Juventus chief football officer Fabio Paratici talked to the journalists after the Manlio Scopigno award and dismissed a rumour about Cristiano Ronaldo departing at the end of the season that has been circulating in the last few days: “He is very focused on his current objectives, I do not believe in the slightest that he will leave at the end of the season or later. He is under contract and I think he will honour it: we are very happy with him and he is happy at Juventus.”
It was only just and proper that Lionel Messi was the man to score the winning goal which gave Barcelona their second LaLiga title in a row on Saturday.
Levante were the visitors to Camp Nou as they continue to fight for their status in Spanish football’s top division.
Messi actually started on the bench for the home side with Ernesto Valverde clearly having one eye on his side’s upcoming Champions League semi-final clash with Liverpool.
They might be favourites to win the tie over two legs, but there’s no way that Barcelona will be taking Manchester United lightly, particularly at Old Trafford.
Playing at the Camp Nou for the second leg may seem to afford the Catalans an advantage of sorts, but Ernesto Valverde and his team will want to make that a formality.
In order to do so, they’ll need to take the game to the Red Devils and quieten the expected 75,000 crowd.
But just how are they going to manage it?
The final game of the La Liga weekend encapsulated the meaning of how some things can be worth waiting for.
With Barcelona featuring in the last game on Sunday evening, at Real Betis, we all knew we could be about to witness something special from the greatest player on the planet.
Lionel Messi did not disappoint.
The Barcelona number 10 brought his La Liga tally to 29 goals for the season with another sublime hat-trick as Barcelona won 4-1 at Real Betis.
It was another competitive weekend in Spain’s La Liga which saw Barcelona win El Clasico over Real Madrid and stretch their lead over them. Below we take a look at the top performing players in Spain and how they affected, the European Fantasy League La Liga points tables over the weekend.
Goalkeeper- Marc ter Stegen- Barcelona
ter Stegen gets the vote as goalkeeper of the week as he made some crucial saves in the biggest game in Europe to keep a clean sheet away to Real Madrid a Barcelona went 7 points clear at the top of La Liga. In the process ter Stegen earned 7 points.
Defender- Diego Godin – Atletico Madrid
At 33 years old Diego Godin is one of the best defenders in the league and with 6 points earned last weekend he gained the most points of any one in the back four. Atletico won their match 2-0 and he was part of a team that kept a clean sheet ensuring his club remain in 2nd place and look more secure for a Champions League place now.
Defender- Gerard Pique – Barcelona
Gerard Pique again was a rock in the Barcelona defence who were collectively very impressive when they played their great rival Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. And he earned 5 points in the process to be amongst the best defenders of the weekend.
Defender – Jordi Alba- Barcelona
A defender who isn’t afraid to come forward and Alba of course was part of the Barcelona team to keep yet another clean sheet. Always rock solid at the weekend and earning 5 points just like his teammate Pique.
Defender- Santiago Arias – Atletico Madrid
Arias earned the same points as some of the best defenders in La Liga and he put in a storming display as part of the Atletico back four, earning 5 points and keeping a clean sheet as his team beat Real Sociedad away from home 2-0. Arias at 27 is making his debut season for the club but has now become a regular.
Midfielder- Ivan Rakitic- Barcelona
Ivan Rakitic scored the goal that sealed Barcelona’s win over Real Madrid and the player in the process earned 6 points which gave him the most points for a midfielder this weekend in the fantasy league. He is currently in 12th position overall with 32 points.
Midfielder- Santiago Carzola- Villarreal
Carzola has proved yet again at the weekend why he is 9th overall in the fantasy standings for a midfielder. Despite Villarreal losing 2-1 to Alaves, Cazorla scored a penalty and earned vital points.
Midfielder- Sergi Roberto- Barcelona
Some are saying it was tactical brilliance from Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde to switch his players up and put Sergi Roberto in for the match v Real Madrid. It held the ball up very well and was part of a team that kept Madrid without a goal and linked up play well assisting Ivan Rakitic for the only goal of the game was the icing on top.
Midfielder- Takashi Inui- Alaves
Inui was superb as Alaves beat Villarreal 2-1 at the weekend and it was the Japanese midfielder who got the winner and earned 4 points at the weekend to be included in the best 11 performers.
Forward- Christian Stuani- Girona
Christian Stuani is 5th in the overall standings with a fantasy transfer value of 8.5m and he earned amongst the top points at the weekend with 8. He scored both goals as Girona beat Vallecano 2-0 away from home.
Forward- Alvaro Morata- Atletico Madrid
Along with Christian Stuani, Alvaro Morata was the highest performing forward of the weekend with 8 points. Morata has quickly settled into his loan deal from Chelsea, is valued at 8m and he scored 2 goals in the space of 3 minutes to give his team the win.
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La Liga leaders Barcelona have confirmed their interest in signing French international Adrien Rabiot from Ligue 1 side Paris Saint Germain.
The midfielder’s contract expires at the end of the 2018-19 season, and he is free to confirm terms with non French teams during the January transfer window, with a view to sealing a move in the summer.
His situation has become increasingly tense with the French giants, with widespread reports that he has been banned from the club’s dressing room on match days by the club’s hierarchy.
Barcelona head into 2019 as La Liga leaders, with Ernesto Valverde chasing a second successive league title since taking over.
They lead rivals Atletico Madrid by three points, but the former Athletic Bilbao boss knows his players will have to go up a gear if they are to compete domestically and in Europe in the second half of the season.
When your captain and talisman is steadfast in his resolve that this will be the year that the team is going to win the Champions League, the least that’s expected from every player is 100 percent concentration, commitment and effort in every game in the competition.
It’s a given at the top level, but since Lionel Messi uttered those words at the start of the campaign, the Argentinian has been the only one following his own advice in each European match that he’s been involved in. Continue reading
Some may believe that Lionel Messi arguably the greatest player of his generation if not all time is having a quiet season so far with Barcelona. It has been a testing summer of course after Argentina were knocked out of the World Cup by eventual winners France in the last 16, and failure seemed to follow Messi around in Russia.
The transfer window saw the departure of Andres Iniesta from Barca, a player that Messi has relied on for the past decade for his sublime touches and passing of the ball. Now Messi has had to link up better with the likes of Ivan Rakitic and his trustworthy lieutenant Sergio Busquets. Is Messi also a little in mourning of Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus- that rivalry seems to have calmed now that the players are plying their trade in different leagues. Perhaps there isn’t that push to do well anymore against one another. Something that could be reignited if the two teams meet in the Champions League.
The league could well be Barcelona’s most difficult challenge in a while. Whilst Real Madrid have significantly dropped off other rivals have taken their place and Barcelona find themselves in 2nd place but all around them are the likes of Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and let’s face it Real still remain a danger.
Still if some think that Messi is going quiet then they haven’t been watching much of La Liga this season. He has 9 goals in the league and has scored 14 goals this season in 14 games, even at 31 he is not slowing down. He is sure to break his 600 club goals this season too. Currently he is in 2nd place in the top goalscorers chart and with 6 assists he is top of the pile in Spain.
Messi is also playing well for the team, dropping back when he needs to, scoring great goals and assisting well. Truth is nothing much has changed at the Nou Camp even if it has at the clubs direct rivals Real Madrid. Next month will be about pushing on for the club who apart from having to play Espanyol in the derby away from home they seem to have a good fixture list.
There is still a recklessness about the team in part, due to their attacking mode but they still look like the best team in Spain. Messi won’t win the Ballon d’Or this year after missing out on all of the top prizes in a season where his club won the domestic double. But he will be thinking about next year and capturing that title once more along with a few others too.
Having patiently waited for an opportunity to become part of the first-team squad on a regular basis at Barcelona, Carles Alena finally appears ready to emerge from the shadows.
The 20-year-old is over his injury and playing consistently well, and the recent acknowledgment by the club that they won’t send him out on loan suggests that they have big plans for a player who is coveted by other teams.
Mauricio Pochettino was recently at a Barcelona B fixture, and the rumours, though unsubstantiated, were that he had come specifically to watch Alena. Continue reading