The Houston Dynamo fell at home to Seattle Sounders FC and will be without Alberth Elis for the second leg on Thursday. Diego Dlouhy
The MLS Cup Playoffs resumed after a long layover, Liga MX playoffs got underway and the action heats up in Europe as November came to a close. Manchester City, FC Barcelona, Bayern, PSG and Napoli all remain atop their leagues but one took a stumble this week.
The top of the table remains fairly unchanged as there were many close matches this weekend. A Nicolás Otamendi own goal had Manchester City fighting their way back to a 2-1 win at promoted side Huddersfield Town, Manchester United get a 1-0 win thanks to a Brighton own goal and Tottenham drew 1-1 with West Bromwich. The big name match was between Liverpool and Chelsea where Mohamed Salah scored again - his 10th goal in 13 appearances - before a Willian wonder goal would save a point for the Blues. Arsenal jump back into the top five after Alexis Sanchez converted a penalty in stoppage time at Burnley.
Top 5: Manchester City (37), Manchester United (29), Chelsea (26), Arsenal (25), Tottenham (24)
The big news of the weekend was Barcelona’s contract renewal of Lionel Messi and his newly imposed €700m buyout clause. Of course he was a topic of conversation again as the top teams in Spain met, having a goal disallowed and sparking the conversation for video review in La Liga. Valencia jumped to a 1-0 lead in the 60th min. before Jordi Alba’s 82nd min. goal tied things up. The two sides split points and Barcelona maintains its four point lead at the top.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored the game-winning goal in a Real Madrid’s 3-2 victory over Málaga while Antoine Griezmann scored a double in three minutes in Atlético’s 5-0 win at Levante. The other top five team, Sevilla, won 3-2 at Villarreal.
The 5: Barcelona (35), Valencia (31), Real Madrid (27), Atlético Madrid (27) and Sevilla (25)
Just when it looked like Bayern Munich may have been running away with the league, Borussia Mönchengladbach pull off a 2-1 win to keep the leaders within three points of second place. Leipzig may be ruing last week’s result after bouncing back to win 2-0 this week at Werder Bremen. As far as the other two top five teams? They delivered the match everyone was talking about.
Rivals Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 delivered a match that will be remembered in the latest edition of the Revierderby. Dortmund jumped to a 4-0 lead at home before Schalke made their way back to salvage a point from the matter. Dortmund are know winless in their last six across all competitions as the opportunity to bounce back from a midweek Champions League defeat just took more air out of their season. To make matters worse, leading scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was red carded and will mix the next match.
Top 5: Bayern Munich (29), RB Leipzig (26), Schalke 04 (24), Mönchengladbach (24), Dortmund (21)
A Neymar penalty was the decider as Paris visited Monaco to hand them a 2-1 defeat. Monaco know slips out of what was their habitual second place spot as Lyon delivered a 5-0 thumping at Nice. Florian Thauvin was the hero for Marseille as they get a 1-0 victory at Guingamp and Nantes suffered a 2-1 setback at Rennes.
Top 5: Paris Saint-Germain (38), Lyon (29), Monaco (29), Marseille (28), Nantes (23)
Napoli simply cannot be beat as a Jorginho goal secured a 1-0 win at Udinese to keep them undefeated at the top. Icardi was the man of the match after scoring a double for Inter Milan and Juventus picked up a 3-0 win vs. Cotone. Roma tied 1-1 at Genoa as Daniele De Rossi was handed a red card while Lazio tied 1-1 with Fiorentina.
The biggest news off the field came after the weekend when both A.C. Milan and Sassuolo parted ways with their managers. Milan legend Gennaro Gattuso has been named the interim for the Rossoneri.
The top 5: Napoli (38), Inter Milan (36), Juventus (34), Roma (31), Lazio (29)
Major League Soccer
Columbus Crew could not take full advantage of home field as they battled to a nil-nil draw against Toronto FC in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Championship. The second leg will be on Wednesday in Toronto as the league leaders will welcome back two of their best players in Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore.
In the Western Conference Championship, the Houston Dynamo fell 2-0 at home against defending MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders FC. Gustav Svensson and former Dynamo Will Bruin were the men who helped their side to the lead and the two important away goals. The two teams meet again Thursday night in Seattle with Houston needing at least two goals to force extra time and likely three to advance to the MLS Cup Final.
Toronto FC, Columbus Crew SC tied 0-0
Seattle Sounder FC leads Houston Dynamo 2-0
No side could find separation in the series between Tigres and León with both sides splitting 1-1 draws in their home field. The same can be said in the series between Morelia and Toluca where both sides split 2-1 wins. Mexico City rivals América and Cruz Azul also split results, playing to nil-nil draws. Thanks to the tie-breaker that gives the edge to the higher seed it will be Tigres, América and Morelia who advance to the semifinals.
The only series with a definite winner was between Monterrey - the best club during the regular season - and Atlas. Atlas immediately gave up the lead in the first leg and could never fight their way back. Monterrey won 6-2 on aggregate.
MVP of the Week - Antoine Griezmann
The MVP this week goes to Atlético Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann. The French forward - who last year gave Cristiano Ronaldo a run at the Ballon d’Or - was reignited this week with a goal against Roma in Wednesday’s Champions League match, followed by a double on Saturday against Levante. Spain’s La Liga has been by and large a two-team race but Atleti has been hanging around the top during the last few seasons. For the Colchoneros to be the disturbing force that has led them to two of the last four Champions League finals, they will need Griezmann to be at the top of his game.
Upcoming matches (All Times CT):
Wednesday, Nov. 29:
6:30 p.m.- Toronto FC vs. Columbus Crew SC (FS1)
9:00 p.m.- América vs. Tigres (Univision Deportes)
Thursday, Nov. 30:
7:30 p.m.- Morelia vs. Monterrey (Univision Deportes)
9:30 p.m.- Seattle Sounders FC vs. Houston Dynamo (ESPN)
Friday, Dec. 1:
1:20 p.m.- Freiburg vs. Hamburg (FS2)
Saturday, Dec. 2:
6 a.m. - Barcelona vs. Celta Vigo (beIN Sports)
8:30 a.m. - Bayern Munich vs. Hannover 96 (FS1)
8:30 a.m. - Leverkusen vs. Dortmund (FS2)
10 a.m. - Strasbourg vs. PSG (beIN Sports)
1:45 p.m. - Bilbao vs. Real Madrid (beIN Sports)
11:30 a.m. - Arsenal vs. Manchester United (NBC)
11:30 a.m. - Schalke vs. Cologne (FS2)
7 p.m.- Tigres vs. América (Univision Deportes)
Sunday, Dec. 3:
8 a.m. - Bournemouth vs. Southampton (NBC Sports)
10 a.m. - Manchester City vs. West Ham (NBC Sports)
6 p.m.- Monterrey vs. Morelia (Univision Deportes)
Houston Astros skipper Joe Espada wasted no time this week at spring training by answering one of the most talked about questions of the offseason.
Espada revealed that newly-acquired free agent Josh Hader will be the team's closer and will pitch the ninth inning, with Ryan Pressly working as the setup man.
Bryan Abreu will be tapped to pitch the seventh inning, but it wouldn't shock anyone if he had the best season of the three. But after Abreu, things get interesting in the bullpen.
Who pitches the sixth inning?
Astros GM Dana Brown gave Rafael Montero a vote of confidence, saying he's “legit.”
While we have our concerns about Montero after he finished with an ERA over five last year, there's reason for hope. The nature of relief pitchers halving up and down seasons from year to year could work in Montero's favor.
And with the salary that's already committed to him, Brown will likely give him every opportunity to justify his contract. It will be fascinating to see how Espada deploys him early on. You have to think with the boss man backing Montero, Espada will be on board too.
But if he does struggle, will Espada quickly stop using him in critical situations? The good news is, the team won't often have to turn to him in high leverage situations with Abreu, Pressly, and Hader ready to handle those duties.
Be sure to watch the video above for the full discussion about the Astros 'pen, and much more!
Don't miss Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every week on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel!