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Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele suffers another hamstring injury

Published in Spain Primera Division
Tuesday, 16 January 2018 08:15

Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele has suffered another hamstring injury and will be out of action for between three and four weeks, the La Liga leaders said on Monday.

The French winger, signed last year from Borussia Dortmund for a fee which could rise to 147 million euros, suffered a hamstring tear in September that kept him out until January.

Dembele featured in four games after returning, starting one, before suffering a new problem in the 4-2 win over Real Sociedad on Sunday.
"Tests have confirmed that the player has suffered a hamstring injury of the semitendinosus muscle that does not affect the area operated on earlier in the season," Barcelona said in a statement.

Dembele will miss King's Cup and La Liga matches but should return before the Champions League last-16 clash against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Feb. 20.
Captain Andres Iniesta, who was on the bench against Real Sociedad, also has a problem in his right calf and is a doubt for the King’s Cup match at Espanyol on Wednesday.

Barcelona sign defender Yerry Mina from Palmeiras

Published in Spain Primera Division
Friday, 12 January 2018 10:04

La Liga leaders Barcelona have signed centre-back Yerry Mina from Palmeiras on a 5-1/2 year contract for a fee of 11.8 million euros (£10.5m).

The Colombia international has made 33 appearances for Palmeiras over the last two seasons, helping them win the league title in 2016. He also won the Copa Sudamericana with former club Santa Fe.

"Yerry Mina now comes to Barca with the opportunity to continue developing as a footballer following his move to Europe. Without a doubt the Colombian has the potential to make it," Barcelona said in a statement on their website.
The promising 23-year-old is expected to reinforce Barcelona's defence with Spanish media reports saying veteran Javier Mascherano is close to leaving to join Chinese side Hebei China Fortune.

Mina's contract at Barcelona has a termination clause worth 100 million euros.

ALEXIS SIGNING SHOWS MAN CITY HAVE JOINED BARCELONA & REAL MADRID AT THE TOP OF FOOTBALL'S FOOD CHAIN

Published in England Premier League
Thursday, 11 January 2018 13:28

The Arsenal ace's imminent arrival at the Etihad proves that Pep Guardiola's side have become an apex predator like the Liga duo

Barcelona new boy Philippe Coutinho: I will always cherish Liverpool in my heart

Published in England Premier League
Wednesday, 10 January 2018 13:30

New Barcelona signing Philippe Coutinho has told Liverpool fans he hopes they understand why he left for the Nou Camp in a £142million switch.

The 25-year-old Brazilian's five-year stint at Anfield ended at the weekend when Barca finally struck an agreement with the Reds, making Coutinho the second most-expensive player of all time after they were paid an initial £105m up front.
Liverpool had rejected Barca's bids last summer, despite Coutinho's desire to force through the transfer, but having finally sealed his move in this window the outgoing playmaker has posted a message to Reds supporters on his Instagram account.
"Since the moment I arrived in Liverpool, me and my family have been made to feel so welcome and have made so many friends," he wrote.

"On the pitch and off the pitch, we have experienced the beauty of this club and its fans. In turn, I hope I have delivered memories and moments that have brought happiness to the Liverpool supporters.

"Moving to Liverpool, I knew the club's greatness and history but what I did learn during my time was the unique heart and soul of the place. It has its own personality and character.

"I leave Liverpool because Barcelona is a dream for me. Liverpool was a dream that I was fortunate enough to realise and I have given five years of my life to it. A career on the pitch only lasts for so long and to play for Barcelona as well as Liverpool is something I want to experience and enjoy while I am blessed enough to be able to do so.

"I hope the supporters understand that choosing to experience something new is not about diminishing their importance to me or the club's importance. Nothing will ever diminish that in my heart.

"I wish Jurgen (Klopp) and the team nothing but joy and success for the rest of this season and beyond. This is an amazing team and they are getting better and better all the time."

Coutinho ended the post by addressing Reds supporters directly, adding: "I can never thank you enough for what you have given me during this time and no matter where I go in the world, for the rest of my life, I will always cherish Liverpool in my heart. You, the club and the city will always be a part of me."
Barcelona's latest signing was unveiled on Monday but a thigh injury that kept him out of Liverpool's last two games will also delay his debut for his new club.

In another Instagram post that contained multiple images of him in a Barca shirt, Coutinho said: "A Dream Come True thank you Barcelona. I can't wait to start my journey with you!"

 

Barcelona signed Philippe Coutinho after Liverpool dropped '£176m asking price'

Published in Spain Primera Division
Tuesday, 09 January 2018 10:07

Barcelona signed midfielder Philippe Coutinho because they were given a significant discount on the price Liverpool were asking for him in the last transfer window, vice-president Jordi Mestre said on Monday.

Coutinho became the third most expensive player in football history when he signed a five-and-a-half year contract with Barca on Monday following a £142 million deal between the clubs.
Barcelona director Albert Soler said in September the club abandoned their pursuit of the Brazilian playmaker last year because Liverpool were asking for 200 million euros (around £176m).

It seems the reduction in the asking price for the Brazilian was as much as £34 million.
"The club has always been interested in signing Coutinho, the difference to last summer is that there was a big cut in price," Mestre told reporters on Monday at Coutinho's official presentation.

"We won't state the numbers because Liverpool don't want us to, but there was a big price cut."

Philippe Coutinho's departure to Barcelona demonstrates La Liga's superiority

Published in England Premier League
Sunday, 07 January 2018 09:36

Philippe Coutinho's transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona has shown La Liga continues to dominate the Premier League for the best talent.

It was half a season. Just half a season. That half a season was all that Liverpool could put up in defence against Barcelona, when they came for Philippe Coutinho. We were told that Liverpool would only sell when they wanted to sell, and that FSG would back Jurgen Klopp with what he wanted.
Well, we should assume that he didn’t want to sell Coutinho, because he was his best player by a distance. Liverpool have other exciting players, but none with Coutinho's skill. Despite that, FSG and Klopp will see him sold to Barcelona for what could be £140 million. A decent price, but one that shows that despite recent spending, the Premier League is still well behind La Liga.
It began with the exit of Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United to Real Madrid. He left what remains the most popular and richest league in the world, to go for a raise and the promise of glory elsewhere. It took a few years for him to be proven right, but he claimed two Champions League, and two Liga titles. There may be more to follow if Zinedine Zidane can put his side on track.

Others followed. Luka Modric left Spurs for Real. Luis Suarez decided he would prefer life in Barcelona to life in the north west of England. Gareth Bale turned down United to go to Spain from Spurs. From Germany Toni Kroos had the chance to go to Manchester United but went to Madrid instead.

The players who left from Spain, like Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Alvaro Morata and Angel Di Maria, came only because they were no longer wanted at the two big clubs in Spain. David de Gea would have left United if only there was someone on hand to properly work the transfer software at Old Trafford.
The Premier League earns the most money for all of its clubs, but Barcelona and Real Madrid are only challenged in the money leagues by United. Manchester City have their own peculiar funding from the start of Abu Dhabi, and United are hamstrung by the Glazer ownership.

City have relatively little tradition but plenty of excess money – United have the inverse. The surfeit will be claimed by their owners unless the top four finish is imperilled. Compare that to Barcelona and Real Madrid, where there are riches, trophies and sunny weather. It makes no sense for the best players to focus on anything except moving to Spain.

Coutinho didn’t play for City or United, so there was no promise of great wages or great success.

As talented as Klopp is, his club does not have the money to compete over wages, nor do they have the budget to compete for the Premier League. They have plenty of trophies from the past, and they will often finish in the Champions League places, but given the entrenched advantages of City, United and Chelsea, there is nowhere for them to go.
The Premier League is the richest in the world. It offers the best wages for those players just below the best. But Coutinho has shown that when the glamour of Spain approaches, Barcelona and Real Madrid can only be resisted for so long.

The Premier League might boast De Gea, Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, Paul Pogba, Eden Hazard and others, but it can’t be ignored that it is only because the Clasico teams have let them stay in England – for now.

Barcelona put three past Real Madrid to pile pressure on Zinedine Zidane

Published in Spain Primera Division
Monday, 25 December 2017 11:45

La Liga, Bernabeu - Real Madrid 0 Barcelona 3 (Suarez 54', Messi 64' pen., Vidal 90+3')

Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona to a comprehensive 3-0 win over 10-man Real Madrid, giving the Catalans an astonishing 14-point lead ahead of their rivals at the top of La Liga.
Zinedine Zidane’s side needed a win if they were to keep alive their chances of retaining their championship crown, but they were served a humiliating defeat on their own patch, withy Barca scoring three times in the second half.

Real Madrid had the better of the play in the opening 45 minutes, but failed to take their chances. They were made to rue that when Luis Suarez opened the scoring in the second half, sweeping home a finish following a rapid counter attacking move through Ivan Rakitic and Sergi Roberto.
Dani Carvajal was sent off for making a save with his hands on the goalline, with Messi converting from the penalty spot to establish a 2-0 advantage. And substitute Aleix Vidal scored a third in stoppage time to put the finishing touches on a significant victory for the visiting Catalans.

TALKING POINT
The 2017/18 La Liga title race is over before Christmas

We’ve not even had our turkey and all the trimmings yet, but the 2017/18 La lira title race is over. With victory at the Santiago Bernabeu, Barcelona now hold an astonishing 14-point lead over Real Madrid at the top of the table, and a nine-point lead over Atletico Madrid in second place. What’s more, there was no suggestion in their performance that they could let that lead slip. If anything, Real will only slip further behind.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Paulinho (Barcelona)
Messi’s picture will adorn the back pages of the Spanish sports dailies tomorrow, but Paulinho was the standout performer on the pitch for Barcelona. The Brazilian has proved his doubters wrong since joining in the summer and this was an illustration of his importance to Barca. He gave them something different, providing a threat in the first half when the Catalans found the going tough. Against the odds, Paulinho has become a crucial part of Valverde’s team this season.

PLAYER RATINGS
Real Madrid - Navas 4, Carvajal 4, Ramos 5, Varane 5, Marcelo 6, Kroos 6, Modric 6, Casemiro 4, Kovacic 5, Ronaldo 6, Benzema 5. Subs - Bale 6, Asensio 5, Nacho 5.

Barcelona - Ter Stegen 7, Roberto 7, Pique 7, Vermaelen 7, Alba 6, Rakitic 8, Busquets 7, Paulinho 8, Iniesta 7, Messi 8, Suarez 7. Subs - Gomes 5, Semedo 5, Vidal 6.
KEY MOMENTS
3’ RONALDO GOAL CHALKED OFF! The Real Madrid number seven has the ball in the net within the opening few minutes, but he was offside when he headed home off the underside of the bar.

28’ WHAT A SAVE! Paulinho comes close to opening the scoring for Barcelona, sending a volley towards goal on the stretch. But Navas was equal to the effort, tipping it over the bar.

30’ RONALDO COMES CLOSE! This game is opening up now, with Ronaldo taking on Roberto before shooting from a tight angle. But Ter Stegen makes a save to divert it wide.

42’ OFF THE POST! That was inches away from being an opener for Real Madrid. Benzema gets to the near post to get on the end of a cross, but his header hits the outside of the post.

54’ GOAL! Real Madrid 0-1 Barcelona: What a blow that could be! Rakitic bursts through the Real Madrid midfield, passes out to Roberto who squares it across the box to Suarez. He finishes with aplomb.

64’ WHAT A CHANCE! That could have finished the game as a contest. Suarez had the opportunity to score from eight yards out, but Navas makes the save to deny the Barca striker.

65’ OFF THE POST! Now Suarez hits the woodwork with a shot. Mayhem ensues in the Real Madrid penalty area, but for the moment they somehow manage to scramble it clear.

66’ PENALTY KICK TO BARCELONA! Carvajal makes a save with his hand to prevent Barca from finding the net. Easy decision for the referee.

66’ SENT OFF! Carvajal is shown a straight red card for using his hands to make a save on the line. Barcelona now have a man-advantage and they have a chance from the spot.

67’ GOAL! Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona: Messi makes no mistake from the penalty spot, striking high into the Real Madrid net. Barcelona now have a 2-0 lead and a man advantage. Is there any way back for the hosts from this? Up against it.

78’ WHAT A CHANCE FOR BALE! That would have been some introduction. The pass was cut back to Bale, who was free six yards out, but Ter Stegen made a reflex save to deny him.

93’ GOAL! Real Madrid 0-3 Barcelona: Barcelona are humiliating Real Madrid on their own patch! Great play from Messi sets up Vidal just inside the box and the former Sevilla man squeezes a finish underneath Navas. What a result.
KEY STATS
Lionel Messi is the only player to score 15 or more goals in 10 consecutive La Liga seasons.

Messi has scored more goals against Real Madrid than any other player in La Liga history (17).

Karim Benzema has hit the woodwork more than times (six) than he has scored (five) in all competitions this season.

Barcelona bid to extend lead over Real Madrid to 14 points

Friday, 22 December 2017 11:15

Real Madrid looked poised to sweep Barcelona away in La Liga after beating them so comprehensively in the Spanish Super Cup in August yet by the end of Saturday's 'Clasico' they could be a remarkable 14 points behind their bitter rivals.

Coach Zinedine Zidane has overseen Real's worst run of results in the league in nine seasons and his side go into Saturday's encounter at the Santiago Bernabeu sitting fourth in the standings, 11 points adrift of Barca albeit having played one game fewer.
It is a scenario few could have foreseen after Real won a Liga and Champions League double last term and began this season so convincingly.
Seemingly the only positive Real will take onto the pitch on Saturday is that they are still world champions after retaining the Club World Cup last weekend with victory against Gremio in the final.

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde looked in a vulnerable position in August after the resounding 5-1 aggregate defeat to Real so soon after succeeding Luis Enrique, especially with Brazil forward Neymar having left for Paris St Germain.
Yet the Spaniard has moulded the team into a highly resilient outfit who are unbeaten in their last 24 games in all competitions.

The Catalans are six points clear of nearest challengers Atletico Madrid, who visit Espanyol on Friday.

Barca may not have the same creative spark as in recent seasons and have on occasion been accused of being boring, but they have developed a tougher edge under former Athletic Bilbao coach Valverde, conceding only seven goals in 16 games.
"After losing the Super Cup we knew that we had to work as hard as ever and all follow Valverde, who I think has started to leave his stamp on the team," Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen told Spanish newspaper El Pais.

"He has been watching us for a long time and he knew what he needed to do to improve us. That vision has served us well, we are very good defensively and we need to keep that up, or improve it, for the rest of the season so we can stay up there."

Barca captain Andres Iniesta said his side had erased the humbling 3-1 and 2-0 defeats to Real in the Super Cup from their memories but he does not think his side's big lead in the standings will have much bearing on the pitch on Saturday.

"That is in the past, we're in another competition and in a different moment. It's a completely different game and nothing to do with how we were back then," Iniesta told Marca.

"I don't look at the league table before a 'Clasico'. They are unique games and form has no impact. We know what's at stake and we'll try to take an important step towards winning the league."

Luis Suarez and Paulinho score braces as Barcelona hammer Deportivo La Coruna

Published in Spain Primera Division
Monday, 18 December 2017 09:30

La Liga, Camp Nou - Barcelona 4 (Suarez 29', 47', Paulinho 41', 75')

Luis Suarez and Paulinho both scored braces as Barcelona comfortably beat Deportivo La Coruna 4-0 to establish an 11-point lead over Real Madrid ahead of next week’s Clasico.
The result means Barca also restored their six-point advantage over Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga, although Lionel Messi was left frustrated, hitting the woodwork three times and having a penalty kick saved as he drew a blank in front of goal.
Nonetheless, Ernesto Valverde’s side had no trouble in seeing off the visitors to the Camp Nou. However, the post-match discussion will be dominated by the officials’ decision not to award Suarez a goal for a shot that appeared to have crossed the line.

Barcelona look in good shape ahead of next week's clash with Real Madrid, although Paco Alcacer will miss out after picking up an injury in the first half. Otherwise, the Catalans have a number of key players in form.

TALKING POINT
When will La Liga install goal-line technology? Another week, another debate over goal-line technology, or rather the lack of it, in the Spanish top flight. Suarez looked to have scored when he send a rabona shot towards goal from a matter of yards out. Ruben Martinez clawed out a save, but replays show the ball was over the line. Yet the goal wasn’t given. When will La Liga catch up with the rest of the footballing world?

MAN OF THE MATCH
Andres Iniesta (Barcelona) He was only on the pitch for 55 minutes before being withdrawn ahead of next week’s Clasico against Real Madrid, but this Barcelona team revolved around Andres Iniesta this evening. He is still the pass-master for the Catalans, pushing and pulling the Deportivo La Coruna defensive line out of shape from the very beginning. Without him, Barcelona lacked fluidity. This is a team that still, after all this time, relies on Iniesta.
PLAYER RATINGS
Barcelona - Ter Stegen 5, Roberto 7, Pique 5, Vermaelen 5, Alba 6, Iniesta 9, Rakitic 7, Paulinho 8, Messi 7, Suarez 7, Alcacer 5. Subs - Gomes 5, Vidal 6, Digne 5.

Deportivo La Coruna - Ruben 7, Juanfran 6, Schar 6, Sidnei 7, Navarro 6, Guilherme 5, Borges 6, Gil 5, Colak 5, Adrian 5, Perez 6. Subs - Valle 5, Bakkali 5, Valverde 4.

KEY MOMENTS
29’ GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Deportivo La Coruna: It had been coming! Iniesta plays a wonderful clipped pass over the top for Messi, who beats the offside trap, chests down and squares for Suarez. The striker had the simple task of finishing from close range.

38’ CRASHED OFF THE BAR! Messi was inches away from scoring a second for Barcelona, but his strike from the edge of the penalty area comes crashing back off the crossbar.

40’ GOAL! Barcelona 2-0 Deportivo La Coruna: There's the second! Messi struck the woodwork once again with a low strike, but Paulinho followed it in to get something on the rebound and direct the ball into the back of the net.

45’ DID IT CROSS THE LINE? Suarez feels that his shot crossed the line and the replays suggest that he might be right! Of course, there's no goalline technology in La Liga. Controversial.
47’ GOAL! Barcelona 3-0 Deportivo La Coruna: What a magnificent team goal! A passing move releases Roberto down the right wing, who finds Suarez at the back post with a wonderful low cross. The striker then finished from a matter of yards.

70’ PENALTY KICK TO BARCELONA! Suarez goes down inside the box after a late challenge and Barca will have the chance from the spot.

71’ RUBEN DENIES MESSI! It's just not Messi's night. The Barcelona number 10 shoots at goal from the spot, but the Deportivo La Coruna goalkeeper guesses right and makes the stop.

75’ GOAL! Barcelona 4-0 Deportivo La Coruna: That's his second rebound finish of the night! Alba gets down the outside and hits the base of the post with a low shot, but Paulinho was on hand to turn home the rebound from close range.

79’ ANOTHER SITTER! How hasn't Messi scored this evening? He was played clean though again and this time he gets everything all wrong and sends his shot high and wide.

84’ OFF THE WOODWORK FOR A FIFTH TIME! Can you believe it? Barcelona have hit the woodwork again. This time it's Suarez who shoots at the near post, but can't beat Ruben.

KEY STATS
Lionel Messi has provided more assists than any other La Liga player in 2017 in all competitions (15).

Barcelona have not lost any of their 15 La Liga games in which Thomas Vermaelen has played.

Paulinho has scored more goals than any other midfielder in La Liga this season (six).

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde 'will accept any opponent' in Champions League

Published in Spain Primera Division
Wednesday, 06 December 2017 12:31

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde says his side are prepared to take on anyone in the last 16 of the Champions League after signing off from the group stages with a 2-0 home win over Sporting Lisbon.

With the La Liga leaders already qualified at the top of Group D and a testing trip to Villarreal ahead on Sunday, Valverde made the expected sweeping changes to the starting XI as talisman Lionel Messi was among the substitutes.
Barcelona finally broke the deadlock just before the hour mark when Paco Alcacer headed in from a corner.

Former Barcelona defender Jeremy Mathieu netted an own goal in stoppage time, which left Sporting having to be content with a Europa League spot after finishing behind Juventus.

The Spaniards, meanwhile, will be among the top seeds for the knockout stages, but could yet find themselves paired against the likes of Bayern Munich or Chelsea, who both finished second in their respective qualifying groups.

Valverde, though, will take things one step at a time.

"We don't know what could happen in the draw. We will accept any opponent," Valverde said in quotes reported by Marca.
Valverde felt his Barcelona side, which showed some eight changes to the starting XI which drew 2-2 with Celta Vigo, had produced the required result, if not perhaps the flowing performance.

"Our plan is to dominate matches and to create chances, at the same time as making sure they don't create chances against us," he said.

"We try to do things as well as we can. Sometimes we play wonderfully and sometimes less so."

Despite not being able to pull off a shock win which could have kept alive hopes of sneaking into the knockout stages ahead of Juventus, Sporting coach Jorge Jesus believes his side can head into the Europa League with confidence.

"We are leaving the Champions League feeling proud. It was a spectacular tournament for us that ended with one more game against Barcelona," he said at a press conference, quoted on www.uefa.com.

"We are going to the Europa League with the aim of doing well in that tournament. The Europa League has some very string teams and Sporting is one of them."

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Djilibodji is loaned to Dijon

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