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Celta Vigo dent Barcelona’s LaLiga title hope

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Barcelona’s hopes of winning LaLiga for a third successive season suffered a blow as they were held to a 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo – handing Real Madrid a huge boost in the title race.

Luis Suarez scored a brace – both of his goals assisted by Lionel Messi – as Barca twice held the lead on the road on Saturday.

However, after Fedor Smolov had equalised earlier in the second half, Iago Aspas curled in an 88th-minute free-kick to bring Celta level again in a see-saw contest in Galicia.

The hosts missed a golden opportunity to snatch victory in the closing minutes too, Nolito shooting straight at Marc-Andre ter Stegen after being set up by Denis Suarez.

While the result is good enough to move Barca a point clear at the summit, Madrid – who hold the head-to-head edge over their rivals – can retake top spot so long as they avoid defeat at Espanyol on Sunday.

The dramatic late twist means Barca have now failed to win on their last five trips to Balaidos, while Messi remains stuck on 699 career goals after a third straight outing without scoring.

The Argentinian opted to set up Suarez rather than have an attempt himself from a 20th-minute free-kick well within range, Celta’s decision to put a player on each post allowing him to clip the ball into the six-yard box for an unmarked Suarez to nod in his first goal since January.

Both teams hit the woodwork in the first half but Celta replied five minutes after the break, Okay Yokuslu breaching a high defensive line with a run from deep before squaring for Smolov to finish.

Suarez reclaimed the lead when he swivelled impressively and fired a low, left-footed shot across goalkeeper Ruben Blanco, though Quique Setien’s men were once again unable to hang on to their advantage.

Substitute Rafinha, on loan from Barcelona of course, was fouled to give Aspas the opportunity to curl his set-piece attempt around the side of the wall and into the net.

What does it mean? Real trouble for reigning champions

Despite an improved display after drawing a blank at Sevilla and labouring past Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona missed the opportunity to put the pressure back on Madrid.

Instead, they will now have to hope Zinedine Zidane’s squad slip up somewhere in the run-in, or else the title is heading to the Spanish capital.

Impressive Puig seizes opportunity

Who needs Miralem Pjanic when you have Riqui Puig? The 20-year-old impressed in his first league start of the season, completing 92.4 of his attempted passes before making way for Arthur, who is seemingly on his way to Juventus for next season.

Pique caught out

There was no VAR help to spare Pique and Barcelona with Celta’s first equaliser. While centre-back partner Samuel Umtiti stepped up with the rest of the defence, the 33-year-old dropped back. His decision to do so allowed Yokuslu to break clear.

Key Opta Facts:

– Lionel Messi has made his 250th assists for Barcelona in all competitions (179 in LaLiga).

– Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas is the second player to score a direct free-kick against Barcelona in LaLiga this season, after his team-mate Lucas Olaza in November 2019.

– Fedor Smolov is the second player to score against both Barcelona and Real Madrid in LaLiga this season, after Levante’s Borja Mayoral.

– Barcelona’s five game winless run at Balaidos is their longest ongoing streak without victory at any ground in LaLiga. Indeed, it is Celta’s joint-longest unbeaten home record against Barcelona in the top-flight (five).

What’s next?

Barca have little time to recover ahead of another tough game on Tuesday, as they host Diego Simeone’s in-form Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou. As for Celta, they travel to struggling Real Mallorca on the same day.

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Rodgers slams ‘poor’ Iheanacho

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Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers has slammed striker Kelechi Iheanacho for his below performance  after  the Foxes were out-foxed in Sunday’s 4-1 thrashing by Bournemouth even as he ruled the substitution of the Nigerian  as tactical error.

Iheanacho, who had been heavily involved in Jamie Vardy’s opener, was withdrawn at half-time at the Vitality Stadium, with Rodgers tweaking his system to bring on Dennis Praet.

“(Iheanacho) wasn’t having one of his better games,” said Rodgers in his post-match press conference. “The issue for us defensively was on the side of the pitch, because there was a lot of space for Wilf and Youri to cover.

“So we pushed Ayo on, he was playing well, and added an extra midfielder in to help cover; but the defeat wasn’t tactical, it was about the spirit.”

He added: “I didn’t see it (the defeat) coming. We didn’t have personality in the second half.

Rodgers however charged his wards to rise to the challenge when they take on Sheffield United on Thursday.

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Michael Obafemi dents Man Utd’s top-four hopes

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Manchester United missed the chance to go third in the Premier League as they hosted Southampton on Monday night.

Anthony Martial appeared to secure Manchester United a win over Southampton, but a last-gasp Michael Obafemi equalizer secured Southampton a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men went into the contest in fine form with four consecutive victories but struggled to control proceedings against resilient Saints.

Southampton pressed high all through the match which led to the visitors taking an early lead through Stuart Armstrong but United hit back, Anthony Martial teeing up Marcus Rashford for the equalizer before scoring his 50th Premier League goal to put the hosts in front.

United had chances to increase their lead but failed with Martial and Rashford missing key chances.

However, Obafemi scored from close range right near the end, leaving the Red Devils fifth in the table.

Manchester United can still achieve their Champions League target – they go to fourth-placed Leicester City on the final day of the season – but this result is a major blow for Solskjaer.

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Real Madrid may be crowned La Liga champions on Thursday

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Real Madrid needs just one more win to be crowned 2019/2020 La Liga Champions, after holding off aggressive Granada, to secure a vital 2-1 win away.

The victory restored the table-toppers four-point lead over Barcelona, setting up for them the chance to be crowned LaLiga champions on Thursday if they beat visiting Villarreal.

If they were able to see off Villarreal, Madrid would win just their second La Liga title in eight seasons and their 34th overall.

The victory over Granada at Los Carmenes on Monday was hard-fought and hard-won.

Goals from Ferland Mendy – his first for the club – and Karim Benzema gave Madrid a first-half advantage.

Mendy slammed home a brilliant finish from a tight angle to become the 21st Madrid player to score in LaLiga this season.

Benzema increased his top-flight tally this term to 19 as he made it 2-0.

Although Darwin Machis pulled one back five minutes into the second half, Madrid survived a couple of late scares to make it nine straight victories and edge closer to LaLiga’s title.

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