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‘We still miss Messi’ – Valverde wants Barcelona captain to return quickly despite Clasico win – football news

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde insisted his team were still missing Lionel Messi despite their comprehensive win in El Clasico.

With Messi sidelined due to a broken arm, Luis Suarez took centre stage at Camp Nou on Sunday, scoring a hat-trick in a 5-1 thrashing of Real Madrid.

Philippe Coutinho and Arturo Vidal were also on target for Barca as their huge win piled the pressure on under-fire Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui.

The Catalan giants are now seven points clear of their arch-rivals in La Liga, with an away trip to Rayo Vallecano next up in La Liga on Saturday.

But Valverde, whose team now hold a one-point lead over second placed Deportivo Alaves at the top of the table, said Barca were missing Messi.

“For us, since last week when he got injured, we were probably thinking how we would respond on the pitch,” he told a news conference.

Article continues below

“There’s only one answer, you have to respond as a team and that’s what we’ve done. The result could’ve been different but that’s the only answer we can give you.

“We’re delighted for the team but obviously the sooner he’s back the better for us because we miss him. We want him back tomorrow.”

Messi is expected to miss another two weeks due to his broken arm, with Barca next in action against Cultural Leonesa in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.

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His worth is always there – Valverde praises Suarez – football news

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde described Luis Suarez’s El Clasico hat-trick as “normal” after the forward fired his side past Real Madrid.

Suarez scored a hat-trick, to go with goals from Philippe Coutinho and Arturo Vidal, as Barca thrashed Madrid 5-1 at Camp Nou on Sunday.

The Uruguay international has been questioned this season, but his latest display took him to seven goals and six assists in 14 games in all competitions.

Valverde dismissed any questions over Suarez, saying what the 31-year-old contributed to Barca was clear.

“That’s the normal situation. Last season with Luis, the same thing happened,” he said.

“Everybody was talking about him not scoring but because he works so hard, the consequences are the results.

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“In the long term, that’s what he does. We win from having him in our team.

“I didn’t think many people were going to ask me about Luis Suarez but obviously having scored a hat-trick, his worth is always there.”

Barca are one point clear atop La Liga, while Madrid have dropped to ninth – seven points behind their rivals.

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Pochettino reflects on early successes against Guardiola – football news

Mauricio Pochettino acknowledges he is a completely different coach to the fresh-faced tactician who enjoyed early career successes against Pep Guardiola.

Pochettino’s Tottenham host Guardiola’s Manchester City at Wembley on Monday, with the Premier League champions nine games into an unbeaten start to their title defence.

Despite an underwhelming Champions League campaign to date, Spurs have been similarly impressive domestically this term and victory at England’s national stadium would see them leapfrog City in the standings.

A 2-0 win in the same fixture at White Hart Lane in 2016 saw Pochettino hand Guardiola his first defeat in English football but it was not the first time he had got the better of the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss.

Taking over relegation-threatened Espanyol on the other side of town in January 2009, Pochettino’s first game in charge was a daunting Copa del Rey quarter-final against Guardiola’s Barca.

They held out for a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou before losing the second leg 3-2, but the Argentine tactician’s first win arrived a month later – 2-1 away from home in the Catalan derby.

“I am completely different now,” he told Sky Sports.

“It was nearly 10 years ago and, to be honest, I’ve improved a lot, I’ve changed a lot.

“Football is always about improving. It is about learning. Every day learn. Every day improve.”

Pochettino’s most recent encounters with Guardiola do not make for such good reading, with City running out 4-1 and 3-1 winners last season on their way to a dominant title triumph.

As such, the Spurs boss understands his team’s status as underdogs looking to spring a surprise.

“I think we are on a different level – but that doesn’t mean we cannot beat them in one game,” he said.

Article continues below

“I think it is always about performance. We have to perform better than them – and, of course, have a little bit of luck in a decisive moment.

“But it will be a tough game because Manchester City is one of the best teams, not only in England but in Europe.

“We put our own pressure on because I think we are ambitious and we want to win all the games but if someone puts external pressure onto us, it’s difficult to understand.”

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Outscored by Bournemouth: Ronaldo-less Real Madrid have been hopeless in front of goal – football news

Real Madrid went through the motions on Tuesday against Viktoria Plzen and a semi-dreary, not-quite-routine win against the Czech champions did nothing to lift the gloom that has descended on the club.

Champions League winners in each of the last three seasons and in four of the last five, Madrid face Barcelona this weekend without Cristiano Ronaldo – a man who scored 311 goals in 292 league appearances.

Permanently beleaguered Julen Lopetegui will take charge of Real in the Clasico but a second sacking in under 150 days seems almost inevitable, be it this week or next.

And though there were voices in the summer who felt Real had ended their association with their 33-year-old record goalscorer at the right moment, the first two months of the new season suggest that it is the club who are missing the man, rather than the reverse.

A glance at Madrid’s Expected Goals output in the past three seasons bears this out, with a decline from 2.4 per match two seasons ago to 2.3 in Ronaldo’s final season, and a relatively big drop to 1.9 so far in 2018-19.

And not only are Real creating lower quality chances on average than in previous seasons, but they are failing to take even the good ones, with their actual total of 13 so far – less than both Bournemouth and Watford have scored in the Premier League – around four fewer than you’d expect.


Real Madrid in La Liga


Season Goals Expected Goals Games Played xG/game
2018-19 13 17.15 9 1.91
2017-18 94 86.21 38 2.27
2016-17 106 90.68 38 2.39

Whether this slowdown is a systemic issue with the reeling Lopetegui, a waning team shorn of their goalscoring icon, or a combination of both, there are more than a few telling pieces of information.

Firstly, Real are averaging 6.3 shots on target per game, the first time they’ve dipped under seven a match since 2008-09, which was the club’s final season before Ronaldo was signed from Manchester United.

Secondly, Gareth Bale, whose decisive two strikes as a substitute in the 2018 Champions League final must have gone some way to convince internal doubters that the moment to sell Ronaldo had arrived, has failed to weigh in with enough goals.

The Welshman scored in his first three league appearances of the season but his other five outings have been goalless and Real have picked up just two points from them.


Cristiano Ronaldo xG Map Serie A First Nine Games (2018-19)


Cristiano Ronaldo xG map Serie A 2018-19


Gareth Bale xG Map La Liga First Nine Games (2018-19)


Gareth Bale xG map La Liga 2018-19

Article continues below

The xG maps of Bale and Ronaldo above show a pair of players with three and five league goals respectively, but a world of difference in terms of productivity and involvement.

So as Barcelona watch their eternal rivals trot out at the Nou Camp on Sunday, Real’s current woes should serve as a warning of what can happen when a transition stalls.

Lionel Messi will shed his sling and return to star in future Clasicos but Madrid’s break with Ronaldo is permanent, and it shows.

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Dembele in contention for Clasico start despite turning up late for Inter – football news

Ernesto Valverde has confirmed Ousmane Dembele arrived late for Barcelona’s Champions League win over Inter in midweek, but insists this will not influence his selection for El Clasico.

Barca saw off Inter 2-0, with Dembele an unused substitute despite Lionel Messi being sidelined with a broken arm.

Messi is ruled out once more for Real Madrid’s visit to Camp Nou on Sunday, although the reshuffled front three of Luis Suarez, Rafinha and Philippe Coutinho are favourites to start after Valverde named a 19-man squad.

“I worry about what they can do as footballers, what they can do on the pitch. He was late the other day, yeah,” the head coach told a pre-match news conference when asked about Dembele.

“When we were there for our pre-match team meeting he was there as he had to be.

“I don’t think you should take things out of context and say that’s why Dembele is not playing.

“He’s young, we expect a lot from him. We focus on sporting matters alone.”

France winger Dembele has five goals in 11 appearances for Barca this term, having been badly hindered by injury during his debut campaign at Camp Nou last time around.

Another big-money arrival under Valverde who has enjoyed more serene progress is Coutinho – the Brazil playmaker who is likely to be key to Barca’s approach in Messi’s absence.

“Coutinho’s a great player,” Valverde said. “He’s got a great shot, he’s a constant headache for defences because he’s always creating.

“Of course, we want more from him and I’m sure he’ll produce that.”

Article continues below

Coutinho has been freed up to operate in the front three by the accomplished performances of his countryman Arthur in midfield.

“This is a big game for him. It’s his first Clasico if he’s fit enough to play,” Valverde added, with regard to the stylish 22-year-old.

“He’s been training well. He’s fitted into our philosophy and the fans recognise that.”

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‘Nobody has ever been irreplaceable’ – Real Madrid will move on from Ronaldo says Baptista – football news

Real Madrid can move on from the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo despite their struggles since the exit of the five-time world footballer of the year, according to former striker Julio Baptista.

Ronaldo joined Juventus for an initial €100 million (£88m/$117m) in the summer after nine glittering seasons in the Spanish capital.

But the 13-time European champions have struggled since Ronaldo’s exit, losing five of their first 13 games this season to leave themselves off the pace in La Liga.

Manager Julen Lopetegui is already under severe pressure ahead of taking his Real side to defending champions Barcelona – a fixture Ronaldo and an injured Lionel Messi will be absent from for the first time since 2007 .

Baptista was the match winner on that occasion in a 1-0 win at Camp Nou and the Brazilian says there is life after Ronaldo for Real.

“Real Madrid miss Cristiano’s goals, logically, but nobody has ever been irreplaceable at Real Madrid, and no one will,” he told GBP Sports ahead of El Clasico.

“Cristiano is the best, or one of the best players in history. But he left. 

“And some others will come and then leave. That’s the story. After the Galacticos era, Real won four Champions titles.”

Though Barcelona are without Messi, who is out for three weeks after fracturing his arm against Sevilla last weekend , the hosts are big favourites to claim their third win on the spin.

Defeat could be the beginning of the end for Lopetegui, just four months on from his appointment in the summer.

And Baptista does not expect Real to delay Lopetegui’s sacking any further if results continue to go against them, and believes ex-midfielder Guti – currently coaching at Besiktas – could return to Santiago Bernabeu.

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“Lopetegui? Real Madrid don’t wait for anybody,” he added.

“It’s such a big club that needs results and quickly. Remember the Ancelotti case?

“Guti could be ready to be the Real Madrid coach.”

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Neymar the transfer Real Madrid need to reignite El Clasico after Ronaldo exit – football news

When Real Madrid sold Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus in the summer, they knew they were taking a gamble.

Heading off was a player who had led them to three-successive Champions League titles, won the latest of his five Ballons d’Or barely six months earlier and had scored at a rate of over a goal per game for his nine-year stay at Santiago Bernabeu, writing his name large into the history of the most storied club in world football.

As he sat watching Real Madrid slip to a 2-1 defeat against Levante, president Florentino Perez must have been mulling over the bet that backfired. During that game, Los Blancos missed an array of chances as they slipped to a third defeat in succession, and a fifth without a win. 

Most damningly, though, Real clocked up 480 minutes without finding the net – the type of drought that Ronaldo alone scarcely suffered during his time in white, let alone the whole team. Indeed, only once in the club’s illustrious 116-year history has there been a longer scoreless run.

If ever there was evidence ahead of Saturday’s Clasico match up with Barcelona that Madrid needed an adequate Ronaldo replacement, this was it.

Of course, players of the Portuguese’s stature are not readily available, and it could even be argued, with some justification, that he was irreplaceable. 

“We can’t be crying for someone who didn’t want to be here,” Isco said earlier in the week. But while he is right that Madrid must look to the future, he must also appreciate that a greater effort must be made to fill the Ronaldo vacuum.

Mariano Diaz, Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid

Incessant rumours suggest that Real Madrid see Neymar as the heir to Cristiano’s Bernabeu crown. Long coveted by Madrid – he had a spell training with the youth squad as young as 14 – the Paris Saint-Germain star could be tempted by a move back to Spain, where he could find a platform to fulfil his personal ambitions.

One of the driving forces behind his move to Paris was his burning desire to be recognised as the best player in the world, something he felt he could not achieve whilst in the shadow of Lionel Messi.

Perez, a long-time admirer of the 26-year-old, has always had a belief that the stage of the Spanish capital would offer the former Santos star the showcase required to attain that goal.

“Being at Madrid would make it easier for Neymar to win it,” he said, speaking to El Larguero back in 2017. “Madrid is a club that gives big players what they need.”

While Ronaldo might dispute that second claim, having departed in the summer due to feeling underappreciated, it would be churlish to dispute the overall message, particularly as Real find themselves in need of a Galactico figurehead.

It is a challenge that Neymar would surely embrace.

Expectations that would overwhelm most have been a part of his everyday life for the duration of his career.

When Brazil played host to the World Cup in 2014, he was ubiquitous around the football-loving nation, even after his tournament was ended by injury at the quarter-final stage, while he has drawn the media spotlight with PSG for the duration of his stay.

His statistics, meanwhile, make for impressive reading.

Eight goals in eight Ligue 1 outings this season, plus four assists, represent a strong return, and while there may be doubts over the strength of the French top flight, he previously enjoyed 22 and 24-goal seasons in La Liga with Barcelona during his previous four-year stint in Spain.

Neymar GFX

And Ganso, the godfather to Neymar’s son, who is currently playing in France with Amiens, believes the Madrid target has improved since moving to Ligue 1.

“He’s matured a lot, primarily,” he told L’Equipe . “Before, he’d primarily be a dribbler, trying to beat players with great skills. He was already scoring a lot, but tactically he didn’t always think what was to be done correctly.”

More than just his goals, though, Neymar encapsulates the glitz, glamour, flair and excitement that Real Madrid have come to represent throughout their history. His eye for the spectacular, his willingness to humiliate opponents with an incredible piece of individualism and his mass appeal all combine to make him a perfect addition.

But signing him, clearly, will be no mean feat. PSG will want to recoup the €222 million (£200m/$262m) outlay they lavished on the player little more than a year ago, while there is no release clause to trigger as such agreements are illegal in French contract law. 

“I wish Real Madrid and Barcelona the best of luck in their attempt to bring Neymar away from here!” Marquinhos sarcastically told the media last week, responding to the latest round of claims that PSG’s ace is readying himself for a return to Spain.

Article continues below

“People know what our president is like, how he is with his people and how he loves our important players.”

Neymar himself, meanwhile, is under contract until 2022 and branded rumours of a return to Barcelona or a move to Real Madrid as “fake news” in a recent Instagram stories post.

Madrid, though, are a club that have made the impossible possible in the past. If they are to regain those glory days in the near future, they have to find a way of doing so again because this Galactico-less version of their first-team is also destined to become trophyless this season. 

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Video: Five talking points ahead of El Clasico – football news

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Justin Kluivert would ‘love’ Barcelona move, says father Patrick – football news

Former Barcelona forward Patrick Kluivert says son and Roma winger Justin harbours an ambition to follow in his footsteps at Camp Nou.

Justin Kluivert, 19, swapped the Eredivisie for Serie A in June after emerging through Ajax’s famed academy.

He has started just two competitive matches since arriving in the Italian capital and was overlooked for Ronald Koeman’s most recent Netherlands squad.

But the stalled progress has not affected the teenager’s lofty targets, according to father Patrick Kluivert, who spent six prolific seasons with the LaLiga giants.

“Of course [Justin] would love to play for Barcelona one day,” the 42-year-old Cameroon assistant coach told La Liga Lowdown.

“He expressed in the press his goal is to play for Barcelona.

Article continues below

“He’s fitting in quite well at AS Roma. He’s in a young team with experienced and non-experienced players.

“I think he needs to begin to play a lot more matches, make a lot of kilometres, and I hope at the end of the day he can sign for Barcelona because that’s also my dream, of course.

“If you see your son following in your footsteps, that’s a great feeling.”

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Barcelona Team News: Injuries, suspensions and line-up vs Real Madrid – football news

Barcelona will have to face their Clasico rivals Real Madrid without the irreplaceable talents of Lionel Messi when the two Spanish giants clash on Sunday.

Ernesto Valverde’s men are sitting pretty at the top of La Liga, and has a trio of injury casualties for the visit of the struggling Merengue. 

Messi is the biggest loss for the Catalans, who can stretch their lead over Madrid to seven points with victory in just the 10th game of the Liga season.


Barcelon


The Argentine suffered a fracture in his right arm just over a quarter of an hour into Barca’s match against Sevilla, having already contributed a goal and an assist to the club’s cause.

He was spotted in the stands at Camp Nou on Wednesday as his side triumphed 2-0 over Inter, and is expected to miss a total of three weeks’ action as the break heals. 

Samuel Umtiti (knee) and Thomas Vermaelen (hamstring) are also ruled out of the Clasico, leaving Barcelona short of defensive cover.

Lionel Messi Barcelona 2018


Barcelona Suspensions


Barcelona do not have any players suspended for Sunday’s match.


Barcelona potential starting line-up


It is likely that Valverde will keep faith with the bulk of the team that played so well in dispatching Inter midweek when the two Clasico rivals walk out at Camp Nou.

With both Umtiti and Vermaelen out, Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet will continue as Barca’s default centre-back pairing, with Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba keeping their places out wide. 

Neither are any changes expected in the midfield, as the trio of Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Arthur gains ground as the club’s strongest combination in a competitive engine room and Arturo Vidal set to continue as an option to further tax tired legs off the bench. 

To the disappointment of the likes of Ousmane Dembele and Malcom, meanwhile, Barca seem to have found an alternative to Messi. 

Rafinha opened the scoring against Inter and generally impressed in a rare starting opportunity, and is likely to continue in the starting XI. 

With Philippe Coutinho also slated to start, the pair will lend creative support to sole striker Luis Suarez, who enjoyed a timely return to form with an all-action display against the Nerazzurri.

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One alternative Valverde is mulling ahead of the game, however, would see Nelson Semedo slot in at right-back and Rafinha sacrificed, a move that would also push Sergi Roberto up to the right side of midfield in a 4-4-2 set-up.

Barcelona Rafinha


Opta Match Facts


  • No team has defeated Real Madrid more often in La Liga than Barcelona (70); while no side has beaten Barcelona more in La Liga than Real Madrid (72).
  • Barcelona have scored in each of their last 21 league games against Real Madrid in La Liga (48 goals total) and could equal the best scoring record in El clásico history in the competition – Real Madrid (22 games) between 1959 and 1969.
  • Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last three league games at Camp Nou (W1 D2), never in El clásico history have they managed to stay unbeaten in four consecutive games.
  • Barcelona are unbeaten in each of their last 41 league games at Camp Nou in (W33 D8), their longest such run since February 1977 (67).
  • Real Madrid have lost their last two La Liga games, the last time they lost three successive matches in the competition was back in May 2009 (five).
  • Since his debut in El clasico, Barcelona haven’t won either of the two matches against Real Madrid without Lionel Messi in any competition (D1 L1).
  • This will be the first El clásico Real Madrid will play without Cristiano Ronaldo since his move to Juventus – during his time in Madrid, Real won two games against Barcelona without the Portuguese striker, 2-1 in the 2015 Copa del Rey final and 2-0 in 2017 Spanish Supercopa.
  • This will be the first El Clasico in all competitions without both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo since December 2007, when Real Madrid won 1-0 in a La Liga match thanks to a Júlio Baptista winner.
  • Barcelona’s Luis Suárez has scored six league goals against Real Madrid since his debut in the competition during the 2014/15 campaign, more than any other player in that time.
  • Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has scored four headed goals against Barcelona in La Liga, more than against any other team in the competition.
  • Barcelona manager ​​Ernesto Valverde has lost 12 of his 20 league games against Real Madrid (W6 D2), more than against any other team in La Liga.
  • Julen Lopetegui will manage in his first El clasico game – five of the last six Real Madrid managers have lost their opening match against Barcelona in all competitions – only Zinedine Zidane (2-1 at Camp Nou in April 2016) managed to win.
  • Real Madrid have scored 13 goals in La Liga this season, their worst scoring record after their opening nine league games since 2004-05 (eight goals).
  • Real Madrid have collected 14 points in their opening nine La Liga games, their worst record in the competition after nine games played since 2001-02 (10).
  • With defeat to Levante, Julen Lopetegui equaled the worst league start of any Real Madrid manager since Juan Antonio Ipiña in 1952-53 (P9 W3 D3 L3).

TV coverage and kick-off time


Kick off is 15:15 GMT (11:15 ET) on Sunday, and will be shown on Eleven Sports 1 in the United Kingdom. It will be shown on BeIn Sports in the United States, and on various channels around the world.

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