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A tale of two halves as both sides contributed to a cracking first 45 minutes of football, in which either side could have grabbed two or three goals each. As it was, Guiseppe Rossi got the decisive goal on the stroke of halftime. The goal has to be contender for goal of the week, with the Italian striker latching onto Brunos long ball before belting an unstoppable shot in from an incredibly tight angle to leave Kameni grasping at thin air.
Before halftime it was an intriguing battle between Bruno and Borja Valero for Villarreal and Javi Marquez and Luis Garcia for Espanyol as both teams battled for possession. Cani and Santi Cazorla always looked danergous for the Yellow Submarine, while Sergio Garcia was a constant menace for the home side, the little striker taking full advantage of Carlos Marchenas aging legs. Diego Lopez came to his sides rescue on each occasion, pushing one Sergio Garcia shot onto the post.
After Rossis goal, Villarreal came out the more assured side in the second half, and were closest to getting the all-important second goal of the match on numerous occasions, Rossi almost grabbing his second of the night as Kameni tipped his curling shot onto the bar. Espanyol appeared deflated and struggled to create many chances after the break, with Sergio Garcia eventually hauled off for Datalo. How they missed the predatory instincts of Osvaldo.
Espanyol rallied towards the end of the match, but they never quite looked like finding an equaliser, with David Garcias last gasp drive that whistled past the post about as close as they came. Dissapointing defeat for Pochettinos men as Villarreal confirm themselves as the closest challengers to the Barcelona-Real Madrid duopoly.
Espanyol have disappeared as an attacking force in this second half, with Borja Valero and Bruno making sure Villarreal keep hold of the ball and create the clearer goalscoring opportunities. The away back four have dropped deeper to stop Sergio Garcia from stealing in, while Rossi and Marco Ruben continue to cause problems for the Espanyol defence.
Carlos Kameni has already saved his side from going 0-2 down, saving well from Marios thunderbolt of a shot, while Guiseppe Rossi almost got his second with a curling strike that Kameni fingertipped onto the top of the crossbar. Espanyol really need to get Verdu and Callejon on the ball, while Luis Garcia needs to awake from his slumber to help out and isolated Sergio Garcia in attack.
The game has dropped in both intensity and quality, but both sides have players creating a goal out of nothing so another goal is more than likely. At the moment Villarreal look the more likely to score of the two sides.
Just when it looked as if the first half would end goalless, Guiseppe Rossi conjured up a magical goal that gives his side a halftime lead. The match has been played out at a frenetic pace, with both teams displaying the sort of quality that has seen them fight it out at the top of La Liga. With players like Valero, Cani, Javi Marquez and Jose Callejon on the pitch, you are guaranteed quality football.
Sergio Garcia has looked dangerous for Espanyol, his pace troubling Marchena and Gonzalo, but his lack of finishing instinct has been shown up by the little man at the other end of the field. I said Guiseppe Rossi was always capable of nicking a goal or two, but what a goal he has nicked tonight.
Bruno flighted the ball across the pitch, with Rossi holding his run perfectly to stay on side. The ball drifted out to the edge of the area, and with two defenders between Rossi and the goal it looked like the striker would have to wait for support. But from an impossible angle the stiker crashed an incredible shot between Carlos Kamenis hand and the top right corner of the goal. Absolutely stunning strike from Rossi.
An intense match that only promises to get better now Espanyol have to search for an equaliser.
What a vibrant opening twenty minutes to this match, the only mystery is how it is still goalless. Javi Marquez is controlling the match from the middle, displaying his impressive passing repertoire, but the truth is both sides have an enormous amount of quality in midfield. Borja Valero and Cani both look dangerous for Villarreal, while Guiseppe Rossi is always capable of nicking a goal or two.
Sergio Garcia has started upfront for Espanyol as Pochettino reverts to a 4-5-1, and the Catalan strikers pace is causing Villarreal a huge amount of problems. Already he has been sent one-one-one against Diego Lopez, and while the keeper has got the better of the striker so far, one chance a couple of minutes ago saw Sergio Garcia send a superb strike against the post from just outside the area.
There is no doubt this is going to be an exciting match as the two sides look to confirm themselves as the best of the rest!
Two matches against sides in the bottom four, and two slip ups. Real Madrid were desparate to host Barcelona in the second clasico of the season within a victory of overtaking them at the top. Now they find themselves seven points behind Peps dream team, and with Mourinhos side needing Barca to lose a couple of matches between now and the end of the season, their title hopes appear to have been crushed in Pamplona.
With Cristiano Ronaldo off-colour, Xabi Alonso on the bench suffering from a fever (not an injury as first thought) and an Osasuna crowd baying for blood, this was never going to a be a pretty match. Indeed the match was characterised by niggly fouls, plenty of yellow cards and mini-battles all over the park.
For Osasuna, Aranda played a blinder upfront, never giving the Madrid defence a moments rest, holding the ball up bravely and even poking through the pass which saw Camuñas score the winning goal. In defence, Sergio was immense and vital in Osasunas plan to blunt Cristiano Ronaldo, while keeper Ricardo repelled everything that came his way.
Just after Camuñas goal, Jose Mourinho went gung-ho on us, sending on Kaká, Adebayor and Xabi Alonso all at once in a sensational triple switch and while Real Madrid went on to dominate possession, chances were ar a premium. Adebayor showed how powerful he is in the air but he never got close to equalising for Madrid and with Benzema quiet after a strong opening to the match. It just shows how dependant Madrid are on Cristianos goals.
So seven points behind Barcelona. Mission impossible. Now we move onto another promising battle, between two sides that are looking to claim a place in next seasons Champions League, Villarreal and the surprise package of the season so far, Espanyol.
And they’re not getting any closer to scoring, even if they are camped inside the Osasuna half. Mourinhos changes have had the desired effect, with Real Madrid in total control of the ball but with Adebayor still not having had a clear sight of goal, they really need to start creating goalscoring chances with all the possession they’re enjoying.
Adebayor is putting himself about, helping Madrid win the ball back whenever Osasuna do manage to nick it off the men in white, but Mourinho will surely want the big man operating closer to Ricardos goal. After a good start to the match, Benzemas only contibutions have been cut short by the linesmans flag. Does he really understand the offside rule? I have my doubts.
Aranda almost confirmed an Osasuna victory seconds ago, but Alvaro Arbeloa was in the right place to clear the ball off the line. Sami Khedira is playing centre-back and Sergio Ramos as a makeshift right winger as Real Madrid throw more and more men forward, but both will need to be on their toes as Osasuna search for the killer second on the break.
Could Javier Camuñas have just handed Barcelona the league title? Because he’s just put Osasuna ahead with a delightful goal that saw the full-back chip the ball over Casillas after being put through by a flick from Aranda, the ball clipping the inside of the post before nestling in the net to send the home crowd wild. The Real Madrid players initially wanted the linesman to flag for offside but replays showed that Sergio Ramos was keeping him onside.
Massive test now for Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho has responded with an audacious triple change. Xabi Alonso, Kaká and Adebayor have all come on for Lass Diarra, angel Di Maria and Raul Albiol. That means Real Madrid will switch to a risky three-man defence and a 3-5-2 formation, Adebayor partnering Benzema upfront. Personally I’ve always seen Benzema as a second striker, so I expect the change to do the striker the world of good.
All eyes will be on Adebayor though, as he makes his Real Madrid debut in the most desparate of circumstances. Can the loan signing rescue his sides season?
Because right now this is exactly what this football match has become. An out and out battle which ended with a heated exchange between Cristiano Ronaldo and Walter Pandiani. Cristianos a big guy, but if there is one man in Spanish football that I most definitely wouldn’t mess with, it’s Walter ‘The Hammer’ Pandiani.
No real pattern to this match as yet, just two teams intent on taking lumps out of each other, with Osasuna the main culprits. Cristiano has been the focal point of their agression, on the receiving end of some over-zealous tackles as well as the ire of the home crowd.
Ricardo kept his side on level terms with some vital saves from Benzema and Cristiano, but the defence has done a good job of closing Madrid out as soon as they near the Osasuna goal. Benzema has looked a lot more lively than in recent weeks, no doubt bouyed on by his stunning midweek goal against Sevilla.
You get the feeling that Osasuna have what it takes to nick a goal, but we’ve been here so many times before. Fail to take your chances against this Real Madrid side and you’ll end up paying for it. Emmanuel Adebayor will surely be making his debut for Real Madrid tonight and the Togolese striker could be key. With Xabi Alonso and Kaká also on the bench, Mourinho is hardly short of options.
The closest we’ve come to the opening goal. Javier Camuñas floated a cross in from the left and with the Real Madrid defence flat-footed, Walter Pandiani ghosted in to flash a header over Iker Casillas’ goal with only the keeper to beat. Moments later Karim Benzema had Real Madrids best chance, firing in a shot from just outside the area that Ricardo did well to palm around the post.
Scrappy match so far, neither side in control with both midfields struggling to get on the ball. Mesut Ozil is beginning to appear more in the gap between Benzema and the two midfield pivots, and his presence in that area will be key to Madrids hopes, especially with Cristiano Ronaldo in such anonymous form.
For Osasuna, hardman Fernando Soriano has already seen yellow for a two-footed challenge on Lass Diarra and having committed a couple more fouls worthy of a second yellow, he’ll have to be careful if he wants to see out the full 90 minutes.
If there’s one thing you can guarantee about this fixture, it’s that the Reyno de Navarra will be rocking. Osasuna hate Real Madrid with a passion, and the opening minutes of the match have seen the home players hunt Real Madrid down, closing spaces and hustling them off the ball. There have been a few nasty challenges so far but only Lass Diarra has seen yellow for a silly handball.
Karim Benzema seems to be up for this match, no doubt as a result of Emmanuel Adebayors presence on the Madrid bench. We have already seen a nice bit of skill from the Frenchman in the Osasuna box, and he was a whisker away from putting Madrid ahead a couple of minutes ago, with Di Marias cross flashing just infront of Benzemas head.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil are yet to get into the match, Ronaldos only contribution a free-kick from way out that came back off the Osasuna wall. Xabi Alonso has been left out as a precaution after a niggly injury picked up against Sevilla in the cup. Real Madrid will need to draw on all their fighting qualities tonight if they are going to keep the Liga race alive.
Osasuna: RICARDO; DAMIA, SERGIO, FLAÑO, NELSON; PUÑAL, SORIANO; CORO, CAMUÑAS; ARANDA and PANDIANI
Real Madrid: CASILLAS; RAMOS, ALBIOL, CARVALHO, ARBELOA; LASS, KHEDIRA; DI MARÍA, ÖZIL, CRISTIANO and BENZEMA
Another day, another disappointment for Atletico Madrid. Today, it was Athletic Bilbao who victimized them. This season has been a surprising struggle for the red and whites, and they certainly made it difficult on themselves today. Luis Perea's 39th minute red card effectively ended the match for them, even though Fernando Llorente missed the ensuing penalty. Gaizka Toquero eventually put them away with two goals, while Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan had poor games.
The aforementioned Llorente wasn't great either. Maybe it's because of all the speculation linking him elsewhere? Both Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur are supposedly interested in his services. If Llorente doesn't make a move tomorrow, he could very well be making one in the summer. His performance today could have just been an odd stinker, but it wouldn't be shocking to hear that his head was elsewhere.
With this win, Bilbao now have a five point cushion on Atletico Madrid for sixth place and European qualification. Atleti have a rough schedule in front of them, and face a serious uphill battle to return to Europe next season.
Gaizka Toquero has added a second goal for Athletic Bilbao against ten man Atletico Madrid, all but sealing the victory up for the away side. If this result holds, Bilbao will have a five point cushion on Atleti for sixth place, the final guaranteed European qualifying position.
The goal came on a nice move, with Toquero applying the easy finish off of an assist from Andoni Iraola. Incredibly, despite the fact that they are never able to control possession with 11 men, 10 man Atletico Madrid and their usually average midfield have 56% of the possession against an above average Bilbao midfield that controls the possession 11 vs. 11 when playing good teams. Obviously, possession doesn't dictate the scoreboard, though, and Atleti's poor finishing and defensive lapses have been the real story of the game thus far.
Just before the stroke of halftime, Athletic Bilbao's Gaizka Toquero has scored to give the visitors a one goal advantage to go with their one man advantage. Atletico Madrid appear to be in a world of trouble, especially since their world class strikers can't finish to save their lives. Sergio Aguero missed a wide open header early in the half, while Diego Forlan missed an absolute sitter on a breakaway just seconds before Toquero put Bilbao ahead.
Atletico are down to 10 men thanks to Luis Perea, who got sent off for a foul in the box near the end of the half. It was a silly challenge from Parea, but Fernando Llorente went down very easily and the referee was harsh to show Perea a red. Fortunately, a bit of justice was served when Llorente missed his penalty, but there's no undoing a red card.
Of course, Atleti are never out of any game with Aguero and Forlan, but it seems unlikely that they'll be able to come back in this one.
Luis Perea has been shown a straight red card for Atletico Madrid after committing a foul in the box, but Athletic Bilbao have failed to capitalize and the score remains at 0-0 in Madrid. Fernando Llorente, linked to Tottenham Hotspur by the January transfer rumor mill, was the man who stepped up to the spot. He missed his penalty wide left.
This was not the first bad miss of the day, and it would not be the last. Both Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan have had terrible misses. It's really been a comedy of errors throughout the first half, with both teams missing lots of makable chances. The defending has been poor, and the finishing has been worse.
Still, as bad as the finishing has been, it shouldn't be long before Bilbao find the back of the net. Atleti couldn't defend with 11 men, so they probably can't do it with 10.
Lassad Nouioui scored a stunner in the 15th minute of Deportivo La Coruña's match against Sevilla, and that would be it for the action in the first half. To be honest, it was dire. There wasn't much good football or entertainment value in the first half, period. It looked like boring, boring Depor were going to live up to their nickname and subject us to another 90 minutes of rubbish.
Oh, how wrong we would all turn out to be.
The second half was filled with insane ups and downs for both teams, with a few moments of absolute madness sprinkled in for good effect. The first major event of the game since the Lassad golazo occurred in the 57th minute, when Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop was sent off for handling the ball outside the box. That incredible lapse of judgment would not only take his team down to ten men for the remainder of this match, but get him suspended for the semifinals of Copa Del Rey.
It took just four minutes after the red card for Depor to double their lead, and for Lassad to find his brace. His first goal was a stunner, but this one was a tap-in. Adrian provided the cross, and Lassad just had to touch it into the back of the net. At that moment, it appeared to be all done and dusted. Four more goals were still to come.
One minute later, Sevilla were back into the game. This goal came by way of Alvaro Negredo, who was lucky to have a header Luis Fabiano knew nothing about fall into his path. He tapped the ball into the back of the net, and suddenly the game was interesting again. It would get more interesting in the 74th minute, thanks to some poor goalkeeping by Depor's Daniel Aranzubia. Fabiano hit a free kick that was mishandled by the keeper, and Frenchman Julien Escuede tapped hope the rebound.
In the 79th minute, Negredo completed the comeback with a sublime piece of skill, netting himself a brace. After chesting down a ball from Didier Zokora, he struck the ball low with an incredible amount of power, beating Aranzubia to the far post at an incredibly narrow angle. Sevilla had scored three unanswered goals with 10 men, and somehow had a 3-2 lead after 79 minutes.
Depor would find their equalizer, and it would cause an uproar. Laure was the man who scored it, netting a clean right-footed strike in the 90th minute. The linesman had flagged Laure for offsides, but the head official overruled him, and correctly so. With the match level at 3-3, it looked like both teams were going to get a deserved point.
The referee's ruling wasn't good enough for Sevilla, though, who felt the need to crowd the head official and the linesman after the goal, protesting loudly and sticking fingers in their faces. When the official told the Sevilla players to back off so that he could speak to his linesman, they instead persisted with their protests. Honestly, it was one of the most disrespectful and unsportsmanlike things I've ever seen in sports, and Miguel Ángel Ayza Gámez would have been well within his rights to send off all of the players who were disrupting the discussion. No Sevilla players were shown red, and the match eventually continued.
That wasn't enough drama for this match, though. No, there were five minutes of stoppage time thanks to the delay after the Palop red card, coupled with the delay caused by Sevilla players protesting the equalizer. In the fifth and final minute of stoppage time, Sevilla's backup goalkeeper Javi Veras made a stunning save on Laure, the man who scored the equalizer, to preserve the result. It was literally the last kick of the ball, as the referee immediately blew his whistle after the save.
After a terrible first half of football, Sevilla and Depor put on a show in the second half, playing one of the craziest halves off football in recent memory. The 3-3 result is certainly a fitting one, and Laure's dramatics have probably prevented Miguel Angel Lotina from getting sacked in the morning.
Incredibly, Sevilla have scored their third goal in the 22 minutes since they were reduced to 10 men, which is exactly three more goals than they were able to score with 11. Alvaro Negredo has picked up a brace, and his second goal was not the least bit lucky, unlike the first one. No, this one was all about his skill.
Substitute Didier Zokora, just minutes after coming onto the pitch, provided Negredo with the assist. Popping up a high ball to Negredo in the box, Zokora put it in a spot where it was easy for Negredo to take it down with his chest. He did so brilliantly, touching it right into the path of his left foot. From a narrow angle, he hit a great low shot past Aranzubia into the back of the net. The left footed strike was hit with incredible precision and power, and the Depor keeper had little chance.
The literally dozens of fans in the house have been stunned silent, as ten man Sevilla have come from 2-0 down with ten men to score three goals in 16 minutes and take a 3-2 lead. The commentators are speculating that Depor manager Miguel Angel Lotina is getting sacked in the morning, and it's hard to disagree.
After 74 minutes, 10 man Sevilla are somehow level. It took getting a man sent off for them to be able to score, but goals are goals and if they are able to come away with a positive result, it won't matter that they went about it in an absurd, roundabout way.
The chance was created off of a Luis Fabiano free kick, but it should have ended when the ball hit Daniel Ananzubia's gloves. Fabiano's free kick was well taken, but the Depor keeper did well to get down and get his hands on the ball. Unfortunately for Depor, the ball did not stay in his hands. Ananzubia juggled the ball and it drifted away, into the path of Julien Escude. The Frenchman lost his marker and tapped the ball into the back of the net.
Really, there shouldn't have been a goal on this play for three reasons. One, Ananzubia should have held the ball. Two, Escuede shouldn't have been able to get to the ball so easily. Three, even though Escuede's marker screwed up, Escuede still should have been flagged for offside.
So, there you have it. Somehow, a terrible football match has produced a bunch of bizarre goals and now stands at 2-2.
Sevilla appeared to be all but dead in the water after Andres Palop's 57th minute red card and Lassad Nouioui's 61st minute brace, but they've been able to pull back a goal on Deportivo La Coruña to bring the possibility of points back into the picture.
It was a bit of a fortunate goal, with the ball bouncing off the head of...someone and falling to Negredo. It was a bit of a cluster, with Luis Fabiano involved, but whoever headed the ball into the path of Negredo knew nothing about it. The Sevilla striker pounced and finished well, bringing the scoreline back to 2-1 in favor of Depor and putting Sevilla back into the game.
Sevilla have made a couple of changes, partially caused by their poor play and partially caused by the red card to Palop. Lautaro Acosta replaced Alfaro in a tactical substitution, while Diego Capel was the man sacrificed for backup goalkeeper Javi Veras.
It's gone from bad to worse for Sevilla, who have completely collapsed tonight against Deportivo La Coruña. Lassad Nouioui's 15th minute stunner was a bad enough happening for a side who started a surpisingly defensive lineup, but it's all gone pear shaped for them in the second half with a red card and another goal.
Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop picked up an incredibly silly straight red card in the 57th minute for handling the ball outside of the box, and that was just the start of Sevilla's problems. It's bad enough for your goalkeeper to get sent off for a terrible lapse of judgment, but Palop's red has other consequences. The keeper will now miss Sevilla's semifinal match in Copa Del Rey.
Just four minutes after the sending off, Depor doubled their lead as Lassad bagged a brace. Ten man Sevilla found their defense incredibly disorganized in the 61st minute, as Adrian rolled a low cross across the face of goal from the right side of the pitch, going through everyone and leaving Lassad with a simple tap in at the far post.
Deportivo La Coruña's Lassad Nouioui hit a superb goal in the 15th minute of their game against Sevilla, but to be honest, it was the only real moment of quality for either team in the first half of the game.
Has anyone else seen the Family Guy episode where Brian is explaining The Blair Witch Project to a blind person?
"Nothing's happening, nothing's happening...something about a map. Nothing's happening, nothing's happening...it's over. A lot of people in the audience look pissed."
That's basically what's going on at Estadio Riazor. Except:
But yeah, that goal was really cool. Sevilla are playing really defensively despite the fact that Depor are a really bad team, and despite the fact that Sevilla are playing defensively and Depor are a really bad team, Lassad scored a stunner and Depor are winning.
It's a funny old game.
Sevilla have curiously started with a very conservative lineup on the road against Deportivo La Coruña, but it hasn't helped them any. Tactics can't guard against 25 yard wonder strikes, and that's exactly what Lassad Nouioui has produced for Depor.
Despite Sevilla's defensive setup, Depor have actually had the better of the action early on. Sevilla striker's Luis Fabiano and Alvaro Negredo haven't seen a whole lot of the ball. Central defender Federico Fazio is playing in the midfield, despite Sevilla having plenty of defensive midfielders.
That defensive setup did nothing to stop Lassad, who hit an incredible 25 yard drive into the back of the net from the center of the pitch, smacking it over the out-stretched arm of Andres Palop before it dipped downwards. Somehow, Depor are up 1-0 and Gregorio Manzano is left wondering how and why his team is down yet again.
It wasn't exactly a vintage performance for Barcelona's Lionel Messi against Hercules, but he found his form late, netting two goals in the dying minutes to put away ten man Hercules 3-0. His 87th and 89th goals were the nails in the coffin for Hercules, who struggled to create chances after David Trezeguet's 21st minute miss while only holding 25% of the possession.
Pedro's 43rd minute opener was a brilliant strike, assisted by Xavi. It wasn't a fantastic first half for the Blaugranes, but Pedro's goal took away most of Hercules' hope of getting a result. The hosts made Barcelona work hard for most of the second half, but when Francisco Farinos was shown a second yellow card and sent off in the 85th minute, Hercules were all but toast.
At this point, Lionel Messi turned on the style and added a brace, taking the scoreline to 3-0, a flattering result for Barcelona. His first goal was a brilliant strike, but his second was a mere tap-in. Once reduced to ten men, a tired Hercules side had no answer for their opponents.
The win was Barcelona's 15th consecutive victory in La Liga, which is an all-time record. The pressure remains on Real Madrid, who must win tomorrow to avoid dropping off the pace almost entirely.
Barcelona haven't looked exceptionally sharp in the first half of their away match against Hercules, but one moment of brilliance from Pedro has been enough to give them a lead heading into the locker room.
Pedro's 43rd minute strike was a great finish, blasted into the back of the net with his right foot, and unsurprisingly assisted by Xavi. The Artist Formerly Known As Pedrito is now on a tear, having scored 15 goals in his last 15 appearances in all competitions. The goal was his 12th overall in league play.
Though Pedro was able to finish his opportunity, it wasn't the best goal scoring chance of the half. That distinction goes to Hercules' David Trezeguet, who made a mess of a great close-range chance in the 21st minute following a fantastic flick-on header from Nelson Valdez.
While the Blaugranes haven't been particularly sharp, it seems likely that Pedro's goal will calm them down a
Barcelona kicks off against Hercules from Alacante at 2 pm ET on Saturday, but their match is hardly the highlight of this week's La Liga action. Usually, all eyes are on Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga, but there are two distinctly more interesting matches on the fixture list this week.
Both of those matches take place Sunday, with Atlético Madrid hosting Athletic Bilbao in the early match, while Espanyol takes on Villarreal in the night cap. Both of those games have serious European implications, with all four involved teams having a great chance to finish in the top six, which are La Liga's guaranteed European places.
Of course, we'll still be covering Barcelona and Real Madrid live. The Blaugranes kick off our coverage on Saturday at 2 pm ET in their match against Hercules. Real Madrid are playing Osasuna away, and that match takes place at 1 pm ET on Sunday.
Here's our schedule of covered matches for this weekend:
Hercules vs. Barcelona: 2 pm ET, Saturday
Deportivo La Coruña vs. Sevilla: 4 pm ET, Saturday
Atletico Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao: 11 am ET, Sunday
Osasuna vs. Real Madrid: 1 pm ET, Sunday
Espanyol vs. Villarreal: 3 pm ET, Sunday
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