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Joaquin calls for patience after Real Betis suffer season of mediocrity

Spain’s penultimate league weekend of the season was so intense, unpredictable, tearful and joyous in almost equal measure that you may well have missed a legend doing something legendary.

Real Madrid were torn apart, humiliated ahead of their season finale against Real Betis. Barcelona wandered their way through the post-Anfield hangover but still managed to almost fatally pierce Getafe’s Champions League aspirations.

Girona crumbled to almost certain relegation despite winning at Madrid this season, drawing with Barcelona at the Camp Nou and eliminating Atletico Madrid from the Copa del Rey — a message to Eusebio and his disdain for 3-5-2: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

On the weekend when Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City were winning the title in England, why on earth wouldn’t Real Valladolid’s saviour — given that they are presided over by a guy, Ronaldo, who starred with the City coach in Bobby Robson’s Barcelona of the mid-1990s — be named Guardiola? Okay, Pep is Pep and Sergi isn’t related, but there was a hint of the universe being in harmony, a kiss from kismet.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

Diego Godin’s emotional goodbye, Abdoulaye Ba being brainless again for Rayo Vallecano, Iago Aspas paying further homage to Antonin Panenka in scoring against Athletic — then sportingly consoling keeper Iago Herrerin for leaving him with egg on his face. It was all there, a cornucopia of quality, drama, relief, embarrassment, salvation — an Iberian A to Z of La Liga’s beauty and quality.6

The legendary act? Drawing 1-1 against a side who didn’t seem to have waved the white flag, despite their descent into the inferno of Spain’s second division being confirmed some time ago, Betis were about to end their wilting season to the sound of jeers, whistles, boos and potentially the sight of restless natives with pitchforks and lanterns storming the citadel of the Benito Villamarin that night to chase coach Quique Setien out of town.

There had been eight minutes of added time on the display board held up by the fourth official. In a game for which you care with all your heart and your nails are bitten down to your knuckles, you, me, indeed everybody who loves their football team would look at eight minutes as an odyssey — a universe of time in which equalisers, winners or more goals to humiliate a beaten opposition can be scored.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

Oh this occasion, eight minutes seemed to the irritable, passionate, hot-headed and long-suffering Betis support as some kind of cosmic joke at their expense. “Mas basura, mas sufrimiento y mas verguenza,” (“More rubbish, more suffering and more shame”) were the kind of sentiments that were rippling around the venerable old stadium where poor old Betis and their aficionados will have to suffer either Barcelona or Valencia lifting the Copa del Rey in a couple of weeks’ time.

Joaquin had already put Los Verdiblancos 1-0 up early in the match with the kind of header that had Marco Van Basten scored it, would have merited anthologies of poetry, portraits hung in art galleries and perhaps a statue or two created in its honour. In doing so, he’d reached 100 professional goals, and 49 for Betis — becoming the 12th-oldest scorer in La Liga history.

Ex-Chelsea midfielder Mikel considering Premier League offers – source

John Obi Mikel is closing in on a return to the Premier League with a source telling ESPN FC that the former Chelsea star is considering multiple offers from around the league and could make a decision before heading off to the Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria.

With Boro’s season over and no promotion, a source close to the Nigeria international said he has received multiple offers to return to the Premier League, including newly promoted Norwich and Sheffield United.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china4

“There are some options right now, and a few more we expect to see over the coming days,” the source told ESPN FC. “Once all the options are on the table, he will make a decision.”

That decision is likely to be made before the Africa Cup of Nations Finals.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

Mikel has just been recalled to the Nigeria squad after nearly one year out, and is expected to lead his country to the Africa Cup of Nations finals.

“He will most likely make the decision before the finals, although that will depend on what is on the table,” the source added.

Boone: Andujar’s decision on surgery likely soon

New York Yankees third baseman Miguel Andujar will make a decision on whether to undergo shoulder surgery that would likely end his season in the next 24 hours, according to manager Aaron Boone.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Andujar, 24, missed more than a month because of a labrum tear in his right shoulder. He returned from the injured list last week but managed only three hits in 34 at-bats, prompting the Yankees to send him for more tests on his shoulder.4

Andujar returned to the 10-day injured list on Monday, one day before an MRI showed no change in his shoulder from the MRI in April that revealed the tear, Boone said Tuesday.

Boone said Andujar will talk the situation over with his family and the team and make a determination on what’s next, either a return to rehab or surgery.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

‘It felt like home’: Steelers’ Al Villanueva returns to army base in Germany

Alejandro Villanueva knows how to maximize an offseason. He takes business classes at Carnegie Mellon University and spends time fishing in Florida and Canada.

Last month was all about savoring nostalgia from the fields of Kaiserslautern High School in Germany.

As an honorary football coach to military members as part of the USAA’s Salute to Service NFL Boot Camp, Villanueva returned to the place where his career as a U.S. Army Ranger began.

“As soon as I landed in Germany, it felt like it was home,” said Villanueva, who served in Afghanistan before working his way into the NFL. “Last time here (at Kaiserslautern) was with my dad getting my physical for the U.S. military.”nike nfl jerseys cheap china

The boot camp — combining communities from Kaiserslautern military and the Ramstein Air Base — gives military the chance to train like NFL players. True to Steelers form, they trained in a light coat of April snowfall.4

Villanueva wasn’t exactly a hard-charging coach, bragging over the phone that he just threw a ball 45 yards. He oversaw the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, three-cone shuttle, receiving gauntlet and quarterback arm challenge.

But this was USAA’s first boot-camp session held on an overseas U.S. military base, which made Villanueva proud.

“It’s bridging the past and present with what I’ve experienced,” Villanueva said of his trip. “To be received by the military community here is something special.“cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Villanueva is one of the most recognizable figures in the league’s relationship with the armed forces. Every season, Villanueva honors teammates with helmet decals from various Army divisions. He pairs decals with players whose personalities match the spirit of a specific division.

He hoped to teach football in Germany while converting a few Steelers fans along the way. But that was already done for him.

“People follow sports differently, but there’s a huge massive Steelers following, which is rally cool,” Villanueva said. “I’ve seen terrible towels around here.”

Man United in hunt for Swansea winger Daniel James – sources

Manchester United are among a number of clubs in a race to sign Swansea City winger Daniel James, sources have told ESPN FC.

United, Everton, Newcastle and Leeds are all reported to be interested in the 21-year-old winger.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer refused to comment on speculation about a move for James at a news conference on Friday, but sources have told ESPN FC that the Wales international is one of the players on his list of summer targets.6

Any deal would depend on United matching Swansea’s valuation, which is around £15 million.

James scored two goals in 20 games in the Championship this season and has been capped twice by Wales, who are managed by Solskjaer’s former United teammate Ryan Giggs.

Sources have told ESPN FC that Solskjaer is looking to strengthen every area of his squad over the summer, with a forward, defender and at least one midfielder his priorities.

A number of senior players could leave, with doubts over the futures of Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo, Eric Bailly, Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Ander Herrera and club captain Antonio Valencia are set to depart on free transfers after Sunday’s final game of the season against relegated Cardiff at Old Trafford.

Antonio Valencia’s Manchester United exit reminds fans of better days

Antonio Valencia is as renowned for sentiment as he is for speaking English, but romanticism has not been lacking in his recent social media output. The Ecuadorian international is about to leave Manchester United and Sunday’s final game of the season against relegated Cardiff City will be the last that the club plays with him on the books.

“I want to enjoy until the last moment with you Man United” was just one example of the relationship-ending tone set by the 33-year-old’s recent posts and Valencia, who has not played for United since a 2-0 win at Newcastle on Jan. 2, is likely to have the chance to say goodbye properly this weekend.cheap nike nfl jerseys china

History will remember Valencia as a very good player — “He’s a been a fantastic servant to the club,” manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said on Friday — during the 10 years since he arrived from Wigan Athletic. He is the current squad’s longest-serving player, with 338 appearances and 25 goals, and ranks 47th on United’s all-time list for games played.2

Valencia was bought to replace Cristiano Ronaldo, who left Old Trafford for Real Madrid in 2009. Initially, the man who supported Boca Juniors and Ecuadorian side Nacional as a child and idolised Francesco Totti thought there was a disciplinary issue when Wigan manager Steve Bruce called him into his office, only to discover United were interested in him.

Sir Alex Ferguson told his new signing that his job was to beat players and cross to the forwards. It was one trick, but it worked; Valencia set up Wayne Rooney’s winner in the League cup final as part of an impressive debut campaign in Manchester.

“I had a good first season (he was named in the 2009-10 PFA team of the year) and my family came to see the final games when we beat Spurs 3-1 at Old Trafford,” Valencia once told me. “A few weeks earlier, we beat Bayern Munich 3-2. It was one of my best games, a really exciting match against one of the best teams in the world. We’d already knocked AC Milan out of the [Champions League], we were playing well but then we lost 2-1 in Munich. We knew we had to play well in Manchester and we did. Unfortunately we went out on away goals.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

As well as having to take the place of Ronaldo, who won the Ballon d’Or in his final year at United, Valencia had to contend with an unsettled right-back situation behind him.

“Unlike with previous partners on the right where I had a 50/50 partnership, my legs had gone playing behind Antonio,” Gary Neville tole me. “Ronaldo said: ‘I attack, you defend!’ With Antonio, I needed him to defend and attack for me and I sat there hoping that he’s do that and cover me. He was 90 percent and I was 10 percent.”

Valencia broke his leg against Rangers in September 2010, but returned to play a role in his club’s run to the following year’s Champions League final, which he started vs. Barcelona. In 2011-12, having signed a new contract, his form saw him named United’s player of the year and players’ player of the year.

ChiSox’s Anderson: Bat flips bring fun to game

Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, whose melee-inciting bat flip three weeks ago continues to follow him, told ESPN’s The Dan Le Batard Show on Wednesday that he is just trying to draw fans by having fun and isn’t worried about how other teams react to him.

“I like to go out and play with a lot of passion because that’s fun, and I think that draws attention to the fans and the kids,” Anderson said. “You know the kids love it. I’m on deck now, I get from the fans, ‘Hey, do the bat flip.’ So it’s cool stuff, and it’s all fun stuff. It’s nothing to disrespect anybody. But I think it’s a part of the game or it should be.”cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Not everyone in baseball shares his opinion. Anderson’s bat flip after a home run against the Kansas City Royals on April 17 led to him being hit in the backside with a 92 mph fastball one plate appearance later. After Anderson was hit by the pitch, he stepped toward the mound and the benches cleared.7

Anderson, 25, said if he broke some unwritten rule, he was unaware of it.

“I don’t really know the rules,” he said. “There’s not any for me. I can’t call them dumb because I don’t have any. … Nobody really came to me and said these are the rules, so I really don’t know what they are.”

A week after the bat flip against the Royals, Anderson hit a walk-off homer to beat the Detroit Tigers 12-11 and punctuated it with a bat flip. He isn’t worried that he might get payback for it later.

“I’m not bothered by other teams,” he said. “I go in and I’m trying to beat the other teams. I could really care less how they feel about me or how they think of me as a player. But I know my teammates understand me. I’m going to go out every day and give them what I got.”nfl nike jerseys for cheap

Anderson, 25, has been one of the breakout stars of 2019, batting .331 with 6 home runs, 20 RBIs and an American League-leading 12 stolen bases and doing it all his own way.

He recently told Sports Illustrated: “I kind of feel like today’s Jackie Robinson. That’s huge to say. But it’s cool, man, because he changed the game, and I feel like I’m getting to a point to where I need to change the game.”

Cora says Red Sox clubhouse isn’t divided

Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora pushed back against recent media discussion of what could be perceived as a racial divide in the Boston clubhouse ahead of the team’s trip to the White House on Thursday.

Cora and several Red Sox players will not attend the ceremony with President Donald Trump to honor the World Series champions. The manager, speaking after a 2-1 extra-inning victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday, said those absences should not be interpreted as a divided clubhouse.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

“There’s been a lot of talk about what’s going on tomorrow and the clubhouse and we’re divided with race and politics,” Cora said. “Those kids went out there and played their hearts out. We know who we are in the clubhouse. I know a lot of people doubt that, but we did what we did last year and canceled the noise. We showed up every day, and we played.”5

In January, Cora was outspoken about his native Puerto Rico’s need for relief after Hurricane Maria killed an estimated 2,975 people there. At the time, Cora indicated that he would consider skipping the visit to the nation’s capital in response to Trump’s handling of the hurricane, and Cora officially announced Sunday that he would not attend.

“For everybody that’s talking about us and the situation and crushing us throughout the week — they played extra innings, didn’t give in, and they’re celebrating [reliever] Heath [Hembree] because of his first save and celebrating [outfielder] Jackie [Bradley Jr., who made a game-saving catch], and we go,” Cora said Wednesday. “There’s a group going home. There’s a group going to the White House. Friday, we get back to playing baseball.”

Among the Red Sox players opting out of Thursday’s trip are Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rafael Devers, Sandy Leon, Eduardo Nunez, David Price, Christian Vazquez and Hector Velazquez. Roughly 20 other players will attend the ceremony at the White House.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

“Politically, it didn’t matter who was in the White House,” Hembree said. “If I have an opportunity to go to the White House and meet the president, I’m going to go. Nobody tried to persuade me. They have their reasons why not to go.”

Pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, a Venezuelan native, said, “For me, it’s not a big deal. It’s your decision. Make a choice. I’ll respect it. I don’t think that’s a big deal. If you want to go or you don’t want to go, that’s your decision.”

According to Boston.com, Rodriguez hasn’t made his intention for the White House trip known.

Giannis and the Bucks have reclaimed juggernaut status

These Eastern Conference semifinals between the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks would be the first test of whether the Bucks were real. Skeptics wondered whether a regular-season juggernaut that had never won a playoff series before this season could rise to the occasion against a Celtics team that came within a game of the NBA Finals last year — and reintegrated a superstar point guard who hit one of the greatest clutch shots in NBA history to cinch the 2016 Finals.

Boston’s blowout win in Game 1 was catnip for Milwaukee skeptics. The Bucks heard it.

“People say a lot of things,” Eric Bledsoe told ESPN.com between Games 3 and 4 in Boston, the latter a 113-101 win for the Bucks to give them a 3-1 series lead. “We take it personally. We want to prove them wrong.”cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

While observers wondered if they might teeter after Game 1, the Bucks kept an even keel.6

They watched film together and realized they had not played with their usual pace and fury. Instead of sprinting to the corners and taking up position behind the wall Boston’s transition defense was building at the foul line, Milwaukee’s shooters had jogged up the floor and fanned lazily out to the wing.

They did not help-and-recover on defense with the usual vigor or timing. Perhaps their first-round sweep of the Detroit Pistons had been too easy, the five-day layoff between series too long.

“I don’t think we were prepared for how fast and intense Game 1 would be,” Bledsoe said. “We were fatigued from the layoff. At least I was.”

They watched the video, owned the failure and steeled themselves for a borderline must-win.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

“It was a bad feeling,” Giannis Antetokounmpo told ESPN.com in Boston. “You just got your ass whooped at home by 25. If they got up 2-0, it’s trouble. We just told ourselves, ‘No matter what, no matter how you feel or how you played in Game 1, we have to leave Game 2 with a win.’

“Everybody brought it that night and ever since.”

Somehow, the Bucks have brewed the right mix of humility and confidence. They are aware they have achieved nothing but sure they can achieve everything. They have, almost by accident, constructed a team with a perfect pecking order. Everything flows from Antetokounmpo. Khris Middleton supplies wing scoring, Bledsoe elite defense and some off-the-bounce oomph. Lopez is the largest long-range shooting specialist ever.

Aside from some early speed bumps adapting to Mike Budenholzer’s system, Milwaukee’s locker room has been a placid place. No one complains about touches. They do their work and go out for big team dinners on the road. It has made for a marked contrast with the on-again, off-again melodrama across the hallway in Boston.

Spurs emerge from Ajax defeat with hope — something they didn’t have after 30 minutes

So in the end a 1-0 defeat turned out to be a relatively decent result. When Donny van de Beek had the penalty area to himself in the 15th minute, sat Hugo Lloris down and passed the ball into the corner of the net, it seemed utterly implausible that it would be the only Ajax goal of the night.

Ajax had sliced through the Spurs defence with such ease, Van de Beek finding himself in so much space because the home side almost looked hypnotised by the passing and movement in front of them that it seemed to slip their mind to mark him.

“The way we conceded the goal was so painful,” Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino said, genuinely looking in pain as he spoke.

Spurs looked utterly suffocated. At one stage, Victor Wanyama tried to bring ball out of defence but was immediately set upon by three Ajax players and relieved of possession before he could even think about starting an attack. It was like a trio of velociraptors jumping on a lumbering stegosaurus.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

And yet, it might turn out to be enormously costly for Erik ten Hag’s side that they didn’t score a second in this period of dominance. After that opening salvo, they almost seemed to back off, either because no mortals could keep that pace up for longer, or they perhaps loosely assumed they were so much better than Spurs that the result of both match and tie was inevitable.6

Afterward, Ten Hag conceded that his team could and should have made more of their initial superiority, also admitting that his team “did not anticipate” Tottenham’s change in approach, their more direct and physical style.

Perhaps we should give Spurs more credit for the shift in the game. Pochettino switched formations after about 20 minutes, moving Danny Rose into midfield, and then Jan Vertonghen’s horrible-looking injury — knees buckling when he was initially allowed to return to the pitch, after his nose ploughed into the back of Toby Alderweireld’s head — actually turned out to be, from a tactical perspective at least, a positive.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Moussa Sissoko changed a Champions League semifinal. For his side. For the better. Lots of strange things have happened in the world in the past few years, but that’s among the more curious. Or, more accurately, would have been curious nine months ago. Sissoko’s influence faded in the latter stages of the game, but his initial impact after replacing Vertonghen allowed Spurs to take more control of midfield, and to play in that more direct manner that Ten Hag didn’t expect.

Spurs decided that the way to stop Ajax was to plug the holes in midfield, which Sissoko helped with hugely, and then aim as many crosses as possible at Fernando Llorente. There’s no shame in that: You win games of football by being better than your opponent at the things you’re good at. It’s no good trying to compete with the things they’re good at, just for the sake of it.