Diego Simeone is confident Atletico Madrid officials will do what is best for the club amid talk of a new European Super League.

Reports emerged on Sunday claiming that 12 clubs – including LaLiga leaders Atleti – will compete in the new competition, a rival to the UEFA Champions League. 

Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Milan and Inter are said to be the other sides involved, though the proposal reportedly includes an expansion option to 16 or 18 teams.

UEFA responded strongly, insisting it will do everything in its power to block the plans, including banning the 12 clubs from their own competitions, while there has also been a suggestion that players involved may not be allowed to represent their countries on the international stage.

Speaking after his side's 5-0 thumping of rock-bottom Eibar on Sunday, Simeone said he had no doubts any decision made by Atleti would have the club's best interests at heart.

"We are prepared to train the clubs," he told a media conference. "Our club will make the best decision for our future.

"I am a coach and I am prepared to train wherever they tell me. I have no doubt that the club will decide what is best for us."

Atleti tightened their grip at the LaLiga summit with a clinical win over Eibar, who did not register a single shot.

Angel Correa put Atleti 2-0 up at the interval – his first brace in 273 games across all competitions for the club – before Yannick Carrasco added a third shortly after the interval.

Marcos Llorente then added a double of his own to wrap up all three points in style, the Spaniard's first helping him reach 10 LaLiga goals in a season for the first time in his career.

It marked just Atleti's fifth win in their past 12 LaLiga matches, but they still have a slender advantage over neighbours Real Madrid and Barcelona as they bid to win a first title since the 2013-14 season.

Atleti did not have a shot on goal until the 34th minute and Simeone was pleased with his side's renewed dynamism after the interval.

"Goals always generate enthusiasm and energy," he added. "The second half was not the same as the first; we were much more dynamic, precise, with more movements. Energy and winning always gives you strength.

"The most important thing is to be able to win. It is what gives you peace of mind for the next day."

Correa has now been involved in 17 goals this season across all competitions (six goals, 11 assists) – just one behind his best ever return for Atleti in a single season (18 in 2016-17 and 2017-18).

Simeone was pleased with the Argentina international's contribution after a season which has seen him feature in every LaLiga game.

"We have been working together for many years," Simeone said. "We understand when to talk and when to leave the footballer alone and the numbers speak for themselves in the confidence we have in him; he is the only one who has participated in all the games of the season."

Atletico Madrid tightened their grip at the LaLiga summit after cruising to a 5-0 win over rock-bottom Eibar at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Los Colchoneros' bid for a first top-flight title since the 2013-14 season had faltered in recent weeks, but just a second win in six games keeps them a step ahead of neighbours Real Madrid. This result meant Real stood four points behind Atletico heading into a clash with Getafe later on Sunday.

Diego Simeone's home side were poor for much of the first half, yet Angel Correa struck twice shortly before the interval to give them a healthy lead.

Yannick Carrasco and Marcos Llorente added gloss to the scoreline in the second half as Atleti extended their unbeaten home run over Eibar to seven matches.

Despite a dismal start, which did not herald a shot until the 34th minute, Atleti went in at the break two goals to the good.

Correa opened the scoring in the 42nd minute, prodding in at the back post after Hector Herrera headed on Kieran Trippier's corner.

The man who made the breakthrough grabbed a second goal just two minutes later, superbly turning Anaitz Arbilla after collecting Carrasco's pass before slotting past Marko Dmitrovic from close range for his sixth goal of the season.

The hosts extended their advantage four minutes after the restart, Carrasco latching onto Saul Niguez's long ball over the top, rounding Dmitrovic and rolling into an empty net.

Correa turned provider for Atleti's fourth in the 53rd minute, his low pull-back into the middle of the penalty expertly dispatched by Llorente into Dmitrovic's bottom-right corner.

Llorente scored his 11th LaLiga goal of the season in the 68th minute, controlling Carrasco's pass before firing a half-volley past a hopelessly exposed Dmitrovic as Atleti sealed all three points in style.

Zinedine Zidane is waiting to learn if Eden Hazard will be fit to return for Real Madrid against Liverpool on Tuesday.

Madrid face a huge week in their season with the home leg of their Champions League quarter-final before a Clasico with Barcelona in LaLiga.

But head coach Zidane is hoping his side will receive a boost ahead of the first meeting with the Reds.

Hazard returned from injury shortly before the international break but then missed the European tie against Atalanta with a damaged hip flexor and was unable to go away with Belgium.

Red Devils boss Roberto Martinez could not even guarantee the €100million winger would make Euro 2020, although he was "very positive".

Hazard might be back in action as soon as Tuesday, with Madrid also looking to again bring Federico Valverde into the fold.

"Hopefully we can get Valverde and Hazard back," Zidane said on Saturday. "We will see tomorrow and the day after.

"Today it was not possible but I hope that on Tuesday they can be with us."

Hazard scored six goals against Liverpool in 16 games while with Chelsea.

But he has made just 36 appearances and 29 starts for Madrid since his signing in June 2019, scoring only four times and providing five assists from 38 chances created.

Hazard certainly was not missed as Los Blancos swept aside Eibar 2-0 at a stormy Estadio Alfredo di Stefano.

Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema scored in either half, while the Spain forward also hit the crossbar, opposing goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic made six saves and three of Madrid's four offsides saw goals disallowed.

"The first half, in general, was complete, with good feelings," Zidane said. "It's what I told the players.

"Then, with the storm, there were 20 difficult minutes to start the second.

"We have to recover well because we have a week with important games in the Champions League and the league. They will be entertaining.

"We must continue like this. There was a difficult moment in the season and now we have to take advantage of the current one, which is good."

Ahead of league leaders Atletico Madrid and fellow challengers Barca playing this weekend, Madrid moved up to second, three points off the summit.

That promising position means Zidane will prioritise neither domestic action nor their European exploits.

"We do not look at that," he said. "We are in the day-to-day. We are thinking about today's game, which we did very well.

"We are not going to think about one competition or the other; we are alive in both. Now you have to enjoy the moment. We have done nothing - we have to continue."

Thibaut Courtois, required to make four saves against Eibar but only really tested by an awkward Lucas Vazquez backpass, added: "We've fought all season to get to April, where everything is played for.

"Winning today put pressure on Atletico and Barcelona.

"In April, everything is played for and everything is decided; hopefully we will keep winning."

Marco Asensio emphasised the importance of Real Madrid's 2-0 win over Eibar ahead of mammoth matches against Liverpool and Barcelona.

Madrid had 21 shots at Estadio Alfredo di Stefano but had been frustrated prior to the breakthrough strike from Asensio four minutes before half-time, with Eibar goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic in inspired form.

Dmitrovic finished with six saves, while three of Madrid's four offsides saw goals ruled out, yet Karim Benzema secured the points with a second-half header that extended his scoring streak to seven straight games.

Benzema has plundered nine goals in that time, while he has nine against Eibar in his LaLiga career - the most of any Madrid player.

Asensio is enjoying his own fine run, netting in three consecutive matches for Madrid for the first time, and now has his sights set on more important fixtures to come.

Liverpool visit in the Champions League on Tuesday before Madrid welcome rivals Barca next Saturday.

"I work for that [to score]," Asensio told Movistar. "In the end, it's about waiting for the moment and taking advantage of it.

"I'm happy for the goals, for the team and now comes the most important moment of the season.

"There are unfortunately a lot of injuries this season, but I think we all have to contribute and that's why we're a team."

Victory took Madrid up to second, at least until Barca play Real Valladolid on Monday.

Asensio said: "We knew we had to win to get good feelings and we took the three points, which is the most important thing.

"We have played a good match, creating chances, and in the end we have won well.

"Now we face a very important week with the match against Liverpool and then Barca to come. We have to live up to it as the Madrid we are."

Real Madrid closed to within three points of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid with a 2-0 win over Eibar at the start of a huge week at home and abroad.

Struggling Eibar were the first of three visitors to Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano in succession, with games against Liverpool and Barcelona set to go a long way to deciding Madrid's season.

Los Blancos were not tested on Saturday, though, frustrated only by offside calls and their own finishing either side of Marco Asensio's 41st-minute strike before Karim Benzema made sure 17 minutes from time.

Although Atleti and Barca – now third behind Zinedine Zidane's side – are both still to play this weekend, Madrid's title rivals will do well to find opponents as accommodating as Eibar.

An awful blind pass from Alejandro Pozo sent Benzema clear three minutes in, but the striker delayed before shooting and allowed Marko Dmitrovic to make a brilliant right-handed save.

Benzema was quickly denied again, this time by the offside flag after nodding in Marcelo's cross at the far post.

Asensio saw a wonderful free-kick bounce away off the crossbar and then joined Benzema in having a breakthrough goal struck off, his exquisite flick nutmegging Dmitrovic but drawing the attention of the VAR – again for offside.

Fortune soon found Asensio's favour, however, as he charged onto Casemiro's pass and slipped while shooting, only for his effort to clip his standing foot and beat Dmitrovic.

A second-half storm briefly threatened to derail Madrid, notably when Lucas Vazquez's backpass picked up pace on a slick pitch and required a desperate lunge from Thibaut Courtois to divert it to safety.

But after falling foul of the flag for a third time – Casemiro disappointed by team-mates standing in Dmitrovic's line of sight – Benzema wrapped up the result with a downwards header from substitute Vinicius Junior's fine centre.

What does it mean? First hurdle cleared with minimum of fuss

The weather was Madrid's most dangerous opponent against relegation-threatened Eibar. The same will not apply when Liverpool and Barca make the trip to Valdebebas.

Injured captain Sergio Ramos will be far more of a miss in those matches, but it was still important for Zidane – unbeaten against Eibar in 10 LaLiga meetings – to get three points on the board at the start of a monumental month.

Timely reminder of Marcelo's talents

This was just a ninth league outing of the season for Marcelo, who lined up on the wing with the security of fellow left-back Ferland Mendy behind him. It was a role that suited him well and no doubt gave Zidane pause for thought ahead of a big Champions League tie.

Given the license to attack without worrying about protecting a defence missing Ramos, Marcelo was a constant threat. Only the offside flag meant his final-third contributions – one blocked shot, one successful cross and no chances created – were relatively modest.

Benzema belatedly breaks through

Madrid's number nine was LaLiga's Player of the Month for March with five goals in three games, but he initially appeared to have left his fine form on the other side of the international break.

Benzema's third-minute chance really should have brought the opener, while mistimed headers followed either side of his disallowed effort. Finally, he found his range with the fourth of five attempts before being substituted with 10 minutes to go ahead of a season-defining stretch.

What's next?

Madrid have three days to prepare for the visit of Liverpool, while Eibar do not play again until next Saturday, at home to Levante.

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane is tired of discussing a possible move for Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland and says he is only thinking about the players in his squad.

Madrid are one of a number of elite clubs to have been linked with the Norway international following a goal-laden 15 months at Dortmund, where he has scored 49 goals in the same number of appearances.

Talk of a transfer to the Santiago Bernabeu at the end of the season intensified on Thursday as Haaland's agent Mino Raiola and father Alf-Inge were spotted in the Spanish capital, hours after footage emerged of the pair in Barcelona.

It was reported that Raiola and Alf-Inge were on their way to hold talks with Los Blancos president Florentino Perez over a deal for Haaland, whose reported €75million release clause is not said to come into effect until 2022.

However, Zidane was unwilling to discuss Madrid's apparent interest in the 20-year-old at Friday's news conference previewing a game against Eibar.

"I'm going to be very clear here. I'm very tired of saying the same thing over and over again," he said. "Everything that happens outside of my power, I'm not going to say it's good or bad. 

"I'm not going to give an opinion on this. What matters to me is my players and tomorrow's game. I'm getting tired of saying this, but if you and your colleagues keep asking this about other players, I'm going to keep saying the same thing. 

"I say all of this because, in the end, it's true; my job, my work is what I do with my players, how I work with my players in the day by day, and focusing on every game that comes in our path. Apart from all of that, I don't know.

"I only think about tomorrow's game. After that... again, you ask this and I say the same thing. We just focus on tomorrow."

Haaland has 21 goals in as many Bundesliga games this term, adding another 10 from six matches in the Champions League, a competition in which he tops the scoring charts.

The January 2020 signing from Salzburg netted twice in BVB's most recent outing, a 2-2 draw at Cologne, to take him to 14 away goals in the German top flight in 2020-21.

That is more than Werder Bremen (13), Hertha Berlin (13), Mainz (11), Arminia Bielefeld (10) and Schalke (eight) have scored as a team at home this season.

Asked for his opinion on Perez meeting with potential transfer targets, Zidane said: "Everyone can do what they want here. I don't have any feelings about this. 

"They can do whatever is at their convenience. I repeat again: my job is preparing my players, my staff around me here, everyone at this club around me, for this game, and that is all."

Zidane will be looking to maintain his unbeaten LaLiga record against Eibar on Saturday, winning eight and drawing one of their previous meetings.

Zinedine Zidane insists "no one has the blame" for Sergio Ramos returning from Spain duty with a calf injury that has "hurt" Real Madrid for a key stretch of the season.

Ramos returned from a knee issue ahead of the international break and scored for Madrid as they knocked Atalanta out of the Champions League.

However, he then played just 50 minutes across two appearances for Spain in World Cup qualifying and complained of a calf problem after a short cameo at home to Kosovo.

Madrid have not confirmed the anticipated length of Ramos' lay-off, but a return in time to face Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-finals and Barcelona in LaLiga appears unlikely.

Los Blancos host Liverpool on April 6, with a second leg eight days later sandwiching a critical home Clasico.

Given Ramos has appeared just 20 times for Madrid in all competitions this season, questions might be asked of his involvement for Spain.

But Zidane told a news conference on Friday: "No one has the blame here - not Spain, not Real Madrid. This is just football.

"Unfortunately, these things happen; it's happened before, not just to us but to a lot of other teams as well.

"It's true that, this part of football, we don't like it, of course, but these things happen. We have to accept this, but no one is to blame here.

"What we want for Sergio is that he recovers as quickly as possible. We know the player and captain he is. We know that he always wants to be available and playing.

"This has hurt us a little bit and we hope he recovers quickly."

Ramos' absence for the two legs against Liverpool would appear particularly costly as Madrid have lost seven of the 10 Champions League games he has missed since the end of the 2017-18, the season in which they were last crowned European champions and talisman Cristiano Ronaldo departed.

The centre-back has made 14 European appearances in that time and contributed to 10 wins, losing only once, while Los Blancos concede only 0.9 goals per game with him in the side - down from 1.9 without him.

But Zidane was not looking as far ahead as an intriguing last-eight tie, as Madrid first face Eibar on Saturday, playing before Atletico Madrid and Barca and able to cut the gap at the top to three points.

"You talk about Liverpool and Barcelona - we have a game tomorrow to play," Zidane said.

"We want Sergio back, we want him to be with us at all times, but right now we just focus on tomorrow's game.

"This is going to mark the path for the rest of the season. We just focus on tomorrow and that's it. Tomorrow at 4.15 [CET], we have a game and we have to all be ready, all of us."

Ramos is not Madrid's only injury absentee, either, with Eden Hazard prevented from going away with Belgium and Toni Kroos returning ealry from Germany duty.

Kroos has been a key man this season, playing 35 games and providing nine assists from 83 chances created, and he is "doing better", Zidane said.

The coach added Madrid are "not going to be silly" with the midfielder but he trained on Friday.

Hazard, on the other hand, has repeatedly suffered with fitness issues, restricted to only nine starts in 2020-21 and having a meagre four goal involvements.

"Once again, we don't have a plan with Eden," Zidane said. "It's a day-to-day thing, like everything.

"We're not going to force anything because the most important thing is that he's well, that he's recovered. For us, it's bit by bit.

"I'm not going to tell you we'll re-evaluate in a week, a few days, nothing. If it's in a few days, that's good for us; 10 days, okay. We're just going to take it day by day.

"He is with the team now and that's what we want. When he plays, we'll see."

Even in these extraordinary times, Barcelona letting Luis Suarez go to Atletico Madrid is starting to look like the oddest decision of the season.

Suarez's double over Eibar on Thursday secured a 2-1 victory for the league leaders, who are seven points clear at the top with a game in hand over champions Real Madrid in second.

The Uruguay star, who has netted six in his past six league games for Atleti, is joint-top of the division's scoring charts alongside former team-mate Lionel Messi.

It seems increasingly likely that Suarez, and certainly Atletico, will be at the top of the tree come the end of 2020-21.

With the majority of sides having now played half of their matches, the Stats Perform AI team have run the numbers to simulate how the rest of the LaLiga campaign will play out – and it's good news for Diego Simeone.

 

The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

 

ATLETICO WIN AT A CANTER

Atletico have been given a 75.1 per cent chance of winning LaLiga, according to the model.

Simeone's men are predicted to finish on 86 points, nine clear of the rest of the field. They are given just a 17.8 per cent chance of coming second and dropping outside the top four is considered practically impossible.

Barcelona and reigning champions Real Madrid are predicted to end with 77 points apiece, with just a 12.4 per cent chance each of pipping Atleti to the title. Madrid have a 41 per cent chance of finishing second, slightly above Barca's 39.4, having beaten Ronald Koeman's side 3-1 in the first Clasico of the season at Camp Nou last October.

Those two are, at least, very likely to end up in a Champions League place. They are expected to be joined there by Sevilla, who have a 47.8 per cent chance of finishing fourth on 65 points, just three above Villarreal and six clear of Real Sociedad. The remaining European spot is predicted to be a close battle between Granada, Getafe and Real Betis, with Diego Martinez's men odds on to snatch it.

Valencia fans might be enduring a difficult time (again), and our sim has Los Che missing out on European football once more, if only by four points. That said, they still have a 3.6 per cent chance of a Europa League spot, which is better odds than those given to Supercopa de Espana winners Athletic Bilbao.

 

WOE FOR HUESCA

At the other end of a relatively tight table, in which just 11 points will separate seventh from 16th, it looks like Huesca are in for a tough run-in. They are given a 59.7 per cent chance of finishing bottom of the pile and just a 5.1 per cent shot at avoiding relegation, having won only once so far this term.

Osasuna are predicted to end up just four points above them, with the bottom three likely to be completed by Deportivo Alaves, although Elche will also be right in the mix. In fact, with those two tipped to finish level on 39 points, survival could come down to their head-to-head record, making their showdown on May 11 potentially decisive. Elche have the advantage there, having won the reverse game 2-0 away from home.

Real Valladolid are expected to have just enough to stay out of trouble, although they have scant room for manoeuvre, with our predictor giving them an equal 15.1 per cent chance of finishing 17th and 18th.

Eibar and Cadiz are looking likely to stay safe; indeed, Jose Luis Mendilibar's men, along with Celta Vigo and Athletic, are given a 0.1 per cent chance of gatecrashing the top four. They might well have boosted those odds this week were it not for that pesky Suarez.

Luis Suarez was hailed as "amazing" by Diego Simeone after firing Atletico Madrid seven points clear at the top of LaLiga.

A late penalty was Suarez's second strike of the game and secured a 2-1 win over Eibar on Thursday night, taking the striker's haul to 11 goals in 14 league games.

Such has been the Uruguayan's impact since arriving from Barcelona, it even sparked a post-match question to Simeone as to whether he might be the coach's best signing.

In a little over nine years in charge of Atletico, Simeone has brought a host of notable players to the club, with Jan Oblak and Antoine Griezmann among them.

Simeone recognises Suarez's impact, but he was reluctant to compare the signings he has made during his reign.

"I don't stop in mid-season to think about such an argument," Simeone said. "He is amazing and we are very happy that he is with us.

"He is a great player with great characteristics. He knew how to play the game and gave us an important victory with a great defensive effort from the team."

The handsome lead that Atletico now hold over second-placed Real Madrid makes them favourites to land a first LaLiga title since 2013-14. They even have a game in hand.

But rather than take glee from toiling rivals Real Madrid exiting the Copa del Rey to third-tier minnows Alcoyano on Wednesday night, Simeone said such a result served as a reminder there are no certainties in football.

"It makes us pay attention and understand that football is more complex every day," Simeone said.

"Barca also won [against Cornella] in extra time ... Bayern [Munich] also lost in their cup, football is not simple.

"The opposition compete, they do it well and it makes us always be alert. Football is wonderful because it always gives you the chance to win."

Suarez, who sits third on Barcelona's list of all-time leading scorers, was a remarkable close-season acquisition by Atletico.

He has now scored 12 times in LaLiga against Eibar, more than he has managed against any other team.

The one-time Ajax and Liverpool frontman has looked sharp for his new team and puts his success down to the warm reception he was given, having at one stage appeared reluctant to leave Barcelona.

"I'm very happy. The team has been very welcoming," Suarez said. "They make me feel at home. I try to help the team the best I can, but we are all doing it too.

"We are showing everyone that we want to fight for important things.

"We need to keep working. We need to keep fighting for all the goals we set at the beginning of the season."


After Falcao and Griezmann, Suarez becomes new Atletico goal hero

It will be how well he sustains his early form that dictates how Suarez is eventually remembered at Atletico, but there can be no denying he has made a spectacular start.

He is averaging one goal every 92.18 minutes in LaLiga and has a 25.58 per cent shot conversion rate in the competition.

No player with more than one league goal during the Simeone era has a better average minute-per-goal record than Suarez, although Radamel Falcao comes close, with his 43 LaLiga goals under the Argentinian coach coming at one every 109.58 minutes.

Of all the players with more Atletico goals than Suarez in Simeone's time as coach, only Kevin Gameiro (27.14 per cent) has a better shot conversion percentage.

Suarez has so far had 13 goalscoring opportunities defined by Opta as 'big chances' and has gobbled up eight of those for an immensely healthy 61.54 per cent strike rate, better than any Atletico player with 10 goals or more in Simeone's time.

Griezmann remains Atletico's LaLiga leading scorer during Simeone's tenure, with 94 goals from 180 games, snaffling 53.04 per cent of his 115 big chances with an overall shot conversion rate of 21.22 per cent.

Only across one season of his Barcelona career did Suarez score at a faster rate in LaLiga than he has to date for Atletico.

In the 2015-16 campaign he plundered 40 goals from 35 games at a clip of one every 78.75 minutes on the pitch.

He eclipsed Lionel Messi in the scoring stakes that season as Barcelona edged out Madrid and Atletico in a three-team title battle.

This term, Suarez, who turns 34 on Sunday, is threatening to barge the Clasico giants out of contention and help Atletico make it a one-horse race.

 

Luis Suarez was the hero as LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid overcame Eibar 2-1 thanks to the Uruguay striker's late penalty.

Suarez had struck his 10th league goal of the season in the 40th minute of Thursday's contest, restoring parity after Eibar had taken an early lead through an unlikely source.

With Yannick Carrasco penalised for bundling into Yoshinori Muto, it was Eibar goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic who confidently converted the resultant spot-kick.

Yet Dmitrovic could not save a penalty at the other end, Suarez chipping home to secure a somewhat undeserved victory after he was felled needlessly by Anaitz Arbilla.

For a player who had never previously scored a senior goal, Dmitrovic showed little hesitation in grabbing the ball after Carrasco was adjudged to have fouled Muto.

His confidence was not misplaced, the goalkeeper calmly sending counterpart Jan Oblak the wrong way with a cool left-footed finish.

Dmitrovic was almost embarrassed 11 minutes later when he struggled to collect a looping ball on his line, though Stefan Savic's foul spared his blushes, before Angel Correa hit the crossbar with a wicked volley.

Yet Atleti did hit back before the break, Suarez thumping in from a tight angle following Sergio Alvarez's mistake to bring up his 11th LaLiga goal against Eibar.

Diego Simeone made a double change at half-time – Joao Felix and Lucas Torreira introduced – though Kike Garcia might have restored Eibar's lead if not for Oblak's brave lunge.

Atleti finally gained a foothold after Pedro Bigas headed over from close range, though it looked like Dmitrovic's save from Joao Felix would be enough to earn Eibar a point.

It was not to be, however, with Arbilla's clumsy tackle on Suarez handing the former Barcelona star a chance to wrap up the win – an opportunity he took in typically composed fashion.

 

Lionel Messi watched from the sidelines as Barcelona dropped more points against lowly Eibar in LaLiga and Junior Firpo blamed the team's lack of cutting edge.

Barca have fallen seven points off the pace set by rivals Atletico Madrid and defending champions Real Madrid atop LaLiga, following Tuesday's 1-1 draw.

Ronald Koeman's Barca were held to back-to-back draws at Camp Nou after Eibar striker Kike capitalised on Ronald Araujo's error before substitute Ousmane Dembele scored an equaliser for the hosts.

With superstar captain Messi absent due to an ankle injury, Martin Braithwaite missed a penalty as Barca fired in 16 shots, including five on target, against the LaLiga strugglers.

Goalscorer Dembele was guilty of hitting a tame shot when clean through on goal, while Braithwaite and substitute Francisco Trincao spurned chances to net a late winner.

Antoine Griezmann was the only player in Barca's starting line-up with more than two league goals in 2020-21 but the recalled forward was unable to add to his three goals from 14 outings. 

"We need a thousand chances to score," Barca defender Junior said via Marca.

"They [Eibar] had one clear chance and scored."

Junior added: "It's the trend of the season.

"The games are tough and it's all uphill."

However, the 24-year-old left-back Junior was more than happy with his own performance after combining with Pedri to set up Dembele for Barca's 67th-minute leveller.

Junior made his first league start of the season against Eibar in relief of veteran full-back Jordi Alba.

"I felt good," Firpo said. "It's noticeable when you don't play so often, but I always try to train to the fullest.

"When I get a chance I try to take advantage of it."

Barcelona travel to face bottom side Huesca in their first match of 2021 on January 3.

Ronald Koeman concedes it will be "very difficult" for his Barcelona side to challenge Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid for the LaLiga title this season. 

Barca were held to a 1-1 draw by struggling Eibar at Camp Nou on Tuesday, Ousmane Dembele salvaging a point for the hosts after Kike Garcia had put Jose Luis Mendilibar's side ahead. 

Martin Braithwaite had earlier missed a penalty for Barca – his fourth consecutive failure from the spot – as Koeman's men dropped points for the eighth time in 15 LaLiga games this season. 

The result left them seven points behind the Madrid clubs despite having played two games more than leaders Atleti, and Koeman acknowledged a title tilt is now unlikely. 

"You have to be realistic and admit that it will be very complicated," he said. 

"In life nothing is impossible, but now there is a big difference in points with the leader, Atletico, who are doing very well, winning almost all their games and conceding very few goals. It's going to be very difficult."

Barca were without talisman Lionel Messi, who had been given extra time to recover from an ankle injury. 

Since his debut in October 2004, the Catalan giants have won just 55.9 per cent of their LaLiga games without him (W66 D39 L22), compared to 73.7 per cent with him in the side (W368 D83 L48).

While admitting they missed the Argentine superstar's creativity and goal threat, Koeman believed his side created enough chances to claim all three points. 

"In the first half we had problems getting the ball from behind," he added. "We did not look for a game between the lines and I do not know why, but we have had opportunities again.

"I don't want to say that we lacked experienced players. There is a transition in the team, there are injuries and we play with many young people.

"But today there was a lot of experience in the team and, yes, we were missing Leo who makes a difference. But the feeling we have is that it was possible to have won because we have created enough chances."

Barca are next in action against bottom side Huesca on Sunday. 

Lionel Messi's absence was sorely felt by Barcelona on Tuesday as Ronald Koeman's side were held to a 1-1 draw by lowly Eibar at Camp Nou.

Barca had given Messi – who was watching from the stands – a break to nurse an ankle injury, but the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's creativity and goal threat was badly missed as the hosts dropped points for the eighth time in 15 LaLiga games this season.

Martin Braithwaite was duly punished for an early penalty miss – a LaLiga-high third of the campaign for the Catalan giants – when Kike Garcia took full advantage of a Ronald Araujo error in the 57th minute.

Substitute Ousmane Dembele salvaged a draw for Barca 10 minutes later, although they are seven points behind leaders Atletico Madrid despite having played two games more.

Barca squandered a golden opportunity to take an eighth-minute lead, Braithwaite dragging his spot-kick wide after referee Javier Alberola Rojas had used the pitchside monitor to penalise Pedro Bigas for a foul on Araujo.

The Denmark international thought he had made amends shortly after the midway point of the first half, but his cool strike from Junior Firpo's cross was ruled out by VAR for offside.

Antoine Griezmann then pulled an effort wide from outside the penalty area as Barca went in at the interval having had just a solitary shot on target.

Dembele and Miralem Pjanic flashed strikes wide in the early stages of the second half before the former was denied by Marko Dmitrovic after being played clean through.

The Frenchman was made to pay for that miss when Kike picked Araujo's pocket inside the Barca half and coolly slotted past Marc Ande ter Stegen for his fifth goal of the campaign.

Dembele belatedly got the better of Dmitrovic in the 67th minute, firing home at the back post after Junior's cross flashed across the face of goal.

Francisco Trincao clipped narrowly wide of Dmitrovic's right-hand post in stoppage time as Barca missed the opportunity to make up ground on Atleti ahead of the leaders' clash with Getafe on Wednesday.

Ronald Koeman claimed it will make no difference to Lionel Messi's Barcelona future if Mauricio Pochettino takes over at Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi has been linked with a move away from Camp Nou ever since he expressed a desire to leave the club in August 2020, only to decide to stay until at least the end of this season when his contract expires, having been unable to force a transfer.

In a recent interview with Spanish television channel La Sexta the Argentina forward said he "did not know" what he was going to do but suggested he would like to play in the United States at some point.

With former Tottenham boss and compatriot Pochettino heavily tipped to become the new coach at PSG it has been suggested Messi and the Ligue 1 club could be a good fit, particularly with Neymar keen to reunite with his old team-mate.

But Barcelona head coach Koeman does not think there is an automatic correlation between the two.

"I do not know if it is true about Pochettino to PSG," Koeman told a media conference on Monday. "If Messi decides his future, it will not depend on a coach.

"I did not see the [Messi] interview live, but I have seen it. I have always been calm with Messi and I will not be calmer because he said that he will decide at the end of the season.

"We'll see what can happen. I appreciate Messi's words because he is a very important player for the club and for football. 

"Anyone likes to speak well of oneself. I'm still the same. I try to move the team forward, it is a year of transition and Messi is key to this process."

Barca are enduring a difficult season in LaLiga and are in fifth spot, eight points behind leaders Atletico Madrid.

Messi will miss his side's LaLiga clash with Eibar on Tuesday while he completes treatment on an ankle injury but Koeman expects him to return from a Christmas break as planned before they face Huesca on January 3.

"Leo had ankle discomfort, that's why we have given him two more days of vacation," Koeman explained. "The doctor has said that after a week without training he will be fine.

"Not having a Messi is big loss due to his quality and effectiveness. We lose a great player."

The Blaugrana are boosted by the return of Ousmane Dembele following the French forward's troubles with a hamstring injury, as Koeman defended his decision to give players more rest time over the festive period.

Koeman added: "Dembele is fine, he has been training with the team for days. In principle he will be called up [to the squad].

"We have three training sessions before Eibar. Sometimes a break is a training session for a player. In such a tight schedule you have to let the players rest. It is no problem that they have four days off."

Lionel Messi will complete a course of treatment on an ankle injury before returning to Barcelona training ahead of next week's game with Huesca.

The club had already confirmed the captain had been granted an extended Christmas break, with Messi having gone to Rosario in Argentina to spend time off with his family.

It means the six-time Ballon d'Or winner will miss the LaLiga match with Eibar on Tuesday.

Barca later announced Messi is due to finish treatment on his right ankle and is expected to return to training before they face Huesca on January 3.

After a difficult start to the season following his failed attempt to leave the club, Messi has recovered some form, scoring six of his seven league goals in 2020-21 in his most recent eight appearances.

Barca are fifth in LaLiga, eight points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, having played a game more.

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