Kounde still not part of Barcelona squad as Dest left out for Sociedad trip

By Sports Desk August 21, 2022

Jules Kounde has not been registered in time by Barcelona for Sunday's LaLiga clash with Real Sociedad, while Sergino Dest has also been overlooked by Xavi once again.

France defender Kounde has yet to feature competitively for Barca since joining from Sevilla in a €55million deal, having also sat out last week's stalemate with Rayo Vallecano.

He is the only new signing yet to be registered by Barca, who have been forced to sell off non-playing assets and activate various 'levers' to meet LaLiga's salary rules.

While Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie are all available to face Sociedad, Kounde is not part of the travelling party.

 

Dest has also been left off the 23-player list for the second week running, with head coach Xavi indicating on Saturday that the full-back's future may lie elsewhere.

Manchester United are among the clubs to have been linked with United States international Dest, who made 21 appearances for the Catalan giants last season.

Xavi has also opted to leave out Samuel Umtiti and Martin Braithwaite, though Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Memphis Depay and Frenkie de Jong are all included.

Barca, who are without the suspended Sergio Busquets, have failed to win or score in their last three LaLiga matches – never before have they fired four blanks in a row.

However, they are unbeaten in their past six visits to Anoeta and have won the last two – only once have the Blaugrana won three in a row away to Sociedad in LaLiga.

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    Portugal coach Fernando Santos insists his relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo is unchanged despite dropping the captain for Tuesday's 6-1 win over Switzerland at the World Cup.

    Ronaldo was benched after Santos expressed his disappointment with the striker's attitude following his substitution during last week's defeat to South Korea.

    Santos said on Monday the matter had been resolved internally, but Ronaldo was then dropped to the bench for the clash at Lusail Stadium, starting a major-tournament match among the substitutes for the first time since 2008 (31 games).

    A fan poll on the website of Portuguese newspaper A Bola suggested 70 per cent of Portugal fans wanted Ronaldo out of the team, and the Selecao went on to produce one of their best performances at a major tournament in years.

    Goncalo Ramos replaced Ronaldo in the attack and had a hand in four goals, including a hat-trick, but Santos did not commit to keeping faith in the Benfica prospect for the quarter-final against Morocco.

    Santos told reporters: "That's still something that has to be defined [who starts in the next game]. I already answered in yesterday's press conference [regarding Ronaldo]; there is no problem between us.

    "I have a strong relationship with him, I always have. I have known him since he was young and at Sporting [CP], and then it started to develop in the national team.

    "This relationship only developed. We've been friends for many years, things don't affect us.

    "I already explained everything was resolved. I said that and I repeat that now. This is something that's finished and resolved.

    "How he came in with a lot of will, he set an example as a great captain."

    In scoring his hat-trick, Ramos became the first player to net three times on his first World Cup start since Miroslav Klose in 2002.

    Similarly, it only took him 17 minutes to do what Ronaldo has never managed: score in a World Cup knockout game.

    For most, Ramos starting the quarter-final clash would be a simple decision to make, but Santos intends to keep people guessing.

    "Obviously I have my ways to observes things, I always have," he continued. "The players we have in this position obviously have many different characteristics.

    "Andre [Silva] plays more advanced, Cristiano is more fixed, he plays in a determined area. Goncalo is dynamic.

    "That's what he ended up showing us, but it was nothing new because he came on in two other games.

    "I have three players I fully trust and for each match I will use what I think is the right strategy, as I have always done in my career."

    Tuesday's success was Portugal's biggest ever victory in the knockout rounds of the World Cup, with it the first time they have scored six beyond the group stage.

    It was a truly rampant performance, though Santos was particularly pleased that his team did not get carried away with the euphoria.

    "It's exactly what I said [to the players]; when we are euphoric, I think we can go beyond what we should do in a match.

    "We can end up having a bit too much fun, to use that expression, and football is not fun. Yes, you have to play, have fun in the field, but too much fun is not appropriate.

    "In this aspect, in terms of how serious they were, they were fantastic."

    Portugal will face Morocco in their quarter-final at Al Thumama Stadium on Saturday.
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    The Atleti forward has been linked with a move away from the Wanda Metropolitano, with Los Rojiblancos chief executive Gil Marin believing a January exit is "reasonable" to expect.

    Joao Felix has scored 33 goals for Atleti since arriving from Benfica for €126million in 2019 - a tally only bettered by Luis Suarez (34) during that span.

    But the 23-year-old has a frosty relationship with Simeone, with the pair reportedly falling out earlier this season. 

    And he appeared to aim a dig at his club boss after Portugal booked their World Cup quarter-final place with a comprehensive 6-1 rout of Switzerland on Tuesday.

    "The way you play here and at the club are different," he said. "When the conditions are favourable, things go better."

    Joao Felix set up two of Goncalo Ramos' three goals against the Swiss, becoming the third Portugal player to provide two assists in a World Cup game after Jose Torres - against Brazil in 1966 - and Bruno Fernandes - versus Ghana in this tournament.

    He saluted Portugal's most impressive performance so far in Qatar, where he feels confidence and concentration levels are high in Fernando Santos' side ahead of facing Morocco in the last eight.

    "The preparation was the same as the other games," he added. "We saw what was best and worst and played because of that, not losing our identity. We played a great game, perhaps the best so far.

    "We are focused and believe completely in us. I hope it's been shown that we have a great team, we know what we want. We have the support of everyone, and won't be held back."

  • Knockout bow beyond Ramos' 'wildest dreams' but hat-trick hero unsure of quarter-final role Knockout bow beyond Ramos' 'wildest dreams' but hat-trick hero unsure of quarter-final role

    Goncalo Ramos is unsure if he will be picked ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo again in Portugal's World Cup quarter-final after a last-16 experience beyond his "wildest dreams".

    The Benfica striker was a surprise choice from the start in Tuesday's game against Switzerland but justified his selection by hitting a hat-trick in a 6-1 rout.

    The pre-match focus was on Ronaldo's demotion to the bench, but Ramos hogged the limelight once the match kicked off.

    Even starting seemed improbable for the 21-year-old, who made his international debut in November, let alone scoring three times.

    "Not even in my wildest dreams I thought of being in the starting eleven in the knockout stages of the World Cup," Ramos said, but he does not know if he will keep his place for a last-eight meeting with Morocco.

    The forward added to RTP: "These are matters that are not for me. I have to work to the fullest and then you see what's going to happen."

    Ramos was named the player of the match and revealed Ronaldo's support in his post-match news conference.

    "Honestly, in our team, no-one talked about [Ronaldo being dropped]," he said. "Cristiano as captain did as he always does, helped us, encouraged us, not only to myself but to my colleagues."

    The level of Ramos' performance may have come as a shock to some, but not to team-mate Bruno Fernandes.

    "If you've never heard about him, it's because people are not aware of the quality of the Portuguese league," the Manchester United man said.

    "He has been doing really well in the Champions League, first in the group of PSG, so people should be aware of Goncalo, of his qualities.

    "I'm really happy for him, because a hat-trick at his age is a big achievement. But for Goncalo and for everyone else, the most important thing is that we are in the quarter-finals against Morocco."

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