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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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Houston drops the game to Arizona

D-backs outslug Greinke and Astros to take series opener

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With the series win over the Rangers by taking two of three games in the middle of the week, the Astros welcomed the Diamondbacks to Minute Maid Park for a three-game weekend series, Houston's final three regular-season home games. Here is how the opener unfolded:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 6, Astros 3.

Record: 25-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zac Gallen (2-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.53 ERA).

Houston scores first, but Arizona grabs a lead against Greinke

Houston would get on the board first on Friday night, with George Springer reaching base in the bottom of the first on an error, moving to second on a walk, then to third on a single, as the Astros loaded the bases with no out to threaten a big inning. Instead, they would come away with just one run, with Springer taking home on a wild pitch, grabbing the 1-0 lead, but leaving runs on the table.

They doubled their lead in the bottom of the third, getting a two-out RBI-double by Kyle Tucker to make it a 2-0 Houston lead. The D-backs responded in the top of the fourth, getting back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before a three-run homer by Kole Calhoun off of Zack Greinke would put Arizona in front, 3-2. Greinke would finish one more inning before Houston would move to their bullpen, striking out the side to bring his total to nine on the night, making the bad fourth inning the one blemish on his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 89 P.

Astros tie it, but D-backs take the opener

George Springer would get Greinke off the hook in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the half-inning with a solo bomb to tie the game at 3-3. Luis Garcia was first out of Houston's bullpen and retired Arizona in order for a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh but would allow a leadoff single, RBI-triple, and wild pitch to bring in two runs. He would face two more batters, allowing a double and getting a strikeout, before Dusty Baker would come out to get him, now down 5-3.

Blake Taylor would make his return from the IL after Garcia, getting back-to-back outs to finish the inning. He continued on in the 5-3 game in the top of the eighth, but allowed a one-out solo homer to Calhoun, his second of the night and fourth RBI. That made it a 6-3 D-backs lead, which would go final as Houston would go scoreless after Springer's home run back in the fifth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Luke Weaver (1-7, 6.70 ERA) for Arizona and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.22 ERA) for Houston.

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