled with promise six weeks ago before things came undone boiled down to something entirely out of Pittsburgh's control: whether Cleveland could pull off a stunning rally in Baltimore. As a decidedly out-of-place chant of "Let's Go Browns" reverberated and Cleveland marched into Ravens' territory, a third straight AFC North for the Steelers seemed possible. Then Cleveland rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield threw a late pick. The Ravens held on. Optimism evaporated. Replaced by a mix of harsh reality and a hint of wistfulness. The Steelers (9-6-1) firmly believe they would be a tough out in the playoffs. Barring the slim hope of a tie between Indianapolis and Tennessee on Sunday night, Pittsburgh won't get the chance. The team that appeared assured of a fifth consecutive playoff berth following a six-game midseason winning streak instead will miss the postseason for the first time since 2013. "It just sucks," Steelers guard David DeCastro said. "How hard we work, how much effort we put in. To go from 7-2-1 to where we are now is heartbreaking." And avoidable. Yet four losses in five games — all of which the Steelers led at some point in the second half — forced them to enter Week 17 needing to beat the injury ravaged Bengals and a hope surging Cleveland could upset the Ravens on the road. "It's just tough," said Pittsburgh running back James Conner, who ran for 64 yards in his return to the lineup after missing three games with a sprained left ankle. "We're relying on somebody else to advance." The team that stressed it wouldn't spend all afternoon scoreboard watching certainly looked distracted as Cincinnati took a 10-3 halftime lead. Pittsburgh eventually rallied behind quarterback Ben Roethlisberger — who threw for 287 yards and a touchdown despite missing injured star receiver Antonio Brown to finish with a career-best and NFL-high 5,129 yards passing — and new kicker Matt McCrane booted three field goals, the last a 35-yarder with 1:56 to go that put the Steelers ahead to stay. Pittsburgh held on when Cincinnati backup quarterback Jeff Driskel's fourth-down pass intended for Josh Malone fell incomplete with 1:08 to go. Roethlisberger then took a pair of knees to run out the clock, setting the stage for the bizarre sight of the Steelers and thousands of black-and-gold clad fans cheering on the Browns. For a few anxious minutes, the dominoes appeared to be falling into place. When they didn't, Pittsburgh didn't place blame on Cleveland but countless missed opportunities. "It just makes me mad that as a leader of this group, we put ourselves in this situation like this, looking for others to do our job," Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward said. "Cleveland played a heck of a game ... it's frustrating and as a leader of this group it's just unacceptable." Roethlisberger vowed to return for a 16th season. He turns 37 in March and doesn't think Pittsburgh's window is closing as long as the offensive line in front of him remains intact. "I still feel good," he said. "We keep that line together, that'll give us a good fighting chance." MARVIN'S MURKY FUTURE Joe Mixon rushed for 105 yards for the Bengals but Cincinnati (6-10) — which entered Sunday with 18 players on injured reserve, including quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green— lost for the seventh time in eight games and head into another offseason unsure about the future of longtime head coach Marvin Lewis. Cincinnati's season turned at home against the Steelers back in October, when the Bengals let Pittsburgh go down the field in the final minute to pull out a 28-21 victory on Antonio Brown's 31-yard catch and run with 10 seconds to play. An avalanche of injuries and losses followed. Lewis headed to the locker room surrounded by cameras, which he found "ridiculous" after his beat-up squad took the Steelers basically to the wire. "I think it's sad (my status) is the only thing they can point to," Lewis said. "This isn't about me. This is about this football team and what they do. To make this about one person. It's not about one person. This is my job. That's it." INJURIES Bengals: WR Cody Core left late in the first quarter with a left elbow injury. Core was hurt while diving for a pass deep down the left sideline. ... LT Cordy Glenn injured his left ankle after getting rolled up on during a scrum following fumble by Driskel in the third quarter. Safety Brandon Wilson left in the second half with a chest injury and tight end Matt Lengel exited with a left knee issue. Steelers: Brown missed his first game of the season while dealing with a knee injury. Pittsburgh also sat starting safety Sean Davis (quadriceps) and inside linebacker Vince Williams (toe). UP NEXT Bengals: Owner Mike Brown will meet with Lewis to decide whether a 17th season is in the offing for the winning coach in franchise history. Steelers: While head coach Mike Tomlin is on firm ground, changes to the coaching staff could be made. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler's unit struggled to create turnovers and the special teams were a mess under coordinator Danny Smith......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2018

VOLLEYBALL IS LIFE: A look back at Philippine volleyball in 2018

Glorious victories, dynasties, historic feats, controversies and memorable moments once again highlighted another fruitful year for Philippine volleyball.   Now, let us take a look back in the year that was in volleyball:   DYNASTY Powerhouse teams continued to thrive in the country’s most popular collegiate leagues. Arellano University muscled its way back into the NCAA Season 93 Finals and met a newcomer in San Beda University. The Lady Chiefs did find the Lady Red Spikers as feisty opponents in their first championship meeting, needing five sets to survive San Beda in Game One. But it didn’t take long for Arellano U to stomp its class over the newbies to capture its second straight title and fourth overall crown in five years. De La Salle University painted UAAP Season 80 green after annexing its third straight title handing legendary head coach Ramil De Jesus his third grand slam in the country’s most popular and competitive collegiate league. Second year setter Michelle Cobb stepped up to the challenge of filling the big shoes left by Kim Fajardo and complemented the depth and firepower of DLSU. Far Eastern University, which advanced into the Finals for the first time after a decade, stood no chance against the onslaught of the Lady Spikers, which swept their way onto throne. University of Perpetual Help completed a four-peat in the NCAA juniors after sweeping Letran. Philippine Air Force snatched the Premier Volleyball League men’s Reinforced Conference crown and the Spikers’ Turf Open Conference title. Sisi Rondina cemented her legacy as the UAAP’s queen of the sands after completing a three-peat in women’s beach volleyball. Rondina wrapped her tour of duty with four titles in five years. The Tigers ruled the men’s division.       YEAR OF THE UNDERDOGS San Beda University made great strides in NCAA Season 93 after earning its first-ever Finals appearance behind the efforts of Cesca Racraquin and twins Nieza and Jiezela Viray. The Lady Red Spikers closed the elims with an 8-1 win-loss record and took down Perpetual in the semis. Languishing at the bottom half of the standings since the return of its women’s volleyball program in 2008, Jose Rizal University made history by advancing into the Final Four. Shola Alvarez capped the Lady Bombers’ remarkable season by pocketing the Most Valuable Player award.   Far Eastern University made it to the UAAP women’s volleyball Finals by booting out crowd-favorite Ateneo de Manila University in the semis.  For the first time in five years, the Blue Eagles found themselves in a very difficult position in the Final Four. With a twice-to-win disadvantage, the Marck Espejo-led Ateneo shocked FEU – a team that beat them twice in the elims – to march to its fifth straight championship appearance.      But the real underdog story belonged to NU. After three years of finishing runner-up to the Blue Eagles, the Bulldogs led by Bryan Bagunas finally got their long-awaited revenge as they swept Ateneo off its three-year reign at the throne.     OFF COURT STORIES, CONTROVERSIES University of the East parted ways with head coach Francis Vicente midway in Season 80 after three and a half seasons with the Lady Warriors. Vicente left for ‘personal reasons’ with a UE coaching record of 2-45 (win-loss). Red Warriors head coach Sammy Acaylar also resigned from his post midway in the season. University of Sto. Tomas hitter EJ Laure after months of speculations to the real reason of her sitting out UAAP Season 80 broke her silence by saying that needed time to recover from her right shoulder injury to end all the rumors circulating including an alleged pregnancy.    Sound bites, videos and clips that show collegiate players’ ‘human side’ made its rounds around social media that drew mixed reactions from fans.  Just like in the previous years, controversy filled the formation of the national women’s volleyball team. Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. initially named Ramil De Jesus as the national team coach but just two months after his designation, the multi-titled DLSU mentor resigned from his post citing ‘conflict of schedule’. Shaq Delos Santos took over De Jesus’ spot. Netizens went abuzz when the composition of the national team that participated in the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games was released as fans give their different views on who should and should not be included in the roster.             LVPI named a new president in Peter Cayco of Arellano U to replace Joey Romasanta during the association’s election.   WRITING HISTORY Smart’s Cuban import Gigi Silva carved a world scoring record in the Philippine Superliga after scoring 56 points in a lost cause against Cocolife in the 2018 Grand Prix. Silva pounded 53 kills and had three aces to land her name in the fourth spot in the women’s world scoring record behind Polina Rahimova of Azerbaijan’s 58 points in 2015 while playing in Japan, American Madison Kingdon’s 57 (2017 Korea Volleyball League) and Bulgarian Elitsa Vasileva’s 57 (2013 Korea Volleyball League). Silva also surpassed the 55 points of Americans Nicole Fawcett (2013 KVL) and Alaina Bergsma, who led Petron to the 2014 PSL Grand Prix crown, (2016 KVL).     Not to be outdone, local volleyball star Marck Espejo had a 55-point explosion of his own in the Blue Eagles’ five-set Game 1 UAAP Final Four win over FEU. The five-time MVP pounded 47 attacks, had six kill blocks and two service aces for the Katipunan-based squad. Espejo scored 11 points in the deciding frame including Ateneo’s last four to seal the win in the match that lasted for two hours and 21 minutes. Espejo’s feat fueled Ateneo’s eventual semis series win over the twice-to-beat Tamaraws.  Espejo and DLSU libero Dawn Macandili were named as the Philippine Sportswriters Association’s 2017 Mr. and Miss Volleyball.     The Philippines saw three players make their mark in the international scene this year as Espejo and sisters Jaja Santiago and Dindin Santiago-Manabat were tapped as imports in Japan’s V. Premier League. Espejo is now playing for Oita Miyoshi Weiss Adler while Jaja and Dindin suit up for Saitama Ageo Medics and Toray Arrows, respectively.     After 36 long years, the Philippines sent a women’s volleyball team to participate in the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games. The squad won against Hong Kong in straight sets in pool play in the country’s first Asian Games victory since defeating India in the 1982 New Delhi Games. The PHI advanced in the quarterfinals but went home empty-handed. The Filipinas ended up at ninth place in the AVC Asian Cup. Sisi Rondina and Dzi Gervacio made waves in the country’s hosting of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Manila Open after the duo barged in the quarterfinals. The tandem eventually bowed down to eventual champion Japan. The NU Bulldogs brought its bark into the international scene and howled its way to giving honor to country by winning the ASEAN University Games gold medal at the expense of Thailand. Volleyball proved to be the most talked about sport in the country as #UAAPSeason80Volleyball became the most tweeted sports hashtag in 2018.   SMASHING WIN, BLAZING VICTORY Creamline became the most successful club in the Premier Volleyball League this year after winning its breakthrough Reinforced Conference crown before following it up with a title romp in the Open Conference. Alyssa Valdez finally ended a two-year title drought after leading the Cool Smashers to the Reinforced Conference throne.   Creamline’s Michele Gumabao joined Binibining Pilipinas and represented the country im the 2018 Miss Globe in Albania, landing at the top 15.     Petron lorded it over in the PSL after winning the Grand Prix and All-Filipino Conference titles at the expense of archrival F2 Logistics, which ruled the Invitational Conference. University of the Philippines ended a 36-year title drought by claiming the PVL Collegiate Conference championship and followed it up by reigning supreme in the PSL Collegiate Grand Slam The SiPons tandem of Sisi Rondina and Bernadeth Pons of Petron annexed their second straight PSL Challenge Cup beach volleyball title. University of Perpetual Help reclaimed the NCAA men’s title after taking down Arellano University as the Altas bagged it 11th title overall.           National University took back the title it lost last year in the UAAP boys’ tournament while De La Salle-Zobel bagged the girls’ mint. The Beach Volleyball Republic continued its advocacy of propagating the sport throughout the country.   END OF THE ROAD After winning three straight UAAP titles, the Lady Spikers bid goodbye to its Big Three in Kim Kianna Dy, Majoy Baron and Dawn Macandili. Season 80 saw the end of the six-year Ateneo-DLSU Finals rivalry as the Lady Eagles bowed down to FEU in the semis. The Blue Eagles three-year reign ended at the hands of NU as Ateneo gave its farewell to its greatest men’s volleyball star Marck Espejo and prized setter Ish Povorosa.    NU’s four-year domination in the girls’ division was snapped by DLS-Zobel. After a dry 2018 PVL season, Pocari Sweat parted ways with its franchise player Myla Pablo as newcomer Motolite agreed to buyout the hitter’s last three contract years.      Thai coach Tai Bundit after five years and bringing two titles including a rare tournament sweep to the Lady Eagles finally called it quits after Ateneo’s campaign in UAAP Season 80. Creamline gave Bundit a farewell championship trophy in the PVL.      A NEW BEGINNING It was a colorful 2018, indeed, for volleyball but 2019 is another promising year for the sport. Can the Lady Chiefs complete a three-peat in the NCAA? Newcomers are sure to bring more excitement and interest in the UAAP. DLSU will try to extend its reign for another season while NU is looking for a repeat crown in the men’s side. Another season for the PSL and the PVL will open while the national men’s and women’s team will highlight the country’s Southeast Asian Games hosting.        --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 27th, 2018

UAAP Season 81: EJ Laure’s return still up in the air

More than a year after sustaining a shoulder injury that prevented her from suiting up for the University of Sto. Tomas in UAAP Season 80, EJ Laure’s return with the Tigresses remains up in the air. Head coach Kungfu Reyes told reporters that the open spiker is still with the Espana-based squad, but she will need to work doubly hard to regain her spot on the team.  For her first step back to being a Tigress, Laure must show up on Thursday for UST’s first training day after their long break.   “Visible naman (siya). Nag-exam nitong nakaraan pero ‘yung pagbalik after ng Christmas break ang pinakaimportante sa December 27, nandun na dapat siya,” said Reyes. But of course, the mentor would want to see Laure back in good form as they prepare for Season 81. “So hopefully makikita niyo na siya ulit in action kung makaabot siya sa cut,” said Reyes. The Season 77 Rookie of the Year last saw action last year but sustained a right shoulder injury months before Season 80. Without one of the Tigresses’ top hitter, UST struggled in its campaign and finished with a 4-10 win-loss slate. UST faithful are hopeful for Laure’s return this season especially with Sisi Rondina playing in her last year and sister Eya Laure suiting up for her rookie season. “Si Ate andun naman siya. Process pa rin siya. Siyempre di naman kailangan madaliin meron talagang time kung panahon mo, panahon mo,” said Eya.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 26th, 2018

PSG aims to avoid early elimination in Champions League

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain's hopes of breaking through in European soccer could end earlier than usual this season. A loss against Liverpool on Wednesday in Paris, coupled with a home win by Napoli over Red Star, would keep PSG from making it out of the group stage in the Champions League. And that would be a significant setback for the big-spending French team desperately trying to assert itself as a world-class club. It would be the first time PSG failed to reach the tournament's knockout round since 2011-12, after Qatar Sports Investments took over the club with the goal of turning it into a top contender. PSG was eliminated in the round of 16 last season, after reaching the quarterfinals four straight years before that. Failure this time would hurt PSG in its second season since signing Brazil star Neymar for 222 million euros from Barcelona in an attempt to increase its chances of succeeding in Europe. PSG enters the crucial match at Parc des Princes with five points in Group C, one behind leaders Liverpool and Napoli. A victory would put the French club back in position to advance depending on its own results. "It's a decisive match in a very, very complicated group," PSG coach Thomas Tuchel told French broadcaster TF1. The good news for Tuchel is that Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, who had been sidelined because of injuries, are expected to be available for the home match against Liverpool. A look at the four Champions League groups on Wednesday: GROUP A Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund lead the group and have a chance to secure places in the knockout round in advance. Dortmund needs a draw at Club Brugge, while Atletico needs a home win against Monaco. Atletico can also advance if Club Brugge loses points against Dortmund, which is coming off a blistering start to the season under new coach Lucien Favre. The only setback for Favre so far was the 2-0 loss at Atletico in the team's previous Champions League appearance. Paco Alcacer, signed on a permanent basis from Barcelona on Friday, scored again on Saturday in a win over Mainz, taking his league tally to nine goals in seven appearances. GROUP B Harry Kane kept Tottenham's Champions League hopes alive with a late double to sink PSV Eindhoven in the last round of games. Now the striker has some back-up as his team tries to complete an unlikely recovery to qualify from Group B. Tottenham has struggled for attacking fluency this season, mainly because attacking midfielders Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli have been missing at times because of injury. They appear to be fully fit now and were superb in Tottenham's win over Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday, a 3-1 win that might have been its best display of the season. Spurs need to beat Inter Milan at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday to keep alive ambitions of a top-two finish. That would leave the teams tied on seven points. Tottenham would still likely require a win at already-qualified Barcelona to advance, given that Inter closes group play at home to last-place PSV. Barcelona, without Rafinha, Luis Suarez and Arthur because of injuries, has a three-point advantage at the top and will clinch first place in the group with a win over PSV, or a draw if Inter does not beat Tottenham. GROUP C Victories by Liverpool and Napoli would lock up the group which has proven to be the tightest of the Champions League. Napoli, the group's only unbeaten team with three draws and one win, hosts a Red Star team which still has chances of advancing in its return to the tournament's group stage after 26 years. The Serbian club has four points, one fewer than Paris Saint-Germain and two fewer than Napoli and Liverpool. Red Star held Napoli to a 0-0 draw at home in the first round, but then conceded 10 goals in losses against PSG (6-1) and Liverpool (4-0). Liverpool, which beat PSG at home, lost 2-0 to Red Star in its previous Champions League match, but it is coming off two straight wins in the Premier League. PSG, cruising in the French league, beat Liverpool 3-0 the only other time the teams met in Paris, nearly two decades ago. GROUP D Group leader Porto hosts second-place Schalke in a match in which a draw could be enough for both clubs to advance. They would clinch a spot in the knockout stage with a draw if Galatasaray fails to win its match at already eliminated Lokomotiv Moscow. A victory would secure first place for Porto, which has won eight straight entering the match at its Estadio do Dragao. Porto is trying to make it to the round of 16 for the third straight season. The Portuguese champion has 10 points, two more than Schalke and six more than Galatasaray. Porto and Schalke are the only unbeaten teams in the group. Schalke hasn't made it to the knockout stage since 2014-15. ___ Associated Press writers John Leicester, Ciaran Fahey and Steve Douglas contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 27th, 2018

Real Madrid fires coach Lopetegui after big loss to Barca

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — In just months, Julen Lopetegui has lost two of the most high-profile coaching jobs in the world. Lopetegui was finally fired by Real Madrid on Monday, less than five months after he was sacked by Spain before the World Cup for not telling federation officials he accepted the Madrid job. The latest firing followed a meeting by the club's board of directors on Monday, a day after the team was crushed by Barcelona 5-1 at Camp Nou Stadium. Santiago Solari, coach of Real Madrid B, will take charge for the Copa del Rey match against third-division club Melilla on Wednesday. Spanish media speculated Solari, a former Madrid player, was in the running for the permanent job along with former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte and Belgium manager Roberto Martinez. The firing caps a horrible few months for Lopetegui and is likely to deal a significant setback to his career. After doing well with Spain's youth teams, he had a lackluster stint with Portuguese club Porto, but gained prominence after revamping Spain and turning it into a contender entering the World Cup. "I want to thank the club for the opportunity it gave me and the players for their effort," Lopetegui told the local news agency EFE. "I wish the team the best for the rest of the season." Madrid said in a statement it sacked 52-year-old Lopetegui to "change the team's dynamic while all of its objectives for the season were still reachable." The board of directors believed there was a huge difference between the quality of the squad and the results it was achieving. The board noted the team has eight players nominated for the Ballon d'Or award, something unprecedented in the club's history. They have lost five of their last seven matches. "We know that results are important for a coach," Madrid captain Sergio Ramos said after the Barcelona match. Lopetegui, who led the team practice on Monday morning, was hired by Madrid to replace Zinedine Zidane, who quit after leading the club to the last three Champions League titles. Losing the clasico left Madrid ninth in the Spanish league, seven points behind leader Barcelona after 10 rounds. It hasn't won in five straight league matches, with four losses, and recently reached its worst scoring drought ever. The club had a decent start to the season but things went sour as the squad struggled to produce goals in its first season without Cristiano Ronaldo in nearly a decade. Madrid didn't replace the superstar; its only high-profile signing was goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. In 14 matches with Lopetegui, Madrid won six, lost six, and drew two. After the Copa match on Wednesday, Madrid hosts Valladolid in the Spanish league, and visits Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League. "We have to move on as soon as possible because there is a lot of season left," Ramos said. To make things worse, veteran left back Marcelo is expected to be out for a few weeks because of a muscle injury. Forward Mariano Diaz is also injured and is likely to be out for at least a week. Solari, aged 42, is a former Argentina midfielder who played for Real Madrid in the early 2000s and helped the team win the 2002 Champions League. He also played for Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan. He has been coaching Real Madrid B since 2016, taking over not long after Zidane left to coach the main squad. Lopetegui is the second La Liga coach to be fired. The first was Leo Franco of promoted club Huesca, currently last in the 20-team standings......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 30th, 2018

Revitalized Dortmund brings excitement back to Bundesliga

By Ciaran Fahey, Associated Press DORTMUND, Germany (AP) — A draw with Hertha Berlin may have come at just the right time for Borussia Dortmund. The team had failed to score four or more goals in only one of its previous six games — a 3-0 win over Monaco — and had taken a three-point lead in the Bundesliga after playing some outstanding football. Suddenly, after years of Bayern Munich dominance, Dortmund was helping to make German soccer exciting again. Lucien Favre's side was drawing comparisons with Juergen Klopp's team of Bundesliga winners in 2011 that followed up with a league and cup double the next year. The current team, like Klopp's, is young, hard-working, fast and skilled, brimming with confidence after a series of eye-catching wins. Dortmund's 4-0 victory over a tough Atletico Madrid team on Wednesday captured widespread attention. Even Diego Simeone was impressed despite his heaviest defeat since he took over in December 2011. "They are doing very well at the moment, it is very nice to watch," the Atletico coach said of Dortmund. "I hope they keep playing like that." Klopp, now in charge of Liverpool, sent his congratulations from England. It was all too much for Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc. "Enough praise, that's it," Zorc said last week. "There's no reason to get carried away with celebrations." Hertha put the brakes on any lingering euphoria on Saturday when Salomon Kalou scored a penalty in injury time to snatch a 2-2 draw for the visitors as Dortmund let a seventh straight victory slip away. While Dortmund remains the only unbeaten team in the Bundesliga, the draw provides a reality check. After routing Nuremberg 7-0 on Sept. 26, Dortmund fell two goals behind Bayer Leverkusen in its next match before it turned the game around to win 4-2. Marco Reus said he noticed his teammates weren't as focused as they should have been. Reus has grown into his role as captain. The Germany forward, now 29, is one of the senior figures in a squad stocked with youth. The 18-year-old Jadon Sancho became Dortmund's youngest player to score two goals in a Bundesliga game on Saturday. Apart from conceding the penalty, the 19-year-old Dan-Axel Zagadou has been impressive in defense. Fellow defender Achraf Hakimi shone with three assists against Atletico. The 19-year-old, on loan from Real Madrid, has been involved in eight goals in his last six competitive games. Jacob Bruun Larsen has also been impressive since returning from a loan spell at Stuttgart. The 20-year-old Danish midfielder has three goals and three assists, while 22-year-old Christian Pulisic already feels like a veteran in his third full season at the club. "The mix makes it work," said Zorc, whose offseason transfer dealings have balanced youth with experience. Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel, 29, has settled in perfectly since his arrival from Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian, helped by 27-year-old Denmark midfielder Thomas Delaney, who joined from Werder Bremen. Dortmund has also been boosted by Paco Alcacer since his arrival on loan from Barcelona. He has scored on average every 18 minutes, with seven goals in four appearances. Meanwhile, Dortmund quietly allowed players like Nuri Sahin, Andre Schuerrle, Erik Durm, Andrey Yarmolenko, Gonzalo Castro and Sokratis to leave. Perhaps Zorc's biggest coup was getting Favre to join. Dortmund wanted the former Borussia Moenchengladbach and Hertha coach the previous year, but French side Nice didn't let him go. The tactically astute Favre has restored some defensive stability to a lineup that appeared brittle and prone to collapse last season. Dortmund allowed rival Schalke to come from four goals down to draw 4-4 in the Ruhr derby. It's hard to imagine Favre's side doing the same. Apart from not taking chances on Saturday, Dortmund seems to be scoring goals for fun. Before the Hertha game, Dortmund clocked up 37 goals and conceded just nine in 12 competitive games. It won 10 of those and lost none. Raphael Guerreiro scored two goals against Atletico after coming on as a substitute, continuing Favre's golden touch with changes. Altogether, Favre's substitutions have contributed 16 goals so far. The Swiss coach also appears to be bringing Mario Goetze back to his old self after difficult times for the 2014 World Cup winner. Goetze was critical after the draw with Hertha, upset about "two lost points." Favre was taking a more balanced approach, though, saying "that's football.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 29th, 2018

PVL: Injury woes continue to haunt Lady Falcons

As if its winless record isn’t bad enough, Adamson-Akari will continue to limp through the second round of eliminations in the Premier Volleyball League Season 2 Open Conference. Head coach Air Padda is not expecting injured veterans Eli Soyud and Le-Ann Perez and rookie Trisha Genesis to be back in action soon. “I don’t see any of those girls coming back within the next few weeks at least,” said Padda, whose squad was bitten by the injury bug early in their campaign in the season-ending tournament. Even before the start of the conference, Adamson already lost one of its top hitter in Soyud to injury while middle blocker Joy Dacoron joined her club team BanKo. The Collegiate Conference Best Opposite Spiker underwent surgery on her left meniscus and was given at least six to eight weeks of recovery. She was initially expected to return in the second round, but with the pace of her recovery, Padda is not that optimistic.      “I don’t think that Eli’s gonna be back because even with her rehab she’s not gonna make it back,” said Padda of her top hitter, who averaged 17.2 points per game in the Collegiate Conference. Genesis was sidelined due to a left ankle injury she sustained in the Lady Falcons’ third game against BanKo. The Laguna-native landed on the foot of Perlas Spiker and former Adamson star Amanda Villanueva.  “Trisha isn’t even back in training, she’s walking now but her ankle is really swollen and the movement like her flexibility is not there,” said Padda. “Maybe a few more weeks for Trisha but we’re not sure.” And Perez is still on the road to recovery from a shoulder injury.    “Le is in training but she can’t hit,” the mentor said. “The mobility of her shoulder to like move and turn is not there yet.” With an undermanned squad, Padda saw her team’s quick turnaround from Collegiate Conference’s flawless team after the elims to the Open Conference’s cellar-dweller, losing all of their first seven games. “We didn’t start off on the right foot, we had a bunch of injuries which we still have,” said Padda. But despite a disappointing first round, Padda still sees some silver lining in their last couple of games especially on their strong floor defense that she think they can capitalize on come second round. “I’m looking forward to starting on a strong note,” she said. “Like I said I think we ended the first round playing better, we just need to build on it.” Adamson-Akari will face Iriga-Navy on Saturday at the Imus Sports Complex in Cavite.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 25th, 2018

El Clasico fires up La Liga on S+A

The La Liga gears up for another “El Clasico” match that will surely provide all the fireworks this weekend for Filipino football fans as FC Barcelona and Real Madrid face off for pride and glory this Sunday (October 28) LIVE on ABS-CBN S+A at 11:10 pm. Before the storied rivals take the field in Camp Nou, the English Premier League (EPL) will pit Leicester and visiting West Ham at 12:25 am on Sunday (October 28), to serve as appetizer for the main meal later in the day. Another EPL match-up will air on Tuesday (October 30), as Tottenham hosts the 2017-2018 EPL champions Manchester City LIVE at 3:55 am. However, all eyes will be on the age-long rivalry between Spain’s two biggest, and most successful, professional football clubs in Barcelona and Real Madrid. Barca leads the Los Blancos in their match-up with 112 wins against Real Madrid’s 99. This coming “El Clasico,” however, will be played without football greats and usual headliners Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The pride of Portugal has transferred to the Italian side Juventus in the offseason, while ultimate rival Messi suffered an arm injury recently. Still, fans will have a lot to watch with Uruguayan superstar Luis Suarez leading the attack line of Barcelona while the Los Blancos have Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, as well as 2018 Best FIFA Men’s Player of the Year Luka Modric in the midfield. Meanwhile, French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germaine and Marseille will get on their own rivalry match in the Ligue 1 fixture airing LIVE on S+A on Monday (October 29) at 3:55 am. Brazilian star Neymar Jr. and 2018 FIFA World Cup star Kylian Mbappe, who has been a scoring machine with nine goals in six matches, looks to lead the Red and Blues against the Olympians bannered by Florian Thauvin, who has scored seven goals this season in the French clasico known as “Le Classique.” S+A and LIGA, sports channels of ABS-CBN Sports, were also the country’s official broadcasters of the recent the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018. S+A also airs selected matches and highlight shows from top European club football leagues such as the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, and Italian Serie A through a partnership with Hong Kong-based holdings company Triple CH, as part of ABS-CBN Sports’ efforts to promote love and appreciation for the most popular sport in the world in the Philippines. Don’t miss the intense action in La Liga and the EPL this week as S+A brings the “El Clasico” between Barcelona-Real Madrid LIVE on Sunday (October 28) at 11:10 pm. Meanwhile, the EPL sees Leicester take on West Ham on Sunday (October 28) LIVE at 12:25 am while Tottenham hosts Manchester City on Tuesday (October 30) LIVE at 3:55 am, all on S+A. French premier football will take center stage on Monday (October 29) as PSG faces Marseille LIVE on S+A at 3:55 am. For sales and advertising inquiries, please contact ABS-CBN Airtime Sales at (+632) 415-2272. For more information and stories, visit ABS-CBN’s sports hub sports.abs-cbn.com and follow ABS-CBN Sports on Facebook and Twitter. For updates, follow ABS-CBN PR on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter or visit www.abscbnpr.com......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 24th, 2018

PVL: Alessandrini drops 31 despite shoulder pain

University of Sto. Tomas hitter Milena Alessandrini played her best game so far in a Tigresses uniform. The sophomore was all over that stat sheet in the Tigresses’ 25-20, 27-29, 13-25, 25-19, 17-15, win over Adamson University in the Premier Volleyball League Season 2 Collegiate Conference battle for third. Alessandrini registered a personal-best 31 points on 24 kills, six kill blocks and an ace to lead UST’s offense. The Fil-Italian did it all while nursing a lingering shoulder injury. “Masakit pa rin ng konti siyempre sumusumpong-sumpong pa rin pero nato-tolerate naman niya, kaya okay lang,” said Alessandrini’s Tita Cora, who served as a translator for the spiker who is still struggling with English and Filipino.   The Tigress suffered a right shoulder injury during UST’s campaign in UAAP Season 80 that forced her to miss the squad’s last four games in the elimination round. Alessandrini did return to action during that season but struggled in form as the Tigresses bombed out in the Final Four race. Months into her recovery, Alessandrini slowly regained her form and played a vital role on offense together with rookie Eya Laure for UST.    “Very happy siya nagpapasalamat siya sa kanyang mga coaches na na-reach niya ‘yan (career-high) so ngayon nakaka-adjust adjust siya,” said Tita Cora. “‘Yun lang very happy siya, satisfied naman siya sa naging laro niya.” Aside from playing great on offense in the Tigresses’ revenge win over their elimination round tormentor, 6-foot-2 Alessandrini also churned up impressive numbers on floor defense. She had 13 digs and 11 excellent receptions for UST. With the bronze medal within reach, expect Alessandrini to once again lead the charge of the Tigresses on Wednesday in Game 2.   ---     Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 9th, 2018

Huesca leads Barcelona 1-0 after 3 minutes before losing 8-2

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Newly promoted Huesca enjoyed short-lived celebrations on Sunday after stunning Barcelona with a goal just three minutes into their Spanish league game. But Lionel Messi provided a harsh reality check with two goals as the defending champions went on to demolish Huesca 8-2 at Camp Nou. Messi canceled out Juan "Cucho" Hernandez's opener — after a long buildup by Huesca — with an exquisite solo effort. Facing four defenders honed in on him at the edge of the area, the Argentine lured them toward the center of the field before a sudden change of foot and acceleration left one man on the turf and the rest out of position. Messi then fired a right-footed shot in off the far post for the 16th-minute equalizer. Jordi Alba provoked an own-goal from Jorge Pulido and set up Luis Suarez to make it 3-1 with the first of two goals for the Uruguay striker. Another slip in concentration let Alex Gallar score again for Huesca to make it 3-2 to Barcelona at halftime. In a lopsided second half, Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele and Ivan Rakitic scored before Messi got his second goal and then assisted Alba. Suarez rounded off the easy win by earning and taking a penalty in stoppage time. "It burns to concede a goal on the first attack since it makes you think that you started the match far too relaxed," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. "Huesca gave it its all, but we found our short-passing game and ended up doing a lot of damage." Messi's brace left him level with Karim Benzema as the league's top scorers this season with four goals each. Barcelona and Real Madrid are the only two teams to have won their three opening league games. HERO JOAQUIN Veteran forward Joaquin Sanchez went on as a late substitute and headed Real Betis to its first home win over crosstown rival Sevilla since 2006. The 37-year-old Sanchez scored in the 80th minute to secure the 1-0 victory at Benito Villamarin Stadium. Sanchez had missed the first two games of the season due to injury after having an excellent campaign in 2017-18. "This is a dream debut for the season," Sanchez said. It was Betis' first goal of the campaign. VALENCIA WINLESS Valencia started this season with the two objectives of doing well on its long-awaited return to the Champions League and maintaining a top-four finish in Spain. But three matches into the season and Marcelino Garcia's team has yet to win. Valencia twice had to come from behind to salvage a 2-2 draw at 10-man Levante, its crosstown rival, on Sunday. Roger Marti scored both goals for Levante, with Denis Cheryshev making it 1-1 before Dani Parejo split the points by converting a penalty early in the second half. Levante's Coke Andujar picked up a second booking in the 76th. "We have conceded five goals in three games," Marcelino said. "I don't like my team when it doesn't have the ball." VAR GIVETH, VAR TAKETH The video assistant referee awarded a penalty in favor of Espanyol and annulled a goal by the Barcelona-based side in a 2-1 loss at Alaves. Leo Baptistao converted the penalty, only for Alaves to fight back with goals by Borja Baston and Ruben Sobrino......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 2nd, 2018

Atletico Madrid and Valencia open Spanish season with draw

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Atletico Madrid and Valencia couldn't manage more than a 1-1 draw in the opening match of the season for potential contenders for the Spanish league title on Monday. Both teams debuted new signings and came boosted by great seasons a year ago, but it was an even match from the start at Valencia's Mestalla Stadium, with neither finding an edge to earn the victory. The hosts came closer to winning and squandered a few great chances in the final minutes. Angel Correa gave Atletico the lead in the 25th minute with a shot from close range after a great set up by Antoine Griezmann, who cleared a few defenders before sending a perfect ball to the forward behind the defense. Correa had only goalkeeper Neto to beat and easily found the corner. Atletico held on for the rest of the first half but Valencia equalized shortly after halftime with a great goal by striker Rodrigo, who controlled the ball with his chest after a cross into the area and fired a left-footed shot into the top of the net. "We can't say it was unfair, but if we had won the match it wouldn't be a crazy result," Rodrigo said. "We faced a great rival and showed that we are playing on a high level. That's what we want to keep doing the whole season." Gabriel Paulista nearly scored again for Valencia less than 10 minutes after Rodrigo's goal, but his header off a corner struck the post. Daniel Wass had a chance on a breakaway with a few minutes left, but his shot was saved by Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak. Kevin Gameiro also missed a clear opportunity just before the final whistle. "We lacked organization in the end and I didn't like that," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. "But I'll stick to what we did well. These teams are very similar and we had our chances to win the match." Atletico finished runner-up to Barcelona in the league last season, while Valencia was fourth and secured a Champions League berth. Atletico was coming off a victory over city rival Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup. Simeone started Monday's match with one of the team's top signings in the offseason, France forward Thomas Lemar, playing up front with Griezmann and Diego Costa. Other recently arrived players began on the bench, including Gelson Martins, Nikola Kalinic and Rodri. Martins came in as a substitute in the second half, replacing Griezmann. Wass, one of Valencia's new signings, was in the starting lineup, while Gameiro, Denis Cheryshev and Michy Batshuayi began on the bench. Gameiro and Batshuayi entered in the second half. Defending champion Barcelona made its league debut on Saturday with a 3-0 win against Alaves with a pair of goals by Lionel Messi at Camp Nou Stadium. Real Madrid opened with a 2-0 win over Getafe with Gareth Bale scoring and setting up Dani Carvajal's goal at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. In the match that closed out the first round, Athletic Bilbao defeated Leganes 2-1 at home thanks to an injury-time winner by Iker Muniain......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 21st, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Bottom 10

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Wonder what the rental market is like in San Luis Obispo, Calif. San Luis Obispo is, give or take a few miles, one of the closest cities that is near the midway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given the events of the NBA’s offseason, it’s not hare to imagine national reporters are going to be spending a lot of time in California next season, bouncing back and forth between the Bay and L.A. Catch LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday and then, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors on Thursday. The Western Conference only got stronger and deeper with James leaving Cleveland for a second time, this time to go to the Lakers. Add four of the top five Draft picks -- including No. 1 overall selection Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings) and international phenom Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, acquired by Dallas Mavericks) -- going to Western Conference teams, and the talent disparity between conferences only seems greater. But did Eastern Conference teams take advantage of Cleveland deflating to make their teams better? And how effective were West teams in making their teams better prepared to at least compete with the Warriors? That’s where this year’s Offseason Rankings come in -- big, bold, definitive. You love them, if the amount of hate tweets and e-mails I get after they’re published are any indication. Every year, we rank how all 30 teams have done since the end of their respective seasons. We look at everything -- how they drafted, what trades they made, what players they signed in free agency, and for how much -- or if they didn’t participate in free agency much at all. We look at if they’ve changed coaches, executives, owners, or if they’re moving into a new building that can generate big revenues. And you have to decide which ones you liked the most. Here's what these rankings ARE NOT: A predicted order of finish for next season. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) I do not expect the Suns, for example, to have a better record than the Celtics, just because they had a better summer. It is not a ranking of the teams in order from 1 through 30 right now; I do not believe the Mavericks are now a better team than Rockets. This is just one person’s opinion about offseason moves -- offseason moves only. Is your team better now than it was before? - If your team is ranked in the top 10, it doesn't mean I love your team.       - If your team is ranked in the bottom 10, it doesn't mean I hate your team. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) What plays into the rankings: - This isn’t science. It’s an educated guess, weighing the impact both of the Draft and free agency, but also assessing whether teams got value in their free-agent signings. Overpaying the right player is as much a sin as signing the wrong player. A good new coach can coax some more wins out of a roster. But if a team’s players don’t believe in the system their team uses, the best Xs and Os on earth don’t matter.       - Teams that are rebuilding obviously have different priorities than teams making a championship push. That's factored in. So Chicago, for example, gets credit for adding young, affordable players as it stockpiles its talent -- but that talent has to fit together, as Wendell Carter Jr. does with Lauri Markannen. And a team like the Warriors that shows it’s willing to go deep into the luxury tax -- which most teams try to avoid -- in order to keep winning has to be commended, and its rankings reflect that commendation.       - Continuity matters here as well. The most successful teams usually not only identify a core group of players, they keep them together for a while, finding that sweet spot: everyone doesn’t get a max contract, but most get paid well enough to keep the train moving down the tracks. That reflects both good roster construction and good financial management -- and, again, is rewarded. The explosion in the cap means everyone has to spend; keeping your powder dry for another day doesn’t have as much cache as it used to. But you still have to manage your money wisely. Salary numbers, with a couple of exceptions, come from Basketball Insiders, whose Eric Pincus does the best job of anyone in the game of keeping track of all the moving financial parts, quickly and accurately -- which is why we use him at NBA TV during the Draft and free agency to tell us what the hell this all means. The Bottom 10 * * * 21. DETROIT PISTONS 2017-18 RECORD: 39-43; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Dwane Casey; New executive Ed Stefanski; G Bruce Brown (No. 42 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jose Calderon (one year, $2.3 million); C Zaza Pachulia (one year, $2.3 million); G/F Glenn Robinson III (two years, $8.3 million); G Khyri Thomas (No. 38 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former coach Stan Van Gundy; G Dwight Buycks (waived); F/C Eric Moreland (waived); F Anthony Tolliver (signed with Wolves) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: F Blake Griffin. And he will be for some time. The Pistons need him to be his former All-Star self again, able to take slower defender to the basket, able to stretch the floor if he plays the five in small-ball lineups. They need him to be a playmaker, to get Reggie Jackson more looks off the ball and Andre Drummond some high-low lobs at the rim. They need him to sell tickets at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit’s revitalized downtown -- a building that seems to be more for the NHL’s Red Wings than the NBA’s Pistons. And they need Griffin to be an anchor that draws players to the Motor City during the life of his extension. THE SKINNY: Owner Tom Gores agonized over firing Van Gundy, but he finally did so, and was fortunate that Casey was available and willing to step right back into the fray after being cashiered in Toronto. Casey will be quite in his element building a defense around Drummond, but, like Van Gundy, Casey will need Jackson to stay healthy; he’s missed a combined 67 games the last two seasons. Detroit did well for not having a first-round pick to come out of the Draft with two solid guard prospects deep in the second in Thomas and Brown. However, the new coaching staff will have to get more out of the team’s last three first-rounders: Stanley Johnson (2015), Henry Ellenson (2016) and Luke Kennard (2017). 22. BOSTON CELTICS 2017-18 RECORD: 55-27; lost in Eastern Conference finals ADDED: G Brad Wanamaker (one year, $838,000); C Robert Williams (No. 27 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Shane Larkin (signed to play in Turkey); F Abdel Nader (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: C Aron Baynes (two years, $10.6 million); F Jabari Bird (two years, $3 million), G Marcus Smart (four years, $52 million) THE KEY MAN: F Gordon Hayward. All indications are he’s well on his way back from that horrific injury he suffered on opening night last season. He can do so many great things in coach Brad Stevens’ system, and if he’s 100 percent by the playoffs, Boston may well be the one team that can match up, player for player, with Golden State in a Finals meeting. (Remember this when people inevitably say I ranked the Celtics 23rd in offseason moves.) THE SKINNY: Boston got its biggest work done after Smart couldn’t loosen up an offer sheet from the Sacramento Kings or Dallas Mavericks, and eventually worked out a deal for less than he sought to return. Smart’s deal puts Boston in the tax for the foreseeable future, but the Celtics knew that was the next step in keeping a Finals-capable core group together. With Kyrie Irving and Hayward expected back on line Stevens can throw so many different lineups out there, all committed to stifling opponent movement with long, switching defenders led by Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Williams was worth an end of the first flier, though he didn’t get off to a great start. If he gets a good wake-up alarm on his phone, he has a chance to be the Celtics’ center of the future. 23. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS 2017-18 RECORD: 52-30; lost in Eastern Conference semifinals ADDED: F Wilson Chandler (acquired from Nuggets); F/C Mike Muscala (acquired from Hawks); G Zhaire Smith (No. 16 pick, 2018 Draft); G Landry Shamet (No. 26 pick, 2018 Draft); G Shake Milton (No. 54 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former GM Bryan Colangelo (resigned); F Justin Anderson (traded to Hawks); G Marco Belinelli (signed with Spurs); F/C Richaun Holmes (traded to Suns); F Ersan Ilyasova (signed with Bucks); G/F Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: C/F Amir Johnson (one year, $1.5 million); G T.J. McConnell (picked up team option); G J.J. Redick (one year, $12.2 million) THE KEY MAN: G Markelle Fultz. His rookie year laid waste by a combination of injury and the yips -- which the Sixers have finally copted to -- Fultz is reportedly rebuilding his shot successfully under the learned eye of development coach Drew Hansen. If that carries over to the fall, Fultz will get a true opportunity (he had some cameos late in his rookie season) to show a skeptical Philly fan base he was worth the top pick in 2017, and worth Philly trading up to get him. He definitely could fill a need with the 76ers for a second playmaker to go with and occasionally in place of reigning Kia Rookie of the Year winner Ben Simmons. But if Fultz has another setback, physically or otherwise, it will be hard for him to stick much longer in Philly -- not a town known for patient reflection with regard to its sports teams. THE SKINNY: Coach Brett Brown was quite clear when he said the Sixers were hunting for a superstar this summer with the cap space they’d assiduously cleared the last couple of years. But the summer has come and gone and there’s no LeBron, no Kawhi, no trade, at least not yet, for Jimmy Butler or anyone else at that level. Belinelli and Ilyasova both played huge roles for Philly in the playoffs; maybe Fultz (see above) takes on some of that role, and Chandler will help. But this doesn’t feel like a successful offseason for one of the real risers in the East. 24. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS 2017-18 RECORD: 49-33; lost in first round ADDED: G Seth Curry (one year, $2.7 million); G Nik Stauskas (one year, $1.6 million); G Anfernee Simons (No. 24 pick, 2018 Draft); G Gary Trent Jr. (No. 37 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G/F Pat Connaughton (signed with Bucks); F/C Ed Davis (signed with Nets); G Shabazz Napier (signed with Nets); C Georgios Papagiannis (waived) RETAINED: C Jusuf Nurkic (four years, $48 million) THE KEY MAN: Assistant coaches David Vanterpool, Nate Tibbets, Dale Osbourne, Jim Moran, John McCullough and Jonathan Yim. With the Blazers mostly landlocked the next two seasons -- they’re currently above the projected luxury tax line both for next season and 2019-20 -- there aren’t likely going to be many significant roster changes for a while. And in the West, especially, standing pat is often falling behind. It will thus fall to Portland’s excellent staff behind coach Terry Stotts to maximize the production of the current group. They can point with some pride to success stories like Will Barton and Allen Crabbe, now in Denver and Brooklyn, respectively, along with Maurice Harkless and Al-Faroqu Aminu. For Portland to take another step up, they’ll have to coach up someone like 2017 first-rounder Zach Collins or this year’s first-rounder, Simons. They must have them exceed expectations to become a third legit star behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. THE SKINNY: Lillard insists the rumblings heard in some quarters that he’s unhappy in Portland aren’t true, and the franchise better hope he’s being honest. The decisions the Blazers made in 2016 continue to lock them in place; if they catch a favorable first-round matchup (a grumbling Rockets team in 2014; an injury-strafed Clippers squad in 2016), they can advance a round. But last year’s 4-0 sweep by the New Orleans Pelicans had to give everyone pause. How does Portland respond mentally? Re-upping Big Nurk in the middle on a very reasonable deal -- $12 million for a starting center was the going rate five years ago, when the Wolves gave Nikola Pekovic a five-year, $60 million contract -- was necessary. But losing Davis, a locker room and fan favorite for superior work ethic, will hurt, even though Collins should sop up a lot of those minutes. 25. ORLANDO MAGIC 2017-18 RECORD: 25-57; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Steve Clifford; C Mohamed Bamba (No. 6 pick, 2018 Draft); G Isaiah Briscoe (three years, $3.9 million); F Melvin Frazier (No. 35 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jerian Grant (acquired from Bulls); F Justin Jackson (No. 43 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jarrell Martin (acquired from Grizzlies); C Timofey Mozgov (acquired from Hornets) LOST: C Bismack Biyombo (traded to Hornets); G Mario Hezonja (signed with Knicks); C Dakari Johnson (traded to Grizzlies); G Shelvin Mack (waived); G Rodney Purvis (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: F Aaron Gordon (four years, $82 million) THE KEY MAN: G D.J. Augustin. A vet’s vet, he’s played 10 years in the league and started 226 games for eight teams, including 56 over the last two for the Magic. He’ll enter this season as the unquestioned starter at the point with Elfrid Payton in New Orleans and Orlando still looking to solve its long-term search for a point guard. It’s Augustin’s turn. THE SKINNY: At some point, Orlando’s yearly gambles on size and potential will pay off. Bamba could be the goods; he’s got a demeanor and toughness that should keep him together while he learns the craft at the pro level. But -- again -- it will take some time for Bamba, like 2017 first-rounder Jonathan Isaac, and Gordon, in whom Orlando invested a sizeable sum in July, to flourish. And Magic fans rightly can ask exactly how long they’re to remain patient. Clifford is supposed to improve the defense, but so was Frank Vogel … and so was Scott Skiles … and so was Jacque Vaughn. 26. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in Western Conference semifinals ADDED: G Tony Carr (No. 51 pick, 2018 Draft); G Elfrid Payton (one year, $3 million); F Julius Randle (two years, $17 million) LOST: C DeMarcus Cousins (signed with Warriors); G Rajon Rondo (signed with Lakers) RETAINED: G Ian Clark (one year, $1.7 million); F Nikola Mirotic (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Owner Gayle Benson. Mrs. Benson took control of the team after the death of her husband, Tom, last March. She displayed great grace in the days and weeks after Tom Benson’s death, making it clear at the time she had no interest in selling the team and would continue to make outlays to keep the team competitive. The Pels didn’t blink last summer giving Jrue Holiday $126 million, and that will have to remain the case going forward if New Orleans is to repeat its surprising run to the Western Conference semifinals last spring. THE SKINNY: Can’t lose your starting point guard and your starting All-Star center in one offseason -- no matter what the circumstances -- and come out of it with high offseason marks. And especially when Rondo seemed like the perfect fit for the team. Mirotic mentioned during the Warriors series how good Rondo was at picking him up and connecting him quickly with the team after he was traded to New Orleans from Chicago. And, yes, coach Alvin Gentry mentioned he may have exchanged cusses with Rondo every now and again, too. Life in RondoWorld. The path forward is narrower, but not impassible; Randle can be tantalizing at times, maddening at others, but he could plug-and-play at the four, and he can take some of the playmaking burden off of Holiday. But big minutes on the ball for Holiday again is not what New Orleans had in mind. Payton is going to have to perform immediately. And losing “Boogie” Cousins is a big minus. It’s not what the Pelicans gave up to get him. It’s the fit and flow he had with Anthony Davis before the injury, and what the promise of a return this season could have meant toward carrying the momentum of last year forward. 27. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES 2017-18 RECORD: 47-35; lost in first round ADDED: F Anthony Tolliver (one year, $5.7 million); G Josh Okogie (No. 20 pick, 2018 Draft); F Keita Bates-Diop (No. 48 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Cole Aldrich (waived); F Nemanja Bjelica (signed with Kings) RETAINED: G Derrick Rose (one year, $1.5 million) THE KEY MAN: Vikings QB Kirk Cousins. He signed for big, big money by NFL standards (three years, $84 million), and the Vikings have Super Bowl aspirations. So all the light will be on the Vikes most of the fall and winter in Minneapolis, keeping it off of the still-young Wolves, who won’t be able to sneak up on anyone after breaking their long postseason drought. THE SKINNY: The Wolves should be positioned to build on their playoff run, especially if Butler can get through a full season healthy and Karl-Anthony Towns adds consistency to his prodigious talents. But they didn’t do much in the offseason, and the team that they beat out on the last day of the regular season, Denver, looks to be much improved. Tolliver should help the Wolves’ depth; they essentially traded him for Bjelica, and he shot slightly better on 3-poiners last season than Belly. Plus, they don’t come better as a guy than Tolliver and he can help Minnesota in the locker room. The issue of Butler’s contract isn’t going away; there will be a reckoning at some point, and he’ll have a lot more options next summer than free agents had this summer. Until then, coach Tom Thibodeau has pretty much the same team that he has to cajole better defense out of next season (22nd in Defensive Rating; 17th in points allowed). 28. CHARLOTTE HORNETS 2017-18 RECORD: 36-46; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach James Borrego; GM Mitch Kupchack; C Bismack Biyombo (acquired from Magic); F Miles Bridges (No. 12 pick, 2018 Draft); G Devonte' Graham (No. 34 pick, 2018 Draft); F Arnoldas Kulboka (No. 55 pick, 2018 Draft); ; G Tony Parker (two years, $10.2 milliion) LOST: G Michael Carter-Williams (signed with Rockets); C Dwight Howard (traded to Nets); C Timofey Mozgov (traded to Magic); G Julyan Stone (traded to Bulls) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: C Cody Zeller. It’s a guess -- Borrego could opt for Frank Kaminsky III -- but Zeller would seem to be the replacement at center for Dwight Howard, who wound up in Washington after the Hornets traded him to the Nets. Zeller started 58 games two years ago and was very good in screen and rolls with Kemba Walker. Zeller only played in 33 games last season because of a left knee injury; if he returns to form, the Hornets could pick up offensively and actually have a little more diversity at that end than last season. THE SKINNY: Team owner Michael Jordan cleaned house after a disappointing 2017-18, bringing another Tar Heel back home in the veteran Kupchak. Kupchak dispatched Howard and then got Mozgov’s guaranteed 2019-20 season off his books to take back Biyombo, who’d left Toronto two years ago for $72 million from the Magic and who’s got a player option for 2019-20. Well before then, the Hornets are going to have to decide what to do with Walker, who’ll be one of the top free agents available next summer if Charlotte can’t get him re-signed or extended. The Hornets were 8.8 points worse when the two-time All-Star was off the court rather than on. Nicolas Batum has to make a return to the all-around talent that enticed Charlotte to trade for him and give him a $120 million extension; he averaged just 11.6 points per game last year, his lowest in three years. Howard’s presence in the paint may have clogged things up some, but that’s no longer the case. 29. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS 2017-18 RECORD: 50-32; lost in The Finals ADDED: F Channing Frye (one year, $2.3 million); G Collin Sexton (No. 8 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Jose Calderon (signed with Pistons); F Jeff Green (signed with Wizards); F LeBron James (signed with Lakers); C Kendrick Perkins (waived); F Okaro White (waived) RETAINED: F Kevin Love (contract extension) THE KEY MAN: GM Koby Altman. Altman has a blank slate now after trying to steer a championship-contending ship that had been stripped of a few propeller blades in the last 13 months. With James gone, as well as former GM David Griffin, the 35-year-old Altman has team owner Dan Gilbert’s charge to rebuild the Cavs without taking them down to the studs (as the Cavs did after James first departure in 2010). Altman’s next task after working out Kevin Love’s $130 million extension is clearing the roster of all the veterans brought in the last three years mainly because of their ability to play off of James. THE SKINNY: There weren’t any widespread jersey burnings this time in the Land. James left for L.A. with relative good will from his hometown, having delivered the championship it had waited 52 years for in 2016. Truly, the Cavs’ rebuild started the minute Kyrie Irving demanded a trade; last season seemed more rearguard action than an attack at another title. Extending Love through 2023 with no outs -- keeping him locked with rookie Sexton through the latter’s last controllable season before hitting unrestricted free agency -- gives Cleveland a base upon which to build. Cap room will follow in 2019, but next season will be difficult; Sexton has a lot of toughness and potential, but rookie point guards tend to get their lunch handed to them. 30. MIAMI HEAT 2017-18 RECORD: 44-38; lost in first round ADDED: None LOST: None RETAINED: G Wayne Ellington (one year, $6.2 million); F/G Derrick Jones Jr. THE KEY MAN: G Josh Richardson. Like many of his teammates, Richardson got an extension a couple of years ago -- four years and $42 million. Last season, he was (again) a solid two-way player for Miami -- almost 13 points per game, 84.5 percent from the line, 37.8 percent on 3-pointers. But if the Heat is going to shake out of the middle lane in which it currently seems stuck, Richardson will have to expand. Miami’s current roster makes it complicated; Pat Riley thinks Richardson’s probably more of a two, but he plays mostly three for coach Erik Spoelstra because Miami’s best lineups were small ball ones. Another offseason at P3 in California will help Richardson continue his development. THE SKINNY: No, Heat people: I don’t hate your team. But when you have no Draft picks, and you have no cap space, and thus you literally could do nothing in the offseason, and basically did nothing in the offseason, and your biggest, most newsy event was whether your 36-year-old future Hall of Fame guard will come back for one more season or play over in China … well, what am I supposed to do with that information? Rank you first? The question is, how much better is your team now than it was at the end of last season? It’s essentially the same team; other than the likes of Richardson (see above) or Justise Winslow, it’s not like there’s a great step up expected from Hassan Whiteside or Goran Dragic, is there? The Heat is not any better than last season. It isn’t any worse. It just … is. So, 30. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018