Messi Plays 45 Minutes In Barca Friendly Win As La Liga Kicks Off

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (C) challenges Nastic´s defense during a friendly football match between FC Barcelona and Nastic at the Johan Cruyff stadium in Sant Joan Despi, near Barcelona, on September 12, 2020. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

 

Lionel Messi started and played 45 minutes in Barcelona’s first pre-season friendly on Saturday as Ronald Koeman showed no hesitation in reintegrating the Argentinian.

Barca beat third tier side Gimnastic Tarragona 3-1, with Ousmane Dembele opening the scoring on his first appearance since November.

Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho, who was also returning after his loan spell at Bayern Munich, then each scored penalties, either side of Javier Bonilla pulling one back for the visitors.

But Messi’s return at the Johan Cruyff Stadium was perhaps the biggest plus for Koeman, who was taking charge of his first game since being appointed coach last month.

Messi also led the team out wearing the armband after Barcelona had confirmed earlier on Saturday that he will continue as captain this season.

Both club and player appear keen to put on a united front, at least for now, ahead of their return to La Liga later this month.

After condemning the board last week and admitting he had been forced to stay, Messi arrived early on Monday for his return to pre-season training and worked on the squad’s days off in a bid to catch up.

Koeman, meanwhile, said last month he only wanted players who wanted to be at Barcelona but he was full of praise for Messi on Friday, calling him “the best”, and backed that up in his first team selection.

Messi played 45 minutes as part of Koeman’s plan to field two different line-ups in each half.

Yet his starting front three of Messi, Griezmann and Dembele looked suspiciously like a first-choice attack, with Dembele making his first appearance since he tore his hamstring nine months ago.

Koeman also handed starts to youngsters Carles Alena and Pedri in midfield while Jordi Alba, Clement Lenglet, Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto formed a familiar back four, ahead of Neto, who is standing in for the injured Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal.

New signing Francisco Trincao, Coutinho, Frenkie de Jong and 19-year-old American international Konrad de la Fuente were among those to come on for the second half.

There was no place in the squad for either Luis Suarez or Arturo Vidal, who have both been told they can leave.

Barcelona will not play their first La Liga game against Villarreal until round three at the end of the month, having been granted extra time off due to their involvement in last season’s Champions League.

Reigning champions Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are also sitting out the first weekend.

But seven games are scheduled this Saturday and Sunday, the first of them finishing goalless between Eibar and Celta Vigo.

Still without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic, Spain’s top flight got off to a slow start at Ipurua, where Eibar finished with 10 men after Pape Diop was sent off in the 87th minute.

Granada then picked up where they left off last season by defeating Athletic Bilbao 2-0 at Los Carmenes while newly-promoted Cadiz, back in La Liga for the first time in 14 years, lost 2-0 at home to Osasuna.

AFP

Messi’s Botched Departure Was Not ‘A Serious Worry,’ Says La Liga President

In this file photo taken on November 24, 2018 Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the Spanish league football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP
In this file photo taken on November 24, 2018, Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the Spanish league football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

 

La Liga president Javier Tebas has said he was never seriously worried about the impact on the league if Lionel Messi had left Barcelona this summer.

Messi admitted defeat on Friday in his attempt to find a way out of Barca, insisting the club’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu had “broken his word” over an exit clause in his contract.

La Liga had previously intervened in the dispute by announcing Messi’s 700-million-euro release clause still applied, a statement later rejected by Messi’s agent and father Jorge.

Asked on Monday if Messi’s departure had been a serious worry for him, Tebas said: “A serious worry, no. A worry, yes.

“We always want Leo to be with us, I’ve said many times he is the best player in history and as president of La Liga, I would like him to finish his career in this competition.

“La Liga has been working for quite a few years to ensure that as a brand it is above individual players and clubs so the value is not affected by one or two players.

“But there was some worry because after 20 years with us, you want him to be here and not in another league.”

 

File photo: President of La Liga speaking during the official launch of Spanish Football League La Liga office in Singapore. ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP

 

Tebas also said Messi’s departure would not have affected La Liga’s income from broadcast rights deals. “I don’t think so because we have already sold 90 per cent of the rights for the next four seasons, so I don’t think the departure of Messi would affect that issue,” he said.

– New season beckons –

The 2020/21 La Liga season begins on Friday, with Granada against Athletic Bilbao.

But last year’s top four, including reigning champions Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are all sitting out the opening weekend.

They have been given longer to recover after their involvement in last season’s European competitions.

Matches will still be without fans as Spain wrestles with a rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

La Liga had hoped stadiums would be able to take a small percentage of their capacity in September but those plans have been shelved.

“It is a difficult question because it’s not up to La Liga,” said Tebas. “I believe that to see stadiums like before it can only happen with a vaccine.

“I hope it can be in January or February. Several governments have already announced it and that would be the beginning of the end of this bad dream.”

The pandemic has had a huge impact on La Liga’s clubs, with many suffering considerable financial losses from the lack of matchday income.

Some of the biggest clubs have been the worst affected, with Madrid yet to sign a new player this summer while Barcelona are desperately trying to offload their most expensive assets.

Several teams have also had to quarantine players who tested positive upon returning for pre-season.

“It will be a season of surprises,” predicted Tebas. “The big clubs are suffering the consequences of the crisis while the not so big ones, who depend more on television income, can make better signings and make the league more equal. It will be very interesting.”

AFP

Messi Returns To Barcelona Training Ground

Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi gestures during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Levante UD at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, on February 2, 2020. LLUIS GENE / AFP.

 

Lionel Messi arrived at Barcelona’s training ground on Monday as he begins to reintegrate with the team following his failed attempt to leave the club this summer. 

Messi was seen driving into the Ciutat Esportiva in Sant Joan Despi at just after 4:00 pm (1400 GMT) on Monday, where he is expected to take part in training for the first time under new coach Ronald Koeman.

Details later…

Messi Can Leave Barcelona For Free, Father Tells La Liga

In this file photo taken on November 24, 2018 Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the Spanish league football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP
In this file photo taken on November 24, 2018 Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the Spanish league football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Jorge Messi, the father and agent of Lionel Messi, published a response to La Liga on Friday, insisting the Barcelona striker’s 700-million-euro release clause no longer applies.  

Messi senior claims the release clause is removed once the player takes up the option in his contract to leave for free, which Messi’s side believe he did when he notified Barca by burofax on August 25.

In the letter addressed to La Liga president Javier Tevas, Jorge Messi claims to quote a clause in Messi’s contract that says: “This release clause will not apply when the player’s decision to unilaterally rescind the contract takes effect from the end of the 2019-2020 season.”

La Liga had backed up Barcelona’s position last weekend by announcing that Messi’s release clause remains valid.

And the Spanish league reacted almost immediately by reiterating their stance and saying Jorge Messi’s interpretation of the contract was “out of context” and “far removed” from its wording.

Jorge Messi’s bullish statement indicates his son remains committed to leaving Barca this summer, despite suggestions the 33-year-old’s stance could be softening.

However, there has been no overt declaration that Messi will still depart, perhaps offering some hope to Barcelona supporters.

The validity of the release clause in Messi’s contract is important because its existence means Messi could be liable to pay the amount himself if he joined another club but lost a subsequent legal battle in court.

Barcelona believe the option in the player’s contract that allowed him to leave for free expired on June 10.

Messi’s side insist the deadline was the end of the season, which was extended into August due to the pandemic.

Notably, Jorge Messi did not mention a specific date when quoting that clause in his statement.

“We do not know which contract you have analysed and what is the basis that leads you to conclude there was an applicable release clause if the player decided to unilaterally end his contract at the end of the 19-20 season,” he wrote.

He adds that it was an “obvious error on your part”.

Messi’s father had held talks with Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu on Thursday but both sides reiterated their arguments and no agreement was reached.

 

AFP

Ibrahimovic Extends AC Milan Contract For 2020/21 Season

File photo: Milan’s Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic poses with his new jersey during his official presentation as new AC Milan player at the club’s headquarters Casa Milan in Milan on January 3, 2019.  MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has signed a one-year contract extension with AC Milan, the Italian giants announced on Monday.

The former Swedish international, who turns 39 in October, rejoined Milan in January and will stay at the San Siro until the end of June 2021.

“Today (Monday), Zlatan Ibrahimovic rejoined his teammates and coach Stefano Pioli at Milanello Sports Center, where he took part in his first training session of the season,” the club said in a statement.

According to Italian media reports, Ibrahimovic has agreed to a seven-million-euro ($8.35-million) annual salary with Milan.

He helped Pioli’s side bounce back from a poor first half of last season, scoring 11 goals in 20 games in all competitions to help fire the seven-time European champions to Europa League qualification.

Ibrahimovic said at the weekend that he “wanted to help the club return to where they belong”.

“For six months, we have done great things but we have not won anything. We must continue and do the same,” he said in a video.

The 38-year-old previously played for the Rossoneri from 2010-2012, scoring 56 goals and winning the 2011 Serie A title under Massimiliano Allegri.

It had been widely expected that ‘Ibra’ would sign a new deal and he will take the number 11 shirt, having played as Milan’s number 21 last term.

 

File photo: AC Milan’s Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates scoring his team’s fourth goal during the Italian Cup ((Coppa Italia) round of 8 football match between AC Milan and Torino on January 28, 2020, at the San Siro stadium in Milan. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

He had returned from American MLS outfit Los Angeles Galaxy on a six-month contract with an optional extra year.

Milan finished last season with a 12-match unbeaten streak in Serie A to grab a sixth-place finish, although they still fell short of returning to the Champions League for the first time since 2014.

Ibrahimovic has also played for Juventus and Inter Milan in Italy during his illustrious career and starred for Paris Saint-Germain in France and Manchester United in the Premier League.

He won four Ligue 1 titles with PSG during a four-year spell in which he became the club’s record goalscorer, a mantle since taken by Edinson Cavani.

‘Ibra’ has also lifted the La Liga trophy with Barcelona in 2010, three league titles with Inter and two Eredivisie crowns while at Ajax.

AFP

Barcelona, Real Madrid To Meet October After La Liga Fixtures Were Announced

File photo: Real Madrid’s Spanish defender Sergio Ramos shoots against Barcelona’s wall during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on March 1, 2020. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

 

Barcelona will play Real Madrid in the first Clasico of the season at Camp Nou on October 25, after the La Liga fixtures were announced on Monday.

Barca and Madrid will then face each other at the Santiago Bernabeu on April 11, with Zinedine Zidane’s side looking to defend the Spanish league title they won in July.

Whether Lionel Messi features in either match remains to be seen, with the Argentinian currently on strike and refusing to train as he tries to force his way out of the club this summer.

File photo: (L-R) Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi, Barcelona’s Portuguese defender Nelson Semedo and Barcelona’s French forward Ousmane Dembele celebrate a goal during the Spanish league football match between Barcelona and Villarreal at the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona on May 9, 2018. PHOTO: Pau Barrena / AFP

 

Barcelona are scheduled to start at home to Elche and Madrid at home to Getafe but both games will be rearranged to allow more rest for teams involved in last season’s European competitions, which only ended in August.

Atletico Madrid’s opener at home to Sevilla will therefore also be postponed.

Instead, Real Madrid are likely to begin at Real Sociedad on the weekend of September 20 before Barcelona are expected to start at home to Villarreal a week later.

All matches will continue to be staged behind closed doors and according to strict medical regulations aimed at reducing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The first games of the new season will be played on the weekend of September 12, eight weeks after the 2019/20 campaign ended on July 19.

AFP

Bartomeu Remains Sure Messi Will Stay At Barcelona

Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi gestures during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Levante UD at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, on February 2, 2020. LLUIS GENE / AFP.

 

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu repeated on Sunday that he had “no doubt” that Lionel Messi would sign a new contract adding that he can only see Neymar returning in a player exchange.

“Messi has said many times that he wants to retire here and I have no doubt that he will re-sign,” said Bartomeu in an interview published by Barcelona’s sports newspaper Mundo Deportivo.

Messi’s contract expires in June of 2021 and local radio station Cadena Ser reported at the start of July that the Argentine had broken off talks with the club.

Messi has had regular disagreements with the club’s board.

He reacted publicly when sporting director Eric Abidal appeared to blame the players for the sacking of coach Ernesto Valverde in January.

He also led the fightback from the Barcelona players over a dispute with the board in March regarding pay cuts during the coronavirus pandemic.

Barcelona collapsed after La Liga resumed to drop to second as Real Madrid took the title and the 33-year-old Messi was one of those criticised.

In discussing plans for next season and financial constraints on the club, Bartomeu addressed another long-running issue: the possibility that Neymar would return from Paris Saint-Germain.

“Now we are making decisions and the players, if they do not come as part of player exchange players, it is very difficult for them to come,” Bartomeu said.

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi smiles during the Spanish League football match between RCD Mallorca and FC Barcelona at the Visit Mallorca stadium (Son Moix stadium) in Palma de Mallorca on June 13, 2020. (Photo by JAIME REINA / AFP)

Bartomeu said another priority was persuading German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, whose contract expires in 2022, to sign a new deal “not only for his quality as a  goalkeeper but for his personality”.

“He’s a pillar of the dressing room and of the future,” said Bartomeu. “At 28 he’s one of the three best in the world.”

He said he was less concerned about Uruguayan Luis Suarez, who is a free agent next year because “depending on the number of games he plays, the contract automatically renews for the 2021-22 season”.

Bartomeu also said talks with Inter Milan over Argentinian striker Lautaro Martinez were “at a standstill”.

AFP

Cazorla Bids Farewell To Villarreal

Villarreal’s Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla (L) vies with Real Sociedad’s Spanish defender Zubimendi during the Spanish league football match Villarreal CF against Real Sociedad at La Ceramica stadium in Vila-real on July 13, 2020. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / AFP)

 

 

Santi Cazorla will leave Villarreal at the end of the season, the midfielder confirmed on Saturday.

Cazorla bid farewell ahead of the team’s final game of La Liga against Eibar on Sunday. He is expected to join Qatari side Al-Sadd, coached by Xavi Hernandez.

The 35-year-old has enjoyed a brilliant third spell at Villarreal after two years of horrendous injuries.

Cazorla previously made 180 appearances over six years for Arsenal and has 81 caps for Spain. He has also played for Malaga and Recreativo Huelva after first joining Villarreal as a teenager.

“Villarreal has given me everything,” Cazorla said in a video posted by the club on social media. “At 18 they took a punt on a boy from Oviedo who knew nobody.”

Cazorla added: “Hopefully, as it was when I left before, it will be more of a see you later.”

Cazorla’s career looked to be over when an achilles tendon injury threatened to prevent him from walking again, let alone returning to football.

He was operated on eight times in almost two years and at one stage amputation was considered after his foot became seriously infected.

But Cazorla has enjoyed an incredible resurgence at Villarreal, his 11 goals and eight assists this season helping the club qualify for the Europa League.

His superb, cushioned touch for Gerard Moreno to volley in against Valencia last month will go down as one of the moments of the season.

The midfielder would likely have been included in Luis Enrique’s Spain squad for Euro 2020 this summer. He won the European Championships with Spain in both 2008 and 2012.

 

 

-AFP

Barca Have Been ‘Very Inconsistent, Weak,’ Messi Laments As Real Madrid Win La Liga

messi
Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi gestures during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and CA Osasuna at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on July 16, 2020.
LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

 

A frustrated Lionel Messi called for change after Barcelona handed the La Liga title to Real Madrid on Thursday, warning the team will lose in the Champions League as well if they fail to improve.

Barca’s title challenge ended with a whimper at Camp Nou, where they were beaten 2-1 by Osasuna while Madrid’s 2-1 victory at home to Villarreal ensured they were crowned Spanish champions.

Defeat increases the pressure on coach Quique Setien, who took over in January with Barcelona sitting top of the table.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has said Setien will remain in charge for the Champions League next month, when Barca play their second leg at home to Napoli, with the last-16 tie in the balance at 1-1.

“The feeling of the team is that it tries but can’t do it, that we leave a lot to be desired in many areas and today in the first half I think they were better than us,” Messi said after the loss to Osasuna.

“I said long ago that if we continued in this way, it would be very difficult to win the Champions League and that has been shown to be the case in La Liga too.

“If we want to fight for the Champions League we will have to change a lot because otherwise the match against Napoli, we will lose that as well.”

Messi scored a brilliant free-kick against Osasuna but it was not enough. Madrid pulled seven points clear of Barcelona ahead of Sunday’s final round of games.

“We didn’t expect or want to finish like this but it almost sums up the whole year,” said Messi. “We have been very inconsistent, very weak, beaten on intensity or desire.

 

messi-
Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi looks downwards during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and CA Osasuna at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on July 16, 2020. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

 

“They created chances very easily and scored. During the whole year we have been inconsistent and we have lost a lot of points where we shouldn’t have. This game showed what this year has been about for us.”

– ‘We have to be self-critical’ –

Messi has been critical of the board this season and suggested everyone at the club should take their share of the blame.

“After the break Madrid have not lost any games and they deserve credit for that but we have also helped them a lot,” said Messi.

 

Real Madrid’s players celebrate winning La Liga title after the Spanish League football match between against Villarreal CF at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the outskirts of Madrid, on July 16, 2020. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

“We lost a lot of games that we should not have lost and we have to be self-critical, starting with the players, but it has to be a total self-criticism from everyone because we are Barcelona and we are obliged to win the matches whatever happens and instead look at us.”

If Barcelona come through against Napoli, they will face Bayern Munich in the last eight, with a compressed format of single legs all the way through to the final.

“I think we need a little air, this break will be good for us, to clear our heads, forget about everything that has happened,” said Messi.

“It has been very bad from December until now but it is the Champions League and there are four games that can give you a trophy that we all want. But we have to change a lot and be very self-critical.”

AFP

Barcelona Congratulate Real Madrid For Winning 2019/2020 La Liga Crown

Real Madrid’s players celebrate winning La Liga title after the Spanish League football match between against Villarreal CF at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the outskirts of Madrid, on July 16, 2020. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

 

Barcelona have congratulated Real Madrid for winning the 2019/2020 La Liga title on Thursday after they (Real Madrid) beat Villarreal.

French forward Karim Benzema netted a brace to hand Zinedine Zidane’s men a 2-1 win over the Yellow Submarines.

Barcelona took to their Twitter handle to congratulate them for securing their 34th domestic crown.

“Congratulations to Real Madrid on winning the 2019/20 La Liga title,” the club tweeted on their handle.

Benzema’s double included a second-half penalty at the empty Alfredo di Stefano Stadium as Madrid moved seven points clear to end Barcelona’s two-year hold on the trophy.

Barca had to prevail against Osasuna at home and hope Madrid slipped up but their fading challenge ended with a 2-1 defeat at Camp Nou, despite a brilliant Lionel Messi free-kick.

It means Madrid claim their third La Liga title in 12 years, after a relentless run of form since Spanish football resumed on June 11 following the coronavirus pandemic.

Zinedine Zidane’s side have won 10 games out 10 since the restart. They have conceded four goals in that time and never been behind in a match.

“For me, this is one of the best days in my professional career,” said Zidane. “After lockdown and everything, it’s astonishing.”

 

zidane
Real Madrid’s player toss Real Madrid’s French coach Zinedine Zidane after winning the Liga title after the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid CF and Villarreal CF at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the outskirts of Madrid, on July 16, 2020. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Asked if it trumps the Champions League titles Madrid won in his first spell as manager, Zidane said: “This is better than anything. It takes a tremendous effort to win La Liga. After 38 matches, you have more points than anyone else. It’s bloody fantastic.”

Madrid have also been awarded five penalties during the run-in, some of them controversially, and this one caused a stir too as Sergio Ramos tried to roll the ball to Benzema, who finished, but had entered the area too early.

Much to Villarreal’s irritation, Madrid were allowed to retake and this time Benzema made no mistake before Vicente Iborra headed in what proved a late consolation.

“It’s a prize for all the work we’ve done, this is the reward,” said Ramos. “We have one more match and we want to win 11 out of 11.”

benzema
Real Madrid players celebrating a goal in the La Liga game with Villarreal on 16th July, 2020. Photo: [email protected] Madrid CF

Real Madrid Win 34th La Liga Title

Real Madrid’s players celebrate winning La Liga title after the Spanish League football match between against Villarreal CF at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the outskirts of Madrid, on July 16, 2020. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Real Madrid were crowned La Liga champions for the 34th time on Thursday after Karim Benzema scored twice in a 2-1 victory over Villarreal which clinched the title with one game to spare.

Benzema’s double included a second-half penalty at the empty Alfredo di Stefano Stadium as Madrid moved seven points clear to end Barcelona’s two-year hold on the trophy.

Barca had to prevail against Osasuna at home and hope Madrid slipped up but their fading challenge ended with a 2-1 defeat at Camp Nou, despite a brilliant Lionel Messi free-kick.

It means Madrid claim their third La Liga title in 12 years, after a relentless run of form since Spanish football resumed on June 11 following the coronavirus pandemic.

Zinedine Zidane’s side have won 10 games out 10 since the restart. They have conceded four goals in that time and never been behind in a match.

“For me, this is one of the best days in my professional career,” said Zidane. “After lockdown and everything, it’s astonishing.”

Asked if it trumps the Champions League titles Madrid won in his first spell as manager, Zidane said: “This is better than anything. It takes a tremendous effort to win La Liga. After 38 matches, you have more points than anyone else. It’s bloody fantastic.”

Madrid have also been awarded five penalties during the run-in, some of them controversially, and this one caused a stir too as Sergio Ramos tried to roll the ball to Benzema, who finished, but had entered the area too early.

Much to Villarreal’s irritation, Madrid were allowed to retake and this time Benzema made no mistake before Vicente Iborra headed in what proved a late consolation.

“It’s a prize for all the work we’ve done, this is the reward,” said Ramos. “We have one more match and we want to win 11 out of 11.”

 

– Setien under pressure at Barca –

After three months away, Barcelona had returned sitting top of the table but draws with Sevilla, struggling Celta Vigo and Atletico Madrid allowed Madrid to take charge.

Barca were also in first place when they sacked Ernesto Valverde in January and while the club’s problems go deeper than their coach, Quique Setien’s position will come under scrutiny.

“Things have to change,” said Messi. “Everyone here in the club will be feeling very angry about what has happened this season and that’s normal. The players feel like that too.”

Messi added: “We have to be self-critical, starting with the players, but across the whole club.”

benzema
Real Madrid players celebrating a goal in the La Liga game with Villarreal on 16th July, 2020. Photo: [email protected] Madrid CF

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said this week that Setien will remain in charge for next month’s Champions League tie against Napoli but the coach’s decision to leave Luis Suarez out of the starting line-up for a second consecutive game will raise questions.

Yet few could argue Madrid deserve the title and it was fitting that Benzema delivered it, his double taking his tally for the season to 26 in all competitions.

His first came after 28 minutes when Casemiro stole possession in midfield and freed Luka Modric. He slid through Benzema, who fired through the legs of Sergio Asenjo.

Ramos had scored five goals himself since the restart and could have had a sixth after he was tripped by the dangling leg of Sofian Chakla.

But his ploy to tee up Benzema backfired when his teammate encroached too early. Benzema converted the re-take.

Iborra headed in Mario Gaspar’s cross to set up a nervy finish but Barcelona were still being held by Osasuna.

Messi’s curling free-kick into the top corner had cancelled out Osasuna’s opener from Jose Arnaiz, once of Barca B.

But Osasuna had a final trick up their sleeve as Roberto Torres finished at the back post to wrap up Barca’s miserable night at the end of a turbulent season.

Real Mallorca’s hopes of survival are over after they lost 2-1 at home to Granada but Alaves guaranteed their safety by winning at Real Betis.

With Espanyol already down, the final relegation spot will be between Celta Vigo, who lost 3-2 to Levante, and Leganes, who beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0.

Leganes are a point behind and play on Sunday at home to Real Madrid while Celta visit Espanyol.

AFP

Real Madrid Now One Win Away From La Liga Title After Beating Granada

real-madrid
Granada’s Spanish defender Quini Marin (L) reacts during the Spanish league football match Granada FC vs Real Madrid CF at Nuevo Los Carmenes stadium in Granada on July 13, 2020.
JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

 

Real Madrid are one victory away from clinching the La Liga title after they held off a second-half comeback from Granada on Monday to win 2-1 and move four points clear of Barcelona.

With two games left, Madrid will be crowned champions if they beat Villarreal at home on Thursday regardless of how Barca fare at the Camp Nou against Osasuna.

But they were made to sweat by a Granada team that are gunning for Europe and have been arguably the division’s surprise of the season after being promoted from second tier only last year.

Ferland Mendy and Karim Benzema looked to have set Madrid on course for a comfortable win at Los Carmenes but Granada were transformed after the break and Darwin Machis’ 50th-minute strike gave them hope.

An increasingly nervy Madrid were clinging on by the end and needed Sergio Ramos to clear one shot off the line as Zinedine Zidane’s side dug in for a ninth consecutive victory.

modric
Real Madrid’s Croatian midfielder Luka Modric (L) vies with Granada’s Venezuelan midfielder Yangel Herrera during the Spanish league football match Granada FC vs Real Madrid CF at Nuevo Los Carmenes stadium in Granada on July 13, 2020. JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

 

When the final whistle blew, Zidane roared with relief and Ramos clenched his fists after coming through their toughest test since the restart.

“We can’t relax, we’re a bit closer but we have to carry on,” said Ramos afterwards.

“We let our guard down here a bit on the second half. We won the first half and lost the second and maybe that’s a warning for us. We have to make sure we don’t repeat that mistake.”

Madrid could win a third La Liga title in eight years at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium on Thursday night. “It would mean a lot,” said Ramos.

“It’s the prize for consistency over the whole year. Maybe we had a period of reflection during the suspension and we came back and reacted. We’re in the race and hopefully on Thursday we can celebrate.”

If Madrid slip up against Villarreal, they will still have a second chance on Sunday when they finish away at Leganes while Barcelona visit Alaves.

Machis’ goal was the first Madrid have conceded in six matches but few would have seen it coming after the first half.

Madrid scored twice in six minutes, with both goals coming from breaks down their left.

Mendy had space in front of him and kept going, accelerating between Victor Diaz and Dimitri Foulquier before firing high and into the roof of the net from an acute angle.

The second goal came down the same side, Isco’s backheel allowing Luka Modric to switch left to Benzema, who this time cut inside Diaz and shot into the far corner.

Madrid cruised through the rest of the half, pushing the ball around at will, but comfort perhaps created complacency and Granada improved after the break.

Machis pulled a goal back, striking through the legs of Courtois after Casemiro was robbed in midfield and Madrid were rattled as Granada dictated more and more of the ball.

A scramble in Madrid’s six-yard box saw several players hacking at the ball in panic and Courtois was twice required to make smart saves late on.

The closest Granada came was when the ball fell to Ramon Azeez at the back post and he fired towards the near post with Courtois stranded. Ramos was there on the line.

AFP