Barca faces Atletico in crunch clash

Updated 14 December 2012
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Barca faces Atletico in crunch clash

MADRID: With Real Madrid trailing by 11 points, Barcelona’s closest threat is from Atletico Madrid who they face tomorrow and midfielder Xavi Hernandez feels it is an opportunity to dent their title aspirations.
Barca have made a record start to the season with a remarkable 14 wins from 15 games and while the reigning champions and traditional rivals Real Madrid have not been able to live with the pace it has been their neighbors Atletico who have made an impressive start to the campaign and trail the Catalans by seven points.
“It is too early to really say who are going to be the biggest rival and at the moment it looks as though both will be strong rivals,” said Xavi.
“Atletico are very strong. People said that they were going to slip-up but they haven’t very much and now this weekend we have our chance to make them slip-up.
“They are on a good run, they play very well on the counter-attack and they have a striker (Radamel) Falcao who motivates them all. Their trainer (Diego) Simeone has worked very well with the team and they have a strong defensive system.
“At the same time, though, while Atletico are the nearest rivals at the moment Madrid are not out of the running by any stretch of the imagination and they are playing well.”
Falcao hit five goals last weekend as Atletico demolished Deportivo La Coruna 6-0 and he now has 16 league goals.
Real Madrid meanwhile continue to stutter with Mesut Ozil coming to the rescue with a brace as they beat Valladolid 3-2 and then in midweek they lost 2-1 away in the first leg of a King’s Cup game with Celta Vigo.
It means they have lost six times so far which is one more than the whole of last season and the same number as in Jose Mourinho’s first campaign at the club.
They now take on Espanyol who are joint bottom with Deportivo La Coruna on eleven points and while new coach Javier Aguirre has been working on making them more solid at the back it should be a relatively easy game.
Fourth-placed Malaga faces a tricky Andalusian derby away to Sevilla who are languishing in mid-table due to a lack of consistency but they are generally tough side to face at home.
Level with Malaga on points are Real Betis who are one of the revelations so far and caused plenty of problems in the second half for Barcelona last weekend although losing 2-1. They take on Celta Vigo.
Fixtures (All GMT)
Saturday: Getafe v Osasuna (1500), Mallorca v Athletic Bilbao (1700), Granada v Real Sociedad (1900), Sevilla v Malaga (2100)
Sunday: Zaragoza v Levante (1100), Valencia v Rayo Vallecano (1600), Real Madrid v Espanyol (1800), Barcelona v Atletico Madrid (2000).
Monday: Deportivo La Coruna v Valladolid (1900), Celta Vigo v Real Betis (2030).


Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard beat Tunisia and power Belgium to brink of World Cup last 16

Updated 23 June 2018
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Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard beat Tunisia and power Belgium to brink of World Cup last 16

  • Romelu Lukaku drew level with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the World Cup goalscoring charts on Saturday
  • Belgium captain Eden Hazard scored in either half, including an early penalty at the Spartak Stadium

MOSCOW: Romelu Lukaku drew level with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the World Cup goalscoring charts on Saturday, scoring twice as Belgium moved to the brink of the last 16 after a 5-2 romp against Tunisia.
The victory leaves the Red Devils top of Group G with two wins ahead of their clash on Thursday against England, who play Panama on Sunday.
After also scoring twice in the opening 3-0 win against Panama, Manchester United’s Lukaku showed clinical finishing with two first-half goals in Moscow, matching Ronaldo’s tally in Russia.
Not to be outdone, Belgium captain Eden Hazard scored in either half, including an early penalty at the Spartak Stadium, before substitute Michy Batshuayi added their fifth.
Tunisia’s consolation goals came from defender Dylan Bronn and captain Wahbi Khazri.
The Belgians were criticized by coach Roberto Martinez for starting slowly against Panama in their first group match but flew out of the blocks in Moscow.
Hazard — having been on the receiving end of some bruising tackles in Belgium’s opener — was sent tumbling after just five minutes but converted the penalty to open his Russian account.
Midfielder Ferjani Sassi picked up an early booking for complaining when Tunisia’s appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears, just before Belgium added their second goal.
Ali Maaloul’s weak pass on the halfway line was collected by Dries Mertens, who sprinted away and put Lukaku clear.
The striker coolly hit his shot inside the far post, just past the outstretched glove of Tunisia keeper Farouk Ben Mustapha, in the 16th minute.
Tunisia responded two minutes later, Bronn leaping highest to head home a free-kick from his skipper Khazri on 18 minutes, only to be later carried off after landing awkwardly following a collision.
With half-time approaching, the Belgians grabbed their third goal.
After earlier squandering two clear chances created by Kevin De Bruyne, Lukaku converted his third opportunity just before the half-time whistle.
Thomas Meunier put him in behind the defense and Lukaku tucked his shot away, celebrating with De Bruyne, who started the move.
The Manchester City midfield maestro turned provider again after the break for Hazard.
The Chelsea star sprinted onto De Bruyne’s lofted pass, held off two defenders, rounded keeper Ben Mustapha and tapped home Belgium’s fourth goal in the 51st minute.
With one eye on the England game, Martinez took off Lukaku, then Hazard as the half wore on and for the final 22 minutes brought on Batshuayi, who could have scored five.
The Borussia Dortmund forward had a chance cleared off the line, was twice denied by Ben Mustapha’s saves and hit the crossbar, finally converting a cross for Belgium’s fifth goal.
Tunisia captain Khazri grabbed their second goal just before the final whistle of their second defeat in Russia.