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Lionel Messi's hat trick vs. Betis wasn't his best, but a timely reminder of how brilliant he is

Tue, 19 Mar 2019 11:36:00 GMT

Shaka Hislop chooses not to get drawn into comparisons between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi following the Argentine's 33rd La Liga hat trick. It's a remarkable thing when a sportsperson produces a moment of exceptional all-time achievement, but the reaction to that excelsior moment becomes almost as powerful as the event itself. I'd argue that Lionel Messi fused those wonderful, human themes together on Sunday night: immense action followed by extraordinary reaction. In my lifetime there have been many examples. Not identical, mind you, but moments that live on for reasons other than the athletic achievement no matter how important...

Power Rankings: Messi ensures Barcelona stay in first, Liverpool climb

Tue, 19 Mar 2019 07:58:00 GMT

Premier League clubs are dominating this season's Champions League, but how do they fare in Shaka Hislop's latest power rankings? Shaka Hislop chooses not to get drawn into comparisons between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi following the Argentine's 33rd La Liga hat trick. Thanks to Lionel Messi's hat trick, Barcelona went 10 points clear in Spain at the weekend and stay at No. 1 in my Top 10! (function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(d.getElementById(id))return;js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src='https://embed.playbuzz.com/sdk.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document,'script','playbuzz-sdk')); Dropping out:  Agree? Disagree? Let us know, and watch Shaka defend his picks on ESPN FC TV, which airs daily on ESPN+.

Messi gets standing ovation, tops Player Power Rankings ahead of James

Mon, 18 Mar 2019 12:37:00 GMT

Shaka Hislop chooses not to get drawn into comparisons between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi following the Argentine's 33rd La Liga hat trick. It's not often a player gets a standing ovation ... from a stadium full of opposing fans. Such a plaudit is enough to top our Player Power Rankings. Our global editors pick their top 10 performers from the weekend. (function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(d.getElementById(id))return;js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src='https://embed.playbuzz.com/sdk.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document,'script','playbuzz-sdk')); Also receiving votes: Luis Alberto (Lazio), Inaki Williams (Athletic Bilbao). Let us know what you think of the countdown by commenting on Twitter using #ESPNFCrankings.

Lionel Messi routinely delivers magic for Barcelona, but his third goal vs. Betis was interstellar

Mon, 18 Mar 2019 07:11:00 GMT

Here are three sentences whose words do no justice to the majesty of their content: In the depths of a molecular cloud, a star is born. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Lionel Messi chipped Pau Lopez in Barcelona's 4-1 win at Real Betis on Sunday. All three of the above sentences represent events that are noteworthy on an intergalactic scale. They all mark moments where aliens, sitting peacefully in their suburban homes, looked up to the skies from their Sunday papers and said: "Things done changed." Though...

By the numbers: Messi's 51st hat-trick, Salah's long scoreless streak

Sun, 17 Mar 2019 10:32:00 GMT

Lionel Messi scored his 33rd La Liga hat-trick in the course of Barcelona's 4-1 win away to Real Betis. There's Lionel Messi, and then there's the rest. The weekend's football in Europe seemed to suggest so, although one must put this helpful caveat: Juventus gave Cristiano Ronaldo the weekend off. Here are the best numbers from the weekend: 33 Lionel Messi scored his 33rd La Liga hat-trick in the course of Barcelona's 4-1 win away to Real Betis, also his 45th hat-trick for Barcelona across all competitions. He also has six hat-tricks for the Argentina national team, taking his overall tally in competitive...

Lionel Messi bags hat trick, Luis Suarez impresses as Barcelona thrash Real Betis

Sun, 17 Mar 2019 03:49:00 GMT

Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez put on a show for the fans at Benito Villamarín Stadium, leading Barcelona to an easy victory. Shaka Hislop chooses not to get drawn into comparisons between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi following the Argentine's 33rd La Liga hat trick. Lionel Messi scored a stunning hat trick as Barcelona beat Real Betis 4-1 on Sunday to move 10 points clear at the top of La Liga. Messi opened the scoring in the first half with an arrowed free kick into the top corner and added Barca's second just before the break after a brilliant no-look back-heel assist from Luis Suarez. - Messi humbled by Betis fans' standing ovation Suarez, who missed two brilliant chances to further extend Ernesto Valverde's side lead, eventually added the third with a...

Lionel Messi bags hat trick, Luis Suarez impresses as Barcelona thrash Real Betis

Sun, 17 Mar 2019 03:40:00 GMT

Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez put on a show for the fans at Benito Villamarín Stadium, leading Barcelona to an easy victory. Lionel Messi scored a stunning hat trick as Barcelona beat Real Betis 4-1 on Sunday to move 10 points clear at the top of La Liga. Messi opened the scoring in the first half with an arrowed free kick into the top corner and added Barca's second just before the break after a brilliant no-look back-heel assist from Luis Suarez. Suarez, who missed two brilliant chances to further extend Ernesto Valverde's side lead, eventually added the third with a fine individual effort just after the hour mark. Substitute...

Champions League predictions: Barcelona to beat Man United? City to edge Spurs?

Fri, 15 Mar 2019 05:32:00 GMT

The draw for the Champions League quarterfinals has thrown up some classic ties as Europe's biggest clubs attempt to reach this season's final in Madrid. Tottenham face Manchester City in an all-Premier League tie, while there are two heavyweight clashes between multiple winners with Ajax, conquerors of Real Madrid, facing Juventus and Manchester United taking on Barcelona. Liverpool will believe they have one foot in the next round after being paired with FC Porto, but with the draw also mapping...

Transfer Talk: Barca scouting Frankfurt's Jovic; Spurs preparing for Eriksen departure

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 05:45:00 GMT

The transfer window for Europe's biggest clubs is closed, but click here for all the deals, and keep track of who has joined the big boys. Transfer Talk will continue to scour the world's media and set correspondents loose to see what's on the agenda for the summer. TOP STORY: Jovic could be Barca's striker of the future Transfers With help from former Tottenham and Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli, we show you a step-by-step guide to a transfer. FIFA have banned Chelsea for a period of two transfer windows. But what did they do wrong and how will the punishment play out? FC Exclusives - Man City close on £80m Saul - Real face battle for Junior Firpo - Man United have no Bale plans - Griezmann looking for Atleti exit - Chelsea fear Hazard to Real Marca claims Barcelona director of football Eric Abidal was at the San Siro on scouting duty Thursday night, adding fuel to speculation that the Spanish giants are plotting a move...

Power Rankings: Barcelona stay top, Juventus climb, Liverpool return

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 08:00:00 GMT

Shaka Hislop presents his weekly Power Rankings, where quite a few Premier League clubs find their way into the top 10. Craig Burley refuses to name Barcelona Champions League favourites after their big win over Lyon, due to their defensive inconsistency. Barcelona went behind early to Rayo Vallecano, but responded with three, including Lionel Messi's goal in his 800th career game. Lionel Messi made sure that Barcelona's No. 1 spot was not in danger, while Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Juventus' upward movement. (function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(d.getElementById(id))return;js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src='https://embed.playbuzz.com/sdk.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document,'script','playbuzz-sdk')); Dropping out: Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich. Agree? Disagree? Let us know, and watch Shaka defend his picks on ESPN FC TV.

Lionel Messi near his best, Luis Suarez the quiet star as Barcelona advance to UCL quarters

Wed, 13 Mar 2019 03:29:00 GMT

Craig Burley refuses to name Barcelona Champions League favourites after their big win over Lyon, due to their defensive inconsistency. BARCELONA, Spain -- Lionel Messi scored two and assisted on two as Barcelona swept aside Lyon 5-1 after a goalless first leg in France to reach the Champions League quarterfinals for the 12th season running. Messi gave Barca the lead from the penalty spot before Philippe Coutinho doubled their advantage before half-time after good work from Luis Suarez. There were some nervy moments for the home side in the second half when Lucas Tousart pulled one back for Lyon but Messi turned the screws...

The keys to Champions League progress for Bayern, Liverpool, Barcelona, Lyon

Wed, 13 Mar 2019 01:39:00 GMT

Wednesday night's Champions League games are both evenly poised at 0-0 after the first legs, but what will make the difference for the teams that make it into the quarterfinals? Bayern Munich vs. Liverpool It has become part of Liverpool mythology that the Bayern players were singing in the showers of the Anfield away dressing room following their 0-0 draw in the first leg of the 1981 semifinal. No such boisterous behaviour occurred after the same result three weeks ago, but the result and manner...

Transfer Talk: Barcelona a 'priority' for in-demand Ajax captain De Ligt

Mon, 11 Mar 2019 04:59:00 GMT

ESPN FC's Shaka Hislop can't understand why Real Madrid would even entertain the thought of bringing back Jose Mourinho to manage the club. Paul Mariner and Ross Dyer dissect the latest transfer rumours, including Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho making surprise returns to former clubs. Mark Donaldson and Shaka Hislop weigh up which players at Real Madrid should be kept and offloaded to improve the squad in the summer. The transfer window for Europe's biggest clubs is closed, but click here for all the deals, and keep track of who has joined the big boys. Transfer Talk will continue to scour the world's media and set correspondents loose to see what's on the agenda for the summer. TOP STORY: Barca No. 1 for De Ligt Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt has made joining Barcelona this summer above any other suitor a "priority," according to Catalan-based Sport. Bayern Munich, Juventus and Manchester City are interested...

For Barca and Brazil, Coutinho finds himself falling down the pecking order

Mon, 11 Mar 2019 04:14:00 GMT

Despite another routine win for Barcelona in La Liga, questions remain over Philippe Coutinho who underwhelmed again for the Spanish giants. Ousmane Dembele is an injury doubt for Barcelona against Lyon in the return leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie on Wednesday. Neymar and Vinicius Junior are definitely out of Brazil's friendlies later this month against Panama and the Czech Republic. It all means that, for both club and country, opportunity is knocking for Philippe Coutinho, but it knocks on both side of the door -- the way in and the way out. Coutinho stands as the crossroads, and these next few days will surely shed...

Numbers: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tastes first league defeat, Lionel Messi scores in 800th game

Mon, 11 Mar 2019 05:21:00 GMT

Steve Nicol breaks down Manchester United's first Premier League loss under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal. Craig Burley and Alejandro Moreno were in full agreement that Raheem Sterling's first goal against Watford should never have been allowed to stand. Steve Nicol examines what is behind Mohamed Salah's recent struggles and what he and Jurgen Klopp can do to sort the issues out. Despite another routine win for Barcelona in La Liga, questions remain over Philippe Coutinho who underwhelmed again for the Spanish giants. Luuk De Jong scored his 21st league goal of the season as PSV Eindhoven remain in control of top spot in the Dutch Eredivisie. While Liverpool kept pace with Manchester City, Arsenal beat Manchester United to keep the top four race alive. In La Liga, Barcelona continued their dominance, while Kareem Benzema helped Real Madrid get back to winning ways after their humiliating Champions League defeat. Elsewhere, Juventus remained unbeaten in the league, while Bayern Munich scored six against Wolfsburg to leapfrog Dortmund to the top of the Bundesliga. Here are the best numbers from the weekend's action. 0 Juventus are still...

LIVE Transfer Talk: Barcelona's Coutinho seeks Man United escape

Sun, 10 Mar 2019 04:00:00 GMT

The transfer window for Europe's biggest clubs is closed, but click here for all the deals, and keep track of who has joined the big boys. Transfer Talk will continue to scour the world's media and set correspondents loose to see what's on the agenda for the summer. TOP STORY: Coutinho seeks United rescue from Barcelona nightmare Transfers With help from former Tottenham and Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli, we show you a step-by-step guide to a transfer. FIFA have banned Chelsea for a period of two transfer windows. But what did they do wrong and how will the punishment play out? FC Exclusives - Man City close on £80m Saul - Real face battle for Junior Firpo - Man United have no Bale plans - Griezmann looking for Atleti exit - Chelsea fear Hazard to Real Barcelona flop Philippe Coutinho has reportedly issued a "come and get me" plea to Manchester United, as the Brazilian desperately seeks to end his Camp Nou...

Barcelona led by 8/10 Messi, Suarez and Pique in comeback win vs. Rayo Vallecano

Sat, 9 Mar 2019 12:08:00 GMT

Messi, left, and Suarez, centre, were vital in turning a 1-0 deficit to a 3-1 home win. BARCELONA --  Barcelona warmed up for Wednesday's Champions League game against Lyon with a 3-1 win over Rayo Vallecano in La Liga on Saturday. Raul de Tomas gave the visitors a surprise first-half lead at Camp Nou but Gerard Pique levelled before the break. A Lionel Messi penalty and a goal from Luis Suarez wrapped up the win in the second period as Barca restored their seven-point lead at the top of the table over Atletico Madrid. Positives Rayo did well and were in the game right up until...

LIVE Transfer Talk: Bayern Munich to rival Barcelona for Ajax's Matthijs De Ligt

Fri, 8 Mar 2019 03:53:00 GMT

Craig Burley says the arrogance shown at every level of Real Madrid is to blame for their current domestic and European troubles. The transfer window for Europe's biggest clubs is closed, but click here for all the deals, and keep track of who has joined the big boys. Transfer Talk will continue to scour the world's media and set correspondents loose to see what's on the agenda for the summer. TOP STORY: Bayern rival Barcelona for De Ligt Transfers With help from former Tottenham and Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli, we show you a step-by-step guide to a transfer. FIFA have banned Chelsea for a period of two transfer windows. But what did they do wrong and how will the punishment play out? FC Exclusives - Man City close on £80m Saul - Real face battle for Junior Firpo - Man United have no Bale plans - Griezmann looking for Atleti exit - Chelsea fear Hazard to Real Ajax's Champions League win over Real Madrid has only intensified the hunt for Matthijs De Ligt. Barcelona are still optimistic that the highly-rated central defender will join...

Power Rankings: Barcelona remain at the summit as PSG fall out of top 10

Thu, 7 Mar 2019 01:20:00 GMT

After Ajax and Man United's huge wins in the Champions League, where will they land in Shaka Hislop's latest Power Rankings? Mark Donaldson takes us through his picks for his Fantasy La Liga team, which includes three Barcelona players and no one from Real Madrid. Barcelona are still our No. 1, but three mammoth clubs have fallen outside the top 10 of Shaka Hislop's Power Rankings. (function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(d.getElementById(id))return;js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src='https://embed.playbuzz.com/sdk.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document,'script','playbuzz-sdk')); Dropping out: Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund. Agree? Disagree? Let us know, and watch Shaka defend his picks on ESPN FC TV.

Real Madrid's issues resurface in back-to-back Clasico defeats. PLUS: Are Liverpool in trouble?

Mon, 4 Mar 2019 08:21:00 GMT

Lose two Clasicos at home in the space of four days and yeah, the sky will be falling at Real Madrid. Especially when the defeats come against a Barcelona side that, despite being on course for a Treble, simply don't look on a par with those of yesteryear. They're on pace to win La Liga with 87 points, which would be the lowest total in 11 seasons and no, it's not because the rest of Spanish football has suddenly improved dramatically. Truth be told I didn't think Real Madrid, with all their...

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