Tottenham interested in Barcelona’s Malcom

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Tottenham are eyeing a move for Barcelona forward Malcom, according to media reports in Spain, with the reigning La Liga champions open to offers for the Brazilian.

The 21 year old signed from Bordeaux in the summer for a fee of €40 million, plus add ons, however injuries and the impressive form of French international Ousmane Dembele has restricted his first team opportunities so far in 2018-19.

Ernesto Valverde is now believed to be willing to listen to bids for the speedy attacker, although the club will be determined to see a financial return on their initial investment.

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Where does Coutinho fit in at Barcelona now?

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Against Getafe on Sunday night, Barcelona’s record signing, Phillipe Coutinho, was again left on the bench.

That’s right, €160 million worth of talent being given a cursory eight-minute cameo at the end of the match.

Predictably it wasn’t enough time for the Brazilian to really make an impact, and that is becoming a consistent theme for him of late. Continue reading

Barcelona looking for Coutinho improvement in 2019

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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.

Many of the squad are having solid, but unspectacular seasons, with the individual brilliance of Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele often making the key differences in recent weeks.

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Could Alena’s emergence see Suarez/Rafinha moved on?

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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

Lionel Messi’s injury might benefit Barcelona in the long-term

At the time, Lionel Messi’s fractured arm looked to be body blow for Barcelona. It came at the worst possible time for the Catalans, with games against Inter in the Champions League and Real Madrid in La Liga looming. Barca, as a team, are reliant on Messi and it was widely doubted that they would cope without their spiritual leader.

Since then, though, Barcelona have beaten Inter at home, drawing to the Italians at San Siro, thumped Real Madrid in El Clasico, also toppling Rayo Vallecano and Leganes on the road. Messi has been missed, but his absence has been dealt with an in an efficient way that looked beyond Ernesto Valverde’s side just a few weeks ago.

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Luis Suarez has stepped up to fill the void left by his Argentinean teammate, scoring six times in his last five appearances, including a hat-trick against Real Madrid. The Uruguayan has become the attacking hub around which Barcelona revolve in the final third, making up for Messi’s absence in more than one way.

Philippe Coutinho is another who has found his best form in recent weeks, driving Barcelona forward from deep in a way that Messi frequently does for the Catalans. Then there’s Ousmane Dembele, who has also come up with some big goals of late, and Arthur, who has slotted into the Barcelona midfield seamlessly since joining from Gremio in the summer transfer window.

It’s only natural that when Messi is on the pitch, Barca look to him. He has the ability to decide a game all on his own. The sport has never seen a player like him before, and so it’s not only natural, but it’s right that Valverde should build his team around such a talent. It’s in Barca’s interests to harness their best player.

Nonetheless, it’s good for the Catalans to have depth, as well as diversity in talent and tactics. This is where Messi’s recent injury, which has kept him sidelined for the past three weeks, could actually benefit Barcelona in the long-term, certainly in the latter stages of the season.

They have proved to themselves that they can cope without their number 10, that they can still pull off big results in big games. In recent years, Barca have tired late on in the season. This is what contributed to their humiliating exit from the Champions League to Roma last term, with Valverde reluctant to rotate his squad.

Messi is now into his thirties, meaning Valverde might have to take greater care with his greatest asset. The Argentinean perhaps can’t play every minute of every game for Barcelona. Not so long ago, this might have been considered an issue, given how reliant the Catalans were on him. Now, the burden may have been eased.

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Philippe Coutinho must step up in Lionel Messi’s absence

Not since 2007 will a Clasico have been played without one of either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo involved. Of course, Ronaldo is now a Juventus player having left Real Madrid in a blockbuster transfer during the summer, but a fractured arm suffered by Messi in last week’s win over Sevilla means he too will be missing at Camp Nou this Sunday.

Given the wealth of talent boasted by Barcelona, this shouldn’t be much of an issue, especially with Real Madrid in such poor shape at the moment, with manager Julen Lopetegui widely viewed a dead man walking, a man awaiting his fate. But the Catalans are more dependent on Messi than they should be.

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It’s natural that Messi should be the player around which Barca revolve, given his undeniable quality, but there have been times over Ernesto Valverde’s tenure in charge of the club at which they have looked lost whenever the Argentinean isn’t on the pitch. They rely on Messi more than is healthy.

And so Valverde must come up with a game plan that accounts for the absence of Messi this weekend. This is where Philippe Coutinho comes in. The former Liverpool playmaker can be moved forward to play as part of Barcelona’s attacking line, possessing the ability to also drop deep to drive the ball forward. He is the one Barca must look to against Real Madrid.

Some will argue that it is Luis Suarez will take on the attacking burden with Messi missing, and there is some credence to that argument. The Uruguayan stepped up his game in both the second half of the match against Sevilla and against Inter Milan in the Champions League during the week. Following a sluggish start to the season, Suarez finally looks to be finding something resembling his best form.

But it is Coutinho who can become the dynamo Barcelona need both in midfield and in the final third. The Brazilian has looked the part since making the move from Liverpool in January and now he has the chance to prove that a team as talented can, and should, revolve around him. It could ease some minds stressed at the thought of Barcelona in a post-Messi age.

Barcelona’s early season form has been patchy. The heat on Valverde would be much more intense were it not for the struggles being suffered by Lopetegui in the Spanish capital, with Real Madrid claiming just one win from their last six games heading into this weekend’s fixture.

The injury to Messi presents Barca with a test they probably could have done without at this time. But Valverde has the players to get around the problem and nobody in his squad offers the solution that Coutinho does. This Sunday’s Clasico must see the Brazilian step up to fill the void of his missing teammate.

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Messi’s absence opens El Clasico door for Dembele

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Barcelona have confirmed that captain Lionel Messi will miss this weekend’s La Liga El Clasico clash against bitter rivals Real Madrid through injury.

He was withdrawn after 26 minutes during their 4-2 win over Sevilla at the Camp Nou on Saturday night, after injuring his shoulder.

The club’s medical team confirmed he is expected to be out for three weeks with a fractured arm, missing the Champions League double header against Inter Milan, La Liga games against Rayo Vallecano and Real Betis and a Copa del Rey tie against Cultural Leonesa, as well as the crunch tie with Real.

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Liverpool still need to replace Philippe Coutinho

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As 0-0 draws go Liverpool’s meeting with Manchester City on Sunday was one Jurgen Klopp will have taken plenty from. The chief lesson will have been that his side still need to find a replacement for Philippe Coutinho.

Sunday’s meeting at Anfield had been billed as one of the games of the season before a ball had been kicked. Given the quality of these meetings last season, it was easy to see why. There was a high expectation that both teams would put on a spectacle. Attacking football, goals and plenty of drama were anticipated.

Instead, the opposite proved to be the case. Rather than a thrill ride, those watching were treated to something more akin to a chess game. Continue reading

La Liga Best XI – Week 1

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With the 2018/19 season now fully underway in La Liga, let us cast our minds back and take a look at which players were the best of the bunch.

GK - Jordi Masip (Real Valladolid)
The Valladolid custodian was one of a few players who kept a clean sheet on La Liga’s opening weekend, but essentially makes the list because his 5m valuation makes him the cheapest of those keepers to get into your fantasy team. 0-0 draw against Girona.

DF - Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid)
The former Bayer Leverkusen defender had a cracking opening weekend with Los Blancos. He scored a goal and was involved in a clean sheet in their 2-0 home win against Getafe.

DF - Marc Muniesa (Girona)
Another player involved in the Real Valladolid 0-0 Girona match, Muniesa was making his debut as a permanent member of Girona’s side. Valued at just 3m, he represented great value with his clean sheet points.

DF - Sergio Postigo (Levante)
Levante got their season off to a cracker as well, with their 3-0 win at Real Betis sending them second at the end of the round of action. Granotas finished 15th last season.

DF – Gerard Pique (Barcelona)
Barcelona and Spain stalwart Gerard Pique earned himself five points from the Catalans’ 3-0 win against Alaves at the Nou Camp.

MF - André Silva (Sevilla)
Sevilla star André Silva was easily the standout midfielder of La Liga on the opening weekend. He struck a hattrick in their 4-1 win at Rayo Vallecano. At just 5.5m he represented great value from game one.

MF - Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
The Welsh winger opened his season’s account with a goal and earned two points for Los Blancos’ clean sheet against Getafe, proving to the neutrals that there is life after Ronaldo after all.

MF - Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona)
The second Barca star on the list, the former Liverpool midfielder scored his first of the season and earned two points with their clean sheet against Alaves.

MF – Franco Vázquez (Sevilla)
Sevilla team-mate Silva may have hit a hattrick in their 4-1 win at Rayo Vallecano, but Vázquez scored the other to give the club the top spot in La Liga at the end of the opening weekend.

ST - Álex Gallar (Huesca)
Huesca enjoyed their very first La Liga match in history as they won 2-1 at Eibar. Gallar scored their first ever top flight goal, and added another before half time to make Gonzalo Escalante’s second half strike count for little.

ST - Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Perhaps it is only fitting that one of the best players in La Liga history should make it into the first “Best XI” of the season. He scored two goals in their 3-0 win against Alaves, earning himself eight points.

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One year since Neymar blew the transfer market wide open

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This time last year the football world was still reeling from the astonishing €222 million capture of Neymar by Paris Saint-Germain.

It was a stunning coup by the French side, taking a player destined to become one of the world’s best from one of the footballing super powers that PSG aspire to be.

Barcelona were dumbstruck and, as a result of that particular deal, have been careful to ensure much higher buyout clauses for their best players. Continue reading