Spain’s La Liga preview – 2014-15

Realism dictates that this season it will all be about Madrid and Barcelona once again, but Atletico Madrid will not surrender their title without a fight.

James Rodriguez Real Madrid

Atletico Madrid’s reward for becoming the first club outside Spain’s big two to win the league in over a decade was to see their best players depart. They had achieved the “impossible” – in the words of their coach – by preventing Real Madrid and Barcelona from winning La Liga, but they could not stop the deconstruction of their team.

As for Madrid and Barca, they are determined not to be denied again.

With every victory, so the door to other clubs opened for Atletico’s players and huge offers were made that were too good to refuse – both for the players and the club. Atletico are still in debt to the taxman and could not hang on to those who wanted to go. Top scorer Diego Costa, Thibault Courtois and Filipe Luis all departed for Chelsea, while Diego Ribas went to Fenerbahce, Adrian Lopez joined Porto and David Villa headed for the USA.

However, Atletico did manage to complete some very good business of their own, bringing in Antoine Griezmann from Real Sociedad and Mario Mandzukic of Bayern Munich.

In the same period, Barcelona signed Luis Suarez for €72million and Ivan Rakitic, who was La Liga’s outstanding midfielder last season, from Sevilla, as well as two goalkeepers and a central defender/left-back in Jeremy Mathieu from Valencia. Interestingly, Barcelona will meet Real Madrid on October 26 – which is the day Suarez’s four-month ban comes to an end.

Real, meanwhile, unveiled Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez, having spent €110m compared to Barca’s €124m – that latter figure being more than Atletico’s entire annual budget.

So as Madrid and Barcelona signed two of the most talented players in the world, the one team who got the better of them last season – and the first to break up the top two at all in five years – have surely been overtaken once again. If Atletico brought hope to everyone, it was diminished in the transfer market.

The amount of talent at the disposal of Real and Barcelona is extraordinary, almost absurd. It is unmatched by anyone anywhere, least of all in Spain.

But if that is a familiar story, it is because it happened last year too. And all year coach Diego Simeone insisted there was no way Atletico could win the league…only for Atletico to win the league – and on a budget a fifth of their rivals.

That title, celebrated by an estimated 200,000 fans on the streets of the capital, can never be taken away from them, although Real’s late, late comeback in the Champions League Final certainly hurt. The fact that Simeone has remained gives supporters hope as his was the one departure that would have been truly disastrous.

After the Final, when asked “what now?”, Simeone said he would study the squad, study the market and come back a month or so later ready to defend the title. The transformation under the Argentinian has been astonishing: a Europa League, Spanish Cup, La Liga title and Champions League Final being testament to his impact. Obstacles are forever placed in the way of his team but they have overcome them all. Can it continue?

The departure of Radamel Falcao 12 months ago seemed to be a disaster but Costa led them from the front. This club has had some hugely impressive strikers over the years – Cristian Vieri, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Fernando Torres, Diego Forlan, Sergio Aguero, Falcao, Costa – and now Mandzukic.

Realism dictates that this season it will all be about Madrid and Barcelona once again. In a league where more was spent on transfers by Real Madrid’s B team, Castilla, who play in the third tier, than most top-flight clubs, many teams have long since given up trying to compete.

Valencia and Sevilla lost key players to Barcelona this summer, while Athletic Bilbao sold Ander Herrera to Manchester United. Survival, not success, is the key for many. But not Atletico. It will take more than Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Rodriguez, Suarez, Gareth Bale, Neymar, Karim Benzema, Andres Iniesta, Kroos and Rakitic to make them surrender just yet.

 

Pope meets San Lorenzo Libertadores winners leads our images of the week.

San Lorenzo fan Pope Francis greeted the victorious Libertadores Cup winners when they visited the Vatican on Wednesday.

Vatican Pope
Pope Francis greets San Lorenzo soccer team players holding the Copa Libertadores they won last week, at the end of his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall, at the Vatican.

Other images include a tattooed Energie Cottbus goalkeeper, Pakistan celebrating a win against India and Luis Suarez’s first appearance in a Barcelona shirt.

UFC Fight Night 49 – Live 'Henderson vs dos Anjos' results and play-by-play

Ben Henderson and Raphael dos Anjos are poised to headline UFC’s return to Tulsa, Okla., for the first time in nearly 20 years this weekend (Sat., Aug. 23, 2014) in a Lightweight showdown that has top division contender implications on the line. Get complete, LIVE play-by-play UFC Fight Night 49: “Henderson vs. dos Anjos” results below!

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will tie a ribbon around its latest day-night double header this Saturday night (Aug. 23, 2014) at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla., with another FOX Sports 1-televised special.

We will deliver LIVE UFC Fight Night 49 results and play-by-play below for the duration of the 11-bout card, which begins online (Fight Pass) at 7:30 p.m. ET, right on through the conclusion of the main event between top-ranked Lightweight contenders, Ben Henderson and Raphael dos Anjos.

Without further delay, see below for the latest UFC Fight Night 49 results. (Note: This will go from the bottom up; therefore, scroll toward the bottom for the latest detailed round-by-round action.)

UFC FIGHT NIGHT 49 QUICK RESULTS:

FOX SPORTS 1 MAIN EVENT:

155 lbs.: Ben Henderson vs. Raphael dos Anjos –

FOX Sports 1 Main Card (10 p.m. ET):

170 lbs.: Mike Pyle vs. Jordan Mein –
185 lbs.: Thales Leites vs. Francis Carmont –
145 lbs.: Clay Collard vs. Max Holloway –
155 lbs.: Walmir Lazaro vs. James Vick –
145 lbs.: Tom Niinimaki vs. Chas Skelly –

FOX Sports 2 Prelims (8 p.m. ET):

170 lbs.: Alex Garcia vs. Neil Magny –
125 lbs.: Joby Sanchez vs. Wilson Reis –
155 lbs.: Beneil Dariush vs. Tony Martin –
135 lbs.: Matt Hobar vs. Aaron Phillips –

Fight Pass Prelims (7:30 p.m. ET):

185 lbs.: Chris Heatherly vs. Ben Saunders –

UFC FIGHT NIGHT 49 PLAY-BY-PLAY RESULTS:

155 lbs.: Ben Henderson vs. Raphael dos Anjos

Round one:
Round two:
Round three:
Round four:
Round five:

Final result:

-end-

170 lbs.: Mike Pyle vs. Jordan Mein

Round one:
Round two:
Round three:

Final result:

-end-

185 lbs.: Thales Leites vs. Francis Carmont

Round one:
Round two:
Round three:

Final result:

-end-

145 lbs.: Clay Collard vs. Max Holloway

Round one:
Round two:
Round three:

Final result:

-end-

155 lbs.: Walmir Lazaro vs. James Vick

Round one:
Round two:
Round three:

Final result:

-end-

145 lbs.: Tom Niinimaki vs. Chas Skelly

Round one:
Round two:
Round three:

Final result:

-end-

170 lbs.: Alex Garcia vs. Neil Magny

Round one:
Round two:
Round three:

Final result:

-end-

125 lbs.: Joby Sanchez vs. Wilson Reis

Round one:
Round two:
Round three:

Final result:

-end-

155 lbs.: Beneil Dariush vs. Tony Martin

Round one:
Round two:
Round three:

Final result:

-end-

135 lbs.: Matt Hobar vs. Aaron Phillips

Round one:
Round two:
Round three:

Final result:

-end-

185 lbs.: Chris Heatherly vs. Ben Saunders

Round one:
Round two:
Round three:

Final result:

-end-

NFL preseason results and scores: Tom Brady shines, Raiders ravaged by injuries

This just in: Tom Brady is pretty good and stuff.

The NFL action was excellent on Friday night with five games being played, involving a trio of top-tier quarterbacks, the defending Super Bowl champs and a bevy of intriguing rookies with Blake Bortles highlighting the group.

With the third week of the preseason bringing us our longest look at the starters before the regular season.

Patriots 30, Panthers 7

Tom Brady was seeing only his second action in the preseason on Friday night, but appeared to be in midseason form against the vaunted Carolina Panthers defense.

Brady was sublime, completing 17-of-21 passes for 204 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The three-time Super Bowl champion spread the ball around, hitting Julian Edelman for eight catches and 99 yards, while finding Shane Vereen out of the backfield for both touchdowns. Second-round pick Jimmy Garoppolo played well in lieu of Brady, going 9-of-12 for 105 yards and a score.

On the other side, Cam Newton was sacked three times behind a leaky offensive line. The Heisman Trophy winner hit on 8-of-12 passes for 88 yards but was mostly running for his life, with Chandler Jones leading the chase with two sacks. Rookie Kelvin Benjamin led Carolina in receiving with 47 yards on five catches.

Injuries

No team took more hits in the injury department than the Raiders. Both linebacker Nick Roach and corner Tarell Brown left against Green Bay with head injuries and were diagnosed with concussions, per Scott Bair of Comcast SportsNet. Linebacker Sio Moore suffered a neck injury that forced him to be carted off on a stretcher during a scary moment at Lambeau Field.

Moore

Elsewhere, Giants left guard Geoff Schwartz was carted off the field during the second quarter against the Jets with a dislocated toe. He did not return. Jason Pierre-Paul also left the game briefly with a right leg injury but returned after missing only a few snaps while being tended to on the sideline.

Billy Hamilton breaks up Mike Minor's no-hitter with 2 outs in 8th

Braves left-hander Mike Minor was four outs away from making history on Friday night, but a flare single up the middle by Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton broke up his no-hitter and tied the game.

The Braves and Reds are tied 1-1 after eight innings.

Minor in the eighth inning got Kris Negron to pop out, then walked Zack Cozart to snap a string of six straight batters faced. Pinch-hitter Chris Heisey then grounded to third, advancing Cozart to second base. Hamilton then brought him home with a single.

Minor was lifted after the single, having thrown 107 pitches on the night, six shy of his season high. He walked four on the night, with five strikeouts.

The last no-hitter by a Braves pitcher was by another left-hander, Kent Mercker on April 8, 1994 against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.

In his career against the Reds, Minor is 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA in three starts before Friday, with 18 strikeouts and eight walks in 20 innings.