Rumour Has It: Xavi clear out to begin at Barcelona

By Sports Desk May 22, 2022

The inevitable at Camp Nou has arrived along with the end of the season in LaLiga.

Xavi's rebuild and transformation of the Barcelona has lingered over this past season, despite the need to recover from their slow start.

According to reports, the Blaugrana are not wasting any time.

TOP STORY – XAVI CLEAR-OUT TO BEGIN AT BARCELONA   

Xavi has informed a number of Barcelona's players that the club is intending to sell them, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Riqui Puig, Samuel Umtiti, Oscar Mingueza and Martin Braithwaite have already been notified they are not in the club's future plans.

The four of them have been peripheral figures under Xavi, since he took over as head coach in November, but he had avoided contract talk with the press during the season.

While the 42-year-old has confirmed he has spoken to those four players "and others", it appears to be only the start of a sizeable squad transformation.

ROUND-UP

– Meanwhile, the Barca boss has confirmed they are in talks to sign Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, Goal reports.

– Napoli have rejected a €90million (£76m) bid from Arsenal for Victor Osimhen, according to Calciomercato.

– The Daily Mail is reporting Paris Saint-Germain are preparing a final offer for Paul Pogba, but Juventus are confident their offer of a €14.2m yearly salary will be sufficient.

– The Daily Mail is also reporting that Inter want Ivan Perisic to agree to a new contract amid interest from Tottenham and Chelsea.

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    At the end of February 2022, Leeds United bosses had seen enough.

    "This has been the toughest decision I have had to make," said chairman Andrea Radrizzani at the time.

    Leeds had taken just one point from six games, leaving them only two points above the relegation zone. A 4-0 home defeat by Tottenham was the final straw for Marcelo Bielsa, who was dismissed on February 27. 

    At the beginning of February 2023, Leeds United bosses had again seen enough as they parted company with Bielsa's successor Jesse Marsch.

    Leeds have taken just three points from their past seven games, leaving them level on points with Everton in the final relegation spot, albeit having played a game fewer than the three teams below them.

    Unlike Bielsa, who ended the club's long wait to get back into the Premier League and then guided them to a ninth-placed finish in their first season back, Marsch never truly won over the fanbase.

    Whereas Bielsa had murals dedicated to him all over west Yorkshire throughout his time in change, with his exit doing little to impact the esteem he's held in around Leeds, Marsch's year in charge will likely soon be a distant memory.

    Indeed, the 95-word statement put out by the club on Monday confirming his departure – with no comment from Radrizzani or his peers – was as brutal as it was damning.

    And so Leeds are now on the lookout for a new man to keep them in the division, with Carlos Corberan – who has impressed in his four months at West Brom – the early frontrunner to take charge.

    Bielsa is also reportedly among the contenders to succeed the man who succeeded him, while Mauricio Pochettino, Ange Postecoglou and Ralph Hasenhuttl have been touted as other options.

    New manager bounce?

    Pulling the plug on Marsch's tenure was a big call by Leeds chiefs, coming in the same week they face Manchester United in back-to-back Premier League games.

    It will be only the second time in the competition's history that the same two teams have met in successive games, following Arsenal's 2-0 and 4-2 wins over Bolton Wanderers in January 2010.

    Leeds are in a race against time to bring a new man in before the first of those games at Old Trafford on Wednesday, although they then have a further four days ahead of welcoming their fierce rivals back to Elland Road.

    As it stands, Marsch's assistant Chris Armas, who previously worked as Ralf Rangnick's right-hand man at Old Trafford last season, is expected to oversee the midweek match in Manchester.

    A new manager bounce would come in handy for at least one of those games. In the view of many Leeds fans, simply having anyone other than Marsch in the dugout will boost their chances of getting a result.

    Whether it be a caretaker or a permanent head coach, though, history suggests bringing in someone new ahead of playing United very rarely pays off.

    Of the 16 previous occasions a manager or caretaker has taken charge of his first Premier League match against United, the Red Devils have won 12 times, drawn once and lost only three times.

    However, the most recent such instance was just three months ago when Unai Emery inspired Aston Villa to a 3-1 home win against Erik ten Hag's side, ending United's nine-match winning run in such encounters.

    Emery joins an elite list that also includes Alan Curbishley and a certain Jose Mourinho, who masterminded wins over United in their first Premier League games in charge of West Ham and Chelsea respectively.

    Little joy for Leeds

    Perhaps a more telling statistic, though, is the one that highlights just how badly Leeds have performed in this fixture down the years, regardless of who has been at the helm.

    Leeds have won only one of their past 17 Premier League games against the team from across the Pennines, with that a 1-0 victory in September 2002.

    That winless run goes back even further when only accounting for top-flight matches played at Old Trafford, where they were last victorious in February 1981. 

    Returning to the elite after 16 years away has done little to change the one-sided nature of this fixture, with Leeds losing three of their four meetings over the past two campaigns and drawing the other.

    The 15 goals they have conceded against United in 6-2 5-1 and 4-2 defeats are second only to the 16 shipped against Manchester City over that same period.

    Furthermore, since the start of last season, Leeds have taken just one point from their eight games against sides starting the day in the top three.

    Marsch or not, this was always going to be a match in which the odds were stacked massively against Leeds, particularly with their opponents on a 13-game winning streak at Old Trafford in all competitions.

    That is the Red Devils' best run since a record 20 wins in a row between December 2010 and September 2011.

    Plenty to play for

    Ending that barren run will go a long way to boosting Leeds' survival hopes, although ultimately whoever comes in will have 16 matches after this week's unique double-header to steer the Whites to safety.

    Without a win in seven Premier League games, with that the longest ongoing run of any side, it hardly came as a big surprise to see Marsch given his marching orders on the back of 1-0 loss at Nottingham Forest.

    The American departs with a Premier League win percentage of 25 across his 32 matches, which is the second-lowest of any Leeds boss in the division after Eddie Gray (24 per cent).

    Another new era now beckons at Elland Road, and whoever it is that replaces Marsch will have their work cut out in the short term keeping Leeds above the dotted line.

    Whether that can be achieved remains to be seen. But if we have learned anything about Leeds throughout the Premier League era, it is that it will certainly make for entertaining viewing either way.

  • Barcelona confirm ankle sprain for Busquets ahead of Man Utd tie Barcelona confirm ankle sprain for Busquets ahead of Man Utd tie

    Barcelona captain Sergio Busquets is a major doubt to face Manchester United next week after the LaLiga leaders confirmed he sprained his ankle against Sevilla.

    Busquets was injured inside four minutes of Barca's 3-0 LaLiga win at Camp Nou on Sunday after being caught by Youssef En-Nesyri and was substituted off soon after.

    The 34-year-old, who has played in 27 of Barcelona's 31 games this season, underwent a scan on Monday that revealed he has a lateral collateral ligament sprain in his left ankle.

    While no official timeline has been given for Busquets' return, the former Spain international is reportedly facing at least two weeks on the sidelines.

    That would rule Busquets out of LaLiga games against Villarreal and Cadiz, either side of the first leg of Barca's Europa League knockout play-off round with United on February 16.

    Barca travel to Old Trafford the following week, before concluding this month's fixtures with a trip to Almeria in the league.

    Busquets' future at Barca beyond this season remains unclear, with head coach Xavi reiterating this week the midfielder will have the final say on whether he stays or leaves.

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    Leeds United have sacked head coach Jesse Marsch after less than a year in charge.

    The American was hired at the end of February 2022 following the dismissal of Marcelo Bielsa but suffered the same fate less than a year later.

    Marsch steered Leeds to Premier League survival last season, after Bielsa was shown the door with the Whites only two points above the bottom three.

    It was hardly an emphatic end to the season, however, with Leeds' 2-1 win over Brentford on the last day of the campaign ensuring their safety in 17th place.

    Leeds lost key players Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips in pre-season, but those departures contributed to Marsch being able to invest heavily in the squad.

    Including the January additions of Maximilian Wober, Georginio Rutter and Weston McKennie, who arrived on loan last week, the West Yorkshire club are reported to have spent £129million this season.

    Many of those to arrive were known to Marsch, who had previously worked with three Red Bull franchises: RB Leipzig, Salzburg and New York Red Bulls.

    Four of their signings this term came from those teams, highlighting how Marsch was entrusted to build a squad in his image.

    But he leaves the club having not overseen a Premier League win since before the World Cup, with the 4-3 defeat of Bournemouth on November 5 their last victory.

    Since then they have failed to win seven successive matches, though even that is not their worst winless run of the campaign – after beating Chelsea 3-0, they managed just two points from eight games.

    The final straw came in Sunday's 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest, when a section of Leeds fans could be heard chanting for Marsch to leave.

    The loss left them only out of the relegation zone on goal difference, though Everton – level with them on 18 points – have a game in hand.

    Marsch's coaching staff have also been dismissed, with the process of appointing a new head coach already under way.

    The Leeds hierarchy took action ahead of a Premier League double-header with bitter rivals Manchester United.

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