Ronald Koeman learned how his first campaign at the helm of Barcelona will run on Monday, when LaLiga announced its schedule for 2020-21.

The first Clasico of the season takes place at Camp Nou on October 25, with the return clash against bitter rivals Real Madrid in April.

What shape Koeman's Barca are in by the time of the initial encounter is anyone's guess as the Dutchman picks through the rubble of an 8-2 Champions League quarter-final defeat to Bayern Munich that saw his predecessor Quique Setien sacked and contributed to Lionel Messi's transfer request bombshell.

If Barcelona regain the title from Madrid from this point, it would be a considerable achievement. Here is how they must go about it.

 #ElClásico in @LaLigaEN!

 Matchday 7
 25/10/2020
 Barça - Madrid. Camp Nou

 Matchday 30
 11/04/2021
 Madrid - Barça. Santiago Bernabéu pic.twitter.com/6tPW2ZgGt7

— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 31, 2020 September 27 – Barcelona v Villarreal
September 30 – Celta Vigo v Barcelona
October 4 – Barcelona v Sevilla
October 18 – Getafe v Barcelona
October 25 – Barcelona v Real Madrid
November 1 – Deportivo Alaves v Barcelona
November 8 – Barcelona v Real Betis
November 22 – Atletico Madrid v Barcelona
November 29 – Barcelona v Osasuna
December 6 – Cadiz v Barcelona
December 13 – Barcelona v Levante
December 20 – Barcelona v Valencia
December 23 – Real Valladolid v Barcelona
December 30 – Barcelona v Eibar
January 3 – Huesca v Barcelona
January 5 – Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona
January 10 – Granada v Barcelona
January 20 – Barcelona v Real Sociedad
January 24 – Elche v Barcelona
January 31 – Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao
February 7 – Real Betis v Barcelona
February 14 – Barcelona v Deportivo Alaves
February 21 – Barcelona v Cadiz
February 28 – Sevilla v Barcelona
March 7 – Osasuna v Barcelona
March 14 – Barcelona v Huesca
March 21 – Real Sociedad v Barcelona
April 4 – Barcelona v Real Valladolid
April 11 – Real Madrid v Barcelona
April 21 – Barcelona v Getafe
April 25 – Villarreal v Barcelona
April 28 – Barcelona v Granada
May 2 – Valencia v Barcelona
May 9 – Barcelona v Atletico Madrid
May 12 – Levante v Barcelona
May 16 – Barcelona v Celta Vigo
May 23 – Eibar v Barcelona
TBC – Barcelona v Elche

Barcelona will host Real Madrid in the first the first Clasico of 2020-21 on October 25 after LaLiga announced its fixture schedule for the forthcoming season.

The return between the two great rivals comes next April 11 on matchday 30, when fans could be back at the Santiago Bernabeu with the title on the line.

Atletico Madrid will welcome Barca – who have endured a tempestuous start to Ronaldo Koeman's reign as head coach due to Lionel Messi's transfer request and subsequent no-show for pre-season preparations – to the Wanda Metropolitano on November 22, a month before the first Madrid derby of the season across town on December 13.

Ateti's home derby comes on March 7, while they face Barca at Camp Nou on May 9 – the 35th matchweek.

Along with Getafe and Europa League winners Sevilla, LaLiga's big three will contribute to a staggered start to the campaign on account of their European involvement.

All five will sit out the opening weekend of September 12-13, with Atletico's scheduled home-match against Sevilla to take place in January 12.

Real Madrid versus Getafe and Barcelona versus promotion play-off winners Elche, also part of the listed matchweek one schedule, will take place on suitable European competition dates in February and March next year.

Madrid then get under way the following weekend at Real Sociedad, who will hope to have new marquee signing David Silva fit and available after the former Manchester City playmaker tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.

Sevilla, Barca and Atleti, owing to their somewhat contrasting experiences in the final stages of UEFA tournaments this month, will not begin LaLiga action until September 27, with Koeman's side at home to Villarreal, Diego Simeone's men hosting Granada and Sevilla travelling to newly promoted Cadiz.

Segunda Division champions Huesca are away to Villarreal on the opening weekend, with Cadiz welcoming Osasuna.

LALIGA OPENING WEEKEND FIXTURES

Deportivo Alaves v Real Betis
Atletico Madrid v Sevilla (rescheduled for January 12, 2021)
Barcelona v Elche (rescheduled for February/March 2021 on European competition dates)
Eibar v Celta Vigo
Cadiz v Osasuna
Granada v Athletic Bilbao
Real Madrid v Getafe (rescheduled for February/March 2021 on European competition dates)
Valencia v Levante
Real Valladolid v Real Sociedad
Villarreal v Huesca

Martin Braithwaite refuted claims he has already asked for the Barcelona number 10 shirt worn by Lionel Messi.

A report in Spain claimed Braithwaite had brought up the prospect of taking on the iconic jersey in negotiations with the Blaugrana.

Messi has informed Barca of his desire to leave Camp Nou, with Manchester City widely linked with a stunning move for the Catalan club's greatest ever player.

But Braithwaite insisted he made no such demand and called the mere suggestion "so disrespectful".

"What do people think themselves? Of course I did not go to the club and ask for Messi's number," he told Danish newspaper BT. "It would be so disrespectful.

"I really feel that the people who come up with these kinds of stories lack respect for a lot of people.

"A lot of things are being written about Messi and I do not know what is happening. I can only say that he is a great player and person to be team-mates with.

"It goes without saying what he can do as a football player when he shows it every weekend. He is one of the best players ever and, of course, it will be a loss for the club if he disappears.

"I hope it does not happen, but I do not know what is happening, so I do not want to comment on something I do not know anything about."

Braithwaite is more certain of his own future at Barca, having signed a contract until 2024 when he joined from Leganes in February.

"There are, of course, a lot of rumours," he said. "Our whole team has been linked away, so it's only natural that I, too, have been linked.

"This is how it is to play at Barcelona when you do not achieve the club's goal."

Braithwaite added: "I have a contract for four more years with Barcelona.

"I'm having a great time at the club and they're happy with me, it seems, so I have a really good sense of where I am.

"To be honest, I have not had any talks about changing clubs with anyone at all. You're the first one I talk to about it, because I have not had a single thought about it at all.

"I'm just thinking about how to prepare to play well for Barcelona next season. I'm insanely hungry to get out next season and win a lot of titles."

Manchester United fans have been waiting for a new face to arrive and their patience is set to be rewarded.

Despite reported interest from Barcelona, Real Madrid and Tottenham, Ajax's Donny van de Beek is poised for Old Trafford.

Will there be more arrivals at United?

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD TO SIGN VAN DE BEEK

Manchester United have agreed a fee to sign Ajax star Donny van de Beek, according to The Guardian and widespread reports.

Van de Beek has been linked to United, Barcelona and Real Madrid, while Tottenham were also reportedly interested.

But United are set to complete their first serious transfer ahead of the 2020-21 season in a deal reportedly worth £35.7m (€40m) plus add-ons.

 

ROUND-UP

Chelsea are close to signing Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz, reports Sport Bild. Fabrizio Romano, meanwhile, says it is only a matter of time before the Germany international completes a €100m (£89m) switch.

Sandro Tonali will join Milan, claims Romano. The Brescia sensation had been tipped to move to Inter, however, Milan are set to sign Tonali on an initial loan deal.

- Calciomercato reports Juventus want to sell Douglas Costa amid links to United. New head coach Andrea Pirlo wants to overhaul his squad.

- La Gazzetta dello Sport says Barca are considering Lazio striker Ciro Immobile as a replacement for Luis Suarez, who has been linked to Juve. Immobile finished as Serie A's top goalscorer last season.

- According to Super Deporte, Valencia are considering a move for Arsenal outcast Matteo Guendouzi.

Barca are working on reuniting Liverpool star Georginio Wijnaldum with former Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman, says Mundo Deportivo. Koeman will lead Barca after leaving his international post to replace Quique Setien.

- The Mirror claims Liverpool are ready to make an offer for Watford's Ismaila Sarr, who is valued at £40m.

- Antonio Conte has requested Inter sign N'Golo Kante from Chelsea, says Tuttomercatoweb. Inter are reportedly hoping to land the Frenchman initially on loan with the option to buy. It comes as Inter look to raise funds through the sales of players like Roberto Gagliardini, Matias Vecino and Marcelo Brozovic.

- Journalist Fredrik A.N. Filtvedt claims United are interested in Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara. Liverpool have been tipped to sign the Spaniard.

Arturo Vidal said Barcelona have to "change a lot of things" as their DNA is being left behind amid the club's crisis, which could see Lionel Messi sensationally leave.

Messi has handed in a transfer request and the Barca captain is reportedly wanted by Pep Guardiola's Manchester City in the Premier League, while Paris Saint-Germain, Inter and Juventus have also been linked.

It comes after Barca were dethroned by bitter rivals Real Madrid in LaLiga and humiliated 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the 2019-20 Champions League quarter-finals, with Ronald Koeman replacing Quique Setien – who was only appointed head coach in January.

And Barca midfielder Vidal has called on the embattled side to change their mindset as pressure mounts on president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

"Barcelona have done things that don't fit with a team at the top level," Vidal said in an interview with Daniel Habif via Youtube.

"In the end, you realise this when you face an organised team, a team that has a winning mentality, with players that are physically prepared and that has a very strong game plan.

"That takes its toll when you're weak in the head and in energy - that happened to us. Barcelona first have to change the way they think because football has evolved a lot.

"DNA is being left behind and other teams are improving in other aspects. Nowadays, football is more physical, more about strength and speed, and technical ability can sometimes come second. Barcelona have to change lots of things.

"A club, which I think is the best in the world, can't have 13 professional players and the rest youngsters.

"Not because they don't deserve to be there, but they have to be competing with the best and with who has to play.

"Every club has 23 players fighting for a place, improving and getting better every day. But when they don't progress, when you think you can always win with your DNA, that's when you're mistaken."

"There are lots of good players. We have Messi, who is the number one and is an alien, but he needs help," Vidal added. "He needs players that improve the team and that get better results."

Vidal's future at Camp Nou is far from certain amid links to Serie A champions Juve and Antonio Conte's Inter.

Chile international Vidal won four league titles during his time at Juve – three of those under head coach Conte before eventually joining Bayern Munich in 2015.

"Conte is like a machine, he is tactically the best," Vidal said. "As for my future, I'm relaxed, we'll see what happens. I am very fond of Barcelona, but we'll see."

Former Juve team-mate Andrea Pirlo is now coach of the Turin giants after replacing Maurizio Sarri, and Vidal added: "It's spectacular that he has become the coach of Juventus.

"If he was incredible as a player, imagine him as a coach. He has a real vision of the sport that very few have ever had in football, so I think he can do really well.

"Pirlo is also a wonderful person too, so I can only imagine he’ll be a great coach. We spent four years together and won the Scudetto four times, so if he were to call me, I'd be happy."

The €700million release clause in Lionel Messi's Barcelona contract remains valid and must be paid for his deal to be terminated unilaterally, LaLiga has said.

Messi has informed Barca he wants to leave the club and he is thought to have not attended pre-season medical tests with the rest of the first team on Sunday.

According to reports, the Argentina star believes the clause in his contract that allows him to terminate it at the end of each season - and thereby become a free agent - still applies because 2019-20 was extended to August due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, Barcelona appear adamant this clause has long since expired and that the player's €700m buyout option must be paid if he is to be released.

In a statement issued on Sunday, LaLiga insisted Messi's contract can only be terminated by the player if the release clause is paid in full.

The LaLiga statement said: "The contract is currently in force and contains a 'termination clause' applicable in the event that Lionel Andres Messi decides to urge the early unilateral termination of the contract, carried out in accordance with article 16 of royal decree 1006/1985, of June 26, by which the special employment relationship of professional athletes is regulated.

"In compliance with the applicable regulations, and following corresponding procedure in these cases, LaLiga will not carry out the process for a player to be de-registered from the federation unless they have previously paid the amount of said clause."

Messi is reportedly determined to leave Barca, the club he joined as a 13-year-old, but any move would be complicated by the need for a suitor to pay a transfer fee.

Manchester City, Inter, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus are said to be the most likely to sign him, but his substantial wages present a major obstacle in negotiations even before a transfer fee is considered.

Although Barca would be unlikely to hold out for €700m, they are likely to demand at least a nine-figure fee, even though Messi's contract expires in under a year.

Lionel Messi was reportedly absent from Barcelona's pre-season testing on Sunday as the forward continues to try to engineer a move away from the club.

First-team players were due to attend coronavirus testing ahead of a return to training from Monday as preparations for the 2020-21 season get underway.

Messi, who handed in a transfer request via burofax on Tuesday, is said to have no desire to begin pre-season preparations and, according to widespread reports, did not attend.

The 33-year-old reportedly wants to meet with the Barca board in person in order to arrange a transfer away from Camp Nou in as amicable a fashion as possible.

Messi, for his part, is said to think the clause in his contract that allows him to leave for nothing at the end of each season is still valid given the 2019-20 campaign was prolonged by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the board and president Josep Maria Bartomeu consider the clause to have expired and are thought to be unwilling to countenance selling Messi unless his €700million buyout fee is met.

Speaking at the presentation of Francisco Trincao, sporting director Ramon Planes insisted they wanted to keep Messi and rebuild the team around him under new head coach Ronald Koeman.

"You have to have enormous respect for Leo because of what he is and because of his history. We are not thinking about any contractual clause," he said.

"Messi's marriage to Barca has given both parties a lot, much joy to the fans and internally we are working to convince Messi, to find the best solution for Barca and for Messi.

"Barca has rebuilt itself many times throughout its history and has always come back strong. Our idea is to do it around the best player in the world."

Manchester City, managed by former Barca boss Pep Guardiola, are considered the favourites to sign Messi should he leave the club he joined as a 12-year-old.

Paris Saint-Germain, Inter and Juventus are also said to be preparing offers for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

A Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi reunion in Manchester?

Barcelona captain Messi has handed in a transfer request and he wants to team up with former boss Guardiola at Manchester City.

But can City and Barca reach a deal?

 

TOP STORY – BARCA WANT MESSI COMPROMISE

Barcelona believe Lionel Messi is set to join Manchester City but the embattled LaLiga giants are eyeing a £250million (€280m) compromise, according to the Mirror.

Messi wants to leave Barca and the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been linked to the likes of City, Inter, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

However, City feel they are on the brink of luring Messi to Manchester and Barca are desperately trying to recoup a fee, with the Argentina superstar hoping to leave on a free transfer.

Meanwhile, widespread reports claim Messi has told Barca he will not be attending pre-season testing on Sunday.

 

ROUND-UP

- ESPN claims Manchester United are favourites to sign Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek. The Dutch star has been linked to Barca and Real Madrid but United are in pole position to land the 23-year-old.

- Thiago Alcantara remains interested in moving to the Premier League but Liverpool are yet to make a bid for the Bayern Munich star, claims Fabrizio Romano.

- Goal says Chelsea have made a €20m (£18m) bid for Rennes goalkeeper Edouard Mendy amid doubts over Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Everton are targeting United goalkeeper Sergio Romero, reports the Mirror. The Argentina international – backup to David de Gea – has also been linked to newly promoted Leeds United. It comes as Sky Sport reports Everton have reached a deal to sign Allan from Napoli.

- According to Tuttosport, Barca forward Luis Suarez is pushing for a move to Serie A champions Juve. The Uruguayan has been told he can leave the Spanish club.

- Brescia sensation Sandro Tonali has said yes to a move to Milan, reports La Gazzetta Sportiva. Inter had been favourites to sign Tonali but city rivals Milan appear poised to land the Italy international.

Lionel Messi should leave Barcelona for a reunion with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, says former Camp Nou assistant Juan Carlos Unzue.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi sent shockwaves through world football by handing in a transfer request at Barca this week.

City are viewed as frontrunners for his signature, with Messi reported to have called Guardiola – Barcelona's head coach during a decorated period between 2008 and 2012 when Messi became widely regarded as the finest player on the planet – to give him notice of his intention to leave the club he joined as a 12-year-old.

Disputes and negotiations over how much of a fee Barcelona can collect for a player who officially remains not for sale, indeed whether they are entitled to a fee at all, are set to rumble on next week.

Unzue, who served as Guardiola's goalkeeping coach at Barca before working as assistant to Luis Enrique between 2014 and 2017, hopes a resolution that ends with Messi in Manchester is reached.

"On one hand, if he leaves Barcelona, I would love that he goes to remember old times with people he already knows and has felt a shared success with," he told Stats Perform News.

"I hope he goes to Manchester City; I say this sincerely. I am sure his decision will be very tough.

"Also, I am sure he keeps a great memory of that period with Pep because everyone has grown up alongside Pep.

"This is a reality, not just the players but everyone who has worked in the staff too. I speak for myself, but I have felt and heard that from others."

Messi requesting a move only amplified the noise of superclub in chaos, with sporting director Eric Abidal following head coach Quique Setien out of the door in the wake of the humiliating 8-2 Champions League quarter-final defeat to eventual winners Bayern Munich.

Ronald Koeman was installed as Setien's successor by under-fire president Josep Maria Bartomeu, although claims the Dutchman swiftly told Luis Suarez he was surplus to requirements apparently only exacerbated the Messi situation, which appears to have been brewing for some time.

"I think it is complicated because he is an intelligent person with a great personality, although very introverted," Unzue said.

"This is not in the heat of the moment. I am sure he has absolutely evaluated the circumstances. I think he deserves and has earned the right to make his own decision.

"We can talk about whether it is the best or the worst way. I will not say anything because I do not know what happened within the club and between the people involved. He has earned that right."

The now infamous burofax, sent by Messi's representatives to Barcelona asking to leave, sought to invoke a clause in his contract that allows him to walk away for free at the end of each season.

Even though the terms of that clause are now up for debate given how the coronavirus pandemic distorted the schedule, Unzue feels it shows Barcelona were willing to grant Messi the autonomy over his future he is now trying to exercise.

"The contracts he has signed during the last years said this," he added. "The club has left a door open to give him the opportunity to decide.

"He understands he can find other motivations, other team-mates in another place, a change that sometimes is necessary."

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will be at Paris Saint-Germain and have Pep Guardiola as their coach by next year, says Fabrice Pancrate.

Messi has told Barcelona he wants out but was reportedly turned down in his request for a meeting with club president Josep Maria Bartomeu to discuss a transfer.

PSG sporting director Leonardo is said to have contacted the 33-year-old's father, Jorge, to inquire about his situation, though Manchester City – managed by former Barca boss Guardiola – are rumoured to be the favourites to sign the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

However, Pancrate, who played for PSG between 2004 and 2009, believes the Ligue 1 champions have a masterplan in place which involves not only Messi, but Guardiola and Juventus star Ronaldo too.

"I'll tell you what I think. Beyond the city itself – because Manchester is ugly, it's grey, it's raining – there are plenty of things that make me say that Messi is going to Paris," Pancrate told Le Parisien

"And Ronaldo will join him in 2021. And Guardiola too.

"I think Guardiola and Messi have spoken to each other before. Guardiola must have told him: 'We're going to mix things up. I want you in Manchester, but go to Paris and don't worry, next year I'll join you there.'

"I see it like that. And there, the slogan of PSG – 'let's dream bigger' – it makes perfect sense!

"It would be the first team in the world to bring together four aliens: Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar, Mbappe. With a crazy coach."

Ronaldo is about to enter his third season at Juve, having left Real Madrid in a €112million deal in 2018, but Pancrate believes a move to PSG would make perfect sense.

"Even though people say Messi is already 33, and that Ronaldo is going to be 36, stars of their calibre don't need to run," Pancrate continued. 

"It's the ball that moves! They will always make a technical difference. And then if you were able to take a [Gianluigi] Buffon or a David Beckham at 37, with a marketing side that no one hides, it makes perfect sense to take a Ronaldo who is still very competitive, very professional, who is afraid of nothing. 

"Paris has everything to gain! It's too premature for him to leave the European scene. He needs ever higher challenges. Who can offer him that after Juve? Can you imagine this dream team? It would just be grandiose."

The agent who helped Lionel Messi join Barcelona admits Manchester City represent a "rational choice" for the player and has clarified his suggestion that Inter will sign him.

The latest reports from Spain indicate Messi remains set on leaving Barca in this transfer window despite the club's determination to keep him.

City are considered one of the favourites to sign the Argentina star, but Inter and Paris Saint-Germain are also said to be preparing offers.

Josep Maria Minguella, the agent who helped to secure Messi's move to La Masia at the age of 13, previously indicated his belief that he will sign for Inter but says those remarks were misunderstood.

"My comments were misinterpreted," he told Tuttomercatoweb. "A few days ago, I simply said Inter is one of the options by virtue of the more advantageous tax system that exists in Italy.

"We also saw that with Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus two years ago... many champions are thinking of moving to Serie A nowadays.

"By the way, precisely because CR7 is already there, I don't think the Bianconeri are in the running [for Messi]."

When asked where he thinks the six-time Ballon d'Or winner will go, Minguella replied that he believes "there are many more chances Messi will stay at Barcelona until 2021", when his contract expires, rather than leave this year.

"Barca have already decided and I am convinced they will defend that choice until the end," he said.

"Leo has a contract and not even his own lawyers are sure he can move without paying that famous €700million release clause."

Minguella said Messi's attempts to quit the club are "surprising and unexpected" but added: "My long experience in the world of football has taught me that anything can always happen, absolutely anything.

"Cristiano Ronaldo's move from Real Madrid to Juventus was just the most recent example. In the football system, nothing is impossible."

Lionel Messi reportedly wants to negotiate his exit from Barcelona, who have other plans.

Messi, 33, has sensationally requested to leave Barca, the club where he has spent his entire professional career.

Talk around the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner continues.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI WANTS TO NEGOTIATE BARCELONA EXIT

Messi wants to negotiate his exit from Barcelona, according to widespread reports in Spain.

Mundo Deportivo claims Barca insist Messi is not for sale, while adding the Argentina international wants a meeting with president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have been most strongly linked with moves for Messi.

L'Equipe reports PSG sporting director Leonardo called Messi's father, Jorge, but added City appear to be frontrunners.

It also says Juventus tried a discreet approach for Messi.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Barcelona and the Catalan giants are looking to strengthen. Sport reports they are interested in Lazio star Ciro Immobile, who equalled Gonzalo Higuain's Serie A record with 36 goals in a single season in 2019-20.

- At Real Madrid, James Rodriguez is widely expected to make an exit. The Sun reports Everton have agreed personal terms with James on a £4million-per-year deal.

- Inter could be close to an addition ahead of their 2020-21 season. Fabrizio Romano says the Nerazzurri are close to sealing a deal for Roma left-back Aleksandar Kolarov for around €2m.

- After Ben Chilwell joined Chelsea, Leicester City may have found their replacement at left-back. The Sun reports they have lined up a move for Monaco defender Fode Ballo-Toure.

- Emiliano Martinez took his chance when given his opportunity as Arsenal's number one, but it could give the Premier League side a chance to cash in. The Athletic states Arsenal are prepared to sell the goalkeeper during this transfer window.

Lyon star Memphis Depay admitted he can only "dream of big clubs" amid links with a move to Barcelona.

Depay, 26, has been linked with a switch to the LaLiga giants, where his former Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman has taken over as boss.

The attacker scored a hat-trick as Lyon crushed Dijon 4-1 in their Ligue 1 opener on Friday.

Speaking afterwards, Depay said he was yet to speak to Koeman, but admitted he was dreaming of joining a big club, with Lionel Messi set to leave Barcelona.

"I'm actually focused here on Lyon. I'm glad that I'm back, I didn't speak with Koeman yet," he told a news conference.

"You know he's been involved in my recovery, coming to Rome to see me, when I was training in Holland he came to see me so the relationship is good anyway.

"Now obviously he is coach of Barcelona, and me personally I'm focused on Lyon because I'm here right now. I can dream of big clubs and we will see what happens, but for the moment I'm a player here and I'm taking great responsibility I think.

"I must say the club gives me a lot of freedom and a lot of respect so I'm happy with that and I try to do my best to give everything back for the club.

"This season obviously it's disappointing that we don't play Champions League, for us, for the coach, for the team, for the president, for the city, for the fans, because they are used to do that and we have to play Champions League with our squad so that's frustrating to be honest, but we have to work to be back as soon as possible."

With the 2019-20 Ligue 1 season cut short due to coronavirus, Lyon finished seventh, while they produced a fine run to the Champions League semi-finals.

Depay, who scored 15 goals last season, said Lyon should be aiming to dethrone Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1.

"That's what we're aiming for, me and the team. That should be the ambition," he said.

"We have shown that we can compete with them when we play against them, we can make it very difficult, obviously it was sad that we didn't win the cup [Coupe de la Ligue] final, but it's more than only those games.

"You have to win the smaller games as well and in the past we have seen that sometimes it doesn't happen so we have to stay focused, take it game by game and ambition must be very, very high. We have a lot of good players, intelligent players, we try to do our best to compete. That's why I came to Lyon."

Netherlands interim coach Dwight Lodeweges has handed maiden senior call-ups to promising youngsters Mohamed Ihattaren, Perr Schuurs and Owen Wijndal for their upcoming Nations League fixtures against Poland and Italy.

Lodeweges, who was assistant to Ronald Koeman until his departure to Barcelona earlier this month, had the responsibility of selecting the full squad for the first time.

He has taken the opportunity to introduce fresh faces and recall some familiar ones not seen in the selection for several years, while Juventus centre-back Matthijs de Ligt remains sidelined after knee surgery.

Attacking midfielder Ihattaren impressed in his 22 Eredivisie appearances for PSV in 2019-20 and declared for the Netherlands last year having also been eligible for Morocco.

Ball-playing centre-back Schuurs broke into Ajax's first-team squad before Dutch football was halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Similarly, attack-minded left-back Wijndal – also 20 years old, like Ihattaren and Schuurs – earned rave reviews with AZ prior to the 2019-20 campaign being cancelled.

While those three will be hoping for their first caps, Leroy Fer and Tim Krul are aiming to return to action with the national side after significant periods away.

Krul last played for his country in October 2015, while Fer's absence has been 11 months longer – he featured most recently against Mexico in November 2014.

Daley Blind was among several on the provisional list, but he has been discarded after a recent health scare in an Ajax friendly.

The centre-back, who was last year fitted with a subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator after being diagnosed with heart muscle inflammation, collapsed in the meeting with Hertha Berlin but insisted he was "feeling fine" when he provided an update on Wednesday.

Myron Boadu, Teun Koopmeiners and Calvin Stengs were among the more surprising omissions of those on the provisional list.

The Netherlands face Poland on September 4 and Italy three days later.

Netherlands squad in full:

Jasper Cillessen (Valencia), Marco Bizot  (AZ), Tim Krul (Norwich City); Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Denzel Dumfries (PSV), Nathan Ake (Manchester City), Hans Hateboer (Atalanta), Perr Schuurs (Ajax), Joel Veltman (Brighton and Hove Albion), Stefan de Vrij (Inter), Owen Wijndal (AZ); Donny van de Beek (Ajax), Leroy Fer (Feyenoord), Mohamed Ihattaren (PSV), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Marten de Roon (Atalanta), Kevin Strootman (Marseille), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool); Luuk de Jong (Sevilla), Quincy Promes (Ajax), Ryan Babel (Galatasaray), Steven Bergwijn (Tottenham).

Jurgen Klopp refused to be drawn over Georginio Wijnaldum's future at Liverpool, insisting the situation was "all good" amid speculation the midfielder is a transfer target for Barcelona.

Wijnaldum has become a key member of Klopp's squad in recent seasons, making 37 Premier League appearances last term as Liverpool ended their 30-year title wait.

The Netherlands international was also influential during the Reds' Champions League success in 2019, though has now entered the final year of his contract at Anfield.

Media reports have linked the player with Barca, where his former national team boss Ronald Koeman is in charge, but Klopp was unwilling to discuss the matter in great detail on Friday.

Speaking in his pre-match press conference ahead of the Community Shield against Arsenal, the Liverpool boss said: "That's an open contract situation, otherwise we would know.

"It's all between us and the player, these kind of things. It's all good at the moment, all fine. Gini played very well in pre-season and has obviously had a couple of good seasons for us. 

"That's all I can say about that."

The reigning champions may have lined up reinforcements in midfield, however, if rumours of a move for Thiago Alcantara are to be believed.

The Spaniard helped Bayern Munich achieve the treble but has made clear his desire to move on for a new challenge, though the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic could restrict the amount of business Liverpool do during this transfer window.

"I don't know, I don't know what will happen. There's a long time to go until October 6 [when the window closes]," Klopp replied when asked about potential new signings in general.

"I think the philosophy of this club is pretty clear. We will see how much we can, or how much we want to spend, all these kind of things."

The emergence of Rhian Brewster, who scored twice in the pre-season friendly against Salzburg this week, could negate the need to add further firepower up front.

Alternatively, the 20-year-old forward could be sent out on loan again, as was the case in the previous season when he had a temporary spell in the Championship with Swansea City.

"We have to see what will happen in the next few weeks or so. We want to use Rhian but want to help him as well, that's why we have to make decisions," Klopp said about Brewster.

"He looks really promising. He can obviously score goals, that's good. All the rest? We will see. He's still a young boy, especially with his position, a number nine up front. We have to see where we can give him experience, here or somewhere else.  

"We haven't decided yet - and why should we? There's absolutely no reason to rush anything. He's our boy and he's here."

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