Real Sociedad Beat Nine-Man Sevilla To Go Third

Real Sociedad’s Japanese forward Takefusa Kubo vies with Sevilla’s Dutch midfielder Karim Rekik (back) the Spanish league football match between Sevilla FC and Real Sociedad at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Seville on November 9, 2022. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP)

Real Sociedad moved provisionally third in La Liga with a 2-1 win on Wednesday at struggling Sevilla, who had two men sent off in the first half.

Jorge Sampaoli’s side, 17th, were unable to build on their point in the Seville derby at the weekend and red cards for Ivan Rakitic and Tanguy Nianzou gave them an uphill struggle at a frustrated Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan.

Alexander Sorloth sent Real Sociedad ahead in the 20th minute with a well-measured chip over goalkeeper Bono after being fed by Mikel Merino.

Alex Remiro made a sublime save at full stretch to stop Isco from equalising, but after that Sevilla became their own worst enemy.

Rakitic and Nianzou were both sent off for ugly challenges on Brais Mendez, just six minutes apart.

Mendez punished Sevilla further by tucking home the second goal after another perfectly-weighted through-ball from Merino.

However Rafa Mir nodded Alex Telles’s cross past Remiro before the break to give his team a glimmer of hope, despite their numerical disadvantage.

Sorloth missed from point blank range after Bono deflected David Silva’s low shot into his path at an awkward height.

Sevilla stayed in the game but could not find an equaliser and also remain without a single win at home this season in the top flight.

Elsewhere Almeria beat Getafe 1-0 thanks to Leo Baptistao’s 26th minute header.

Atletico Madrid visit Real Mallorca later on, while Espanyol welcome Quique Setien’s Villarreal.

AFP

Real Madrid Beat Barcelona To Win Clasico, Top La Liga

Real Madrid’s players celebrate after scoring their team’s third goal during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on October 16, 2022. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

 

Real Madrid beat Barcelona 3-1 in the Clasico to overtake their fierce rivals at the top of La Liga on Sunday.

Karim Benzema opened the scoring in the 12th minute by converting a rebound after Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved from Vinicius Junior, with Fede Valverde drilling home the second from the edge of the box before the break.

READ ALSO: Inter Beat Salernitana To Continue Revival

Ferran Torres pulled one back for Barcelona in the final stages after good work by Ansu Fati, but Rodrygo won and converted a late penalty to ensure Carlo Ancelotti’s reigning champions inflicted Barcelona’s first domestic defeat of the season.

AFP

La Liga Win Injunction To Freeze 50 Million Euros Of beIN Assets

 

Spain’s top football division, La Liga, has taken out a court injunction against the beIN Media Group to freeze 50 million euros ($48.5 million) of their assets after non-payment for television rights.

The dispute is widely seen as the latest salvo in a feud between La Liga’s outspoken president Javier Tebas and beIN Group Chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who is also the president of Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain.

The two men have been at loggerheads on a range of issues over the past few years.

A Spanish court placed a temporary hold on the 50 million euros pending a full hearing on the case, according to court documents issued on Monday that AFP has seen.

A La Liga spokesperson confirmed the Spanish league had sought legal remedies “to guarantee the payment of the amounts owed from the contracts for international TV rights following non-payment by beIN.”

The media group broadcasts La Liga football across three continents and in 35 countries, including France, Hong Kong and New Zealand, paying La Liga an estimated 1.5 billion euros over the past five years.

“BeIN is one of the leading media groups in world sport and entertainment. Our reputation is founded on decades of significant investment, best-in-class broadcasting, long-term and trusted relationships with rights-holders, and a track record of payment,” a beIN Media Group spokesperson told AFP.

“We will not discuss publicly the private discussions we’ve been having with La Liga, or any rights-holder for that matter, regarding specific contracts. That is not how business should be conducted, certainly not by professional and dignified institutions.

“If we ran our operations reacting to certain executives’ comments on others within the sports industry, we wouldn’t be in business.”

Al-Khelaifi has become an increasingly powerful presence in the world of football as president of the European Club Association (ECA). Both he and Tebas are on UEFA’s Executive Committee.

Tebas condemned PSG and Premier League side Manchester City in June this year for violating Financial Fair Play rules, and has often railed against “state-owned” clubs for “financial doping”. PSG are owned by a Qatari investment fund.

La Liga protested against PSG signing Kylian Mbappe to a new contract in the summer, with the player turning down Real Madrid, by filing a complaint against them in a French court.

At the time, Tebas described the new Mbappe deal as “an insult to football”.

At a La Liga event in May, Tebas attacked Al-Khelaifi for having too many conflicts of interest given his multiple positions in football.

“He wears a lot of hats, there’s too many conflicts of interest and this cannot be,” said Tebas.

“It can’t happen in football in 2022. A leading actor like him cannot be in these organisations and preside over a TV channel that buys (the rights to) La Liga, the Champions League, (and) internationals.”

AFP

Sevilla Bring Back Sampaoli As Coach

File: Argentina’s coach Jorge Sampaoli
Oli SCARFF / AFP

Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli will return to Sevilla’s after being named on Thursday as the replacement for axed coach Julen Lopetegui.

The club said Sampaoli had “signed for the remainder of the season and one more, until June 30, 2024, and this afternoon will lead his first training session.”

Sampaoli, 62, has already coached Sevilla.

He took over in July 2016 from Unai Emery, who had guided them to seventh in La Liga but also to a third straight Europa League victory and was hired by Paris Saint-Germain.

Sampaoli led Sevilla to fourth in La Liga and the last 16 in the Champions League, where they lost to Leicester, before leaving to become Argentina boss in May 2017.

Sampaoli had been out of work since leaving Marseille in July.

READ ALSO: ASUU To Sue FG Over Registration Of Factional Academic Unions

Lopetegui was sacked on Wednesday after a 4-1 home loss to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.

Lopetegui, who had briefly been Spain coach, arrived in June 2019 after an abrupt exit from Real Madrid the previous year.

He led the club to thee consecutive fourth place finishes and another Europa League triumph in 2020 but started this season in disastrous fashion.

The club have five points from a possible 21 in La Liga and have lost two and drawn one of their three Champions League group games.

AFP

Recovering Barca Predict 1.3 Billion Euro Revenue

Barcelona's Spanish defender Jordi Alba and teammates react at the end of the Europa League quarter final second leg football match between FC Barcelona and Eintracht Frankfurt at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on April 14, 2022. LLUIS GENE / AFP
Barcelona’s Spanish defender Jordi Alba and teammates react at the end of the Europa League quarter final second leg football match between FC Barcelona and Eintracht Frankfurt at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on April 14, 2022. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Barcelona have forecast revenue of 1.255 billion euros ($1.254 billion) for the 2022-23 season, with a predicted profit of 274 million euros.

The Spanish side have been under great economic stress in recent years but gained financial leverage this summer with a string of operations which allowed them to strengthen the team.

Barca signed Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, Sevilla defender Jules Kounde, Leeds United winger Raphinha and various other players on free transfers.

They were able to do this after selling 25 percent of their television rights to investment firm Sixth Street for the next 25 years, raising over 500 million euros.

Barcelona also sold 24.5 percent of their Barca Studios production company to fan token firm Socios.com and the same amount again to Orpheus Media, for around 100 million euros each.

READ ALSOFIFA Quash Appeal To Kick Ecuador Out Of World Cup

These deals, plus the return of supporters in droves after low attendances last season, mean their expected income for next season has risen from last year’s revenue of 1.017 billion euros and a profit of 98 million euros.

In the 2020-21 season Barcelona posted losses of 481 million euros and blamed them for not being able to renew their all-time record scorer Lionel Messi’s contract, leading him to sign for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

The club spent heavily for several years, bringing in Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool in a club record deal worth up to 160 million euros in 2018, before later selling him to Aston Villa for around 20 million euros, among other ill-fated operations.

Along with income being severely hit by the pandemic, it drove the team to the brink of crisis, with president Joan Laporta saying when he took over in March 2021 the team was “dead”.

“We restructured the debt, we controlled the bills, we reduced the sporting salary a bit but not enough yet, we found new income and sponsors,” Laporta told club members in June. “We went from being dead to being in intensive care.”

AFP

La Liga Confirms Complaints To UEFA Against City And PSG

 

 

 

La Liga confirmed on Wednesday it has filed complaints to UEFA about Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City “continuously breaching the current regulations of financial fair play”.

La Liga said the complaint to UEFA against City was made in April while the complaint against PSG was filed “this week”.

The Spanish league insisted it will continue to ramp up legal action against the two state-backed clubs.

La Liga has hired legal firms in France and Switzerland “with the aim of undertaking administrative and judicial actions before the relevant French bodies and the European Union as soon as possible”, read a statement from the league.

And in Switzerland, La Liga is “studying different representation options” to investigate the “possible conflicts of interest” of Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who is PSG chairman, in charge of Qatar-owned BeIN Sports, leads the European Club Association and sits on UEFA’s executive committee.

Manchester City won the race to buy Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund after paying the striker’s £51 million ($63 million) release clause but the deal, including salary and agents fees, could reportedly exceed £250 million.

And PSG will pay Kylian Mbappe a yearly salary of between 40 and 50 million euros, after the Frenchman chose to reject Real Madrid and sign a new three-year contract with the Qatari-owned club.

PSG suffered a 224.3-million-euro ($240m) loss in 2020/21, an increase of 80 percent on the previous year, the annual report from French football’s financial authority (DNCG) said earlier this month.

“La Liga considers that these practices alter the ecosystem and the sustainability of football, harm all European clubs and leagues, and only serve to artificially inflate the market, with money not generated in football itself,” the Spanish league’s statement read.

“La Liga understands that the irregular financing of these clubs is carried out, either through direct injections of money or through sponsorship and other contracts, that do not correspond to market conditions or make economic sense.”

– La Liga continuing fight against state-owned clubs –

La Liga has been accused of sour grapes after Mbappe decided against playing in Spain, although the Spanish league and its president, Javier Tebas, have long rallied against the financial might of the state-owned clubs.

“It is not the first time that La Liga has denounced these anti-competitive practices before UEFA,” the statement added.

“The Spanish organization has always led the defense of economic control. In 2017 and 2018, he filed briefs with UEFA against PSG and Manchester City for infringing financial fair play, which resulted in sanctions by UEFA against both ‘state clubs’, although they were later annulled due to strange decisions by the CAS.”

La Liga introduced a system of strict spending restrictions in 2013, which Tebas says increases the competitive balance of the Spanish league and encourages clubs to adopt longer-term approaches to spending.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said in an interview with AFP last month he rejected La Liga’s criticism of Mbappe’s new deal.

“I absolutely don’t agree. There are too many insults anyway in football, and I think that every league should worry about their own situation,” Ceferin said.

“I don’t think it is right that one league criticises the other league. As much as I know, the offer from Real for Mbappe was similar to PSG’s offer,” Ceferin added.

‘Not Impossible’: Resurgent Barca Eye La Liga Title

In this file photo, Barcelona’s Gabonese midfielder Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring his team’s fourth goal during the UEFA Europa League knockout round play-off second leg football match between SSC Napoli and FC Barcelona at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium in Naples on February 24, 2022. ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

 

La Liga has adopted a familiar look with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid back in the top four and both teams might now begin to believe they can finish second as Sevilla continue to stumble.

Barcelona, in particular, look primed for a late surge after winning four games on the bounce, their January signings giving them a boost just when they needed it most.

They still have seven points to overturn to reach second but Xavi Hernandez’s side do have a game in hand, as well as a meeting with Sevilla to come next month at Camp Nou.

Such is the optimism around Barcelona that Xavi was even asked on Wednesday if they could yet win the title, although for Real Madrid to spurn a 15-point advantage with 11 games to go, 12 in Barca’s case, seems unthinkable.

“Mathematics say that we can win the league, so why not?” Xavi said. “The others are failing but not Real Madrid. They have time on their side. It’s very difficult, but not impossible.”

READ ALSOGuardiola Sympathises With Chelsea’s Tuchel After Sanctions

In this file photo, newly-appointed FC Barcelona’s Spanish coach Xavi Hernandez (R), flanked by FC Barcelona’s Spanish president Joan Laporta, poses with his jersey during the presentation ceremony at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on November 8, 2021. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Still, a second-place finish would mark an impressive turnaround for Barca and Xavi, who took over in November with the team lying ninth. If the league began on January 1, Barcelona would be top.

They should continue their strong run at home to 11th-placed Osasuna on Sunday, with their next game at Real Madrid on March 20, after the second leg against Galatasaray in the Europa League.

“La Liga and the Europa League are the two goals but the first is to be in the Champions League next year,” said Xavi. “We’re already third and the goals now are the two remaining titles. La Liga doesn’t lie to you.”

Madrid had been giving encouragement to the chasing pack after winning only three out of seven games between December and February.

But their 4-1 trouncing of Real Sociedad last weekend was ominously convincing while a momentous comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday hardly suggested a team about to let up.

With Karim Benzema fit and firing again, Madrid, who play at Mallorca on Monday night, look more likely to extend their eight-point cushion in the coming weeks than throw it away.

“Karim is back to being the best Karim, the Karim he was before his injury,” Carlo Ancelotti said on Tuesday.

Sevilla Stumbling

They have rarely felt any sustained pressure from Sevilla, who have drawn five out of their last seven league games and against lesser opposition too. Valencia, Celta Vigo, Osasuna, Espanyol and Alaves were all able to claim a share of the spoils against Julen Lopetegui’s side.

That has allowed Madrid to cruise clear and leaves Sevilla suddenly looking down rather than up. A visit to Rayo Vallecano, who are on a dreadful run themselves, should at least get them back to winning ways on Sunday.

Atletico Madrid still face a scrap to qualify for the Champions League, despite their 3-1 victory over fellow top-four hopefuls Real Betis last weekend.

That puts Atletico two points ahead of Betis but the scoreline flattered Diego Simeone’s side, who have an awkward game at Cadiz on Friday, four days before their second leg against Manchester United in the Champions League. It might be too soon to think Atletico have turned a corner.

Betis will want to keep up the pressure on Atleti with a win at home to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, while Villarreal and Real Sociedad, in sixth and seventh, are still in contention but have ground to make up after defeats last weekend.

Villarreal host Celta Vigo on Saturday and Real Sociedad are at home to struggling Alaves on Sunday.

Fixtures (times GMT)

Friday

Atletico Madrid v Cadiz (2000)

Saturday

Levante v Espanyol (1300), Granada v Elche (1515), Villarreal v Celta Vigo (1730), Getafe v Valencia (2000)

Sunday

Rayo Vallecano v Sevilla (1300), Real Betis v Athletic Bilbao (1515), Real Sociedad v Alaves (1730), Barcelona v Osasuna (2000)

Monday

Mallorca v Real Madrid (2000)

AFP

Aubameyang Hat-Trick Fires Barca Past Valencia, Sevilla Slip Up Again


Barcelona’s Spanish midfielder Pedri (C) celebrates with teammates Barcelona’s French forward Ousmane Dembele (L) and Barcelona’s Gabonese midfielder Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (R) after scoring a goal during the Spanish league football match between Valencia CF and FC Barcelona at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia on February 20, 2022. JOSE JORDAN / AFP

 

Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang marked his first La Liga start for Barcelona with a hat-trick on Sunday as the Catalans thrashed Valencia 4-1 to climb back into La Liga’s top four.

Aubameyang scored twice in the first half either side of a Frenkie de Jong tap-in as a free-flowing Barca hit Valencia with three goals in 15 minutes before the interval.

And while Valencia briefly raised hopes of a comeback when Carlos Soler headed home Bryan Gil’s cross, a long-range Pedri strike flew in off Aubameyang’s back to complete an impressive victory.

In his post-match interviews, Aubameyang believed the fourth goal was Pedri’s but Barcelona later confirmed the referee had attributed it to Aubameyang, giving the Gabonese striker his hat-trick.

It is the 32-year-old’s first treble since August, when he put three past West Brom for Arsenal, and the first time anyone has hit a hat-trick for Barca since Lionel Messi scored four against Eibar in February 2020.

“It’s a luxury to have a player like him arriving for free,” said Sergio Busquets.

“When he arrived he hadn’t played many minutes but he’s getting them now and I hope he helps us like he has today because he’s a great player.”

READ ALSOMaguire Scores As Man United Continue Push For Champions League Spot

Barcelona’s Spanish midfielder Pedri (R) celebrates after scoring a goal during the Spanish league football match between Valencia CF and FC Barcelona at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia on February 20, 2022. JOSE JORDAN / AFP

 

Aubameyang had made two substitute appearances in La Liga before starting against Napoli in the Europa League on Thursday, but this was his first league start for Barcelona since having his contract terminated by Arsenal last month.

The third goal might have been Pedri’s in all but name but Aubameyang was at his pin-point best for the first, as he raced clear and unleashed an emphatic finish.

Xavi singled out Pedri for special praise. “There’s nobody in the world with his talent and he’s only 19,” Xavi said.

Barcelona’s quick-fire treble began with a simple chip over the top from Jordi Alba but Aubameyang still had work to do, the striker taming the ball on its third bounce before firing it high into the net under pressure from Omar Alderete.

The second was more intricate, a superb team goal going through Busquets and Alba before Ousmane Dembele generously sidefooted across for De Jong to finish.

Dembele was key to the third too, as his through ball released Gavi, who crossed to the back post where Aubameyang tapped in a third.

Valencia thought they had a goal back before half-time through Soler’s acrobatic finish but replays showed the ball had rolled out for what should have been a throw-in during the build-up.

Soler, though, scored shortly after the restart, heading in Gil’s whipped cross from the left to revive Valencia, who pushed for a second, with Soler going close with a long-range drive.

But Pedri killed their momentum with his wonder-strike from distance, the youngster curling a stunning shot from 40 yards off Aubameyang’s back and into the top corner, even if goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili might have done better.

Sevilla had earlier stumbled again at Espanyol, another slip meaning they have now won only once in their last five league games.

Rafa Mir put Sevilla in front at Cornella but Sergi Darder equalised for Espanyol early in the second half.

Sevilla’s pursuit of a winner was made harder by Jules Kounde being sent off with 14 minutes left, although Youssef En-Nesyri had a golden opportunity in injury-time, only to see his finish saved.

Anthony Martial, who joined Sevilla on loan from Manchester United in January, went off injured in the first half and could now miss next weekend’s crunch derby at home to third-placed Real Betis.

AFP

Real Madrid ‘Still On Holiday’ In Getafe loss, Patched-Up Barca Beat Mallorca


Real Madrid’s Brazilian forward Rodrygo (C) and Getafe’s Turkish forward Enes Unal (Back) jump for the ball during the Spanish league football match between Getafe CF and Real Madrid CF, at the Col. Alfonso Perez stadium in Getafe on January 2, 2022.  JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Carlo Ancelotti said Real Madrid were “still on holiday” in their shock 1-0 loss to Getafe on Sunday while Barcelona overcame their Covid chaos to sneak a tight victory away at Mallorca.

Madrid’s surprise defeat was their first in three months and gives fresh hope to the beleaguered chasing pack in Spain, after Eder Militao’s early error allowed Enes Unal to score the winner at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.

“We were on holiday for an extra day,” said Ancelotti afterward. “The team was not the same team that played before Christmas — less commitment, less concentration.

“We didn’t deserve to lose but we ended up with a defeat that could be a wake-up call.”

READ ALSOUnsettled Chelsea Star Lukaku Dropped For Liverpool Clash – Reports

Barcelona were without eight first-team players who had tested positive for Covid last week while a further six were out through injury or suspension.

Xavi Hernandez said on Saturday it was “crazy” the game had to go ahead, with Jordi Alba, Ousmane Dembele and Gavi among those infected while Sergio Busquets was suspended and Pedri, Ansu Fati and Memphis Depay injured.

But a patched-up Barcelona team climbed to fifth, just a point behind Atletico Madrid, after Luuk de Jong’s header proved the difference in a 1-0 win over Mallorca.

“With all the absentees, the three points are hugely important for us,” Xavi said.

“The first objective this season is to be in the Champions League places and now we are close.”

Atletico Madrid claimed fourth spot after beating the high-flying Rayo Vallecano 2-0 to leapfrog Rayo, with Angel Correa scoring both of Atletico’s goals.

Atletico and Barca are still 14 and 15 points behind Real Madrid respectively but Sevilla in second will be only five adrift of the leaders, with a game in hand, if they win at Cadiz on Sunday.

Madrid have taken command of the Spanish title race after a superb run of form that included 10 consecutive wins and 15 matches without defeat, their last loss coming at Espanyol on October 3.

But Ancelotti’s side were woefully out of sorts in their first outing of 2022 and, aside from a brief spell in the first half, struggled really even to threaten the Getafe goal.

Eden Hazard came on at half-time but again failed to shake his team into life while Karim Benzema was unusually quiet up front. Madrid certainly missed the penetration of Vinicius Junior, who was absent after testing positive for Covid.

“To say we were still on holiday isn’t a criticism, it’s the same thing that I’ve said to the players,” Ancelotti said.

“We accept responsibility, because the coach was maybe still on holiday as well. We are still top, so we look forward.”

Getafe lost eight games in a row earlier in the season but came in on the back of an upturn in form under Quique Sanchez Flores, having gone five games unbeaten, including a pair of wins over Cadiz and Osasuna.

Unal gave them the lead in the ninth minute after the usually dependable Militao was caught napping. The Brazilian went to clear on the edge of his own area but instead took an extra touch, engaging in a tussle with Unal, who robbed the ball and finished past Thibaut Courtois.

Hazard and Marcelo both came on at half-time but neither made much of an impact, with Hazard unable to muster a single attempt on goal. Benzema had a shot blocked, Casemiro saw a half-volley saved and Mariano Diaz headed over, but Getafe deserved their victory.

De Jong has been linked with leaving Barcelona this month but it was his goal that secured a crucial victory over Mallorca, the Dutchman heading in Oscar Mingueza’s cross at the back post to make it four games unbeaten now under Xavi.

Barca also needed a stunning, reaction save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen, whose right arm denied Jaume Costa from volleying in an equaliser in injury-time.

Atletico had suffered four consecutive defeats in La Liga for the first time ever under Simeone but Correa’s double ensured they bounced back against Rayo, who drop to sixth.

AFP

Barca Begin Life Without Koeman At Home To Struggling Alaves

In this file photo taken on August 20, 2017, Armed Catalan policemen, known as Mosso d’Esquadra pass by the FC Barcelona logo with a black ribbon and a message reading “We are all Barcelona” before the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona vs Real Betis at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona.  LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Barcelona begin life without Ronald Koeman against Alaves on Saturday as they look to close the gap on La Liga’s top four and restore confidence ahead of a Champions League trip to Dynamo Kiev.

Barca B coach Sergi Barjuan will be in charge at Camp Nou after Koeman’s sacking was confirmed on Wednesday night following a 1-0 defeat by Rayo Vallecano at Vallecas.

Xavi Hernandez is reportedly close to being appointed as Koeman’s replacement but the return of the club’s legendary midfielder is not expected to come before the weekend.

There should be a buzz of excitement nonetheless, with the prospect of Xavi coming back to the club he joined as an 11-year-old and left in 2015 enough to stir the players and fans.

Barjuan oversaw training on Thursday afternoon, when Barcelona president Joan Laporta also addressed the squad, explaining the decision to dismiss Koeman and emphasising the onus is now on them to spark a revival.

“We’re all in the same boat here,” Sergio Busquets said on Wednesday night. “It’s everyone’s fault. For good and bad, we’re a team and we have to show it on the pitch.”

READ ALSOBarcelona Sack Ronald Koeman As Coach

Two wins in seven league games have left Barca languishing in ninth, six points adrift of Real Betis in fourth.

The increasingly real possibility of failing to qualify for next season’s Champions League was likely a key factor in Koeman’s removal.

Finishing in the top four will be the top priority for Koeman’s replacement but the other immediate objective will be to reach the Champions League knock-out stage this season after consecutive 3-0 losses to Bayern Munich and Benfica left the team on the brink of an early exit.

Beating Dynamo 1-0 last week has given Barca hope but they will need another victory in Kiev on Tuesday against the bottom team in Group B to have any realistic chance of overhauling Benfica.

Frenkie de Jong, Ronald Araujo, and Pedri are all doubtful to face Alaves, who have enjoyed an upturn in form after two consecutive wins over Cadiz and Elche.

Ansu Fati could return after missing the defeat by Rayo, with Sergio Aguero set to continue upfront.

Real Madrid’s goalless draw at home to Osasuna on Wednesday was overshadowed by Koeman’s exit but Carlo Ancelotti’s team missed the chance to go two points clear at the top of the table.

“You might think I’m crazy but I liked the way we played,” said Ancelotti after being held by Osasuna.

“The first half, not so much, but in the second half, much better. I have nothing to criticise my players for.”

Instead, Madrid are three points behind Real Sociedad, who have lost only one of their opening 11 games. They host Basque rivals Athletic Club on Sunday.

Sevilla and Betis in third and fourth face each other next weekend in a much-anticipated Seville derby that for once should have a bearing on the top of the table.

Before then, Sevilla are at home to Osasuna and Betis play away at Atletico Madrid, who are five points off the top after being held to a 2-2 draw on Thursday by Levante.

Atleti face Liverpool at Anfield in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Fixtures (GMT)

Saturday

Elche v Real Madrid (1200), Sevilla v Osasuna (1415), Valencia v Villarreal (1630), Barcelona v Alaves (1900)

Sunday

Cadiz v Mallorca (1200), Atletico Madrid v Real Betis (1415), Getafe v Espanyol (1630), Real Sociedad v Athletic Bilbao (1900)

Monday

Rayo Vallecano v Celta Vigo (1630), Levante v Granada (1900)

Solskjaer Fights For Man Utd Job As Top Three Flex Muscles

Five Issues Barcelona’s Incoming Coach Must Address 

In this file photo taken on August 20, 2017 Armed Catalan policemen, known as Mosso d’Esquadra pass by the FC Barcelona logo with a black ribbon and a message reading “We are all Barcelona” before the Spanish league footbal match FC Barcelona vs Real Betis at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona.  LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Barcelona were moving closer to appointing Xavi Hernandez on Thursday after the club sacked Ronald Koeman as coach. 

A 1-0 defeat by Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday left Barca ninth in La Liga, six points off the top four after winning only two of their last seven league games.

Koeman’s dismissal was confirmed almost three hours after full-time, with club president Joan Laporta reportedly flying to Qatar on Thursday morning to finalise an agreement with Xavi.

Xavi, Barcelona’s legendary former midfielder who won eight La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues with them as a player, left in 2015 for Al Sadd, where he has been coach since 2019.

READ ALSO: Barcelona Sack Ronald Koeman As Coach

Here, AFP Sport takes a look at five issues to address at the Camp Nou:

Cut the gap on the top four

Barcelona’s perilous financial situation means they simply cannot afford not to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

The club are 1.35 billion euros ($1.57bn) in debt and any attempt to rebuild both financially and on the pitch will depend on playing in Europe’s elite competition next season.

The situation is salvageable, with the gap only six points between Barca in ninth and Real Sociedad in fourth, but there can be no room for complacency given the form of a number of teams challenging at the top so far this season.

Sneak into Champions League last 16 

A 1-0 victory at home to Dynamo Kiev last week at least revived Barcelona’s hopes of reaching the last 16 after they began the group stage with consecutive 3-0 losses to Bayern Munich and Benfica.

But there is work still to do, with trips to Kiev and Bayern still to come, either side of a home game against Benfica.

Escaping the group after such a poor start under Koeman would give the new coach an early injection of credibility while the club would avoid missing out on 9.6 million euros in UEFA prize money for making the knock-out stage.

Improve the playing style 

One of the biggest criticisms of Koeman centred around his playing style, with too many performances lacking either creativity or a clear sense of a plan.

Barcelona may not have the talent anymore of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi but there is still room for improvement on recent performances.

Combining the club’s traditions of possession football with a modern, counter-pressing game would bring the fans back onside and give the players belief that a long-term vision was at least in place.

Blood the youngsters 

One of Koeman’s biggest achievements was promoting a talented group of youngsters and the challenge now will be to make of the most of their potential.

Ansu Fati and Pedri are the great hopes for the future but the likes of Ronald Araujo, Sergino Dest, Gavi, Nico Gonzalez and Alex Balde have also shown a lot of promise and need nurturing.

If they can thrive alongside more experienced players like Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, whose futures must also be managed, Barca can have an exciting team for the future.

Move on from Messi 

Messi’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain in August has left a gigantic hole at Barcelona, his absence exposing the cracks the Argentinian covered for so long.

They have struggled for goals this season, with Memphis Depay inconsistent and Luuk de Jong out of his depth, but there has also been a lack of belief.

Koeman constantly asked for realistic expectations but his downbeat assessment bordered on defeatist at times.

Barca may not be able to afford a star signing like Kylian Mbappe to fill the void but for now, the players just appear in need of some confidence.

AFP

Real Madrid Slip To Liga Defeat Against Espanyol


Espanyol’s Spanish defender Aleix Vidal celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the Spanish League football match between RCD Espanyol and Real Madrid CF at the RCDE Stadium in Cornella de Llobregat on October 3, 2021. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Real Madrid slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Espanyol on Sunday as Carlo Ancelotti’s side followed up a shock Champions League reverse with their first Liga defeat of the season.

Real, who lost to Moldovan minnows Sheriff Tiraspol on Tuesday, blew a chance to pull ahead of Atletico Madrid, who beat crisis-hit Barcelona 2-0 on Saturday to draw level with their city rivals on 17 points.

Ancelotti said Real had played “our worst match of the season”.

“I agree, we played badly,” the Italian coach added.

“We now need to use the international break to think about why this team’s attitude has changed in the space of a week.”

Espanyol took the lead on 17 minutes at the RCDE Stadium in Catalonia when Raul de Tomas found the net.

Aleix Vidal scored a sparkling second goal after nutmegging Nacho and smashing the ball past Real ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois 15 minutes into the second half.

The defeat leaves Real without a win in three games after they were held to a goalless draw by Villarreal in their previous league match.

READ ALSOMessi Suffers First PSG Defeat In Loss At Rennes


Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema (C) vies with Espanyol’s Spanish defender Sergi Gomez during the Spanish League football match between RCD Espanyol and Real Madrid CF at the RCDE Stadium in Cornella de Llobregat on October 3, 2021. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Karim Benzema had the ball in the net early in the second half but the goal was ruled out for Luka Jovic’s offside.

Just as Espanyol appeared to be about to extend their advantage again, Benzema pulled a goal back on 71 minutes, firing into the bottom corner after the Frenchman collected a pass from Jovic for his ninth league goal in eight games this season.

Espanyol had won just once in seven games this season but they hung on grimly in five minutes of added time to take all three points.

AFP