The Soccer Report

Barcelona clinch 26th La Liga title; Liverpool's van Dijk named PFA Players' PoY

Barcelona have their sights on reclaiming the Champions League trophy after watching rivals Real Madrid lift it the past three years. Credit: Nike, Inc.

FC Barcelona joined Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus as the latest side to clinch their domestic league. Unlike the other two, Barça now focus their energy on getting past Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League semifinals. Liverpool, Barcelona's opponent, will have the opposite challenge of putting aside their current fight for the Premier League to try and advance to the UCL final for the second straight year. Ajax and Tottenham will duel in the other semifinal series.

UEFA Champions League

Four sides remain in what is probably the best soccer tournament (after the World Cup, of course) with Barcelona considered the favorite to win it all. The battle between Barça and Liverpool matches up the world's best attacker in Leo Messi against the best defender going today in Virgil van Dijk. The other series is a battle of Cinderella teams between Tottenham and Ajax.

UEFA Europa League

Thursday will have similar drama as not only will the four teams left want to lift the cup at the end of the season but they all have a stake in wanting to secure the Champions League spot that comes with it. All four teams still have a chance to accomplish that through their league standings but, with the Premier League standings as tight as it is, the Europa League serves as an important insurance policy.

English Premier League

The saga continues between Liverpool and Manchester City as goal line technology played a part to add to the drama of the title race. No side is letting up, making this a photo finish to the end. In the awards category, Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk was awarded with this season's PFA Player of the Year Award and Manchester City's Raheem Sterling won the PFA's Young Player of the Year Award.

Top six: 1. Manchester City (92), 2. Liverpool (91), 3. Tottenham (70), 4. Chelsea (68), 5. Arsenal (66), 6. Manchester United (65)

Scoring leader: 21 - Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Assists leader: 13 - Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC) / Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth)

Spain's La Liga

Top six: 1. (C) - FC Barcelona (83), 2. Atlético Madrid (74), 3. Real Madrid (65), 4. Getafe (55), 5. Sevilla (55), 6. Valencia (52)

Scoring leader: 34 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 13 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona) / Pablo Sarabia (Sevilla)

German Bundesliga

Top six: 1. Bayern Munich (71), 2. Dortmund (69), 3. RB Leipzig (64), 4. Eintracht Frankfurt (54), 5. Monchengladbach (51), 6. Bayer Leverkusen (51)

Scoring leader: 21 - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Assists leader: 14 - Jadon Sancho (Dortumund)

Italian Serie A

Top six: 1. (C) - Juventus (88), 2. Napoli (70), 3. Inter Milan (62), 4. Atalanta (59), 5. Roma (58), 6. Torino (56)

Scoring leader: 23 - Fabio Quagliarella (Sampdoria)

Assists leader: 10 - Dries Mertens (Napoli)

French Ligue 1

Top six: 1. (C) - PSG (84), 2. Lille (68), 3. Lyon (62), 4. Saint-Étienne (59), 5. Marseille (54), 6. Montpellier (51)

Scoring leader: 30 - Kylian Mbappé (PSG)

Assists leader: 12 - Teji Savanier (Nimes)

Dutch Eredivisie

Top three: 1. Ajax (80), 2. PSV Eindhoven (80), 3. Feyenoord (62)

Belgian First Division A

Championship Round: 1. Genk (47), 2. Club Brugge (41), 3. Antwerp (38), 4. Standard Liege (33), 5. Anderlecht (27), 6. Gent (26)

Portuguese Primeira Liga

Top three: 1. Benfica (78), 2. Porto (76), 3. Sporting CP (70)

Scottish Premier League

Championship: 1. Celtic (81), 2. Rangers (72), 3. Aberdeen(61)

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Concacaf Champions League

Monterrey is a bit of a quiet place these days as neither side of fans wants to jinx their team in the regional final to determine the champion of Concacaf. Monterrey took a 1-0 win away at Tigres and will look to finish the job at home on Wednesday. Tigres fans, however, remain hopeful that their side can be crowned champions on their rivals' home turf just as they did in Liga MX a few seasons ago.

Major League Soccer

East top seven: 1. D.C. United (17), 2. Montreal (17), 3. Philadelphia (14), 4. Toronto (13), 5. Columbus (13), 6. Orlando (12), 7. NYCFC (12)

West top seven: 1. LAFC (23), 2. LA Galaxy (22), 3. Seattle (18), 4. FC Dallas (17), 5. Houston (16), 6. Minnesota (14), 7. Real Salt Lake (10)

Scoring leader: 11 - Carlos Vela (LAFC)

Assists leader: 6 - Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers) / Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle Sounders FC)

Liga MX

One matchday remains in Mexico to decide the eight teams that will advance to this season's playoffs. Tijuana is currently in the final spot and they host 9th place Puebla where the winner will advance.

Top eight: 1. Leon (38), 2. Tigres UANL (34), 3. Monterrey (30), 4. Cruz Azul (29), 5. Pachuca (28), 6. Necaxa (26), 7. Club America (26), 8. Tijuana (25)

Scoring leader: 14 - Angel Mena (Leon)

Assists leader: 9 - Angel Mena (Leon)

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National Women's Soccer League

Standings: 1. North Carolina Courage (7), 2. Utah Royals (6), 3. Chicago Red Stars (5), 4. Portland Thorns (5), 5. Houston Dash (4), 6. Washington Spirit (3), 7. Seattle Reign (2), 8. Sky Blue FC (1), 9. Orlando Pride (1)

Scoring leader: 4 - Crystal Dunn (North Carolina)

Assists leader: 2 - Lynn Williams (North Carolina) / Meghan Klingenberg (Portland)

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Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Apr. 30

2:00p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Tottenham vs. Ajax (TNT, Univision, Univision Deportes)

Wednesday, May. 1

2:00p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] FC Barcelona vs. Liverpool (TNT, Univision, Univision Deportes)

9:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Monterrey vs. Tigres UANL (YahooSports.com, Univision Deportes)

Thursday, May. 2

2:00p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Arsenal vs. Valencia (B/R Live, UniMas)

2:00p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Frankfurt vs. Chelsea (B/R Live, Univision Deportes)

Friday, May. 3

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Mainz vs. RB Leipzig Leverkusen (FS2)

2:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Everton vs. Burnley (NBC Sports)

Saturday, May. 4

6:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Bournemouth vs. Tottenham (NBC Sports)

8:30 a.m. - [Budesliga] Bayern Munich vs. Hannover (FS2)

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] West Ham vs. Southampton (NBC Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Cardiff vs. Crystal Palace (NBC)

1:00 p.m. - [MLS] NY Red Bulls vs. LA Galaxy (ESPN)

1:45 p.m. - [Premier League] Newcastle vs. Liverpool (NBC Sports)

3:00 p.m. - [MLS] Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas (Twitter, Univision)

Sunday, May. 5

8:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Huddersfield vs. Manchester United (NBC Sports)

9:15 a.m. - [La Liga] Real Madrid vs. Villarreal (beIN Sports)

10:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Arsenal vs. Brighton (NBC Sports)

11:00 a.m. - [Budesliga] Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs. Eintracht Frankfurt (FS2)

5:00 p.m. - [NWSL] Houston Dash vs. Orlando Pride (YahooSports.com)

8:00 p.m. - [MLS] Sporting KC vs. Atlanta United (FS1)

Monday, May. 2

2:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Manchester City vs. Leicester City (NBCSports)

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The clock is ticking. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

If he is indeed to become an ex-Astro George Springer can officially sign with his new team starting at four PM Houston time this Sunday. Michael Brantley the same. All free agents can sign contracts starting Sunday afternoon. If the die isn't cast that Springer is leaving, it certainly feels like his renewing vows with the Astros would be an upset.

The Astros will make Springer a 18.9 million dollar qualifying offer for 2021. He will of course reject that because contract offers of at least five years and over 100 million dollars likely await. Should Springer move on the Astros would then get a compensatory draft pick. Brantley won't get anything in close range of Springer's haul-to-be but still should at least get multiyear offers. The Astros should make the qualifying offer to Brantley (if they don't they forfeit any compensation for his departure). If they don't out of fear that he'd accept the one-year deal, the Astros would look lame. I don't think it comes to that. Losing Springer would be a huge blow on multiple levels, but if somehow they were to keep Brantley while getting back Yordan Alvarez at even 80 percent of his rookie performance level the Astros' lineup would look to be in decent shape.

With MLB's economic outlook shaky for 2021, it's unreasonable to say Jim Crane and his partners should give Springer whatever he wants. A six or seven year megadollar contract for a 31-year-old player with some durability questions on his resume is an iffy proposition. At the same time, the Astros have been quite profitable in recent years (before 2020), and Crane said over the summer the Astros were positioned to be "aggressive, whatever the market looks like." 13 million Josh Reddick dollars are off the books for 2021, 10 mil of Roberto Osuna is gone. After next year more than 57 mil of Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke clear.

MLB's postseason awards will be doled out over the next couple weeks but for the first time in years the Astros don't have a credible candidate for any of the big ones (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year). The Astros do have three American League Gold Glove finalists. I think Carlos Correa wins the shortstop honor. Correa had a weak regular season at the plate but his defense was stellar, plus the two guys who divvied up the last four AL SS Gold Gloves (Francisco Lindor and Andrelton Simmons) had down seasons and aren't finalists. Quick: name the teams of fellow finalists J.P. Crawford and Niko Goodrum. Hard to see either winning over Correa. Yuli Gurriel and Kyle Tucker were also named top three at their positions. For the first time the finalist selections were driven entirely by stats and analytics.

Big week for the Rockets

With the Rockets settling on Stephen Silas as their new Head Coach, that hire coupled with the in house promotion of Rafael Stone to General Manager makes it appear as though owner Tilman Fertitta is doing more things on the cheap. The NBA economic environment is challenging and huge portions of the rest of Fertitta's portfolio are submerged in a COVID-driven bloodbath. Silas has paid his dues for a good while and most recently worked under the outstanding Rick Carlisle in Dallas. He has earned a lead chair opportunity. But with no prior head coaching experience and no bidding war for his services, Silas signs on at a much lower rate than, say, Jeff Van Gundy would have commanded. Former head coaches (and former Rockets' player rivals of the 90s) Jeff Hornacek and Nate McMillan would make for two strong Silas assistants. From their playing days if you combined Hornacek's offense and McMillan's defense into one player you'd have one of the top 20 or so greatest guards in NBA history.

Silas and Stone take the reins at a challenging time for the Rockets with their messy salary cap sheet, reduced draft capital, and one of the oldest core player groups in the league. Polite public statements aside, it's part of why Daryl Morey left. Maybe Mike D'Antoni too though that seemed more about feeling disrespected by the lack of a contract extension before this past season. D'Antoni may have overplayed his hand since he did not get fill any of the coaching vacancies elsewhere in the NBA. Only Oklahoma City remains open, and D'Antoni has gotten no run there.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. It seems sadly appropriate that the first meaningful positive in the Texans' 2020 season came in form of a COVID test result.

2. If we all commit to getting through it together, I think we can get by without a Texans' game this weekend. Remember, it's their open week, not a bye!

3. One hit wonder goodbye songs: Bronze-Terry Jacks "Seasons in the Sun" Silver-Norman Greenbaum "Spirit In The Sky" Gold-Steam "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye"

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