Lionel Messi provided two assists as goals from Jordi Alba and Ilaix Moriba saw off Osasuna 2-0 to propel Barcelona to within two points of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid.

With Atleti going head-to-head with Real Madrid on Sunday, Barca took the chance to apply pressure to their title rivals by claiming an eighth successive away win in LaLiga.

Messi played an integral role, teeing up Alba to break the deadlock with a sublime pass – eight of the full-back's last 16 club goals have been assisted by Barca's number 10.

His second assist was more subtle, with a gentle lay off setting the stage for Ilaix to thump in his maiden Barca goal, and Koeman can now tune into the Madrid derby with his team in a strong position.

 

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman said the club must be realistic about their title chances in LaLiga.

Koeman's Barca are second and five points adrift of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a match in hand, through 25 rounds ahead of Saturday's trip to Osasuna.

Barca – into next month's Copa del Rey final as they look to overturn a 4-1 deficit against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last 16 – have struggled to convince this season.

While Koeman played down talk of the title, the Dutchman knows Barca have a chance to end the season on a high in the Copa final against Athletic Bilbao on April 17.

"As the coach and the players we have to be more realistic," Koeman told reporters. "We cannot change our minds and opinions about the team's chances to win something all the time.

"We know we have the [Copa del Rey] final and have a chance to win a big trophy in Spain. And depending on the results of the team we can fight for the title.

"We're several points behind Atletico Madrid and we can't lose any more points because then our objective will change and that's difficult.

"Hopefully at the end of the season we can say that, despite some problems, we have done well and that we have won a title. And that would be great."

Barcelona are undefeated in their last 15 games in LaLiga (W12 D3) – the second best current run of any team in the top five European leagues, only behind Premier League leaders Manchester City (19).

Lionel Messi has scored 19 goals in 23 LaLiga appearances this season and the six-time Ballon d'Or winner could reach 20 goals in a 13th consecutive campaign in the competition – a record.

Barca captain Messi has scored 23 goals in 19 LaLiga appearances against Osasuna, netting three braces in his last five games against them at El Sadar in the league.

Lionel Messi's inspirational form through February has seen the Barcelona captain collect his first Player of the Month award of the season.

February was Messi's most fruitful month of the 2020-21 campaign to date as he scored seven goals, two more than he managed in January.

No player scored more than him, while Real Sociedad's Alexander Isak was the only other individual to net more than four times in the month.

Messi's goalscoring habits helped Barca win four of their five games in the qualifying period, all of which saw him score at least once.

As such, Barca have improved their chances of potentially sparking a genuine title scrap in the final months of the season, with the Blaugrana only five points adrift of the leaders Atletico Madrid.

 

While Diego Simeone's men do still have a game in hand, Los Colchoneros also have the tricky test of a derby clash with Real Madrid to look forward to this weekend.

Messi's commitment to the cause was questioned earlier in the campaign after he rocked the club in pre-season with his transfer request.

He had only scored four times heading into December, when he added a further three – he already has 12 in 2021 and sits atop the 'Pichichi' standings with 19, three clear of nearest rival and friend Luis Suarez.

Messi is only the second Barcelona player to win the award this term, with Ansu Fati – who has missed much of 2020-21 through injury – claiming it for September.

Ronald Koeman's captain saw off competition from Isak, Yassine Bounou, Thibaut Courtois, Alex Berenguer, Nabil Fekir and Jose Luis Morales to win the prize.

Ronald Koeman has grown tired of questions over his future at Barcelona and is now eager for the arrival of a new club president to end the uncertainty.

After a delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic, elections to determine Josep Maria Bartomeu's successor will be held on Sunday.

Joan Laporta, Toni Freixa and Victor Font are the remaining candidates, with the decision over who will be in charge of the first team likely to sway the minds of many voting members.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta and Al-Sadd coach Xavi have been tipped to return to Camp Nou to replace Koeman should the next president decide a change in leadership is required.

However, Koeman's own position has been strengthened by some recent results, specifically the Copa del Rey triumph over Sevilla this week, with Barca recovering from a 2-0 first-leg deficit to win the tie 3-2 after extra time.

Koeman accepts the decision is largely beyond his control, but he has been wearied by the constant questions put to him about his chances of staying in the role.

Speaking ahead of Barca's LaLiga trip to Osasuna on Saturday, he said: "It's not in my hands. I have another year of my contract. Luckily, there'll be a new president in two or three days and we'll talk.

"I'm focused on winning games and on the possibility of winning the Copa del Rey. The rest is not in my hands.

"Of course, having a president is really important. It's the biggest club in the world and it's essential to know the possibilities that will open up to improve a lot of things. That's it."

When asked about the public discussion around possible replacement coaches, Koeman said: "This happens when a new president is coming. It doesn't bother me. I'm focused on my job. There are so many games that I can't think about other things.

"I'm not interested or bothered by names like Xavi or others. A new president is coming in and he'll decide. I'm tired of answering this kind of question.

"We're doing well, but we have to look for consistency. We have to concentrate on what we're doing. We're still lacking a lot.

"We've improved in terms of individual errors, we press more and there are phases of the game where we have improved with having three at the back. There are various things beyond the system."

Three wins in a row for Barca without conceding a goal has come at a key time in their season. As well as reaching another Copa final, their 10th in the past 13 seasons, they have closed to within five points of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, having played a game more.

With Atleti facing Real Madrid on Sunday, Koeman is likely to be supporting Zinedine Zidane's side for a day to give Barca's title chances a further boost.

"The main thing is our game. We have to win, and then the best result is that the team in first loses," he said.

Marcelino lauded Athletic Bilbao, who will contest two Copa del Rey finals within a fortnight after overcoming Levante on Thursday.

Athletic saw off Levante 2-1 in extra time and 3-2 on aggregate to set up a showdown with LaLiga giants Barcelona in the Copa del Rey decider next month.

Supercopa de Espana champions after upstaging Barca in January, Athletic reached last season's Copa final but, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, they are yet to play it – the match against their rivals Real Sociedad set for April 3.

Athletic are now gearing up for two finals in the space of 14 days next month, with a clash against Barca scheduled for April 17.

"These players have made Athletic Club history and sometimes that only happens once in a lifetime," Athletic head coach Marcelino said.

"They had to make the most of the moment and they did so."

Alex Berenguer's deflected, extra-time winner sealed Athletic's progress to back-to-back finals and saw them equal Real Madrid on 39 appearances in Copa del Rey deciders.

It completed a turnaround for the 23-time Copa winners, with Raul Garcia's penalty having cancelled out Roger Marti's opener.

"We are going to take it step by step and enjoy today at least," Raul Garcia added.

"I am very happy because of all the work behind this and hopefully it will be a historic year.

"It's an honour to fight alongside this group of friends.

"We have a lot of confidence in each other, always help each other and that's what is giving us the results."

Athletic and Barca will play their ninth Copa final – the most-contested fixture in the competition's history.

In fact, Athletic will become in the first team to play two Copa del Rey deciders in the same month.

Jadon Sancho can be compared to Robert Lewandowski and Lionel Messi with his performances for Borussia Dortmund, according to former Germany international goalkeeper Jens Lehmann.

After a slow start to the campaign amid talk of a move to Manchester United falling through, Sancho's form has picked up of late and he is on course to hit double figures for goals and assists for the third Bundesliga season running.

The England international last week registered his 50th assist in the German top flight, becoming the youngest ever player to do so in what was his 99th appearance in the competition.

Sancho has now been directly involved in 12 Bundesliga goals in 2021 - six goals and six assists - which is behind only Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski (11 goals and two assists).

In Europe's top five leagues, Barcelona forward Messi (15) is the only other player to have been directly involved in more goals this calendar year than Sancho, who is level with Atalanta's Luis Muriel.

Lehmann has been impressed by the 20-year-old's form and has backed the youngster, as well as compatriot and BVB team-mate Jude Bellingham, to remain in the Bundesliga, despite ongoing talk of a possible move to the Premier League.

"He's done very well," Lehmann told the Daily Star. "Right now his stats can be compared to Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski, and I think the third best in the whole of Europe. It's fantastic for English football."

Asked about the future of Sancho and Bellingham, Lehmann said: "Right now, I think they're staying. Most of the big clubs have full squads anyway.

"You'd have to be really, really outstanding if a bigger club tries to get you. But if you can imagine a club like Chelsea, Manchester United or Manchester City, there is already 30 or 35 players plus the players on loan.

"It's not that easy to make a decision for guys like Bellingham and Sancho at this early stage in their careers. Would they add something? We're not sure, but first of all they need to decrease their own squad size."

Sancho, who scored the winning goal for Dortmund in their DFB-Pokal win at Borussia Monchengladbach on Tuesday, is a major doubt for this weekend's Der Klassiker showdown with Bayern due to a leg injury.

Barcelona are set to be without Gerard Pique once again after the club confirmed he suffered a knee ligament injury shortly after his Copa del Rey heroics against Sevilla. 

Pique's stoppage-time header after the 90-minute mark in Wednesday's semi-final second leg saw Barca wipe out Sevilla's 2-0 lead from the first meeting last month, with Ousmane Dembele having struck early on. 

Barca went on to win 3-0 after extra time, Martin Braithwaite getting the decisive goal five minutes after the restart to leave Sevilla – who had Fernando set off just before Pique's header – on the receiving end of a commendable comeback. 

But it seemingly came at a cost, with Pique appearing to hurt his knee in extra time when he was forced into an awkward turn while passing back to Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who had earlier saved a penalty from Lucas Ocampos when the score was 1-0.

Pique went down holding his knee only to eventually see out the game, suggesting the issue was not a particularly serious one. 

But Barca confirmed on Thursday that further examinations have revealed a sprain to the internal lateral ligament in his right knee. 

While the club said the length of his absence will be dependent on his recovery, such sprains can mean a six-week absence. 

That could potentially rule him out of El Clasico on April 10, while it seems a strong possibility Pique will miss the second leg of Barca's Champions League last-16 tie away to Paris Saint-Germain next week. 

PSG hold a 4-1 advantage from the first leg at Camp Nou on February 16, the match in which Pique returned from a previous knee injury sustained in November.

 

Erling Haaland continues to dominate headlines.

The Borussia Dortmund sensation is one of the most sought-after players in Europe.

Manchester City and Real Madrid are reportedly going head-to-head to sign the Norwegian.

 

TOP STORY – AGUERO OUT, HAALAND IN?

Manchester City want to sign Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland as a replacement for veteran forward Sergio Aguero, according to Bild.

Aguero, who has been hampered by injury this season, is out of contract at the end of the current campaign.

Haaland is a player in demand, having been linked to Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich.

But Haaland dominates the front pages of Thursday's Marca, Diario AS and Mundo Deportivo in Spain amid Madrid's interest.

The Norway international reportedly wants to listen to Madrid, who will need €150million to prise Haaland to the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato reports Lyon star Houssem Aouar remains on the radar of Juventus. Aouar has previously been linked with the Serie A champions, as well as Arsenal.

Chelsea are interested in Monaco's defensive midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, claims ESPN.

- O Jogo says Liverpool could reignite their interest in Sporting CP defender Nuno Mendes. Juve, Madrid and Milan have also been tracking the 18-year-old, who has a £60m (€70m) release clause.

Edinson Cavani is open to extending his United contract, according to Fabrizio Romano. Cavani joined United as a free agent on a one-year deal at the start of the season. The former PSG star has been linked with Boca Juniors.

Ronald Koeman cooled talk of Barcelona replicating their astonishing Copa del Rey comeback when they face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

Barca overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit as they stunned Sevilla 3-0 after extra time at Camp Nou on Wednesday to reach the Copa del Rey final.

Ousmane Dembele gave Barca hope with a first-half goal and goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen provided more life when he saved Lucas Ocampos' penalty 17 minutes from the end.

Gerard Pique capitalised in stoppage time, doubling Barca's lead on the night and levelling the semi-final tie 2-2 on aggregate, moments after Sevilla's Fernando was sent off.

Martin Braithwaite then put Barca ahead early in extra time as the LaLiga giants moved through to face Athletic Bilbao or Levante in the decider.

Barca will also have to come from behind on March 10 if they are to advance to the Champions League quarter-finals, with Koeman's side trailing Ligue 1 holders PSG 4-1 following the opening leg on home soil.

Speaking to reporters post-match, Barca head coach Koeman said: "2-0 it is easier for a comeback, even though it isn't easy, but 4-1 is still something else.

"And they have a great team with great players and as in any match, we start the game to win and during the game we are going to see if there is a chance to go ahead.

"If not, we will have to accept it and keep going in the same way."

Barca have struggled for form and consistency during Koeman's first season at the helm – the Spanish powerhouse five points adrift of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a match in hand.

Koeman's Barca also lost to Athletic in the Supercopa de Espana final this season.

"It is true [that this was his happiest night as Barça coach in which he felt more proud of his footballers]," Koeman said.

"It is a strong step towards wining an important title. Also, with a 2-0 against as we had to make a very complete game. As a coach, you cannot ask for anything more. We have fought, we have created, we have played and make it till the last second from a psychical point of view.

"I trust that we deserved to go ahead and now to play the final because we were the better team in both matches."

Ronald Koeman was full of admiration for the mentality of his Barcelona players after they produced an "incredible" comeback to advance to the Copa del Rey final with a 3-0 win over Sevilla.

Barca started a dramatic second leg at Camp Nou on Wednesday with a two-goal deficit, but won the tie 3-2 on aggregate to set up a final against Athletic Bilbao or Levante.

The Catalan giants hit the headlines at the start of the week when ex-president Josep Maria Bartomeu was among those arrested on Monday – he was then provisionally released under charges of unfair administration and corruption of business – as part of a police investigation into last year's 'Barcagate' scandal. 

There was no sign of any turmoil as Ousmane Dembele put Barca in front early on and Gerard Pique made it 2-2 with a last-gasp header to force extra time midweek.

Lucas Ocampos had missed a chance to level on the night when his penalty was saved by Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen with 17 minutes remaining and Sevilla had Fernando sent off before Pique struck.

Martin Braithwaite put Barca in front early in extra time and Luuk de Jong – who had been substituted – was shown a red card on the touchline for dissent after Sevilla were denied another penalty.

Barca head coach Koeman hailed the character shown by his side, who also beat Sevilla 2-0 in LaLiga on Saturday.

The former Netherlands boss said in quotes reported by Marca: "We always believed. We never gave up on the Copa. It's a question of mentality.

"I, as a coach, can't ask my team to do more than what I've seen tonight. We fought until extra time and it's incredible. I'm very happy with the team's work tonight.

"We deserved to go through. I think we were better over the two legs. We were the best team."

Koeman added in a week that will end with the Barca presidential election: "We managed to score three goals and could've scored more. You can't ask for more."

Neymar is progressing well in his recovery from an adductor injury, according to Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino. 

The Brazil star has been out of action since suffering the blow in PSG's Coupe de France win away at Caen on February 10. 

His timeline for a return put him on track to feature in the second leg of the Champions League last-16 clash with his former club Barcelona on March 10, PSG holding a commanding 4-1 lead in the tie. 

And, following PSG's 1-0 victory over Bordeaux on Wednesday, Pochettino gave an optimistic update on Neymar's status. 

He told a media conference: "Tomorrow, we will evaluate the players and the fact that we can recover a few players, that would be a good thing for the match on Saturday [against Brest in the Coupe de France]. 

"Neymar's progression is favourable. In the coming days, we will assess to see if he can be ready." 

PSG remain two points behind Lille at the top of Ligue 1, Les Dogues scoring twice in stoppage time to beat Marseille 2-0 and stay at the summit. 

"I think we started the game well. We had a good first half," added Pochettino. "In the second half, Bordeaux increased the pace of play, we suffered a bit, but then we controlled. We defended well and I'm very happy with the team's performance. 

"We know that we have 10 matches left and that if we win them, with direct confrontations, we know that we will be champions. 

"For all the time that I have been in the business, I know that you have to be patient." 

Barcelona produced a storming fightback to reach the Copa del Rey final thanks to a dramatic 3-0 victory over Sevilla after extra time at Camp Nou. 

The Catalan giants hit the headlines at the start of the week when president Josep Maria Bartomeu was among those arrested on Monday - he was then provisionally released under charges of unfair administration and corruption of business - as part of a police investigation into last year's 'Barcagate' scandal. 

Barca's players looked anything but affected by off-field events, however, as they dominated the majority of the second leg, Ousmane Dembele giving them a richly deserved first-half lead. 

Lucas Ocampos had a penalty saved by Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen with 17 minutes to go and Gerard Pique made him pay by making it 2-2 on aggregate right at the end of stoppage time, moments after Sevilla had seen Fernando sent off. 

Martin Braithwaite put Barca in front early in extra time and Luuk de Jong - who had been substituted - was shown a red card for dissent after Sevilla were not awarded a penalty, with the hosts going through to face Athletic Bilbao or Levante in the final. 

Dembele opened the scoring in the 12th minute in a scintillating Barca start, showing excellent close control in the penalty area before drifting outside the box to find the top-right corner with a sublime right-footed finish from 20 yards out. 

The Blaugrana were causing Sevilla all sorts of problems with their slick passing and movement in a relentless first-half display, Marcos Acuna clearing a deflected shot from the brilliant Lionel Messi off the line. 

Barca were almost level when Jordi Alba's acrobatic volley rattled the crossbar and there was more drama when Ocampos' tame penalty was saved by Ter Stegen after the Sevilla player had been upended by Oscar Mingueza. 

Substitute Antoine Griezmann then produced the impact hoped for with time almost up, delivering an inviting cross for Pique to head home, this after Fernando was shown a second yellow card for upending Messi. 

Barca were in front for the first time in the tie four minutes into extra time, Braithwaite coming off the bench to nod in Alba's superb cross. 

Sevilla thought they had a second penalty for handball against Clement Lenglet but the VAR verdict ruled there was no intent, resulting in De Jong seeing red on a miserable night for the visitors.

Paris Saint-Germain striker Moise Kean has tested positive for coronavirus. 

The 21-year-old will miss Wednesday's Ligue 1 clash with Bordeaux and is likely to be unavailable for Saturday's Coupe de France visit to Brest. 

Kean could also be a doubt for the second leg of the Champions League last-16 tie with Barcelona, which takes place next Wednesday in Paris. 

PSG are already without the injured Neymar and suspended Kylian Mbappe for the game with Bordeaux at the Matmut Atlantique Stadium. 

Kean has scored 15 goals for PSG in all competitions this season since joining on loan from Everton. 

Mauricio Pochettino's side head into the Bordeaux contest two points behind league leaders Lille, who host Marseille.

Mikel Arteta was not surprised to see himself linked to the Barcelona job amid presidential elections at Camp Nou this week.

The Arsenal boss thinks connections with him and Barca, where he started his playing career, are inevitable.

However, Arteta insisted his full focus for "today and tomorrow" was on managing Arsenal.

Arteta won the FA Cup and Community Shield early in his 14-month tenure but his first full season has proved more difficult.

Arsenal are 10th in the Premier League table going into Saturday's away match at Burnley, though they did earn an impressive comeback win over Leicester City last time out.

The Gunners have also reached the Europa League last 16 and Arteta stressed there was so much more to do.

"There is always going to be speculation when there's elections in Barcelona," Arteta told a news conference amid reports leading candidate Joan Laporta wants to hire him.

"It is a huge team. Obviously, I was raised there as a player and they are always going to be linked.

"But I'm fully focused on the job that I have to do here, which we have a lot to do, and I'm really enjoying it.

"Today and tomorrow I'm the manager of Arsenal Football Club.

"I'm really enjoying it and I want to do much better than what we've done.

"I don't know [what is different about coaching Barca or Arsenal]. What I can tell you is that I feel privileged to manage this football club and I'm extremely happy."
 

Having stressed his commitment to Arsenal, Arteta was pressed on whether he had started contract negotiations with his current club.

The Spaniard revealed he had not, but did not feel it was a pressing issue as his deal runs until 2023.

"We are in the middle of the season," Arteta added. "We have a lot to play for and at the moment it's not a priority. 

"That's okay, I still have a contract here, I am happy here and I don't think it's something urgent.

"The aim is to go on and beat Burnley, we have been chasing [a top-four place] for a while but it is not in our hands.

"The only thing we can control is our own results and performances. 

"We are fully determined to do that better than what we have done in the past eight months."

Could Gianluigi Donnarumma swap Milan for London?

Donnarumma's future with Serie A outfit Milan is far from certain as he prepares to become a free agent.

While Chelsea already boast Edouard Mendy and Kepa Arrizabalaga in their goalkeeping ranks, the Premier League giants are reportedly interested in Donnarumma.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA EYE DONNARUMMA

Chelsea are monitoring Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma amid his contract situation at San Siro, according to Eurosport.

Donnarumma is out of contract at season's end and while Milan have been discussing a new deal, the Italy star is yet to commit to the Serie A club.

The 22-year-old has already been linked with the likes of Manchester United, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain.

 

ROUND-UP

- Diario AS reports PSG are fighting Real Madrid to sign Bayern star David Alaba. The Austria international will leave Bayern on a free transfer at season's end and while he has been tipped to join Madrid, PSG remain keen on him, along with Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.

Inter have reached a "handshake agreement" with Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, claims Sport Mediaset. The Netherlands international, whose contract expires at the end of June, has been linked to Barcelona.

- Borussia Dortmund are increasingly resigned to losing star forward Erling Haaland at the end of the season as they turn to Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri, says Eurosport. Haaland is one of the most sought-after players in Europe, wanted by City, United, Madrid, Barca, PSG, Chelsea, Liverpool and others.

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