Real Madrid Draw Relegates Leganes And Messi Claims Golden Boot

 

Newly-crowned La Liga champions Real Madrid dropped points for the first time since the season’s restart on Sunday in a dramatic 2-2 draw that was not enough to save Leganes from relegation.

Leganes, who needed to beat Madrid and hope Celta Vigo failed to win against bottom club Espanyol, almost pulled off a miraculous escape but could not find a winner at the Butarque.

The draw means a rotated Madrid side surrendered the perfect record of 11 victories out of 11 since Spanish football came back from its coronavirus-enforced suspension while Karim Benzema fell short of Lionel Messi in the battle for the golden boot.

Gareth Bale was left out of Madrid’s squad completely for what might have been his last La Liga fixture for the club. Zinedine Zidane said afterwards it was a “technical decision”.

Messi had earlier scored twice in a 5-0 win over Alaves, enough for him to claim a record seventh ‘Pichichi Trophy’ and to give Barcelona a boost ahead of the return leg of their last 16 Champions League tie against Napoli next month.

The double took Messi’s league tally to 25 goals for the season and put him four clear of Benzema, who endured a quiet night against Leganes, with Sergio Ramos and Marco Asensio on target.

The odds were always against Leganes but a miracle looked possible when Roger Assale equalised with 12 minutes left to find a winner.

But chances were missed and a penalty appeal was turned down, meaning they join Real Mallorca and Espanyol in Segunda next season.

“The lads are broken,” said Leganes coach Javier Aguirre. “We had it within our grasp.”

Real Sociedad and Granada, meanwhile, took the last two Europa League spots, with Getafe and Valencia missing out. Villarreal had already secured fifth place.

Granada thrashed Athletic Bilbao 4-0 and qualification caps an incredible season for the club, who were only promoted from Segunda last term.

“Our aim was to stay up so to finish in the Europa League is a dream for us,” said Granada striker Roberto Soldado.

Real Sociedad snuck into sixth place after Adnan Januzaj’s 87th-minute goal clinched a 1-1 draw away at Atletico Madrid.

Barca believe in Euro glory

Messi finishes as La Liga’s top scorer for a record seventh time, pulling clear of Telmo Zarra’s six while playing for Athletic Bilbao in the forties and fifties.

“I’m never that bothered about the individual prizes and I would have preferred it to have come with a league title like before,” added Messi.

Setien said on Saturday he still believes Barcelona, at their best, can win the Champions League next month.

And a sparkling attacking display certainly gave a glimpse of what is possible, even if Napoli in the last 16, and potentially Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals, will offer a completely different test.

There could be fitness concerns for Setien too ahead of the second leg against Napoli. Clement Lenglet hobbled off with what looked like a groin problem, with Antoine Griezmann and Samuel Umtiti already out injured.

But Setien has increasingly been putting his faith in youth and the 20-year-old Puig impressed again in midfield while 21-year-old Ronald Araujo gave a composed, albeit largely unchallenged, performance in defence.

The 17-year-old Ansu Fati opened the scoring at the near post before Puig teed up Messi to stride through and finish.

Luis Suarez capped a superb move by heading in his 17th league goal after Jordi Alba had volleyed Messi’s pass across, with another Puig through ball allowing Nelson Semedo to lash in a fourth.

Messi had the last word with a smart finish on the half-volley.

Madrid looked to have the game won when Asensio finished off Isco’s pass but Leganes pulled level as Assale nipped in to set up a dramatic last 10 minutes.

With Celta still being held, they only needed a goal to survive and Javier Aviles might have got it only to miskick at the back post and then failed to connect from a corner.

Replays showed Luka Jovic touched the cross with his hand but referee Guillermo Cuadra was not convinced and even goalkeeper Pichu Cuellar going up for a 94th-minute corner could not give Leganes the goal they needed.

Spain Imposes Near Total Lockdown To Fight Virus

 

Spain on Saturday followed Italy and imposed a near-total nationwide lockdown to fight the spread of coronavirus by banning people from leaving home except to go to work, get medical care or buy food.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced the restrictions on movement following a huge spike in the number of infections in this nation of some 46 million people.

They are among the measures introduced as part of a 15-day state of emergency officially declared by his government on Saturday.

Spain confirmed more than 1,500 new cases of coronavirus since Friday evening, raising its total to 5,753 cases, the second-highest number in Europe after Italy.

The disease has so far claimed 183 lives in Spain.

“The prohibition to circulate in the streets… must be followed starting today,” he said in a televised address after a cabinet meeting that lasted more than seven hours.

Spaniards may leave home to go to work, “buy bread”, go to the pharmacy and get medical care but “not to go have dinner at a friend’s house”, he added.

Police would ensure the restrictions on people’s movements are obeyed, said the prime minister, whose office later announced that his wife Begona Gomez had tested positive for the virus.

“The measures which we have adopted are drastic and will unfortunately have consequences… but our hand will not shake to prevail against the virus,” Sanchez added.

“We will win this battle… but it is important that the price we pay for this victory be as little as possible.”

All stores except for pharmacies and supermarkets will close nationwide, the premier said.

Bars, restaurants and all shops except for supermarkets had already shut on Saturday for two weeks in the Madrid region, which accounts for over half of all infections.

Most regional governments in Spain had already followed the example of Madrid and closed their schools.

Madrid’s streets deserted

Spain’s response to the coronavirus has so far had wide differences between regions due to the country’s complex system of sharing power between the central government and regional governments, which control education and health issues.

But by declaring a state of emergency, Sanchez’s government has the power to take over healthcare and use security forces to enforce orders.

It is only the second time that the government has evoked it since the country returned to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

The other time was during a 2010 air traffic controllers’ strike.

Sanchez warned Friday that the number of infections could reach 10,000 in the coming days in Spain.

In response to an appeal made on social media, many residents of the Spanish went to their balconies and windows at 10:00 pm to applaud and cheer the healthcare workers dealing with the crisis.

An eerie calm descended on the Spanish capital on Saturday as people obeyed the strict measures imposed by the regional government.

“It is distressing when we are so used to seeing a crowd here,” Paco Higueras, a restaurant employee, said as he cast his gaze at the nearly deserted Puerta del Sol square in central Madrid.

The spot, one of the city’s main tourist landmarks, is usually bustling on a Saturday. But it was already deserted as people obeyed restrictions already in place in the Madrid region.

All major Madrid museums, including the Prado, which displays masterpieces by Francisco Goya and Diego Velazquez; and the Reina Sofia, home to Pablo Picasso’s anti-war masterpiece “Guernica”, have already closed.

Earlier Saturday, the mayor of Seville announced that the southern city’s famous Holy Week processions featuring hooded penitents would be cancelled because of the outbreak of the virus.

Madrid’s ‘Worst Game Of Season’ In Betis Defeat, Lets Barca Back In

 

Real Madrid’s response to winning the Clasico was another surprise defeat on Sunday as they lost 2-1 away at Real Betis to hand the initiative straight back to Barcelona.

Betis were deserving victors of a thrilling contest at the Benito Villamarin where two galling Madrid errors cost them their place at the top of La Liga, with Barca now two points clear.

A heavy touch from Sergio Ramos led to Sidnei’s stunning opener for Betis and then Karim Benzema, who equalised with a penalty on the stroke of half-time, was at fault for their 82nd-minute winner.

Benzema’s misplaced pass in midfield allowed Cristian Tello to go clear and he held his nerve to give Betis their first victory in eight games that adds yet another twist to this season’s back-and-forth title race.

“We lacked everything today,” said Real coach Zinedine Zidane.

“It was our worst game of the season. We lacked energy, fluency, possession, aggression. It was a bad day and that can happen. I am responsible. We can’t lose our heads but we can’t be happy either.”

Madrid appeared to have taken a significant step forward, at least psychologically, by beating Barcelona 2-0 last weekend but this result undid all their good work at the Santiago Bernabeu while bringing defensive doubts swiftly back to the surface.

Betis climb to 12th and put eight points between themselves and the bottom three.

Madrid have now lost three out of their last four games and won only two from seven, a dip in form that has appeared even more charitable given Barca’s own problems on and off the pitch.

After a game at home to Eibar on Friday, Zinedine Zidane’s side will travel to Manchester City in the Champions League but on this evidence their hopes of recovering their 2-1 home defeat from the first leg would seem faint at best.

Ramos will be suspended at the Etihad Stadium and his own poor run of form continued against Betis, where he was at fault for their first goal and then complicit in compounding Benzema’s error for the second.

“We haven’t played the way we trained all week,” said Ramos. “We have to be self-critical. And now we have to wait for those above us to slip up.”

Eder Militao will likely come in for Ramos against City and he was given an outing at right-back in the absence of the ill Dani Carvajal while Marcelo was preferred to Ferland Mendy on the opposite side.

Gareth Bale was left out of the starting line-up for a fourth match running.

Betis were the better side in the first half and might have taken the lead earlier had Marc Bartra not headed over from four yards or Thibaut Courtois not reacted quickly to push away Nabil Fekir’s thundering shot.

But five minutes before half-time they finally broke through, aided by Ramos, who tried to dribble the ball out after Fekir’s shot was blocked only for a heavy touch to allow the forward to retrieve.

Off balance, Ramos bundled into Fekir and probably would have conceded a penalty had the loose ball not spilled to Sidnei, who instead hammered it into the top corner.

Deservedly in front, Betis then went in level at the interval as Sidnei, perhaps with the adrenaline still pumping, fouled Marcelo in the box. Benzema drove into the bottom corner for only his third goal this year.

Both teams had chances to find a winner. A scintillating Betis break ended with Sergio Canales sending Joaquin through but after rounding Courtois he tried to square back to Canales when the net looked open. Luka Modric sprinted back and hacked away.

Madrid enjoyed their own spell of pressure as Modric’s shot from distance was saved and Mendy, on for Marcelo, curled onto the crossbar, helped on its way by the fingertips of Joel Robles.

But it was Betis that landed the decisive blow, again benefitting from a Madrid mistake. Benzema came deep and his pass inside was loose, persuading Ramos to dash out to intercept but he was beaten and left stranded.

Andres Guardado put Tello through the gap and he sent Courtois diving towards one corner before sliding the ball into the other.

Jesus, Bruyne Give Man City Comeback Win At Real Madrid

 

Kevin De Bruyne orchestrated a dramatic Manchester City comeback on Wednesday as they stunned Real Madrid 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu to put one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Madrid looked on course to edge a cagey contest after Isco’s smart finish early in the second half, but De Bruyne teed up Gabriel Jesus in the 78th minute and then tucked away a penalty five minutes later.

A pulsating finish saw Sergio Ramos sent off for preventing Jesus from going clear and Madrid’s captain will now be banned for the second leg at the Etihad Stadium on March 17.

City’s two away goals will make them heavy favourites to go through, even if manager Pep Guardiola was quick to discourage complacency.

“It’s still not over,” he said. “If there is one team that can overcome this it is this club (Real Madrid) with their experience and their history.”

“We know the situation,” said Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane. “We have to go there and win.”

Madrid have now won only one of their last five games, with the Clasico against Barcelona in La Liga to come on Sunday.

“We are on a bad run but we have to get ourselves out of it,” said Zidane. “Sunday is a chance to change.”

Strikers on bench

Guardiola sprung a surprise by picking De Bruyne up front and leaving Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho all on the bench.

“We played without a proper striker because of the way they defend,” said Guardiola.

“They are so aggressive down the middle and when that happens you have to make the pitch wide.”

His gamble paid off handsomely, even if Nicolas Otamendi made the mistake that led to Isco’s opener while an injury to Aymeric Laporte meant Fernandinho had to be introduced midway through the first half.

Laporte must now be doubtful for Sunday’s League Cup final against Aston Villa.

Guardiola insisted on Tuesday that Manchester City’s two-year Champions League ban, pending appeal, imposed by UEFA for breaching financial fair play rules would not act as a spur for his players.

But it was on the minds of travelling fans, who were singing against European football’s governing body from almost the first minute.

The opening half was tentative with both teams’ priority to stifle and City content to concede possession, so long as Jesus and Riyad Mahrez could race away on the break.

Jesus cut inside Raphael Varane but shot straight at Thibaut Courtois and on the stroke of half-time, the Brazilian came close again, this time Ramos blocking and Fede Valverde hacking away off the line.

Real should have scored when Karim Benzema’s header was palmed out by Ederson but Vinicius Junior slipped when about to tap in from five yards out with the goal at his mercy.

Ramos red

City enjoyed their best spell after the break. Casemiro carelessly conceded possession and De Bruyne tore away, feeding Mahrez, who cut in and curled wide. Jesus drove another shot at Courtois.

Zidane considered a change and Gareth Bale was warming up when Madrid took the lead. Otamendi failed to control a Rodri pass and Vinicius broke, with Kyle Walker and Fernandinho rushing to meet him.

They left Isco free behind them and Vinicius picked him out, giving the Spaniard a simple finish.

The hosts smelt an opportunity for a second as Dani Carvajal weaved through and Ramos’s volley was deflected over by Fernandino.

Bale came on for Madrid and Sterling for City. Shortly after, De Bruyne’s clipped cross was too high for Ramos at the back post and Jesus’s header beat a weak right hand from Courtois to equalise.

Five minutes later, City completed the turnaround when Carvajal slid in late on Sterling and De Bruyne made no mistake from the spot.

Bale Returns As Madrid Come From Behind To Beat Osasuna

 

Gareth Bale came back into the team and Real Madrid came back to beat Osasuna on Sunday as a 4-1 victory in Pamplona strengthened their hold on top spot in La Liga.

Bale had been left out completely for Madrid’s previous four matches but the Welshman returned to the squad and the starting line-up at El Sadar, in a surprise show of faith from coach Zinedine Zidane.

A fortuitous deflection meant Bale assisted Isco’s equalizer too before Sergio Ramos put Madrid in front after Unai Garcia had given Osasuna an early lead.

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Substitutes Lucas Vazquez and Luka Jovic then scored from late breaks as Madrid pulled six points clear of Barcelona, who play away at Real Betis later on Sunday.

Barca’s exit in the Copa del Rey overshadowed Madrid’s own shock defeat at home to Real Sociedad in the quarter-finals, a loss that brought a dramatic end to their 21-match unbeaten run.

But Zidane will be relieved to see his team swiftly back on track with a performance full of the kind of resilience that Madrid’s rivals have so lacked in recent weeks.

Bale also keeps coming back under Zidane and the 30-year-old had chances to add a goal to a spirited display before going off to a decent reception from the away support in the second half.

This was only his third appearance since the turn of the year.

Osasuna were the better side in the early stages and took a deserved lead when Unai put his head in front of Casemiro’s dangling foot and steered the ball into the corner.

But Madrid improved as the half wore on and Isco volleyed in an equaliser after Bale attempted to divert Ferland Mendy’s cross, with the ball deflecting kindly into the Spaniard’s path.

Ramos was lucky to escape a red card after sliding in on Ruben Garcia with a high foot and Madrid’s captain took full advantage of his reprieve as he nodded in Casemiro’s looping header to the back post.

Luka Modric had a strong claim for a penalty after he nipped the ball away from Pervis Estupinan in the area before Osasuna enjoyed their most threatening spell.

Inigo Perez’s shot whistled just over and Ruben dragged wide from Nacho Vidal’s pull-back after making space with a neat dummy past Ramos.

Bale went off to applause from the small number of away fans, and Vazquez came on to add a third. Osasuna’s defence were occupied by a Karim Benzema burst and he fed right for Vazquez to drive in. Jovic smashed in a fourth in injury-time.

Relief For Barca As Messi Ensures Setien Enjoys Winning Start

 

 

Quique Setien may want a different Barcelona but he needed the same old Lionel Messi on Sunday as the Argentinian gave his new coach a winning start with the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Granada.

Messi’s strike in the 76th minute won a cagey contest at the Camp Nou and prevented the much-anticipated launch of Setien’s new era becoming something of a damp squib.

Victory also sends Barca back to the top of La Liga on goal difference, after Real Madrid had briefly claimed first place following their win over Sevilla on Saturday.

It would have been different if Granada’s Yan Eteki hadn’t struck the post with just over 20 minutes left or their central defender German Sanchez not been sent off for a needless second yellow card soon after.

The extra man was the boost Barca needed and Messi duly poked home his 17th goal in 21 games this season following good work by Arturo Vidal, Antoine Griezmann and the 20-year-old Riqui Puig.

All three had reasons to impress, particularly Puig, whose inclusion on the bench was an early indication of Setien’s belief in youth. Puig’s contribution after coming on should mean more opportunities are to come.

Setien said last week that if he could make one guarantee, it was that Barcelona would play good football while he is in charge and although few could argue this was a transformative display following the sacking of Ernesto Valverde, there were certainly some encouraging signs.

The passing was faster, the pressing higher and Messi spent most of the match playing down the middle, with Griezmann on the left and Ansu Fati, another youngster, on the right.

Slick Barca dominate

Setien claimed on Saturday he would never go home happy after winning and playing badly but a 1-0 victory gets his tenure off to a positive start and, with Real Madrid showing no sign of stuttering, he could hardly afford anything less.

His team had 83 per cent possession in the first half but chances were not as clear-cut and, as it was under Valverde, nearly everything went through Messi.

His driving run teed up Fati, who shot over, and then a cutting reverse pass set Alba away but Fati failed to finish at the back post.

Messi won the ball back on the ground and then nipped past two players. He flashed wide at the end of a fluid team move and missed from two free-kicks.

Barca were slick, evidently trying to pass faster and press with more aggression. Messi and Sergio Busquets chased and Griezmann did too, at one point earning the approval of the home fans after sprinting to provide cover at right-back.

Vidal has always harried and when he won the ball back early in the second half, Barca had a four against two. But Messi’s pass was heavy and the angle for Vidal became too acute.

The game drifted and tension grew but two moments proved crucial. First Eteki’s shot was kept out only by the post as he drove hard past the right hand of Ter Stegen.

Then, less than five minutes later, Granada were reduced to 10 men after German picked up a second yellow card for a late hack on Messi. It left Granada needing to survive 21 minutes and they only made it through eight.

Puig, on for Ivan Rakitic, recovered possession in the corner before Messi picked up the ball centrally. In a flash, he played in Griezmann, who found Vidal, whose swivelled a flick back into the path of Messi and he poked a finish into the corner.

Setien threw both arms into the air and looked to the sky, with joy and also relief.

Barcelona Set To Sack Valverde, Reports Suggest

 

 

Barcelona are set to sack their coach, Ernesto Valverde, according to reports in the Spanish press.

Valverde took training on Monday morning but his future looks bleak, with the club expected to announce his departure following a board meeting in the afternoon at Camp Nou.

Valverde arrived more than two hours early at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper and took training as usual, despite Barca’s public pursuit of their iconic former midfielder Xavi Hernandez at the weekend.

Xavi, currently the coach of Qatari team Al-Sadd, indicated he is not prepared to take charge immediately but the negotiations left Valverde in limbo.

After training on Monday, Valverde met with club president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Bartomeu then drove to Camp Nou, where he held a board meeting with several club officials including chief executive Oscar Grau, technical secretary Javier Bordas, vice president Jordi Cardoner and sporting director Eric Abidal.

According to Catalunya Radio, Valverde was told the club would negotiate the terms of his exit with his agent. ESPN added that Valverde had collected his belongings from the training ground.

Barca could install a temporary replacement like B team coach Francisco Javier Garcia Pimienta, perhaps with a view to appointing Xavi at the end of the season.

Otherwise, they could opt for a more permanent solution immediately. Former Tottenham Hotspur coach Mauricio Pochettino is a viable option, despite his previous claims he would never coach Barcelona due to connections with rivals Espanyol.

Ex-Real Betis coach Quique Setien, renowned for an attractive, attacking style of play, is out of work and has also been mentioned as a possible candidate.

Barcelona’s open hankering after Xavi has left a bitter taste, particularly with those who believe Valverde, who always speaks with sense and integrity, deserves better.

“I feel bad for Valverde, he doesn’t deserve this treatment,” former Barcelona coach, and current Manchester City boss, Pep Guardiola said on Sunday. “I hope the situation can be resolved soon.”

European concerns

Barcelona sit top of La Liga, level on points with Real Madrid, and they face Napoli in the last 16 of the Champions League next month, after sailing through top of their group.

Yet skepticism around Valverde’s suitability has long been building, with every loss prompting renewed speculation about his future.

Underpinning the doubts are Barca’s last two exits from the Champions League, after the team followed an incredible collapse against Roma in 2018 with a remarkably similar capitulation against Liverpool last year.

Given the obsession with bolstering their record in Europe, many were surprised the club did not opt for a fresh start last summer, even if Valverde’s domestic record has been excellent.

In his two completed seasons, Barca have won two La Liga titles, as well as the Copa del Rey in 2018, and another league title remains very much in sight this term, despite second-placed Madrid’s impressive form in recent weeks.

But Barcelona’s performances have been unconvincing — they have drawn three of their last four league games — and the flaws in the Spanish Super Cup semi-final loss to Atletico Madrid on Thursday, in which they conceded two late goals, felt all too familiar.

There have also been lingering concerns about a more pragmatic style of play, which for some has veered too far from the club’s possession-football DNA.

Nostalgia remains for the brilliance of Guardiola’s side, even if most of the players he was blessed with have gone.

When Valverde arrived to succeed Luis Enrique in 2017, Barcelona were wounded, hurting after the shock departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain and humiliated, as consecutive defeats by Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup hinted at trouble for the season ahead.

Instead, Valverde steadied the ship and galvanised the team.

They lost one league game en route to winning the title and the year after, they won again, finishing 11 points ahead of Atletico and 19 clear of Real.

Increasingly, though, Valverde’s achievements have faded from view and his failures then began to overshadow them, leaving Barcelona to consider that his time might be up.

UN Talks Out Of Sync With Global Climate Demands

 

UN climate negotiations in Madrid remained bogged down Monday in the fine print of the Paris treaty rulebook, out-of-sync with a world demanding action to forestall the ravages of global warming.

The 196-nation talks should kick into high-gear Tuesday with the arrival of ministers, but on the most crucial issue of all — slashing the greenhouse gas emissions overheating the planet — major emitters have made it clear they have nothing to say.

Only the European Union is dangling the prospect of enhanced carbon-cutting ambitions, to be laid out this week in its European Green New Deal.

The arrival Tuesday of Michael Bloomberg, who has thrown his hat — and a ton of money — into the US presidential contest, will underscore how much easier the task might be with a Democrat rather than a climate denier in the White House.

“I’m going to #COP25 in Madrid because President Trump won’t,” Bloomberg tweeted.

Observers say the case for a global Marshall Plan on global warming has become overwhelming.

A quartet of recent UN science reports catalogued a crescendo of deadly heatwave, flooding and superstorms made more destructive by rising seas, and projected far worse impacts just over the horizon.

Every year that CO2 and methane emissions continue to rise — as they have for decades — compresses the task of drawing them down fast enough to avoid catastrophic warming into an impossibly narrow time frame.

A youth-led movement, meanwhile, led by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg — a magnet for climate hope and fear — has seen millions of protesters spill into the streets, with tens of thousands in Madrid on Friday.

Even forward-looking businesses and corporations are pushing for a rapid and well-ordered transition to a low-carbon world.

Fossil Fuel Taboo

On Monday 631 institutional investors managing $37 trillion — a third of the world’s monetary assets — called for a price on carbon and end to fossil fuel subsidies.

But governments are waiting until next year’s deadline to unveil revised emissions reduction commitments.

“Negotiations, by their nature, are ‘I’ll give you this, if you give me that’,” said Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based climate policy think tank.

“So we are standing and watching our house on fire. I’ve got a hose, you’ve got a hose, but I’m not going to turn mine on until you do.”

At the same time, the rising tide of urgency has clearly permeated the “climate bubble” of diplomats, policy wonks, NGOs and business leaders that gather in a new city each year.

“Delegates are finally saying the ‘F’ words — Fossil Fuels,” said Catherine Abreu, Executive Director of Climate Action Network Canada, an umbrella organisation of activists.

For 25 years, she noted, it has been more-or-less taboo to point an accusing finger within the UN negotiations directly at the cause of global warming — the burning of fossil fuels.

It is no coincidence that the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement — which calls for capping the rise in temperatures to “well below” two degrees Celsius — does not mention “fossil fuel”, “oil”, “coal” or “natural gas”.

Climate-Addled World

Last month, however, a United Nations report showed for the first time that fossil fuel production planned or in the pipeline will overwhelm efforts to hold warming to levels consistent with a liveable planet.

Negotiators are addressing a trio of politically-charged technical issues before the Paris Agreement becomes operational at the end of next year.

One is reworking rules for largely dysfunctional carbon markets.

Another is so-called “loss and damage”.

Under the bedrock UN climate treaty, rich nations agreed to shoulder more responsibility for curbing global warming, and to help developing countries prepare for unavoidable future impacts — the twin pillars of “mitigation” and “adaptation”.

But there was no provision for helping countries already reeling in a climate-addled world, such as Mozambique — recently hit by devastating cyclones — and small island states disappearing under the waves.

“There must be a path forward that ensures vulnerable countries will see finance and capacity-building support substantially scaled-up to address the loss and damage they are already experiencing,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Even fixing a timetable for periodic reviews of carbon-cutting pledges has proven too contentious for frontline climate negotiators to resolve.

Zidane Says Real ‘Not Looking For Revenge’ Against PSG

Zidane Downplays Reported Madrid's Move For Pogba
Real Madrid’s French coach Zinedine Zidane. AFP

Zinedine Zidane said that his Real Madrid side are “not looking to get revenge” when they host Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Tuesday after a 3-0 defeat in France earlier in the group stage.

Pressure mounted on Zidane after that loss at the Parc des Princes in September, but the 13-time European champions have since enjoyed an upturn in fortunes and sit behind leaders Barcelona only on goal difference in La Liga.

Real can join PSG in securing a last-16 place with victory at the Santiago Bernabeu, or if Club Brugge fail to win at Galatasaray in the other Group A match.

“We aren’t looking to get revenge after what happened earlier in the group,” Zidane said on Monday.

“But we want to play a good game of course and maintain our form.

“It’s the kind of game where you can confirm you’re on a good run. We want to win because we’re at home and we want to play good football.

“I want to see my side play 90 minutes at their best.”

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Frenchman Zidane was rebuked by PSG sporting director Leonardo earlier this month for comments about a possible move for his compatriot Kylian Mbappe, when he said the Paris forward’s “dream is to play for Real Madrid”.

The 47-year-old made clear again his admiration for Mbappe ahead of Tuesday’s encounter.

“You know that I’ve known Mbappe for a long time and that I’m in love with him as a person because of when he came here on trial a long time ago,” said Zidane.

“Having said that, he’s our opponent and there’s no more to it.”

Real have recovered in the Champions League after also being held to a 2-2 home draw by Brugge in their second game, beating Galatasaray home and away including a 6-0 thrashing in Madrid last time out.

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is hoping the Spanish giants can show how far they have come since the loss in Paris.

“The first meeting with them helped us learn a lot — it wasn’t a good game but we’ve improved a lot lately,” said the Belgian.

“It’s not revenge, more wanting to get one over on another big team who have aspirations to win the Champions League and we need to show how good we are.”

PSG ready for ‘big challenge’

PSG lead Real, who knocked them out of the tournament in the last 16 two years ago, by five points with two matches remaining and can secure top spot in the group by avoiding defeat.

“They have great qualities and a great mentality, it is a big challenge,” said Paris coach Thomas Tuchel.

“The match will be different from the first leg. The Bernabeu is a very hard venue to play. Madrid are in good form, they score a lot and barely concede.

“But we have a balanced and dangerous team. We are ready for this challenge, I am sure of that. We have to work together and suffer together.”

The French champions are still without injured duo Ander Herrera and Thilo Kehrer, but have Neymar back after the world’s most expensive player returned for his first appearance since October 5 against Lille on Friday.

Spain Votes In Repeat General Election Amid Catalonia Tensions

 

Spain voted Sunday in its fourth general election in as many years amid heightened tensions over the separatist push in Catalonia that has fuelled a surge in support for upstart far-right party Vox.

The repeat polls were called after Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez failed to secure support from other parties following an inconclusive election in April which saw his Socialist party win the most votes, but no working majority in parliament.

Opinion polls however suggest this new election will fail to break the deadlock. Neither the left nor the right look likely to win a ruling majority in Spain’s 350-seat parliament.

The Socialists are on track to finish top again, but with slightly fewer seats than the 123 they picked up in April, while the main opposition conservative Popular Party (PP) may strengthen its parliamentary presence.

But the most striking development could be the rise of the far-right Vox party, which might even jump to third-largest in parliament, according to polling.

Party leaders from across the political spectrum urged Spaniards to head to the polls.

Sanchez told reporters after voting in Madrid that “it is very important that we all participate to strengthen our democracy” and “have the needed stability to be able to form a government”.

The last election produced a near-record 76 percent turnout, which helped Sanchez who had mobilised left-leaning voters to oppose Vox but analysts warn the numbers will likely drop this time, as Spaniards suffer election fatigue.

Voting stations will close at 8:00 pm, with results expected a few hours later.

‘Put order’

The election comes as Spain finds itself increasingly polarised by the Catalan crisis, which has deepened in recent weeks.

Less than a month ago, the Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to lengthy jail terms over their role in a failed 2017 independence bid, sparking days of angry street protests in Barcelona and other Catalan cities that sometimes turned violent.

More than 600 people were injured in the protests, which saw demonstrators torching barricades and throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at police.

During a TV election debate PP leader Pablo Casado called for a “real government that will put order in Catalonia”.

But the toughest line against the Catalan separatists has come from Vox leader Santiago Abascal.

“Drastic solutions are needed,” he said during his final campaign rally on Friday night in Madrid.

He then repeated his pledge to end the Catalan crisis by suspending Catalonia’s regional autonomy, banning separatist parties and arresting its regional president, Quim Torra, who has vowed to continue the secession drive.

The crowd responded by chanting “Torra to the dungeon”.

At the rally, Ana Escobedo said she has voted for the PP in the past but was drawn to Vox because of its hard line on Catalonia as well as illegal immigration.

“I think we need to take a heavy hand,” she said.

‘Remain difficult ‘

Vox won 24 seats in parliament in the last election in April, in the first significant showing by a far-right faction since Spain’s return to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

This time Vox could double that number, polls suggest.

In recent days, Sanchez has repeatedly raised the alarm about Vox’s “aggressive ultra-rightwing” policies, warning the party would drag the country back to the dark days of Franco’s dictatorship.

Spain has been caught in political paralysis since the election of December 2015 when far-left Podemos and business-friendly Ciudadanos entered parliament.

That put an end to decades of dominance of the two main parties, the PP and the Socialists, in the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy.

But there is a risk Sunday’s vote will only prolong the agony.

With no single party able to secure the required 176 seats for a majority, the Socialists are likely to opt for a minority government, ING analyst Steven Trypsteen said.

“Voting intentions appear to have changed since the April election. But these changes will not make it easier to form a government, so the political situation is likely to remain difficult after this weekend’s vote,” he added.

How Messi’s Dead-Ball Hat-Trick Put Barca Back On Top

 

Lionel Messi delivered an incredible dead-ball hat-trick on Saturday to steer Barcelona to a 4-1 victory over Celta Vigo and ease the pressure on his coach Ernesto Valverde.

Messi scored with a penalty and then a pair of sumptuous free-kicks either side of half-time after Lucas Olaza had briefly pulled Celta level with a free-kick of his own at Camp Nou. Sergio Busquets drove home to make sure of the win late on.

A 34th treble in La Liga puts Messi equal with Cristiano Ronaldo, while a much-needed win sends Barca above Real Madrid on goal difference and back to the top of the table at the end of a testing week.

“It is impossible not to depend on Messi, he illuminates everything,” said Valverde. “We depend on him like any team would depend on him. He unlocked the game.”

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Madrid had briefly claimed first place after continuing their own goal-surge by hammering Eibar 4-0, a game in which Karim Benzema scored twice and Eden Hazard exploded into life.

But while Madrid appear to be hitting their stride, Barcelona’s momentum had stalled. After losing to Levante and failing to break down Slavia Prague in the Champions League, scrutiny had again turned on Valverde and his future as Barcelona coach.

Barcelona’s disgruntled fans had whistled their team against Slavia in midweek and when Olaza equalised for Celta, that tension and restlessness threatened to return.

Instead, Messi took command, this hat-trick taking his tally to nine goals in seven games, 612 in total for his club.

“Obviously when it’s tight we have the advantage of having the best player in the world and the best free-kick taker in the world,” said Busquets.

Yet his precision from free-kicks is a skill the 32-year-old has worked on and improved in recent years, his conversion rate currently at four goals from his last seven attempts in the league.

The last time a player scored a hat-trick from set-pieces in La Liga was when Messi himself achieved the same feat in 2012 against Espanyol, albeit with two penalties and one free-kick.

There was good news for Barcelona too in the return of Luis Suarez, who came off the bench after recovering from a calf strain.

Messi scored his penalty in the 23rd minute after Joseph Aidoo had blocked Nelson Semedo’s cross with his hand.

It was Messi that conceded the foul for Olaza’s curling free-kick that was well-hit enough to beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen, even if the goalkeeper might have been disappointed not to be able to get across.

There was little Celta keeper Ruben Blanco could do about Messi’s efforts, the first in stoppage time before the interval and the second three minutes after the restart.

They were almost carbon copies of each other, bending over the wall and nestling in the top right-hand corner.

Celta, under their new coach Oscar Garcia, never looked like mounting a comeback and Busquets put the result beyond doubt with a low shot five minutes from the finish.

Real’s players might have been watching on their way home from Ipurua, where they went three up inside 29 minutes, Sergio Ramos scoring a penalty between two Benzema strikes, the second also a spot-kick after Ramos delegated to his teammate. Fede Valverde added a fourth in the second half.

Benzema’s double takes him to 157 goals for Real Madrid, above Ferenc Puskas into sixth in the club’s all-time list, but his excellent display was trumped by a creative masterclass from Hazard.

“His first half was very impressive,” said coach Zinedine Zidane. “We are happy and he will be a huge player for Madrid, for sure.”

Hazard’s vintage performance

Benzema latched onto Hazard’s pass in the 17th minute and after Valverde and Luka Modric missed, the ball spilled back to the Frenchman, who found the corner from an acute angle.

Three minutes later it was two, Hazard the creator again, his feet too quick for Pablo De Blasis, who caught his opponent’s right leg. Ramos slid the penalty home.

Hazard sparkled, with a brilliant nutmeg, a ‘rabona’ cross and too many glides past defenders to count.

Ramos passed on the second Madrid penalty, awarded for a foul on Lucas Vazquez, to allow Benzema to make it three before Valverde had added a fourth, cracking in Modric’s pass for his first goal in La Liga.

Barcelona And Real Madrid Clasico Postponed Over Catalonia Protests

Collage show scenes from the violence that erupted after the protest called by the local Republic Defence Committees (CDR) in Barcelona.

 

The Barcelona and Real Madrid Clasico, Spain’s biggest football league match, has been postponed because of Catalonia protests, the Spanish football federation said Friday.

The clubs have until 10:00am (0800 GMT) on Monday to find a new date for the match originally scheduled for October 26, the federation said. If they fail to do so, the federation will choose a new date.

The Spanish football league (LFP) on Wednesday said it had asked the country’s football federation (RFEF) to move the fixture from to Madrid after three days of large-scale demonstrations which have turned increasingly violent.