LaLiga has confirmed the season will restart with a Seville derby on June 11 and the campaign will wrap up on July 19, it was confirmed on Sunday.

Suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, LaLiga will get back underway with a clash between Sevilla and Real Betis.

The remaining 11 matchdays will be played in less than six weeks as Barcelona and Real Madrid battle for the title.

Barca were two points clear of their bitter rivals when the season was stopped due to COVID-19, which has killed more than 373,000 people worldwide.

Quique Setien's men return to action with a trip to Real Mallorca on June 13, a day before Madrid host Eibar.

Barcelona also host Atletico Madrid on July 1 before facing rivals Espanyol in a derby clash a week later.

Barcelona's remaining fixtures
June 13: Real Mallorca (A)
June 16: Leganes (H)
June 21: Sevilla (A)
June 24: Athletic Bilbao (H)
June 28: Celta Vigo (A)
July 1: Atletico Madrid (H)
July 5: Villarreal (A)
July 8: Espanyol (H)
July 12: Real Valladolid (A)
July 15: Osasuna (H)
July 19: Deportivo Alaves (A)

Real Madrid's remaining fixtures
June 14: Eibar (H)
June 18: Valencia (H)
June 21: Real Sociedad (A)
June 24: Real Mallorca (H)
June 28: Espanyol (A)
July 1: Getafe (H)
July 5: Athletic Bilbao (A)
July 8: Deportivo Alaves (H)
July 12: Granada (A)
July 15: Villarreal (H)
July 19: Leganes (A)

Unai Emery reckons Diego Simeone has got the Atletico Madrid job for life.

Unless Simeone decides to call a halt to his Wanda Metropolitano career, Emery cannot see the club parting ways with the charismatic Argentine boss.

That factor reduces Emery's chances of getting back into coaching at the highest level in Spain, as he searches for the next calling point in a well-travelled career following spells at Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal.

Simeone has spent over eight years in charge at Atletico, leading them to the 2013-14 LaLiga title and two Champions League finals.

Atleti have established themselves as the most consistent challengers to Real Madrid and Barcelona for the biggest prizes in Spain, which is why when Emery looks at potential landing spots in LaLiga, he finds it hard to see an opportunity coming up with the Rojiblancos.

"You go where they want you," Emery said to AS. "Now I live in Valencia to be with my son, but I'm registered in Madrid. I don't know where my next project will be, I am open to everything.

"What is clear is that Atletico have Simeone, who should be with the team until he wants to be, or his whole life, because there is no one who fits like him."

Emery first forged his reputation with successful spells in charge of Valencia and Sevilla, but the 48-year-old would not discount taking charge of either side's main city rivals, Levante and Real Betis.

"I'm a professional," Emery said. "My heart has always been with Real Sociedad, where I was for 10 years, but if Athletic [Bilbao] ever called me... I've been to Valencia, but if Levante called me... I have been to Sevilla, but if Betis called me...

"Wherever they want me and I feel recognised, I will be there, and that will be what matters."

Passing the ball can sometimes look like the easiest thing in the world to do. At least, it does when these guys do it.

Our latest dive into the data of 2019-20 sees us look at the best playmakers in Europe's top-five leagues before the season was called to a halt.

We've deliberately broadened our approach to what constitutes a playmaker here – Gerard Pique doesn't often appear as a number 10, unless Barca are in real trouble – as the idea is to offer a wider consideration of those players who generally use the ball better than most when in possession.

To that end, we've looked at 12 different metrics to come up with the top performers of the campaign, again from among those to make at least 10 league appearances.

While some stars are not exactly strange to see in the list below, there is a handful of more surprising names, too...

 

THE TOP PLAYMAKERS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

BUNDESLIGA:

Most successful passes: Sven Bender (1,766)
Highest passing accuracy: Axel Witsel (94.1 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Joshua Kimmich (873)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: Axel Witsel (92.2)
Most passes ending in final third: Jadon Sancho (576)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Axel Witsel (88.4 per cent)
Most chances created: Christopher Nkunku (65)
Most big chances created: Thomas Muller (24)
Most assists: Thomas Muller (16)
Most assists from open play: Thomas Muller (15)
Most crosses/corners successful: Filip Kostic (71)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Dennis Geiger (50 per cent)

LALIGA:

Most successful passes: Gerard Pique (1,688)
Highest passing accuracy: Toni Kroos (93.6 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Sergio Busquets (957)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: Toni Kroos (92.4)
Most passes ending in final third: Lionel Messi (698)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Toni Kroos (90.3)
Most chances created: Jose Campana (58)
Most big chances created: Lionel Messi (22)
Most assists: Lionel Messi (12)
Most assists from open play: Portu and Lionel Messi (8)
Most crosses/corners successful: Jesus Navas (43)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Benat (55 per cent)

LIGUE 1:

Most successful passes: Marco Verratti (1,581)
Highest passing accuracy: Thiago Silva (95.5 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Marco Verratti (956)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: Thiago Silva (92.8 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Angel Di Maria (543)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Colin Dagba (86 per cent)
Most chances created: Dimitri Payet (87)
Most big chances created: Angel Di Maria (31)
Most assists: Angel Di Maria (14)
Most assists from open play: Angel Di Maria (10)
Most crosses/corners successful: Dimitri Payet (63)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Marco Verratti (54.6 per cent)

 

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most successful passes: Virgil van Dijk (2,209)
Highest passing accuracy: John Stones (94 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Rodri (1,069)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: John Stones (93.9 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Kevin De Bruyne (740)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Ibrahim Amadou (93.3 per cent)
Most chances created: Kevin De Bruyne (96)
Most big chances created: Kevin De Bruyne (23)
Most assists: Kevin De Bruyne (16)
Most assists from open play: Kevin De Bruyne (14)
Most crosses/corners successful: Kevin De Bruyne (69)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Christian Atsu (47.1 per cent)

 

SERIE A:

Most successful passes: Fabian Ruiz (1,488)
Highest passing accuracy: Marlon Santos (94.1 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Fabian Ruiz (932)
Passing accuracy, opposition half: Eljif Elmas (91.5 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Luis Alberto (723)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Walace (89.7 per cent)
Most chances created: Luis Alberto (75)
Most big chances created: Luis Alberto (16)
Most assists: Luis Alberto (12)
Most assists from open play: Luis Alberto and Alejandro Gomez (9)
Most crosses/corners successful: Erick Pulgar (46)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Armando Izzo (54.6 per cent)

 

AND THE TOP 12:

Most successful passes: Virgil van Dijk (2,209)
Highest passing accuracy: Thiago Silva (95.5 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Rodri (1,069)
Passing accuracy, opposition half: John Stones (93.9 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Kevin De Bruyne (740)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Ibrahim Amadou (93.3 per cent)
Most chances created: Kevin De Bruyne (96)
Most big chances created: Angel Di Maria (31)
Most assists: Thomas Muller and Kevin De Bruyne (16)
Most assists from open play: Thomas Muller (15)
Most crosses/corners successful: Filip Kostic (71)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Benat (55 per cent)

 

Borja Mayoral expects to receive clarity over his Real Madrid future after this season but accepts matters are not solely in his hands.

The striker has been on loan at Levante since August 2018, scoring eight goals in 54 LaLiga appearances in that time.

Mayoral, who was previously with Wolfsburg for the 2016-17 campaign, is approaching the final year of his contract with boyhood club Madrid.

While he is staying calm over his future, particularly with football seasons mostly on hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic, the 22-year-old hopes to have more concrete ideas about where he will be playing in the coming months.

"I try to focus on the present," he told AS. "There are still matches [to play this season] and hopefully the competition will resume. Now, I think about finishing LaLiga in the best possible way. Then there will be time to think about what follows.

"Ultimately, I'm calm because I have one year left with Real Madrid. I've had two years at Levante and it's true that this summer I think a different decision will be made regarding me.

"But, as I say, I'm facing it in the best possible way, with all the excitement. What will come will come. I'm really happy, and calm above all, which is what is important.

"I've not been contacted personally [by Madrid]. My agent handles that more, but I don't think they've been contacted.

"I also think that everything will return to normal when this happens, and there will be more conversations about my future.

"I'm young, I know I have a lot of potential to give yet. In the end, if a player is expensive, it's because he's good and because he's loved.

"In the end, as I've told you before, it doesn't just depend on me, it also depends on Real Madrid and what they want to do with me."

Mayoral, who still has friends and family in Madrid, revealed it had been a challenging time during Spain's nationwide lockdown aimed at curbing the coronavirus spread.

"I have a lot of friends there and my whole family are from there," he said. "I'm constantly in contact with them to ask how they are, with my grandparents, too, who we know are risk factors. I try to speak with them almost every day."

With football no closer to being resumed as the coronavirus pandemic continues, players across Europe's top-five leagues have lots of time to pore over their performances from this season.

Using Opta data, we have already examined some of the worst attacking numbers from 2019-20, so now it's the turn of those ball-playing technicians: the pass-masters.

We have analysed nine key metrics for outfield players to play in at least 10 league games this season, thereby giving us a good summary of those whose passing could use some improvement. Those metrics are focused on the number of passes (overall, in a player's own half and their opponent's half), the accuracy of those passes, corners and crosses, and losing possession.

As always when it comes to data, context is key. For instance, we have included overall accuracy percentages to give balance to the simple number of passes. A team's playmaker or set-piece taker, for example, is arguably more likely to have a larger number of misplaced passes than team-mates simply because he will be attempting more of them, and often in difficult areas.

It's also worth noting that the number of times possession has been lost excludes 'Hoofs' (which, by their nature, make losing the ball more common), while corner and crossing accuracy is taken only from those to attempt, on average, at least one per game.

That said, the below gives a good indication of some passing figures that need improvement - and there are one or two surprising names...

THE WORST PASSING STATS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

BUNDESLIGA:

Most passes failed: Robert Andrich (291)
Worst passing accuracy: Anthony Modeste (55.4 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Jamilu Collins (110)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Kai Proger (60.5 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Sebastian Andersson (215)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Anthony Modeste (42.1 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Filip Kostic (199)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Wendell (0 of 22)
Most times possession lost: Filip Kostic (616)

LALIGA:

Most passes failed: Leandro Cabrera (352)
Worst passing accuracy: Enric Gallego (48.6 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Pervis Estupinan (94)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Sergio Leon (57.1 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Joselu (283)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Leandro Cabrera (43.5 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Jesus Navas (134)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Karim Benzema (0 of 19)
Most times possession lost: Pervis Estupinan (534)

LIGUE 1:

Most passes failed: Issiaga Sylla (281)
Worst passing accuracy: Suk Hyun-jun (44.8 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Fabien Centonze (111)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Suk Hyun-jun (50 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Andy Delort (238)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half:  Suk Hyun-jun (44.4 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Mathieu Dossevi (142)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): M'Baye Niang (0 of 11)
Most times possession lost: Angel Di Maria (539)

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most passes failed: Trent Alexander-Arnold (480)
Worst passing accuracy: Christian Benteke (52.4 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Cesar Azpilicueta (132)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Matej Vydra (50 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half:  Trent Alexander-Arnold (359)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Christian Benteke (48 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed:  Trent Alexander-Arnold (246)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Gabriel Martinelli (0 of 22)
Most times possession lost:  Trent Alexander-Arnold (867)

SERIE A:

Most passes failed: Stefano Sabelli (324)
Worst passing accuracy: Lautaro Martinez (59.5 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Stefano Sabelli (94)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Stefano Sabelli (230)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Florian Aye (58.5 per cent)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Roberto Inglese (54 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Erick Pulgar (134)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Kevin Lasagna (0 from 13)
Most possession lost: Stefano Sabelli (494)

AND THE TOP NINE:

Most passes failed: Trent Alexander-Arnold (480)
Worst passing accuracy: Suk Hyun-jun (44.8 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Cesar Azpilicueta (132)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Suk Hyun-jun and Matej Vydra (50 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Trent Alexander-Arnold (359)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Anthony Modeste (42.1 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Trent Alexander-Arnold (246)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Wendell and Gabriel Martinelli (0 of 22)
Most times possession lost: Trent Alexander-Arnold (867)

Eden Hazard's availability for Real Madrid's crunch fixtures against Manchester City and Barcelona appears in doubt after Zinedine Zidane admitted his latest injury "doesn't look good".

The Belgium forward hobbled off in the second half of the 1-0 loss to Levante on Saturday and he could be seen on the bench receiving treatment on his lower right leg.

Hazard only recently returned from a fractured right ankle so the sight of him appearing to have another problem in the same area was alarming for Zidane.

Madrid face Pep Guardiola's City in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday before a Clasico date with new LaLiga leaders Barcelona next weekend.

"It doesn't look good," Zidane told reporters at a news conference.

"It can become weak where you've had an injury. It is a blow, let's see.

"It's sore now but we'll see tomorrow when we do more tests."

It was a thoroughly miserable outing for Madrid as they suffered a surprise defeat thanks to Jose Luis Morales' stunning late effort.

Madrid drew 2-2 with Celta Vigo at home in their previous outing and they will host Barcelona next Sunday knowing they are now two points behind their great rivals in the title race.

Captain Sergio Ramos revealed the level of frustration he was feeling in a social media post.

"We're p***ed off," he wrote on Twitter.

"But we can't allow our heads to drop.

"We have to reset now and tomorrow push harder than ever before for a very important week. We're counting on you."

Real Madrid slumped to a shock 1-0 defeat at Levante thanks to Jose Luis Morales' stunning late winner, as Los Blancos produced a toothless display and lost Eden Hazard to injury ahead of a pivotal week.

Zinedine Zidane's men created the better chances in Valencia but were wasteful in front of goal, and Morales' glorious strike means Madrid head into next weekend's Clasico trailing leaders Barcelona – who thrashed Eibar 5-0 earlier on Saturday – by two points and possibly without the injured Hazard.

Karim Benzema was particularly culpable in the first 45 minutes, spurning a glorious opportunity early on, while Hazard – who was withdraw with what appeared to be a calf issue in the second period – also squandered a presentable chance after half-time.

Levante became a more prominent threat going forward following the interval and ultimately sealed an unlikely win through Morales' fierce effort 11 minutes from time, with Madrid heading into the first leg of their Champions League last-16 encounter against Manchester City on the back of a woeful result.

Madrid rarely looked worried at the back in the first half, though going forward they lacked a killer instinct.

That was clearest in the 11th minute when Benzema should have put them in front, but he shot straight at Aitor Fernandez with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Fernandez was alert again just before half-time, this time parrying Luka Modric's stinging drive.

It was the same story after the break.

The previously ineffective Hazard had the opportunity to make a decisive impact in the 53rd minute when released through on goal, but he could not get the bouncing ball fully under control and his eventual effort was scuffed harmlessly at the approaching Fernandez.

Hazard had to be withdrawn in the 67th minute due to an apparent calf strain seemingly suffered while attempting a backheel, and Levante netted soon after.

Morales chased a long ball down the left flank on the break and caught it sweetly as it bounced up, beating Thibaut Courtois at his near post with the venomous strike as Madrid dropped points for a second successive LaLiga game after last weekend's 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo.

First Barcelona and now Real Madrid. Lautaro Martinez is a wanted man.

With 16 goals across all competitions for Inter this season, Martinez is attracting plenty of interest following previous links to Manchester United.

Madrid and Barca are set to go head-to-head on and off the pitch.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID JOIN BARCA IN MARTINEZ RACE

Real Madrid want to pay the release clause of Inter star and Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez, according to Tyc Sports.

Martinez has long been linked with LaLiga champions Barca, who are eyeing a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.

However, Martinez is now firmly on Madrid's radar with a release clause of €115million and Luka Jovic struggling to score regularly behind veteran striker Karim Benzema at the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

ROUND-UP

- ESPN says Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea are chasing Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson, who is on loan at Premier League side Sheffield United. The 22-year-old – who is contracted to United until 2022 – has impressed at Bramall Lane and is reportedly unwilling to return to Manchester unless he is number one ahead of David de Gea.

Manchester City have joined Madrid, Barca, Arsenal and Tottenham in the race to sign RB Leipzig centre-back Dayot Upamecano, reports the Manchester Evening News. Pep Guardiola's City are desperate for defensive reinforcements following Vincent Kompany's exit and injury woes.

- According to the Daily Express, Serie A champions Juventus are eying a shock move for Chelsea's Willian, who is out of contract at the end of the season.

- Remaining in Turin and the Daily Mail claims Juve have entered the chase for Birmingham City teenager Jude Bellingham. The 17-year-old is also wanted by United and Chelsea.

Tottenham are plotting a double swoop for Norwich City pair Ben Godfrey and Max Aarons, the Express says. It comes as the Daily Mail reports Spurs will sell Eric Dier if he does not sign a new contract.

- Marca says Barca have contacted Levante about Roger Marti but the club have pointed to the striker's release clause. Barca are looking to bring in an emergency forward following Ousmane Dembele's long-term injury. Real Betis' Loren Moron and Lucas Perez of Deportivo Alaves are also reported options.

Quique Setien praised Ansu Fati after the teenage forward helped Barcelona to a 2-1 win over Levante in LaLiga on Sunday.

Fati, 17, scored twice in the first half as Barca closed the gap to league leaders and rivals Real Madrid to three points.

He became the youngest player to score a brace in LaLiga in the 21st century, breaking a record previously held by Juanmi Jimenez.

Fati has netted five goals this season and Setien hailed him for stepping up for Barcelona, who are set to be without the injured Luis Suarez until the end of 2019-20.

"I think that Ansu is a boy that is emerging, that we all know that has great potential," head coach Setien told a news conference.

"You have to understand that you have to give him peace of mind and confidence to exploit what he has inside.

"Apart from the two goals, what I give credit is the work he has done in defence. He has worked hard. He has given us solutions."

Fati struck in the 30th and 31st minutes and Barcelona closed out their win despite Ruben Rochina's late goal for the visitors.

Setien was satisfied with his side's performance, although he expects further improvement.

"I am happy with many things, but not with everything. We have given up too many shots," he said.

"We made a very good first half, I think we could score more goals. We lost a little control in the second half and conceded too much.

"But it was a good job by the team."

Barcelona are in action again on Thursday, visiting Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals.

Ivan Rakitic admitted he considered leaving LaLiga champions Barcelona in January as the midfielder appeared to take aim at the club's board.

Rakitic was heavily linked to Serie A duo Juventus and Inter before the transfer window closed, while Manchester United were also reportedly interested.

It came as Rakitic was reportedly offered to Paris Saint-Germain as part of a deal to prise Neymar back to Camp Nou at the start of the season.

After Sunday's 2-1 win over Levante, Croatia veteran Rakitic vented his frustration.

"I thought about leaving in the January window," Rakitic, who played the entire game, said post-match.

"The treatment of [former head coach Ernesto] Valverde's staff wasn't the best.

"They were bad times but it's in the past now.

"I can say very clearly that there were things that I didn't like."

Ansu Fati's brace ensured Barca stayed within three points of leaders and rivals Real Madrid after 22 matches.

Rakitic has made 16 LaLiga appearances this season, and 24 across all competitions.

Ansu Fati said he still finds himself doubting whether his breakthrough season at Barcelona is "all real or not" after scoring a match-winning brace in Sunday's 2-1 victory over Levante.

Fati, 17, emerged at the start of the season and impressed with his performances for LaLiga champions Barca, despite being so young.

Injuries contributed to a slight decline in form towards the end of 2019, while recent displays left a lot to be desired, but he appeared to be back to his best against Levante.

Fati scored both of Barca's goals, with Lionel Messi setting each of them up, and generally caught the eye as a creative force as well.

In scoring his goals, Fati became the youngest player to net a LaLiga brace this century and he is struggling to comprehend the life he is living.

"I still have doubts about whether all this is real or not," Fati told Movistar when it was put to him that both goals were set up by Messi.

"I've been watching him play for many years, and now I play with him, it's a dream.

"This is a dream. I have always dreamed of this moment. I have to thank my team-mates and the coach for giving me the opportunity."

After going through a somewhat tricky period, Fati credits his team-mates with encouraging him.

"They just told me I have to keep improving and seize the opportunity," he said.

"My team-mates are making everything very easy for me. I have to thank them because it's not easy for a kid to come in, and they treat me so well."

Victory on Sunday moved Barca back to within three points of pacesetters Real Madrid.

Antoine Griezmann said he can do it. Quique Setien thinks Ousmane Dembele can do it. But is Ansu Fati best placed to fill in for Luis Suarez at Barcelona?

The 17-year-old was one of Ernesto Valverde's final plus points for the club, the former head coach handing a chance to the youngster that has allowed him to go from La Masia hopeful to Lionel Messi strike-partner in a matter of months.

With Suarez not expected to return until the season is pretty much over, Barca were expected to sign a number nine in the transfer window. The fact that they didn't is something the board will have to explain, but another time. Sunday's win over Levante was all about Ansu.

Griezmann might have been deployed as the centre-forward, but Fati was the most threatening player on the pitch. Records tend to fall every few weeks in this player's life: Barca's second-youngest LaLiga player, youngest league goalscorer, youngest Champions League player, youngest Champions League goalscorer, and youngest to score and assist in the same LaLiga match.

Now, he has another: at 17 years and 94 days old, he is the youngest player to score two goals in a single LaLiga match in the competition's history. More importantly for Barca, this was no fun-filled cameo with the team cruising to victory - this was a match-winning performance, a double to secure a 2-1 win that could have been more comfortable had others shown Fati's clinical touch.

Only Messi managed more shots (10) and more efforts on target (six) than Fati (five and two). Barca's captain was also the only player to better Fati for chances created (seven, compared to three). It should come as no surprise that Messi set up both goals, the first with a particularly sumptuous throughball.

Perhaps more impressively, no Barca player made more tackles than Fati (four), with Gerard Pique closest on two. That paints a picture of an attacking player not afraid to shirk responsibilities when it comes to pressing defenders and helping Barca sustain pressure in the opposition half.

Of course, no amount of hard work from a forward will excuse a failure to stick the ball between the white posts, but that is a quality Fati has never lacked. His first goal showcased his lightning pace but also a surprising level of strength, as he shoved away his marker before composedly slotting beneath goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez with his right foot. His second underlined what he makes him such a threat: unpredictability. Messi played the ball into feet this time, and Fati shifted to his left before drilling in a low shot through Aitor, who could have done better.

The ability to score with either foot with ease keeps defenders wary and makes it significantly harder for opposition teams to prepare containment plans. A determined work ethic lets centre-backs know they will never be given a moment's peace when this forward is on the pitch. A good understanding with Messi is a pretty useful bonus.

Suarez has all these qualities; it seems Fati does, too. Maybe Barca didn't need a new striker after all.

Lionel Messi and Ansu Fati led the way for Barcelona as Quique Setien's men did just enough to claim a 2-1 win over Levante at Camp Nou on Sunday, moving them back to within three points of leaders Real Madrid.

After a remarkable breakthrough at the start of the season, Fati had recently come in for criticism amid some underwhelming displays, but he showed just how effective he can be as Messi carved open the Levante defence.

Fati took his top-flight tally to four with a pair of strikes separated by just 102 seconds in the first half, profiting from the brilliance of Messi on both occasions to become the youngest player to score a LaLiga brace this century.

Levante offered a lot more from an attacking perspective after the break and deservedly pulled one back through Barca academy product Ruben Rochina in stoppage time, but Fati's efforts had put the game beyond the visitors, despite a hat-trick ultimately eluding the 17-year-old.

After easing their way into the contest, Barca crafted a flurry of chances after the 13th minute – Messi shooting agonisingly wide and then testing Aitor Fernandez, before Antoine Griezmann prodded just off target.

Levante were eventually breached after half an hour as Messi fed Fati with an exquisite throughball and the teenager clinically slotted home.

The same pair combined again less than two minutes later, Fati this time firing through the legs of the unconvincing Fernandez.

The lead should have been extended before half-time, but Nelson Semedo hit the crossbar and Griezmann inexplicably missed from inside the six-yard box.

Barca were fortunate to not concede early in the second half – Jose Luis Morales galloping through on goal and seeing his effort saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, with Rochina hopelessly blazing the rebound over.

Fati was not far off getting a third in the 73rd minute when his overhead-kick went just past the left-hand post, while Levante finally got on the scoresheet soon after wasting two fine chances – Rochina's strike hitting Ter Stegen and going in.

 

What does it mean? A welcome win but defensive concerns remain

Barca were abysmal in their previous LaLiga match, the 2-0 defeat at Valencia that preceded the Copa del Rey demolition of Leganes.

In Mestalla they left a lot to be desired at the back and again they failed to keep a clean sheet on Sunday, with those concerns still prominent. Levante could – and arguably should – have had more than one goal to show for their efforts.

Fati gets a timely boost

It would be unfair to be too harsh on a teenager, particularly considering he is obviously talented, but Fati's impact of late had been minimal. On Sunday, however, he was lively, intelligent with his movement and a creative outlet, providing three key passes on top of his two goals.

Griezmann is no Suarez

Luis Suarez was always going to be tricky to replace, even for Griezmann. There were hints of promise in the first half as the Frenchman got into some good positions, but he wasted one particularly good opportunity. None of his three shots were on target and he did not create any chances either – Suarez is often productive on both fronts..

What's next?

Barca return to Copa del Rey action on Thursday at Athletic Bilbao, before heading to Seville to face Setien's former club Real Betis in LaLiga three days later. Levante host Leganes on Saturday.

Jan Oblak is the best goalkeeper in the world and Atletico Madrid have him to thank for ensuring they held on for a 2-1 victory over Levante on Saturday, head coach Diego Simeone said.

Slovenia international Oblak showed incredible reactions to keep out a header from Enis Bardhi in the 93rd minute of the clash at the Wanda Metropolitano.

The keeper has saved 14 of the past 17 shots on target he has faced in LaLiga, including the last two against Levante.

Atletico have now won four games on the trot in all competitions and Simeone was full of praise for Oblak, although he was frustrated to have to rely on the 26-year-old after a string of wasted chances at the other end.

"For us he is the best in the world. He's one of our captains. He was there when it mattered most, but the last save was one of a player that wins you games," said Simeone.

"He gave us the possibility of winning a match that we should have finished off before.

"The headline is Oblak saved Atletico, but we would have saved it if we'd taken our chances before.

"I do not decide who wins a prize or not. It is unfair to talk about other goalkeepers, but it's clear that for us he is the best goalkeeper in the world."

Felipe's first LaLiga goal helped in-form Atletico Madrid to a 2-1 home win over Levante.

Three goals during a manic five-minute spell in the first half settled the match but did not typify an otherwise tepid encounter at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Angel Correa scored for the second straight game and while Roger Marti's ninth league goal of the season pulled Levante level, Felipe settled it with a powerful header.

Atletico now have four consecutive victories across all competitions and moved back to within five points of city rivals Real Madrid, while the result ended a three-match winning streak for Levante.

The hosts almost scored in the first minute on Saturday when Correa's shot was saved, Joao Felix and Saul Niguez then unable to convert follow-up attempts.

But Atletico opened the scoring after 13 minutes when Thomas Partey found Kieran Trippier on the right and the defender's volleyed cross was converted by Correa's superb first-time finish.

Roger replied three minutes later when his volley deflected in off the arm of Alvaro Morata after he had latched on to Jose Campana's free-kick.

Atletico swiftly got back in front, though, Renan Lodi whipping in a left-wing delivery that Felipe impressively headed in from 12 yards out, his effort coming just 109 seconds after Roger's strike.

Correa's shot forced a good one-handed saved from Aitor Fernandez shortly before the break and the Levante goalkeeper also kept out an effort from Joao Felix just before the hour mark.

Joao Felix also fired wide from the edge of the area late on but Atletico were still able to hold on for victory in relative comfort, albeit Jan Oblak had to make two late saves to deny Enis Bardhi.

 

What does it mean? Atletico's poor run behind them

Atletico have won four straight games for the first time this season and have clearly overcome their dreadful run that saw them taste victory in just one of the previous eight.

Four straight wins and eight goals have Diego Simeone's men in better shape, but there remains plenty of work to do before the Madrid derby on February 1.

Felipe fabulous for Atletico

As well as scoring his first LaLiga goal, Felipe tested goalkeeper Fernandez with another aerial effort and recorded game-high totals for interceptions (4) and clearances (8).

Joao Felix frustrated once again

The Portuguese forward came into the match having played 572 minutes in LaLiga without scoring or providing an assist. Despite Simeone giving him 87 minutes, that dreadful run continued as he mustered only one shot on target and did not create a single opportunity for his team-mates.

What's next?

Atletico will take momentum into their meeting with Barcelona in the Supercopa de Espana in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, while Levante do not play until a Copa del Rey tie with Real Jaen on January 12.

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