Ousmane Dembele, Samuel Umtiti and Ivan Rakitic have all been included in Barcelona's pre-season tour squad despite speculation they have been offered to Paris Saint-Germain.

The trio, as well as Malcom and Nelson Semedo, will head to Japan although reports have claimed they are among six Barca players who could be makeweights in a deal to bring Neymar back to Camp Nou.

Philippe Coutinho, the sixth member of the group, is not included in a squad of 26 players named by Ernesto Valverde as he remains on holiday following the Copa America.

Lionel Messi is absent for the same reason, as are Uruguay striker Luis Suarez and Brazil midfielder Arthur, but Antoine Griezmann could make his Barca debut along with fellow new arrival Frenkie de Jong.

Neymar, meanwhile, is not in PSG's squad for Saturday's pre-season game against Nurnberg despite the forward saying he is almost 100 per cent fit after missing the Copa America due to an ankle injury.

PSG said the club will "take appropriate action" against the Brazil star after he failed to report to pre-season training on time, although Neymar's father said the Ligue 1 champions knew when he would be arriving.

Barca's first pre-season game ahead of the 2019-20 campaign is against Premier League side Chelsea in the Rakuten Cup on Tuesday.

Three days later, Barcelona face a reunion with former players David Villa and Andres Iniesta when they take on Japanese side Vissel Kobe.

The defending LaLiga champions will then kick off the new league season away to Athletic Bilbao on August 16.

Ernesto Valverde is expecting a swift impact from €224million trio Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong and Neto at Barcelona.

France star Griezmann became the LaLiga champions' third major signing of the close-season last Friday, after Barca paid his €120m release clause at Atletico Madrid.

De Jong had agreed to a move to Camp Nou in January for an initial fee of €75m, having been courted by a number of Europe's top sides due to some standout displays for Champions League semi-finalists Ajax.

Goalkeeper Neto was signed in June for €29m, with a further €9m to be paid in add-ons, as Jasper Cillessen went the other way to Valencia for €35m in total.

Such an expensive outlay has led to big expectations for Griezmann and De Jong in particular, and Barca boss Valverde hopes to see them hit the ground running.

"They are three important signings," he told Barca TV. "Of course, we expect a lot out of them, they have our fans excited and what we want them to do is get into the team dynamic and perform to their levels.

"[De Jong] has last year and in recent years been playing at a high level, as did his whole team. We hope he can give us some fresh energy in midfield, which can only be good for us. We're building for the future and he has years ahead of him. He's a quality player. He has a little bit of our playing style in him.

"[Griezmann] is a player who fills spaces quickly and is decisive near goal and we know how much a player like that is worth and what he gives you in return. We have high hopes for him because he is young but with experience and that leads us to expect him to perform right away.

"Neto is an experienced player too, an insurance policy in goal, and we think he is an ideal complement to Marc-Andre ter Stegen."

Valverde accepts the pressure is on Barca to challenge on all fronts once more, with last term's league title win overshadowed by a Copa del Rey final loss to Valencia and a humiliating Champions League semi-final exit to Liverpool.

"We have challenges, just like any other year, and we also have the demand of having to win everything, to win all the time, to get our fans excited," he said.

"There is nothing else for Barca except trying to win every competition we take part in, to win all our games and stay faithful to our style."

Antoine Griezmann is about to become a brilliant problem for Barcelona.

LaLiga's reigning champions have finally brought an end to the saga around the France star, signing him on a five-year deal after activating his release clause of €120million.

Barca have effectively been pursuing Griezmann for the best part of 18 months, having been turned down by the forward last year, who then informed the world he would be staying at Atletico Madrid via his documentary 'The Decision'.

Ernesto Valverde would have been forgiven for preferring not to have Griezmann in his side after such a high-profile snubbing of Camp Nou, but a year later - and with his own position under scrutiny after last season's Champions League failure - it is now imperative he gets the best out of the former Real Sociedad man.

Trying to squeeze Griezmann into the team will be no simple matter, though - especially if Barca also manage to bring Neymar back to the club. So, just how will Valverde go about using him? Here are three possible line-ups for 2019-20...

1. 4-3-3 - 'Old Faithful'... without Suarez

Valverde might have been criticised for not always encouraging Barca to stick to their heralded style, but 4-3-3 remains his most consistent formation, at least in LaLiga.

The right-hand side will be reserved for Lionel Messi as long as he wants it, of course, and Griezmann is unlikely to be shifted to the left. Valverde generally prefers right-footed players on that side, specifically Ousmane Dembele - and, just maybe, Neymar - who can offer a burst of speed to destabilise deep blocks of defence.

It means Griezmann would probably have to move into the central attacking role and therefore relegate Luis Suarez to the bench. A bold call it may be, but Suarez is 32 and just came off his lowest goalscoring season in four years. Perhaps the competition would bring out the best in him.

2. 4-4-2 - The key to the Champions League

Valverde has regularly favoured 4-4-2 in some of Barca's most challenging matches, particularly away games in the Champions League.

While these have proved successful to an extent - beating Manchester United away last season, for instance - their safety-first approach was not exactly a sound one in the 4-0 thrashing by Liverpool or the capitulation against Roma the year before.

Griezmann could help matters there. He is an expert in playing as part of a front two in major European ties from his Atletico days: against Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich in 2016 he knew when to press, when to track back and how to stay cool to capitalise on rare goalscoring chances that would make up for any defensive lapses further back. Playing that role alongside Messi would make Barca formidable.

3. 4-2-3-1 - The Neymar dream

Barca are a long way from signing both Griezmann and Neymar. Indeed, they will have to raise funds and lower the wage bill by selling two or three players – or offering them in exchange – before the Brazil star's return can be countenanced seriously.

If they can get him back, though, Valverde will have the option to field an attacking unit of a strength seen nowhere else in world football.

With a double pivot using two of Sergio Busquets, Arthur, Frenkie de Jong and Ivan Rakitic, the stability in midfield Valverde craves will still be there. Ahead of them, Messi could sit as a number 10, with Griezmann to one side and Neymar to the other, and all three given licence to roam. Suarez can then keep his place at the head of the attack.

It might feel a little gung-ho for Valverde's liking, but seriously - how many teams would be able to stop a front four like this?

Barcelona's bid for a third successive LaLiga title and 27th overall will begin and end away from Camp Nou.

Ernesto Valverde's men are set to visit Athletic Bilbao in their opening fixture of the new season on August 18, whil they will conclude the campaign on the road to Deportivo Alaves on May 24.

Barca beat rivals Real Madrid twice last term and will hope to continue their Clasico dominance in 2019-20. Camp Nou plays host to the first encounter on October 27, with the return match scheduled for March 1.

Delivering domestically is certain to again be a priority for head coach Valverde and captain Lionel Messi but the club's increasingly impatient need to claim another Champions League crown will serve as a major subplot throughout the course of the season.

All dates in the full fixture schedule below are subject to change.


Barcelona's 2019-20 LaLiga fixtures in full:

August 18: Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona
August 25: Barcelona v Real Betis
September 1: Osasuna v Barcelona
September 15: Barcelona v Valencia
September 22: Granada v Barcelona
September 25: Barcelona v Villarreal 
September 29: Getafe v Barcelona
October 6: Barcelona v Sevilla
October 20: Eibar v Barcelona
October 27: Barcelona v Real Madrid
October 30: Barcelona v Real Valladolid
November 3: Levante v Barcelona
November 10: Barcelona v Celta Vigo
November 24: Leganes v Barcelona
December 1: Atletico Madrid v Barcelona
December 8: Barcelona v Mallorca
December 15: Real Sociedad v Barcelona
December 22: Barcelona v Deportivo Alaves
January 5: Espanyol v Barcelona
January 19: Barcelona v Granada
January 26: Valencia v Barcelona
February 2: Barcelona v Levante
February 9: Real Betis v Barcelona
February 16: Barcelona v Getafe
February 23: Barcelona v Eibar
March 1: Real Madrid v Barcelona
March 8: Barcelona v Real Sociedad
March 15: Mallorca v Barcelona
March 22: Barcelona v Leganes
April 5: Sevilla v Barcelona
April 12: Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao
April 22: Celta Vigo v Barcelona
April 26: Barcelona v Atletico Madrid
May 3: Villarreal v Barcelona
May 10: Barcelona v Espanyol
May 13: Real Valladolid v Barcelona
May 17: Barcelona v Osasuna
May 24: Deportivo Alaves v Barcelona

Every birthday that passes represents a step closer to a time world football will no longer be able to enjoy the prodigious talents of Lionel Messi on the pitch.

The Barcelona and Argentina star is 32 on Monday, an age at which most players would be considered to be entering the twilight of their careers.

Granted, if the years are kind to Messi, he could play until he is 40 - he will surely be good enough.

For the moment, he shows little sign of slowing down and continues to rack up the achievements, accolades, trophies and goals.

Here's a breakdown of the birthday boy's achievements at each age...

 

MESSI THROUGH THE YEARS

17 - Messi announced himself to Spanish football as a 17-year-old, making his debut against Espanyol before going on to get his first goal, a delightful lob in a win over Albacete, having had a similar finish harshly disallowed. That season also brought his first piece of silverware, as Barca won LaLiga.

18 - On the international stage, Messi's career has been a case of 'what might have been' and the signs were there right from the start. His Argentina debut at the age of 18 lasted less than a minute, as he was sent off in a friendly against Hungary. However, he did get his first goal at the same age, scoring against Croatia. At club level, he got his hands on the Champions League for the first time, plus a second LaLiga title and the Spanish Supercopa.

19 - A second successive Supercopa arrived for Messi when he was 19, though his greatest achievement of the year was his first hat-trick, in El Clasico of all games. A clinical finish at the end of a flowing move was followed by an emphatic volley and fine solo effort in a 3-3 draw.

20 - Although he was clearly already destined for greatness, Messi's career may have been significantly different had Pep Guardiola not been appointed Barca coach when the forward was 20. His arrival came after Frank Rijkaard could only guide Barca to third in LaLiga.

21 - Messi found another level and truly established himself as Barca's key player at the age of 21. He scored 38 goals that year, helping the club to a remarkable treble, which included his second European title and a third LaLiga crown.

22 - Champions League and Copa del Rey retention were beyond Barca the following year, though Messi still got to lift the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup for the first time. The Blaugrana also won LaLiga and the Supercopa, while Messi took home his first Ballon d'Or and European Golden Shoe.

23 - Another glorious year followed, as Messi got his hands on a fifth LaLiga title and won the Champions League for the third time. He scored 53 goals as a 23-year-old, a personal best at the time, and unsurprisingly clinched a second successive Ballon d'Or.

24 - Although the two main trophies eluded Barca and Messi when he was 24, it proved to be his best year to date in terms of goals. He scored a remarkable 73 in all competitions, making him the obvious winner of a third consecutive Ballon d'Or and second European Golden Shoe.

25 - Incredibly, Messi reached the 300 goals mark for Barca when he was just 25. The same year he guided the team to the league title – his sixth – and won the Ballon d'Or for the fourth season in a row, making him the first to ever achieve the feat.

26 - Having passed the 300 mark at 25, netting 60 that year, Messi became Barca's all-time leading scorer across all matches – including friendlies – when he was 26, passing Paulino Alcantara's record of 369. The Spanish Supercopa was the only trophy he won that year, however, as Gerardo Martino was dismissed.

27 - Messi's Champions League drought ended when he was 27 and he was truly back to his best. He boosted his goal haul from 41 the previous year to 58, passing the 400 mark in the process, and inspired the team to another treble.

28 - It was another hugely successful year for Messi at 28, with LaLiga, the Copa del Rey, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup all added to the crowded Barca trophy cabinet. Messi also increased his personal collection, winning a fifth Ballon d'Or. He also overtook Gabriel Batistuta to become Argentina's all-time leading scorer.

29 - The goals landmarks continued to tumble at 29, with Messi surpassing 500 in a Barca shirt. For the year he scored an impressive 54, earning himself a fourth European Golden shoe. With the club, he lifted a fifth Copa del Rey title and seventh Supercopa, but Luis Enrique ended his three-year stint at the helm.

30 - Early in the 2017-18 season, Messi became the first player to reach 350 LaLiga goals and made his 600th appearance for the club across all competitions in November. After the turn of the year, he broke Gerd Muller's record for most league goals at one club in Europe's top five competitions, before helping Barca to a domestic double, while they also set a new record unbeaten streak in LaLiga – 43 matches.

31 - With Andres Iniesta gone, Barca made Messi their new captain in August 2018 and he lifted his first trophy as skipper the same month, winning the Supercopa. He was inspirational in the title win, sparing the team's blushes several times with late goals and winning a sixth Pichichi trophy, equalling Telmo Zarra's record. He also netted his 600th Barca goal but Champions League and Copa del Rey success eluded the Blaugrana.

Barcelona's medical team have given midfielder Rafinha the all-clear after he completed his recovery from a knee injury that kept him out for almost seven months.

The Brazilian playmaker ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during Barcelona's 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid in November 2018 and he had surgery to address the problem.

A statement on Barcelona's official website confirmed the 26-year-old has been given the green light to return to full training, but it remains to be seen whether he can force his way back into the first team at Camp Nou.

Rafinha's Barcelona career was stuttering when he sustained the injury and he made just five LaLiga appearances for the club in the first four months of the 2018-19 season, having spent the previous campaign on loan at Inter.

Born in Sao Paulo, Rafinha came up through Barcelona's youth ranks before enjoying a strong season on loan at Celta de Vigo in 2013-14 that led to him breaking into the Barca first team the following year.

His future at the club could hinge on whether under-pressure coach Ernesto Valverde keeps his job.

Rafinha's father, former Brazil international Mazinho, expressed his frustration with the limited first-team opportunities afforded to his son before the injury struck, saying he would be seeking a transfer if nothing changed.

Manchester United know what they want for star midfielder Paul Pogba, according to reports.

Pogba, 26, has been heavily linked with a move away from Old Trafford, with Real Madrid reported to be his most likely destination.

With Zinedine Zidane starting a rebuild at the Santiago Bernabeu – Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic and Ferland Mendy have all just been signed – perhaps Pogba could be next.

But, unsurprisingly, there will be work to do between United and Madrid to make the move happen.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED SET POGBA PRICE

Manchester United want at least £150million for Pogba, according to the Mirror.

That would top the then-world record £89m United paid to bring Pogba back to Old Trafford from Juventus in 2016, an indicator of the state of the market rather than the France international's performances.

However, Eduardo Inda reports Real Madrid have offered €120m (around £107m) plus bonuses, leaving a rather big gap between the teams' valuations.

 

ROUND-UP

- Atletico Madrid's chief executive claimed on Wednesday he has known since March that Antoine Griezmann will join Barcelona. But it seems Manchester United still have hope, The Sun reporting the Premier League giants are ready to offer £95m for the forward.

- While Manchester United are looking to strengthen their attack, perhaps they have little interest in Real Madrid attacker Gareth Bale. ESPN report that United have rejected the chance to talk to Madrid about the possibility of signing the Wales international.

- Benfica teenager Joao Felix is sought-after. Goal report that Atletico Madrid also want the attacker, hoping to convince the Portugal international he will get more first-team chances with them than possibly Manchester City. According to Estadio Deportivo, Atletico have also put in a bid – close to €55m – for reported Tottenham target and Real Betis midfielder Giovani Lo Celso.

- Bayern Munich may want Manchester City attacker Leroy Sane, but they have other options. Bild report the Bundesliga champions will target Yannick Carrasco, who is at Dalian Yifang but wants a return to Europe, if they cannot land Sane.

- Barcelona are seemingly ready to head into next season with Ernesto Valverde as coach. Sport report that Valverde met with president Josep Maria Bartomeu on Tuesday to discuss possible transfers.

- Dejan Lovren has fallen down the pecking order at Liverpool, but the European champions will not let the defender go cheaply. Lovren is linked to AC Milan and the Mirror report Liverpool want around £25m for the Croatia international.

Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman says the time is not right for him to consider becoming the new boss of former club Barcelona.

Koeman emerged as a leading candidate to take charge of the Blaugrana following reports that Ernesto Valverde was on the brink of his losing job.

Speculation surrounding the Spaniard's position has since gone quiet, with Valverde seemingly set to be granted a reprieve despite presiding over a second successive Champions League failure.

It is not the first time Koeman, who spent six seasons at Barca as a player, has been linked with a return to Camp Nou.

But having only been in his current role since February 2018, the former Everton and Southampton manager is not prepared to think about a change.

"If it's been a year and you only have only one season to go until the European Championships, then it isn't the right time," Koeman told Dutch broadcaster NOS.

"There will always be people who say 'if [Barcelona] come, he will leave anyway'.

"The media will run those stories and that is their right. I know what I've agreed with the KNVB. That seems sufficient to me."

Asked whether the speculation should now stop, Koeman responded: "Yes, as far as I'm concerned."

Netherlands are preparing to meet England in the last four of the Nations League Finals on June 6.

The winner will advance to face either Switzerland or hosts Portugal for the right to be crowned the competition's inaugural champions.

Luis Garcia hopes Antoine Griezmann leaves Atletico Madrid for either Liverpool or Barcelona.

Griezmann announced his intention to leave Atleti earlier this month, with Barca reportedly in pole position to sign the forward.

The LaLiga champions were said to be close to signing the player last year only for the France international to announce he was staying at Atletico in a television documentary.

Ernesto Valverde has refused to confirm whether or not Griezmann is a target for Barcelona again, with Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain also reportedly interested.

Luis Garcia played for both Liverpool and Barcelona during his career and he feels the World Cup winner would be a good signing for either club.

"I can't wait to see where it's going to end. It's true that we know he’s leaving Atletico Madrid but we don't know anything else," Luis Garcia told Omnisport. 

"So, is it going to be Barcelona or is it going to be United, or Italy? Looking forward, I think it was the moment for him.

"He's been waiting for Atletico Madrid because he knew how important he was for their supporters but he decided to make the step, and now just looking forward to seeing where he's going to be playing next year.

"Me? Of course, I'm a Barcelona supporter, Liverpool supporter, I would love to have him in my squad. So, any of those teams, I'd be happy to see him in."

Barcelona look set to stick with head coach Ernesto Valverde despite their shock loss to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final, which followed their stunning Champions League exit to Liverpool.

"I'm happy for that to be honest. I think you have to give credit to Barcelona," added Luis Garcia, who left Barca to move to Anfield in 2004.

"It's true that they didn't win the cup, they couldn't manage to get to the Champions League final, but it’s not easy what Valverde is doing, winning LaLiga. Being in [Europe] until the end.

"At the end, only one team can win the Champions League final, it's very difficult to manage all those kinds of situations. So I'm happy and looking forward to seeing how he's going to manage for next year.

"What kind of player he’s going to bring or he's going to let go out. So, looking forward and quite excited."

Ernesto Valverde seemingly has no plans to quit as Barcelona coach despite growing fan unrest and Saturday's Copa del Rey final defeat to Valencia.

Marcelino's side ran out 2-1 winners at the Benito Villamarin in Seville, with Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo Moreno netting in the first half to render Lionel Messi's tap-in after the break immaterial.

Defeat means Barca end the season with only the league title to their name, despite appearing to have a strong chance of winning the treble just a few weeks ago.

A shock Champions League elimination at the hands of Liverpool, a tie in which they won the first leg 3-0, saw the discontent from fans towards Valverde increase significantly and that situation is unlikely to improve after Barca failed to clinch an unprecedented fifth successive Copa del Rey crown.

Nevertheless, with president Josep Maria Bartomeu indicating Valverde is safe from the axe, the coach appears relaxed about his future.

"I feel good, but when you win, you are happier," Valverde said. "The reading of the game is different from the one we played 15 days ago, but the reality is that we have lost again.

"We have not fulfilled the expectations created. We thought about the treble and we lost ourselves on the road at the decisive moment. It is evident that we are here to win titles.

"I'm fine, what we – the coaches – want is a rematch, to fight to have a challenge ahead.

"I know that losing is hard, something has failed. This responsibility is difficult and it has to be assumed."

Barcelona's Copa del Rey final defeat to Valencia on Saturday was not the fault of under-pressure coach Ernesto Valverde, according to the club's president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

A 2-1 defeat at Real Betis' Benito Villamarin in Seville left Barca feeling as though the 2018-19 season has been something of an underachievement despite retaining their LaLiga crown.

Just a few weeks ago, after beating Liverpool 3-0 in the Champions League semi-final first leg, Barca looked entirely capable of winning the treble.

But they were humiliatingly beaten 4-0 by Liverpool in the return leg and Saturday's loss robbed them of a domestic double, with Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo Moreno putting the game beyond Barca despite Lionel Messi pulling one back.

Valverde's suitability has been called into question by many supporters since the humbling Liverpool loss, but Bartomeu backed the head coach.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Bartomeu said: "We have always said that Ernesto has a contract for next season.

"I do not think he's the culprit. We had many opportunities, but they did not find the net. But count the goals and Valencia scored one more than us.

"It is not a season of excellence, but [nor is it one] of failure. We have reached the final of the Copa, the semi-finals of Champions League.

"In the end, we lost two games, but we are out of the Champions League and we are Copa runners-up."

Barcelona were denied an unprecedented fifth successive Copa del Rey crown as they lost 2-1 to Valencia in Saturday's final, heaping the pressure on under-fire coach Ernesto Valverde.

Having had a realistic chance at a treble just a few weeks ago, Barca finish the season with only the league title to show for their efforts, a situation likely to increase Valverde's unpopularity among supporters.

Barca were way off their best in the first half at the Benito Villamarin and deservedly found themselves trailing 2-0 at the break, as Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo Moreno clinically punished the defending champions.

Valverde's men pushed forward desperately after the break and Lionel Messi pulled one back shortly after being denied by the post, but their dominance proved futile as Valencia held on to win the Copa for the first time since 2008.

The warning signs were there for Barca after just five minutes, as Gameiro pressured Clement Lenglet into a wayward pass at the back and Rodrigo pounced, skipping past Jasper Cillessen and seeing his effort blocked on the line by Gerard Pique.

Neither Cillessen nor Pique could spare Barca 16 minutes later, however, as Jose Gaya charged forward on the break and picked out Gameiro, who shook off Jordi Alba and blasted home.

Rodrigo doubled the lead just past the half-hour mark, heading in Carlos Soler's inch-perfect cross from close range.

Malcom and Arturo Vidal were introduced for Nelson Semedo and Arthur at half-time, as Barca pushed for a comeback.

Messi remained the one to watch, though, hitting the left-hand post with a gorgeous outside-of-the-boot effort just before the hour after a one-two with Malcom.

But he was not to be denied in the 73rd minute, as Messi tapped in after Lenglet's header came back off the upright.

Valencia squandered two chances to finish Barca off on the break deep into stoppage time, as Goncalo Guedes put wide when one-on-one and also missed an open goal from distance, but they held on to consign Barca to a disappointing end of the season.


What does it mean? Valverde's future surely in doubt

If Valverde's popularity was not already a matter for debate, it certainly is now. With a LaLiga and Copa double, you could justifiably see him hanging on to the job for another season, but now things look a little cloudier, particularly given the increasing fan criticism of his leadership.

Arguably the only thing saving him at the moment is Messi's apparent backing.

Rodrigo and Gameiro lead by example

They got the goals, but Rodrigo and Gameiro did so much more as well. The pair led the line brilliantly, never giving Barca's defence a moment's rest, while their link-up play – with each other and the rest of the team – was exceptional.

Clement's long day

It started poorly for Lenglet, as the Frenchman made an awful error after just five minutes from which Valencia should have scored. He rarely looked comfortable thereafter, with Gameiro and Rodrigo giving him the runaround.

What's next?

Given they finished the season with just one trophy, a big close-season awaits Barca. There are doubts about Valverde's suitability, while their squad is short in a number of areas, such as centre-forward and full-back. As for Valencia, if they can keep hold of their star players and bolster their squad for the Champions League, they will be confident of another promising campaign next term.

Ernesto Valverde insisted there has been enough talk about his future ahead of Barcelona's Copa del Rey final against Valencia.

Barca can complete a second consecutive double under Valverde by defeating Valencia in Seville on Saturday, but pressure has built on the head coach since their latest Champions League collapse away at Liverpool.

Having let a 4-1 first-leg lead slip in the quarter-finals against Roma last year, the Blaugrana saw a 3-0 advantage overturned by Jurgen Klopp's side in the last four this season.

President Josep Maria Bartomeu has offered Valverde his backing, though, while captain Lionel Messi also spoke out in support of the coach on Friday.

Valverde concedes he must accept some responsibility for a defeat that has overshadowed their success this season, but he is keen to set the topic aside until after the final.

"I do not think too much about my future," he told a news conference. "The only thing that worries me is to win [against Valencia]. Every day is a battle.

"If you look around the coaches in LaLiga, we are part of the show. We all get ups and downs. You only have to see what happened to [Valencia coach] Marcelino, who had a moment, or [Real] Madrid changing coach.

"I do not know about Leo Messi defending me. We are all aware that, when there is an elimination, we must all take responsibility, the players, the coaches, all of us. We are hurt, but we have to look forwards and face the consequences again.

"I do not feel any more pressure. Why would I? I've always said that the club respects my work and it's always been like that. I have no complaints from the president or the board."

Pushed further on the issue, Valverde told reporters he had provided all the answers required on his future.

Meanwhile, the coach was expecting Nelson Semedo and Arthur to train ahead of the final and was hopeful on the fitness of Philippe Coutinho.

Valverde insisted he knew nothing in relation to the report the final will be Jasper Cillessen's last match for the club amid reported interest from Benfica.

Barcelona could still win the domestic double again this season, but former Blaugrana midfielder Deco feels Ernesto Valverde is still under pressure because of the humiliating Champions League exit to Liverpool.

Valverde won LaLiga and the Copa del Rey in his first campaign last season and, after retaining the domestic title, his side will achieve a double-double if they beat Valencia in Saturday's cup final.

Yet the Barca boss' position still appears perilous because of the embarrassing way in which the club exited this year's Champions League.

Despite holding a 3-0 advantage from the first leg against Liverpool, Barca were thrashed 4-0 in the return fixture of the semi-final at Anfield, leaving Deco uncertain over Valverde's long-term future.

"I don't know the future because [at] Barcelona there's a lot of pressure," said Deco, who was speaking to Omnisport courtesy of the UEFA Europa League Trophy Tour - Driven by Kia.

"When the competition starts one of my favourites to win was Liverpool because I knew they were strong, stronger than last season.

"But they had problems in the beginning, the group phase, and then it's getting better in the competition.

"Of course, after 3-0 in Camp Nou, no one could expect without two of the important players – [Mohamed] Salah and [Roberto] Firmino – that Liverpool could do that.

"It was difficult for Barcelona because it was a very tough defeat – a loss against Liverpool, 4-0, is not normal."

Deco played for Barca between 2004 and 2008, winning two LaLiga titles and the Champions League in 2005-06.

He believes that the manner of the defeat to Liverpool would result in added scrutiny for any manager.

"I know in Barcelona there's a lot of pressure, every year they need to win," he added.

"I don't know what's happened. It's difficult, not just for Valverde but every coach who would be there in that moment."

Antoine Griezmann's decision to turn down a move to Barcelona last year "hurt" the club, according to Xavi.

Griezmann was strongly linked with signing for Barca after the 2017-18 season but he eventually announced in a televised documentary he would stay at Atletico Madrid.

However, after Barca held off Atleti to defend their LaLiga crown, France forward Griezmann confirmed his intention to leave the Madrid club after five years.

Barca are reportedly again front-runners for his signature, though head coach Ernesto Valverde has refused to discuss how Griezmann could fit into a forward line with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

And Xavi, who won eight LaLiga titles at Barca and made his last professional appearance for Al-Sadd before hanging up his boots this week, hinted there may be leftover bad feeling at Camp Nou over Griezmann's previous rejection of a move.

"I understand it hurt what he did last summer," Xavi said to Sport. "If the reason for the rejection [from Barca players] was only a footballing issue, I'd speak with the dressing room to make them see he's a player who can bring something.

"We have to see, however, who is signing him? The sporting director? Valverde? The president? If I came to Barca I would ask for the signings, and if the dressing room doesn't agree with any of them I'd speak with them, but in the end I decide. Be it Griezmann or whoever.

"Another thing would be if the coach doesn't want him either. Then we have a problem."

Barca have given Valverde their backing despite their latest Champions League disappointment, with Xavi making his ambitions to coach at Camp Nou clear.

"If one day I come back to Barcelona it's all a consequence of knowing that I will be judged," he added.

"Everyone wants to be at a big team. It would be more comfortable to go to a second division club but I'm competitive and I like big challenges.

"I know what will come, I will go bald or my hair will turn white, but it is what it is."

Messi made it clear the Champions League was Barca's top priority in 2018-19 but he was unable to add to the four European titles he has won at the club.

"That's more than a few, we only had one before," Messi's former team-mate Xavi said. "We were able to win more but it's hard to win the Champions League.

"[Pep] Guardiola's Barca were better than the rest of the teams and we only won two of four. Chelsea and Inter knocked us out. But be calm, Messi's not finished yet.

"We always talk about the post-Messi era, but Leo has three or four good years left. At the top level, like now, because he looks after himself, he's incredibly professional, he's physically strong, a beast mentally. He's the number one at everything."

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