Setien Suffers First Defeat As Valencia Shock Barcelona

Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi gestures during the Spanish league football match Valencia CF against FC Barcelona at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia on January 25, 2020.  AFP

 

Quique Setien’s honeymoon period lasted less than a fortnight as he tasted his first Barcelona defeat on Saturday in his second La Liga game in charge after a 2-0 loss to Valencia.

A Jordi Alba own goal and Maxi Gomez’s strike at Mestalla raise early doubts about Setien’s appointment and give Real Madrid the chance to move three points clear at the top of the table when they visit Real Valladolid on Sunday.

Barcelona had most of the ball but their opponents had the best chances as Gomez missed a penalty and also hit the crossbar in the first half. Gabriel Paulista saw a third goal ruled out late on.

While performances under previous coach Ernesto Valverde were stodgy and familiar failings went unresolved, he left a side in first place.

Setien promised a new style but few will cheer a team that loses. Despite dominating possession, Barcelona did little with it and as Valencia grew in confidence, they ceded control too.

“There are things they have not understood or maybe we have not have explained ourselves well,” Setien said afterwards. “In the first half, quite frankly, we were bad.”

The question is whether Setien is trying to impose too much too soon and perhaps whether this group are even well-suited his ideas.

“The players have to adapt to the coaching staff to understand,” said Sergio Busquets. “There were some good things but we have to improve.”

Valencia climb to fifth and continue to improve under Albert Celades. This success came without their captain Dani Parejo and, largely, without star striker Rodrigo Moreno, who has been linked with a January move to Barcelona.

The hosts hardly touched the ball for the first six minutes, their fans whistling as they urged a more aggressive approach.

But the plan was to sit and absorb and it worked, with Barcelona unable to cut through or create a single clear chance.

 Valencia dangerous 

And when Valencia did intervene, they were more dangerous too. With their first attack, they won a penalty as Jose Gaya slipped past Gerard Pique and would surely have scored from eight yards before being brought down.

Pique was booked and, with Parejo absent, Gomez stepped up, only for his driven shot to be well saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, albeit with the help of half a yard’s headstart off his line.

Barca were riding their luck. Sergi Roberto’s header cannoned off Pique but fell just close enough for Ter Stegen, who parried a Gomez shot onto the crossbar and almost spilled another to Kevin Gameiro.

Referee Gil Manzano puts his hands together as if to apologise after failing to play advantage when Ferran Torres was clear but the frustration of Valencia’s fans turned to ecstasy shortly after half-time.

Pique’s flicked header landed at the feet of Gomez, whose driven effort took a cruel deflection off Alba and flew in.

Setien traded the patience of Arthur Melo for the physicality of Arturo Vidal and Rodrigo came on to a rousing reception.

Barcelona exerted some pressure and Lionel Messi led the way, hauled to the ground by Francis Coquelin and then denied by a brilliant Gabriel tackle. He fired past the post, headed wide and saw a curling free-kick saved.

Yet just as a Barcelona equaliser began to feel inevitable, Valencia struck again. A quick throw caught Alba out of position and Torres did well to cut inside and switch to Gomez. He took a touch and curled into the corner.

Gabriel thought he had a third after volleying in from a corner but VAR persuaded Manzano there had been a push. When Messi ballooned a late free-kick and threw his arms up in despair, Valencia knew their win was secure.

AFP

Relief For Barca As Messi Ensures Setien Enjoys Winning Start

 

 

Quique Setien may want a different Barcelona but he needed the same old Lionel Messi on Sunday as the Argentinian gave his new coach a winning start with the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Granada.

Messi’s strike in the 76th minute won a cagey contest at the Camp Nou and prevented the much-anticipated launch of Setien’s new era becoming something of a damp squib.

Victory also sends Barca back to the top of La Liga on goal difference, after Real Madrid had briefly claimed first place following their win over Sevilla on Saturday.

It would have been different if Granada’s Yan Eteki hadn’t struck the post with just over 20 minutes left or their central defender German Sanchez not been sent off for a needless second yellow card soon after.

The extra man was the boost Barca needed and Messi duly poked home his 17th goal in 21 games this season following good work by Arturo Vidal, Antoine Griezmann and the 20-year-old Riqui Puig.

All three had reasons to impress, particularly Puig, whose inclusion on the bench was an early indication of Setien’s belief in youth. Puig’s contribution after coming on should mean more opportunities are to come.

Setien said last week that if he could make one guarantee, it was that Barcelona would play good football while he is in charge and although few could argue this was a transformative display following the sacking of Ernesto Valverde, there were certainly some encouraging signs.

The passing was faster, the pressing higher and Messi spent most of the match playing down the middle, with Griezmann on the left and Ansu Fati, another youngster, on the right.

Slick Barca dominate

Setien claimed on Saturday he would never go home happy after winning and playing badly but a 1-0 victory gets his tenure off to a positive start and, with Real Madrid showing no sign of stuttering, he could hardly afford anything less.

His team had 83 per cent possession in the first half but chances were not as clear-cut and, as it was under Valverde, nearly everything went through Messi.

His driving run teed up Fati, who shot over, and then a cutting reverse pass set Alba away but Fati failed to finish at the back post.

Messi won the ball back on the ground and then nipped past two players. He flashed wide at the end of a fluid team move and missed from two free-kicks.

Barca were slick, evidently trying to pass faster and press with more aggression. Messi and Sergio Busquets chased and Griezmann did too, at one point earning the approval of the home fans after sprinting to provide cover at right-back.

Vidal has always harried and when he won the ball back early in the second half, Barca had a four against two. But Messi’s pass was heavy and the angle for Vidal became too acute.

The game drifted and tension grew but two moments proved crucial. First Eteki’s shot was kept out only by the post as he drove hard past the right hand of Ter Stegen.

Then, less than five minutes later, Granada were reduced to 10 men after German picked up a second yellow card for a late hack on Messi. It left Granada needing to survive 21 minutes and they only made it through eight.

Puig, on for Ivan Rakitic, recovered possession in the corner before Messi picked up the ball centrally. In a flash, he played in Griezmann, who found Vidal, whose swivelled a flick back into the path of Messi and he poked a finish into the corner.

Setien threw both arms into the air and looked to the sky, with joy and also relief.

Why Xavi Rejected Barca Coaching Offer

Spain and Barcelona football legend Xavi Hernandez who recently signed with Qatar’s Al-Sadd gestures to his teammates during their Qatar Stars League football match against Lekhwiya in Doha. AFP

 

Xavi said it was “too early” for him to coach Barcelona as he confirmed on Thursday that he had received an offer from his former club but would remain at Qatari side Al-Sadd.

World Cup winner Xavi, 39, said Barcelona’s director of football Eric Abidal made him the offer, before settling on Quique Setien to replace Ernesto Valverde as coach.

“I received an offer from Barcelona in the presence of Eric Abidal… but I did not agree to this offer, especially as it is too early for me to coach Barcelona,” he said in a statement issued by Al-Sadd.

“But it will still be my dream to coach the team in the future.

“I love the new Barcelona coach, I love the way he works, and I expect him to succeed with the team.”

Valverde left Barcelona after his sacking on Monday, closing the page on a brutal few days.

Barcelona confirmed Setien’s appointment following a board meeting that lasted more than four hours on Monday.

His contract runs until 2022 although there is a break clause in 2021, to allow for change after the club’s presidential elections.

Valverde is the first coach to be sacked by Barca mid-season since Louis van Gaal in 2003.

Barcelona sit top of La Liga, albeit level on points with Real Madrid, and face Napoli next month in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Xavi came through the Barcelona academy before breaking the record for most appearances for the senior side, winning four Champions League trophies and eight La Liga titles.

He joined Al-Sadd as a player in 2015 before being appointed coach last July.

AFP

Barcelona’s Coach Setien Begins Training After Valverde Sack

FILES) In this file photo taken on February 21, 2019 Real Betis’ Spanish head coach Quique Setien smiles before the UEFA Europa League round of 32 second leg football match between Real Betis and Rennes at the Benito Villamarin stadium in Sevilla on February 21, 2019.  AFP

 

Quique Setien began his first session as Barcelona coach on Tuesday morning just as the sacked Ernesto Valverde drove out of the training ground for the last time.

Valverde had said goodbye to the players, collected his things and left, closing the page on a brutal few days that had finally seen him sacked on Monday night.

After Barca’s public pursuit of Xavi Hernandez ended in failure, they have turned to Setien, the 61-year-old who has dedicated his coaching career to a belief in exciting, possession-based football.

Barcelona confirmed Setien’s appointment following a board meeting that lasted more than four hours at the Camp Nou on Monday afternoon. His contract, which runs until June 2022, appears also to be a show of faith.

Valverde is the first coach to be sacked by Barca mid-season since Louis van Gaal in 2003 and if that points to chaos, Setien inherits a team in a healthy position too.

Barcelona sit top of La Liga, albeit level on points with Real Madrid, and face a winnable tie against Napoli next month in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Off the pitch, the club came top of Deloitte’s annual Football Money League table on Monday, after posting record earnings of 840.8 million euros ($937 million) for 2018/19.

Some of that income might have to be channelled into signing a new striker this month, with Setien taking over a squad that will be without Luis Suarez for four months due to a knee injury.

More generally, he will have to find a way to marry his purist principles with results at one of the most demanding clubs in the world. His critics have suggested style can take precedence over substance.

“Having the ball makes you a football player, not running after it,” Setien said last year. He once commented he would have cut off his little finger to play under Johan Cruyff.

After Valverde’s more functional approach, Barca will believe Setien’s philosophy chimes better with the principles they see as part of their DNA.

“Setien is one of the most experienced coaches in Spanish football,” a club statement read on Monday night. “Throughout his career he has been a proponent of possession based, attacking football that has been attractive to the fans.”

His first game in charge will be at home to Granada on Sunday and a tricky first six weeks will include away games at Valencia, Real Betis and then Real Madrid at the start of March.

European failures haunt Valverde 

A former player at Atletico Madrid and Racing Santander who won three caps for Spain, Setien led Betis to a sixth-place finish in 2018 and qualification for the Europa League but, despite overseeing a thrilling 4-3 victory at the Camp Nou early the following season, results tailed off.

Betis finished 10th and the club and coach parted ways, even if there was recognition for what had been achieved.

Setien had presided over the team winning twice in a row at the Santiago Bernabeu and beating Atletico. After seeing off Barcelona — Valverde’s only home defeat — Sergio Busquets presented Setien with a signed shirt.

“For Quique,” read the message. “With appreciation and admiration for the way you see football.”

Previously, Setien had helped Lugo secure promotion to the second tier in 2012 and, in 2016, steered Las Palmas clear of relegation from La Liga. He has also coached Racing, Poli Ejido, Logrones and, for one game, Equatorial Guinea.

His primary task will be to hold off a resurgent Real Madrid in a neck-and-neck title race after Valverde managed to sustain the domestic dominance enjoyed by Barcelona over the last decade.

He won two La Liga titles, as well as the Copa del Rey in 2018, but doubts were underpinned by two disastrous exits from the Champions League due to collapses against Roma and Liverpool.

Familiar frailties were exposed this season in a series of underwhelming performances and a 3-2 defeat by Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup last Thursday, in which Barca conceded two late goals, finally persuaded the board to act.

Barcelona Sack Valverde, Appoint New Coach

In this file photo taken on May 07, 2019 Barcelona's Spanish coach Ernesto Valverde reacts during the UEFA Champions league semi-final second leg football match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on May 7, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP
In this file photo taken on May 07, 2019 Barcelona’s Spanish coach Ernesto Valverde reacts during the UEFA Champions league semi-final second leg football match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on May 7, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Spanish champions Barcelona have sacked their coach Ernesto Valverde and appointed Quique Setien as his replacement, the club announced on Monday. 

The decision to remove Valverde was confirmed following a board meeting that lasted more than four hours at Camp Nou on Monday afternoon.

Barca are top of La Liga but have won only one of their last five matches. Valverde is the first coach the club has sacked mid-season since Louis van Gaal in 2003.

“FC Barcelona and Ernesto Valverde have reached an agreement to terminate the contract that united both parties,” read a club statement released on Monday night.

Setien will be presented in a press conference at Camp Nou at 2.30pm local time (1330 GMT) on Tuesday.

“Barcelona and Quique Setien have reached an agreement for the latter to become first team coach until 30 June 2022,” the club said.

“Setien is one of the most experienced coaches in Spanish football,” it added. “Throughout his career he has been a proponent of possession based, attacking football that has been attractive to the fans.”

His first game in charge will be at home to Granada on Sunday. Barcelona play Napoli in the last 16 of the Champions League next month and Real Madrid in the league at the start of March.

Setien has made no secret of his admiration for the stylistic traditions of Barcelona, with the 61-year-old also renowned for favouring an exciting, offensive mode of football.

A former player of Atletico Madrid and Racing Santander, he was circled as a potential Barca coach during a particularly successful period in charge of Real Betis.

Setien led Betis to a sixth-place finish in 2018 and qualification for the Europa League but, despite overseeing a thrilling 4-3 victory at Camp Nou early the following season, results tailed off.

Betis finished 10th and the club and coach parted ways in the summer. Previously, he also helped Las Palmas avoid relegation from La Liga in 2016.

A footballing purist, Setien and Barcelona would seem a good fit, particularly if the players feel released from some of Valverde’s more pragmatic tendencies.

But critics of Setien would argue style often takes precedence over substance and it remains to be seen how he handles the pressure of matching aesthetics with results at one of the world’s most demanding clubs.

He will also have to do without Luis Suarez, who will be missing for the next four months after having surgery on his right knee.

European failures haunt Valverde

Doubts had surrounded Valverde for several months and were underpinned by two disastrous exits from the Champions League.

Barcelona’s shocking collapse against Roma in 2018 was followed by a similar capitulation against Liverpool last year.

Familiar fragility had been evident this season and a 3-2 defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup on Thursday, in which Barcelona conceded two late goals, prompted the board to act.

Valverde arrived two hours early for his last training session with the squad at Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper on Monday morning before meeting with club president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Bartomeu then drove to Camp Nou, where he held a board meeting with several club officials including chief executive Oscar Grau, technical secretary Javier Bordas, vice president Jordi Cardoner and sporting director Eric Abidal.

Grau and Abidal had returned to Barcelona on Sunday after spending the weekend in Qatar, where they had offered the job to Xavi, only for the club’s iconic former midfielder to indicate he was not ready to come immediately.

In Valverde’s two seasons, his team won two La Liga titles, as well as the Copa del Rey in 2018, and another league success remained very much in sight this term, despite Madrid’s impressive form in recent weeks.

But Barca’s performances have been unconvincing and there were lingering concerns about Valverde’s more functional tactics, which appear to have informed the switch to Setien.

When Valverde arrived in 2017, Barcelona were wounded, hurting after the shock departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain and humiliated, as consecutive defeats by Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup hinted at trouble for the season ahead.

Instead, he steadied the ship and galvanised the team.

They lost one league game en route to winning the title and the year after, they were champions again, finishing 11 points ahead of Atletico and 19 clear of Real.

Increasingly, though, Valverde’s achievements faded from view and his failures began to overshadow them. On Monday, Barcelona decided his time was up.

 

AFP

Barcelona Set To Sack Valverde, Reports Suggest

 

 

Barcelona are set to sack their coach, Ernesto Valverde, according to reports in the Spanish press.

Valverde took training on Monday morning but his future looks bleak, with the club expected to announce his departure following a board meeting in the afternoon at Camp Nou.

Valverde arrived more than two hours early at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper and took training as usual, despite Barca’s public pursuit of their iconic former midfielder Xavi Hernandez at the weekend.

Xavi, currently the coach of Qatari team Al-Sadd, indicated he is not prepared to take charge immediately but the negotiations left Valverde in limbo.

After training on Monday, Valverde met with club president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Bartomeu then drove to Camp Nou, where he held a board meeting with several club officials including chief executive Oscar Grau, technical secretary Javier Bordas, vice president Jordi Cardoner and sporting director Eric Abidal.

According to Catalunya Radio, Valverde was told the club would negotiate the terms of his exit with his agent. ESPN added that Valverde had collected his belongings from the training ground.

Barca could install a temporary replacement like B team coach Francisco Javier Garcia Pimienta, perhaps with a view to appointing Xavi at the end of the season.

Otherwise, they could opt for a more permanent solution immediately. Former Tottenham Hotspur coach Mauricio Pochettino is a viable option, despite his previous claims he would never coach Barcelona due to connections with rivals Espanyol.

Ex-Real Betis coach Quique Setien, renowned for an attractive, attacking style of play, is out of work and has also been mentioned as a possible candidate.

Barcelona’s open hankering after Xavi has left a bitter taste, particularly with those who believe Valverde, who always speaks with sense and integrity, deserves better.

“I feel bad for Valverde, he doesn’t deserve this treatment,” former Barcelona coach, and current Manchester City boss, Pep Guardiola said on Sunday. “I hope the situation can be resolved soon.”

European concerns

Barcelona sit top of La Liga, level on points with Real Madrid, and they face Napoli in the last 16 of the Champions League next month, after sailing through top of their group.

Yet skepticism around Valverde’s suitability has long been building, with every loss prompting renewed speculation about his future.

Underpinning the doubts are Barca’s last two exits from the Champions League, after the team followed an incredible collapse against Roma in 2018 with a remarkably similar capitulation against Liverpool last year.

Given the obsession with bolstering their record in Europe, many were surprised the club did not opt for a fresh start last summer, even if Valverde’s domestic record has been excellent.

In his two completed seasons, Barca have won two La Liga titles, as well as the Copa del Rey in 2018, and another league title remains very much in sight this term, despite second-placed Madrid’s impressive form in recent weeks.

But Barcelona’s performances have been unconvincing — they have drawn three of their last four league games — and the flaws in the Spanish Super Cup semi-final loss to Atletico Madrid on Thursday, in which they conceded two late goals, felt all too familiar.

There have also been lingering concerns about a more pragmatic style of play, which for some has veered too far from the club’s possession-football DNA.

Nostalgia remains for the brilliance of Guardiola’s side, even if most of the players he was blessed with have gone.

When Valverde arrived to succeed Luis Enrique in 2017, Barcelona were wounded, hurting after the shock departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain and humiliated, as consecutive defeats by Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup hinted at trouble for the season ahead.

Instead, Valverde steadied the ship and galvanised the team.

They lost one league game en route to winning the title and the year after, they won again, finishing 11 points ahead of Atletico and 19 clear of Real.

Increasingly, though, Valverde’s achievements have faded from view and his failures then began to overshadow them, leaving Barcelona to consider that his time might be up.

Suarez Set For Another Knee Surgery

Team doctors attend Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez after resulting injured during the Spanish league football match between RCD Espanyol and FC Barcelona at the RCDE Stadium in Cornella de Llobregat on January 4, 2020. PAU BARRENA / AFP

 

Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez will undergo another knee operation on Sunday, Barcelona have announced. 

The club issued a press release Saturday saying the surgery was for an “injury to the external meniscus of the right knee”.

It will not be his first knee operation.

Last May, Suarez missed the last two league games and the Spanish cup final, which Barcelona lost to Valencia, so he could have an operation on his right knee and recover in time to play for Uruguay in the Copa America in Brazil.

Suarez also underwent knee surgery in May 2014, returning in time to score twice against England at the end of June in the World Cup.

Suarez played on Thursday as Barcelona lost the semi-final of the Spanish Super Cup to Atletico Madrid in Jeddah.

The 32-year-old has made 23 appearances for Barcelona this season, scoring 14 goals (11 in the league and three in the Champions League). He also leads La Liga with seven assists.

Barcelona top La Liga and face Napoli in the round of 16 of the Champions League.

“Once the intervention is over the club will make a new medical statement,” Barcelona’s statement said.

Spanish Super Cup: Atletico Madrid Shock Barcelona To Reach Final

Atletico Madrid’s Spanish midfielder Koke (C) celebrates his goal during the Spanish Super Cup semi final between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid on January 9, 2020, at the King Abdullah Sport City in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah. The winner will face Real Madrid in the final on January 12. Giuseppe CACACE / AFP.

 

Atletico Madrid sprung a surprise in the Spanish Super Cup by staging a thrilling comeback to beat Barcelona 3-2 on Thursday and set up a final against Real Madrid. 

Barca looked on course for a Sunday showdown against Real when they led Atletico 2-1 with nine minutes left but instead it will be a Madrid derby in Saudi Arabia to decide who lifts the trophy.

Arda Turan Returns To Barcelona After Loan Spell

 

Turkish international Arda Turan ended his loan spell with Basaksehir Istanbul on Tuesday and will return to Barcelona after two years marked by violence on and off the pitch.

“During a meeting yesterday, our player Arda Turan asked approval from our president Goksel Gumusdag to leave to write a new chapter in his career,” the club said in a statement, adding that Gumusdag approved the request.

Turan, 32, joined Basaksehir in January 2018 on loan from Barcelona where he had struggled to impose himself since leaving from Atletico Madrid in 2016.

He made only 39 appearances for the Super Lig club, who failed to lift any trophies during his stint with the team.

One of Turkey’s best-known sportsmen and a strong supporter of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the midfielder lately made more headlines for his violent antics.

Turan was given a 16-match suspension after shoving and verbally abusing a referee in May 2018.

In September, he received a suspended sentence of almost three years over a brawl involving a famous singer at an Istanbul nightclub.

Barcelona Fined €1,500 Over Clasico Beach Ball Incident

Barcelona’s French forward Antoine Griezmann (L)and Real Madrid’s Spanish defender Sergio Ramos eye the ball during the “El Clasico” Spanish League football match between Barcelona FC and Real Madrid CF at the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona on December 18, 2019,
JOSE JORDAN / AFP

 

 

Barcelona have been fined 1,500 euros ($1,660) and warned the Camp Nou could be closed after beach balls were thrown on to the pitch during this week’s Clasico against Real Madrid, the Spanish football federation announced on Friday.

Inflatable balls were tossed on to the field Wednesday in a politically charged fixture which originally had to be postponed due to violent demonstrations across Catalonia.

The match, which finished goalless, was held up for 90 seconds as Barca made a substitution in the 55th minute due to the objects on the field.

After the game, 10 people were arrested and more than 60 injured in clashes between Catalan separatists and police outside the ground.

Some 3,000 police officers and private security agents had been deployed for the match amid calls for separatists to protest outside Camp Nou during the fixture.

AFP

Messi Shines As Barcelona Thrash Alaves

Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi (L) vies for the ball with Alaves’ Spanish defender Ruben Duarte during the Spanish league football match at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 21, 2019. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

 

Barcelona go into the brief Spanish winter break on top of La Liga after a glittering show from Lionel Messi helped the defending champions beat Alaves 4-1 on Saturday.

Real Madrid, who drew 0-0 in Barcelona in the midweek Clasico, can draw level top on 39 points but behind on goal difference if they win at home to Atletico Bilbao on Sunday.

Seville are assured third place over Christmas on 34 points after their 2-0 win in Mallorca.

French star Antoine Griezzman put Barca ahead with a lovely snap-shot from outside the area after a slick exchange with Messi on 14 minutes.

“I needed to score a goal before the holidays, now I can go into them happy with myself,” said the French World Cup winner who has scored just seven goals since his summer move.

“We have a great team with some of the best players around and when we don’t click, well, there’s always Messi.”

Messi had already had a better strike ruled out by a harsh VAR decision, while Mohican-haired Chilean forward Arturo Vidal had tried a dramatic overhead effort that the Alaves ‘keeper just about stopped with his feet.

Vidal bagged a second just before half-time when put into open space on the right as Barcelona overwhelmed the visitors, but they should have gone into the break more than 2-0 ahead.

Pere Pons pulled one back on 56 minute for Alaves with neither Gerard Pique nor the returning Samuel Umtiti on hand as his header flew home from close range.

Even with four defenders around him, Messi was unstoppable on 69 minutes as he unleashed a trademark left-foot strike from outside the box.

The goal illustrated why the diminutive attacker recently won a sixth Ballon d’Or.

A sweetly-struck Luis Suarez penalty made it 4-1 on 75 minutes.

AFP

12 Injured As Police Clash With Catalan Protesters Outside Camp Nou Stadium

Catalan regional police ‘Mossos D’Esquadra’ officers clash with demonstrators during a protest called by Catalan separatist movement Democratic Tsunami outside the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 18, 2019, during the “El Clasico” Spanish League football match between Barcelona FC and Real Madrid CF.
Pau Barrena / AFP

 

Masked protesters set bins on fire and threw rocks and glass bottles at police who responded with foam bullets in a street near Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium as Barcelona and Real Madrid faced off Wednesday in the first Clasico of the season.

Twelve people were injured in the clashes, including four who needed to be taken to a medical centre for extra care, local emergency services said.

The protesters, many of them carrying Catalan separatist flags, began setting up barricades in the middle of the street, which they then set on fire, after police arrived in dozens of police vans, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

READ ALSO: Barcelona Hold Real Madrid To Goalless Draw

Demonstrators rocked a police van and took down street signs that they added to the barricades.

Inside the stadium, thousands of fans held up blue banners with the words ‘Spain, sit and talk’ which were given to supporters outside the grounds and also carried the words, ‘Freedom, rights, self-determination’, as well as the slogan of Democratic Tsunami, the protest group promoting the cause of Catalan independence.

Protestors also blocked traffic after gathering at the four corners of the stadium from 1500 GMT, four hours before kick-off. The match ended in a 0-0 draw.

AFP