LaLiga MVP Messi hopes the division stays wide open

Barcelona star Lionel Messi

Just four points separate the top six in LaLiga and the more competitive nature of the division is no bad thing, according to Lionel Messi.

Lionel Messi said LaLiga is “more competitive than ever” and he hopes it stays that way as he collected the Trofeo Di Stefano for the division’s best player in 2017-18.

The Barcelona superstar received the award from Spanish sports newspaper Marca on Monday, while also being presented with the Trofeo Pichichi for his 34-goal haul last season.

Messi took his LaLiga tally for 2018-19 to nine with a double in Barca’s surprise 4-3 loss at home to Real Betis on Sunday, a result that saw their advantage at the summit cut to just one point.

Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, Deportivo Alaves and Espnayol are all above perennial title challengers Real Madrid – who sit four points off top – in the table and Messi welcomes the more open nature of the division.

“It’s good that the league is like this,” Messi said.

“It’s more competitive than ever, anyone beats anybody, it’s good for the spectators.

“I hope it stays that way for a long time.”

The 31-year-old felt no adverse effects after making his return to first-team action following an arm fracture sustained against Sevilla on October 20.

“At the beginning I was a bit scared, because I had not had much contact,” admitted Messi.

“I let go a little more as the game went on and I was fine.”

Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak won the Trofeo Zamora for the third straight year after conceding just 22 times in 37 LaLiga outings last term.

Iago Aspas took the Trofeo Zarra for the highest-scoring Spanish player and Marcelino was presented with the Trofeo Miguel Munoz as the best coach.

Injured Man Utd duo Pogba and Martial drop out of France squad

Manchester United and France midfielder Paul Pogba

France coach Didier Deschamps has replaced injured duo Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial with Moussa Sissoko and Alexandre Lacazette.

Manchester United duo Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial have pulled out of France’s squad for the games against Netherlands and Uruguay.

Pogba missed United’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester City on Sunday with a thigh injury, while Martial – who scored his side’s goal from the penalty spot – has sustained a groin problem.

Both players reported for duty on Monday at France’s Clairefontaine training base, but after consultations with Les Bleus’ medial staff the decision was made to send them back to Manchester for further treatment.

Didier Deschamps has replaced the pair with Tottenham midfielder Moussa Sissoko and Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette.

Martial has been in fine form recently, scoring six goals in his last seven games for United.

France can win their Nations League group with a draw against Netherlands in Amsterdam on Friday, with their friendly versus Uruguay in Paris four days later.

Modric cannot always be the best – Dalic

Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder Luka Modric

Luka Modric unfairly takes the blame for Real Madrid’s poor performances at times, according to Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic came to the defence of Luka Modric after Real Madrid’s poor start to the season and said the midfielder has been unfairly criticised at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Madrid are sixth in LaLiga after losing four of their 12 matches so far this term but have recovered some form in recent weeks under caretaker coach Santiago Solari, winning their last four games in all competitions.

Modric is in the Croatia squad for their Nations League matches against Spain and England and Dalic revealed that he had spoken to his captain ahead of the fixtures.

“We talked a few days ago,” Dalic told reporters.

“Luka is aware that in football there are oscillations, that after playing brilliantly for a whole year, he cannot always be in shape and always be the best.

“When Madrid loses a match, then they look for the culprit among the foreigners, so they blame Luka, [Toni] Kroos or someone else.

“At the end of the day, Luka is the best player in the world.”

Croatia will hope Modric can help them bounce back from the 6-0 defeat they suffered against Spain in September and improve on their 0-0 draw with England in October.

Dalic’s men are bottom of League A Group 4 with one point but have a game in hand on England and Spain, who have four and six points from three outings, respectively.

“I think we have a much better mood and form than in that first game,” said Dalic, reflecting on defeat in Spain. “The Spaniards have since lost to England. We need two victories.

“I expect a full stadium, victories and the points that will keep us in contention for the European Championship.”

LeBron James reacts to latest gun violence: ‘Not again. Wow. What the hell?’

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James

LeBron James said his reaction to the latest deadly shooting spree was “what the hell?” and “not again”.

LeBron James says these are “scary” and “troubling times” in the U.S. after the deadly Thousand Oaks, Calif., gun massacre.

Twelve people were killed last week when a lone gunman opened fire in a country music bar in Ventura County.

Lakers and Hawks players wore black T-shirts with “Enough” on the front the victims’ names on the back in their honor ahead of Sunday’s NBA game.

Afterward, James spoke out about the latest mass shooting in America.

Asked what his reaction to the massacre was, he said: “Probably the same that went through everybody’s mind: ‘Not again.’ Or: ‘Wow. What the hell?’

“Probably some more explicit terms that I won’t say right here. It’s just how do we clean up this? … It all comes back to this gun situation that we have in America and gun violence.

“I don’t want to go into that right now, but I can do it at a later point. We know that these people are just being able to go and buy guns and do things with them, and innocent lives are being taken at young ages. Young ages.”

He added: “When I was younger, we didn’t really have to worry about gun violence too much.

“I mean, if you had a problem with somebody you kind of fist it out and move on. And now, it’s like people are like shooting it out and don’t even have a problem with somebody.

“They just got a problem with themselves or a problem with the situation that they’re in.

“It’s just very troubling times for everyone and for parents. It’s just how can you be comfortable with sending your kids to school or sending them to church or sending them to the movies or sending them to the mall?

“Those are kind of like the great havens when I was growing up: school, church, go to the mall, go to a sporting event. That was like heaven. You know? And it’s kind of scary at this point in time.”

Rockets GM denies Carmelo Anthony will be waived despite reports to contrary

Houston Rockets All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony reportedly is on the verge of leaving the Rockets, but GM Daryl Morey has denied that Melo is set to be waived.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey says reports that Carmelo Anthony is set to be waived are “inaccurate” and “unfair.”

Anthony has missed the Rockets’ last two NBA games, against the Spurs and Pacers, his absence attributed to illness.

ESPN reported in the wee hours Monday morning that Anthony could be placed on waivers as soon as later in the day.

Speculation over the 10-time All-Star’s future continued after a 115-103 victory over the Pacers on Sunday, but Morey said talk of an impending departure by the struggling forward is wide of the mark.

“It’s unfair that there’s all this speculation on just one person,” Morey said. “I understand it, he’s obviously a Hall of Famer, but it’s unfair.”

He added: “That’s actually why I’m here. I think it’s extremely unfair that he’s been singled out.

“You look at literally every player on the roster and they’re below career numbers.”

Despite Morey’s assertions, several unidentified players and members of the Rockets coaching staff told ESPN late Sunday that they believe Anthony has played his last game for the team, with the report noting that “(t)he organization has trod delicately on finalizing an exit for Anthony out of respect for his relationships within the team and his stature as a 10-time All-Star and future Hall of Famer.”

Chris Paul gave nothing away over Anthony’s future but clearly is eager for Anthony, 34, to stay.

“Melo has been great here, he’s like a brother to me. I don’t know what’s been said but he’s been great, working hard every day so we’ll see what happens,” said Paul.

“He’s a future Hall of Famer. That’s me saying that, knowing that.”

Bayern confirm Ribery ‘altercation’ with reporter

Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery

Franck Ribery was involved in a heated exchange with French reporter Patrick Guillou after Bayern Munich’s clash with Borussia Dortmund.

Franck Ribery was involved in an altercation with a reporter following Bayern Munich’s Bundesliga defeat to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday, the club has confirmed.

Reports surfaced soon after Bayern’s 3-2 defeat at Signal Iduna Park that Ribery had “pushed” and “slapped” French journalist Patrick Guillou.

Ribery was allegedly unhappy that beIN Sports reporter Guillou had blamed him for two of the goals conceded by Bayern against the league leaders.

Bayern’s sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has confirmed that an incident occurred and that the club will meet with Guillou to resolve the matter.

“Franck Ribery has informed us that he had an altercation with his compatriot Patrick Guillou, whom he has known well for many years,” he told Bild.

“We agreed with Patrick Guillou that we would speak at a personal meeting, we will talk about how we can solve the matter, and Mr Guillou has already signalled that it is in his interest.”

Ribery’s flashpoint compounds what has been a tumultuous start to the season for Bayern, who are now seven points adrift of Dortmund in the Bundesliga table.

Club president Uli Hoeness told Sky Sport over the weekend that the club will not look to undertake any business during the January transfer window, but Salihamidzic has since said that they will strengthen the squad if the right players are available.

“If we have a possibility and consider it meaningful, we will consider that,” he told Kicker.

“We always have our eyes open and see where improvements can be made to each position.”

Niko Kovac’s side return to action after the international break with a home clash against Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Madrid hit by injuries to Nacho and Casemiro

Real Madrid defender Nacho

Casemiro and Nacho are set for spells in the Real Madrid treatment room after being diagnosed with ankle and knee injuries respectively.

Real Madrid confirmed defender Nacho Fernandez has suffered a ligament injury to his right knee in the 4-2 win at Celta Vigo on Sunday, while Casemiro sprained his right ankle.

The club have not provided a timetable for the recovery of either player but reports in Spain suggest Nacho is facing two months out and Casemiro will be sidelined for a minimum of three weeks.

Casemiro was unable to see out the first half, while Nacho was replaced by Marco Asensio in the 71st minute with at Balaidos.

The loss of another defender will be a blow for interim head coach Santiago Solari, with Marcelo, Raphael Varane, Dani Carvajal and Jesus Vallejo still out of commission.

However, Solari will hope to have Isco back to full fitness after he underwent an operation to treat acute appendicitis in September.

Madrid return to action when they travel to Eibar in LaLiga on November 24.

 

Alves determined to play in the Premier League

Paris Saint-Germain defender Dani Alves

Dani Alves claims to have turned down Chelsea and Manchester City previously, but he is still keen to play in the Premier League.

Paris-Saint Germain right-back Dani Alves is determined to play in the Premier League before the end of his career.

The 35-year-old is nearing a return to fitness after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament tear in May and expressed his admiration for English football.

Despite suffering that injury setback so late in his career, Alves – who previously turned down opportunities to play for Chelsea and Manchester City – still harbours an ambition to play in England.

“The idea that I might finish my career without going to the Premier League, it is not possible,” he told The Telegraph.

“For sure, this is the most amazing football in the world. First, because of the respect for the players from the fans, and then because of the passion on the pitch.

“If I can play, that would be perfect, but I will make it there one way or the other.”

Alves is a three-time Champions League winner but faces a serious challenge to add to that haul with PSG third in Group C behind Napoli and Liverpool.

Thomas Tuchel’s team entertain the Reds in Paris on November 28 and Alves urged PSG, who are 13 points clear in Ligue 1 with a 100 per cent record after 13 matches, to up their game in the Champions League if they are to taste continental success.

“At other clubs I have been, at Juventus, at Barca, we had two ‘ships’, one for the domestic league, and another for the Champions League,” said Alves.

“Not many teams have better players than PSG, but they need to understand the competition they are playing in.

“They are very comfortable in the French league, but they need to raise themselves for games against the biggest clubs.

“I don’t think PSG really understood what they were confronting when they faced Liverpool [a 3-2 loss on September 18]. It was like they didn’t realise who they were playing.

“They’re on their way to understanding it. If not, they will learn the cost.”

Monaco’s plight not Henry’s fault – Silva

Monaco head coach Thierry Henry

Monaco are winless since the opening day of the season but head coach Thierry Henry is not to blame, according to PSG captain Thiago Silva.

Paris Saint-Germain captain Thiago Silva said Thierry Henry is “the least guilty” for Monaco’s desperate plight after the Ligue 1 champions inflicted a 4-0 defeat upon their beleaguered rivals.

Edinson Cavani scored twice in the first half and completed his hat-trick after half-time, before Neymar added a fourth from the penalty spot to maintain PSG’s 100 per cent league record this season.

Monaco are without a win since the opening day and Henry has picked up just one point from his four Ligue 1 games in charge since replacing Leonardo Jardim in October.

Silva offered a sympathetic view of Henry’s predicament and backed the former France forward to turn the club’s season around despite Monaco’s squad being ravaged by injuries.

“Monaco’s situation is complicated,” Silva told reporters. “People talk a lot about the head coach. But I think the coach is the least guilty of all this.

 

“For two years [since] they won the championship, players have left and they cannot easily replace them. This makes things harder, this replenishment.

“Henry is going to have a lot of work to do to get the team back on the road to winning. If I’m not mistaken he has not won yet. But he has a history in football, a winning story.

“I’m sure he’ll do good things for this group and get out of this situation. But it will not be an easy situation, if I am not mistaken there are 12 injuries or more. It is a very difficult situation.”

Henry was critical of his side’s failure to take the chances that fell to them when the game was in the balance but pledged to continue working hard to reverse the club’s fortunes.

Monaco face a trip to Caen in Ligue 1 on November 24 before taking on Atletico Madrid away in the Champions League four days later as they seek a first win in over three months.

“We knew it was going to be hard against Paris,” said the 41-year-old. “We’re not looking for excuses.

“We played against a team of another level. When they have the ball it’s not easy.

“We could have put them in trouble at the beginning of the game. We had a big chance to get back to 1-1 and we didn’t even shoot.

“I will continue. It has not always been easy. We must stay positive. We play the game, we do not play anything else.”

It’s like the FBI came – River assistant unable to talk to Gallardo during final

River Plate assistant Matias Biscay

Matias Biscay suggested extreme lengths were taken to ensure he did not communicate with River Plate boss Marcelo Gallardo.

River Plate assistant Matias Biscay claimed it looked like the FBI had been to La Bombonera to ensure he could not communicate with suspended head coach Marcelo Gallardo.

Gallardo was prohibited from attending the opening match of the Copa Libertadores final against Boca Juniors after going into River’s dressing room and communicating with Biscay via radio during the second leg of their semi-final against Gremio despite serving a touchline ban.

The head coach, who must watch his team’s next three continental games from the stands, instead kept up to date with proceedings from El Monumental, where he was seen chanting on a balcony with fans after the 2-2 draw on Sunday.

Biscay said he felt uncomfortable attending the post-match news conference in Gallardo’s place and revealed he had been unable to discuss the performance with his boss.

“I think I am in a seat I don’t deserve. Marcelo should be seated here, and he is not because of an unfair penalty … and I must cover him here, but I do not feel comfortable because Marcelo is the manager and he should be here instead of me,” said Biscay.

“I did not have the chance to talk with him yet, I think they installed phone signal jammers.

“It looks like the FBI came here so they make sure we won’t be able to talk each other or get in touch. So we haven’t been able to communicate yet.”

 

Jonatan Maidana, who played for Boca between 2005 and 2008, was impressed by River’s character as they twice fought back to earn a draw.

“We’ve got a very good feeling about this because the team didn’t lose the focus, but we chased the draw and we got it from a hard rival,” said Maidana.

“These games are like this, cup games are intense in both legs, and if you make a mistake you’ll pay for it.

“This was a beautiful match. We came for the victory and we did not get it, but we are not disappointed with our performance at all.”

The second leg is scheduled to take place at El Monumental on November 24.

NBA wrap: Bucks beat Nuggets to finish grueling schedule stretch

The Bucks have played six games in 11 days, five of those on the road, but they looked fresh in Denver, hitting 57 percent of their shots.

The Bucks, who have been road warriors in November, took their show on the road to Denver on Sunday, roughly 24 hours after losing in overtime to the Clippers in Los Angeles.

Playing their sixth game in 11 days, and fifth in eight days, you would have expected the Bucks to be out of gas. Instead, they beat a very good Nuggets squad, 121-114, in a matchup of 9-3 teams.

Center Brook Lopez led the way with 28 points, with the 7-footer hitting 8-of-13 3-point shots.

For a team that would have had every excuse to be tired — which often leads to poor shooting — Milwaukee was hot from the field, shooting 57-percent overall and 50-percent beyond the arc. Giannis Antetokounmpo (22 points), Khris Middleton (21) and Malcolm Brogdon (20) all scored 20 or more points.

Five of the Bucks’ six games in that 11-day stretch were road games, including stops at Boston, Portland and Golden State. The Bucks finished 3-3 in that brutal run of games, their toughest schedule stretch of the season. Milwaukee now gets a couple of days off before beginning a six-game homestand Wednesday against the Grizzlies.

Stud of the night

One night after a dreadful shooting performance against the Spurs, James Harden was firing on all cylinders against the Pacers on Sunday. Harden scored 40, hitting 9-of-20 shots (including 8-of-18 3-pointers) to key the Rockets’ 115-103 victory.

Duds of the night

The Knicks hit only 5 of 28 3-point attempts (17.9 percent) in a 115-89 loss to the Magic.

Highlights

Tyson Chandler wins the game for the Lakers with this last-second block.

Miles Bridges throws down a monster jam here, sending the Hornets broadcast booth into pandemonium.

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What’s next

Warriors (11-2) at Clippers (7-5) 10:30 p.m. ET – The Warriors will face their second game without Stephen Curry, who’s out with a groin strain — if only they had some other All-Stars around to help pick up the slack, right? The Clippers have won three of four games, including an impressive overtime win against the Bucks on Saturday.

Madrid ‘very happy’ with Solari, says Butragueno

Santiago Solari’s work as caretaker coach has pleased Real Madrid director Emilio Butragueno.

Real Madrid director Emilio Butragueno praised Santiago Solari, saying the club were “very happy” with the caretaker coach.

Solari guided Madrid to a fourth straight win since taking charge with a 4-2 victory over Celta Vigo in LaLiga on Sunday.

With his temporary spell coming to an end, Solari may yet get the Madrid job permanently, and Butragueno said he was delighted with the Argentinian.

“The truth is that we are very happy with him,” Madrid’s director of institutional relations told Movistar+.

“There is no doubt that he came at a very particular moment and has been able to achieve very good results.

“It was a very complicated game and we also had setbacks with injuries, [but] we had personality and character.”

The win, and Barcelona’s loss to Real Betis, has brought Madrid back into the title race, now sitting just four points off top spot despite being in sixth.

Butragueno said Madrid’s squad was good enough to compete on multiple fronts this season.

“We have very good players and the team is getting better and better, we took advantage of our chances and we are very happy, we must continue in this way,” he said.

“The line-up that finished the game is a clear example that we have a competitive squad, as the team has the personality to aspire to everything.”

Dwyane Wade will miss at least a week to bond with daughter

Wade will spend some time away from basketball to care for and bond with the newest addition to his family, a baby girl born just days ago.

Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union welcomed the newest addition to their family Thursday, a “miracle baby” as Union has openly shared her struggles with infertility.

Now, instead of spending the next week juggling his basketball family and now family of six (Wade has three children from a previous marriage), he plans to step away from the court to focus on his new baby girl.

The couple and their baby are currently at their Los Angeles home, and Wade said all are doing well, according to an Associated Press report.

“With my daughter coming a couple weeks early, she’s a little tiny right now, so we’re making sure health-wise that she’s OK,” Wade said. “And for me, once I leave and go back to the season, not really being able to be with me everywhere I go, this time right now, this bonding moment with my daughter is the most important thing in my life at this time.”

Wade will miss the Heat’s upcoming games versus the 76ers, Nets, Pacers and Lakers. He has also missed Miami’s last three games, matchups with the Wizards, Pacers and Spurs.

“And then I’ll go from there, see how she’s doing and make a decision based on that,” Wade said.

The 12-time NBA All-Star has the full support of his coach.

“We’re totally fine with it,” Erik Spoelstra said Sunday.

Neymar wants more from perfect PSG

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar was happy for Edinson Cavani after his side thrashed Monaco.

Neymar was delighted with Paris Saint-Germain’s thrashing of Monaco as he urged his team to continue building on their impressive start to the season.

The Brazilian scored a second-half penalty after Edinson Cavani had struck a hat-trick for PSG, who cruised to a 4-0 win at Stade Louis II on Sunday.

PSG have won all 13 of their Ligue 1 matches this season, opening up a 13-point lead atop the table.

Neymar, 26, was thrilled with the result and happy for Cavani, who took his tally to eight league goals this season.

“I’m very happy, happy for the goal and especially for the victory,” he said.

“Edi’s hat-trick … not only him but we are also happy for him to have made the goals. He is our number nine.

“I hope that we can continue to play our part by winning the games and increasing the records more and more.”

PSG’s 13 wins to start a Ligue 1 season are a record, with the previous mark set by Olympique Lillois with eight in 1936-37.