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Weekly Soccer Recap: Barcelona win El Clasico, Premier League ready for Boxing Day

Messi of Barcelona celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on December 23, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. Dennis Doyle/Getty Images

FC Barcelona won the weekend with a win over Real Madrid but there was plenty left to talk about after the latest weekend in soccer. The Catalans now hold a comfortable lead in their league, which is a common theme across the big leagues in Europe. Here is the week in soccer:

Premier League

In midweek action, seven Premier League teams took part in the English League Cup quarter-finals that saw Arsenal advance over West Ham, Chelsea narrowly defeat Bournemouth, Manchester City outlasting Leicester City on penalties and Manchester United eliminated at Championship side Bristol City.

Arsenal and Liverpool got together Friday to deliver a 3-3 thriller at the Emirates while Everton and Chelsea kicked things off Saturday with a nil-nil draw at Goodison Park. Manchester City picked up a 4-0 win over Bournemouth, Tottenham a 3-0 win over Burnley and Leicester drew 2-2 with Manchester United at the King Power. In another notable match - unrelated to the title race - Newcastle went on the road to defeat West Ham 3-2 at London Stadium.

All of these results mean Manchester City, who are still undefeated with a 18-1-0 record, now have a 13 point lead at the halfpoint of the season with the league title all but [officially] clinched. The drama for the rest of the season will lie with the race to clinch places 2-4 in the table to clinch a spot in next year’s UEFA Champions League and there’s no better time to amplify the that drama than Boxing Day - the Prem’s version of NFL Thanksgiving football or the NBA’s Christmas day lineup.

Top 5: Manchester City (55), Manchester United (42), Chelsea (39), Liverpool (35), Tottenham (34)

La Liga

Soccer fans across the world where tuned in on Saturday for the most important bout of the season in La Liga: El Clásico. FC Barcelona outlasted a fiery Real Madrid from the get-go and walked out of their rivals stadium with a 3-0 win. Coupled with Atlético Madrid’s shocking loss at Espanyol on Friday, the weekend results now give Barça a nine-point lead at the top in what looks will be the Catalan’s 25th championship season. The other two teams currently in the top five - Valencia and Sevilla - also lost this weekend as the league takes a break until the first weekend of the new year.

The 5: Barcelona (45), Atlético Madrid (36), Valencia (34), Real Madrid (31), Sevilla (29)

Bundesliga

The Bundesliga is on it’s three week hiatus but before clubs took their winter break, 12 Bundesliga clubs took part in the Third Round of the German Cup. The biggest named bout was clearly the rivalry match between Bayern Munich and Dortmund that ended in a 2-1 win for the Bavarians. With an 11 point lead in the league, Munich also keeps their cup run alive to see out a season with multiple trophies. Mainz, Schalke, Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen, Werder Bremen and Eintracht Frankfurt were the other Bundesliga sides to advance.

Top 5: Bayern Munich (41), Schalke 04 (30), Dortmund (28), Bayer Leverkusen (28), RB Leipzig (28)

Ligue 1

If you missed Ligue 1 action this week, nothing major changed with the top five as all of those clubs added three points to their total. Paris Saint-Germain arrives at the midpoint of the season with a nine-point lead after a 3-1 win over Caen. The lead is a manageable one for PSG but the tough part will be managing out a congested schedule. There is a three week break in the league but before that the Parisians will have two domestic cups to play in. Monaco and Lyon are not dead yet but they’ll have to be much sharper in the second half of the season.

Top 5: Paris Saint-Germain (50), Monaco (41), Lyon (41), Marseille (38), Nantes (33)

Serie A

Of the top league’s in Europe, Italy’s has clearly been the most level and the closest title race by far. Inter Milan suffered a setback after suffering their second loss of the season at Sassuolo. Napoli picked up a 3-2 win over Sampdoria but not without a bit of suspense, giving up a penalty in the 27th minute and having Mario Rui sent off in the 77th minute. Juventus and Roma faced off in a battle of top five teams where the Zebras got a 1-0 win to hold Roma at fourth place. A.C. Milan suffered a second consecutive loss as both Milan clubs head into Tuesday’s Italian Cup match looking for a boost in morale.

The top 5: Napoli (45), Juventus (44), Inter Milan (40), Roma (38), Lazio (36)

Liga MX

Monterrey won the domestic cup over Pachuca in a 1-0 Copa MX final win, picking up a nice consolation prize after losing the league final to crosstown rival Tigres. The Clausura 2018 season begins next weekend, meaning clubs will be wrapping up their middle of the year preseason this week. Club America, led by Mexico’s national team coach at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Miguel Herrera, face Toluca FC on Saturday afternoon at BBVA Compass Stadium in on of this weekend’s friendlies (TICKETS).

Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Dec. 26:

6:30 a.m. - Tottenham vs. Southampton (NBC Sports)

9:00 a.m. - Manchester United vs. Burnley (NBC Sports)

11:30 a.m. - Liverpool vs. Swansea (NBC Sports)

Wednesday, Dec. 27:

1:45 p.m. - Newcastle United vs. Manchester City (NBC Sports)

Thursday, Dec. 28:

2:00 p.m. - Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal (NBC Sports)

Friday, Dec. 29:

1:45 p.m. - Crotone vs. Napoli (beIN Sports)

Saturday, Dec. 30:

5:30 a.m. - Fiorentina vs. AC Milan (beIN Sports)

11:30 a.m. - Manchester United vs. Southampton (NBC)

5:00 p.m. - [Friendly] Club America vs. Toluca (Univision Deportes)

Sunday, Dec. 31:

6:00 a.m. - Crystal Palace vs. Manchester City (NBC Sports)

10:30 a.m. - West Bromwich vs. Arsenal (NBC Sports)

Monday, Jan. 1:

6:30 a.m. - Brighton vs. Bournemouth (NBC Sports)

9:00 a.m. - Burnley vs. Liverpool (NBC Sports)

9:00 a.m. - Leicester City vs. Huddersfield Town (CNBC)

11:30 a.m. - Everton vs. Manchester United (NBC Sports)

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Keep an eye on Alex Bowman this weekend. Image via: Wiki Commons.

For the first time since July 1984, NASCAR returns to one of its most popular cities in Nashville, Tennessee for the inaugural Ally 400 at Nashville Super Speedway. This track is a 1 1/3rd mile concrete oval that was dormant for nearly ten years and was only used as a testing facility. So it came as a bit of a surprise last season when it was announced that this track would be getting a date. For a lot of drivers, this will be a brand new racetrack, but we will see practice and qualifying, so that will be a huge help for the newcomers that haven't raced here before. Back when the Xfinity and Trucks ran here, this track featured a lot of first time winners. Back in 2008, future NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski shocked the world by jumping in Dale Jr's car and capturing his first win here. There will be a lot of veterans like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick who have plenty of experience at this track, but it will be tough to compare. It should be fun with everyone coming into this race with minimal knowledge.

Last week, Kyle Larson continued his hot streak by winning the All-Star Race. Overall, while Larson and his Hendrick teammates probably enjoyed the race, the feedback from crews and fans was less than positive. As I was walking through the garage area and talking to a few crew members, a lot of them were very critical of the 450 horsepower motor and the tall spoiler to try and keep the cars bunched up. When I asked one of the crew-members what he thought about the package he told me, "Oh it's awful. The track is terrible, the package makes it impossible to pass and it's super hot out here." On green flag runs, it was the same as it ever was as the lead car would pretty much take off and the only time there was really any "pack racing" it came after there were restarts. The whole race was well-intentioned and the fans showed up as it was nearly a capacity crowd, but the whole thing just didn't make any sense. From the start time being in the nearly 100 degree heat to the wacky full-field invert at the end of each stage. Let's hope that next season's All-Star Race is a lot more concise.

In Silly Season news this week, Truck Series regulars GMS racing announced that they would be fielding a full-time cup series team. The team is currently owned by Allegiant Airlines CEO Maurice Gallagher and his son, Spencer, who used to drive for them in the Xfinity Series. This move seemed to come from out of nowhere as there was never any indication that this was a move they were exploring anytime soon after they turned down the opportunity to purchase Furniture Row Racing in 2019. This is certainly a great sight for the sport as there will be more new teams on the track and with their close relationship with Chevy, it wouldn't be a surprise if they step in and help this team become competitive. The favorite to drive their car has to be 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed. He has easily been their best driver in trucks, and it would make the most sense for him to get the promotion.

This week at Nashville, the driver that I have winning is Alex Bowman. Now while this is a brand new racetrack and he has a grand total of zero starts here, this track suits his driving style perfectly. With the inclusion of this track, there are now four tracks with a concrete surface. Nashville, Bristol, Dover and Martinsville. At the three of the tracks they have run at, he has shown a lot of speed, including a victory at Dover this season and a top ten finish at Bristol. This is also a track where crew-chief Greg Ives said Bowman has gravitated towards during testing. In an interview with Sirius XM Ives was quoted as saying "we used to have a lot of fun testing there," so this is clearly a track that they both enjoy going to. Another big factor going into Sunday will be just how fast these Hendrick Motorsports cars are, they have finished 1-2 over the last four points races. He has watched his teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott have immense success, and now this week I think he is due for a third win of the season. Look for the bright purple #48 Chevy to go to victory lane this week at Nashville.

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