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.

Zinedine Zidane struggled to hide his frustration at the fact Real Madrid's LaLiga contest at Osasuna was not postponed despite the impact of Storm Filomena.

Los Blancos played out a forgettable goalless draw at El Sadar, with Madrid failing to muster an effort on target in the first half.

The match was played amid difficult conditions with snow continuing to fall and a significant dusting on the pitch.

Madrid's preparations for the fixture were hardly ideal either with the team trapped on a plane for two hours on Friday as ice on the runway delayed their flight out of the capital.

Head coach Zidane, who is unsure when the team can travel back to Madrid with the city having been heavily impacted by the storm, was left flabbergasted that the match went ahead.

"We did what we could do on the field but it was not a football match," he said.

"The conditions were very difficult. Everything that has happened these two days has been very complicated. 

"We do not know when we can return and the truth is that we will see how it is fixed.

"Clearly the match against Osasuna should have been postponed. Clearly.

"The conditions to play football were not met, which in the end is what everyone wants. Both us and the rival, as well as the people."

Zidane was reluctant to say if he felt his team had been harmed by LaLiga's decision, adding: "I'm not going to get into these things. 

"We have done what they have told us, we have played and that's it. We have to think about recovering even if we don't know if we are going to go to Madrid tomorrow, if we are going to return on Monday. And on Wednesday we have another game."

Real Madrid failed to take full advantage of Atletico Madrid's cancelled fixture with Athletic Bilbao as they played out a toothless 0-0 draw at lowly Osasuna.

LaLiga leaders Atleti saw their game called off as the snow from Storm Filomena battered the capital, which also delayed Madrid's flight for the clash at El Sadar.

Whether it was the disruption to the travel or the freezing conditions, Madrid put in a turgid display and failed to muster a single shot on target in 45 forgettable first-half minutes.

There was little improvement after the break - despite two disallowed goals - and Madrid could only move to within a point of Atleti, who now have three games in hand.

The falling snow was the biggest talking point of a dire opening period in which Madrid saw 72.3 per cent of the ball without mustering any effort of real meaning.

Indeed, the only action of note was when Thibaut Courtois smartly parried Oier's thumping header from Ruben Garcia's corner.

It took until the 49th minute for Madrid to test home keeper Sergio Herrera, who batted away Marco Asensio's bending effort with relative ease.

Karim Benzema did bundle home after Herrera brilliantly kept out his initial point-blank header, only for the offside flag to swiftly curtail the celebrations.

There was a sense of deja vu in the closing stages when Mariano Diaz squirmed home from Benzema's take down but both men were offside when the initial pass was played, as a poor game petered out into a draw.


What does it mean? Madrid feel the freeze

Admittedly, it is pretty rare to see such Baltic-looking conditions in Spain but that alone does not account for Madrid's insipid display. Zinedine Zidane's side had a great opportunity to put pressure on Atleti against a team struggling in the relegation zone but it was one they missed.

Madrid forwards go cold

Madrid's front three of Asensio, Benzema and Eden Hazard just did not click into gear. Asensio offered one shot on target and a key pass, but both he and Hazard - who provided neither a shot on target nor a key pass - were hauled off in the second half. Benzema created a sole chance in the final minute of the match.

Herrera does the job

He had little to do in truth but Herrera was a constant source of calm whenever Madrid posed a threat with a tricky cross into the area and marshalled a stern Osasuna defence throughout.

What's next?

Madrid's attentions now turn to Athletic Bilbao and the semi-finals of the Supercopa de Espana on Thursday, while Osasuna visit Granada on Tuesday.

Zinedine Zidane hopes Sergio Ramos and Lucas Vazquez's contracts with Real Madrid are "sorted out".

Ramos, 34, and Vazquez, 29, are both out of contract at the end of the season and their futures remain uncertain.

Reports suggest Ramos has turned down a one-year deal from Madrid, the club he arrived at in 2005.

Asked about Ramos and Vazquez possibly not signing contracts, Zidane told a news conference: "I don't want it but, in football, you never know.

"What I want and what we want you already know. You will ask me again at another press conference after the match and I will tell you the same thing. What I hope is that this will be sorted out, nothing more."

Madrid visit Osasuna in LaLiga on Saturday as they look to keep the pressure on Atletico, who are two points clear and have played two fewer games.

Eden Hazard's future is again a talking point at Madrid and the playmaker last started a league game in November.

But Zidane is unwilling to take risks with the 30-year-old, who has struggled with injuries since arriving at the club.

"He is with us. He is training regularly, then after that I don't know," he said.

"We will see if he is for 90 minutes or not and we will see how the pitch is. And for the next matches we will see the same, little by little."

Lionel Messi should have the yellow card he was shown for his on-pitch tribute to Diego Maradona rescinded, according to Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman.

Former Barca and Argentina great Maradona died last week at the age of 60 and was honoured before all LaLiga matches over the weekend.

Messi scored his side's fourth goal in fine style during Sunday's 4-0 home win over Osasuna.

Afterwards, he removed his Barca shirt to reveal a Newell's Old Boys jersey emblazoned with Maradona's famous number 10.

He then pointedly saluted the sky in honour of his compatriot, who spent a season towards the end of his career with Newell's - the club where Messi began his youth career.

Following the victory, Koeman told the media how impressed he was both with his captain's finish and with the way he chose to pay his respects to his compatriot.

The yellow card shown to Messi, which regulations state will come with a €3,000 fine for Barca, has attracted attention after the match and Koeman believes it should be overturned.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday's away Champions League match against Ferencvaros, for which Messi will be rested, Koeman said: "We know that there is a rule [relating to the award of] the yellow card.

"But we also know that it was his dedication to Maradona when he took off his shirt. 

"It's not my decision, but for me I would take it off."

Barca are hopeful the yellow card decision will be changed.

According to Sport, they will use the precedent of Sergio Ramos having a booking overturned on sentimental grounds in 2007 after he paid tribute to Sevilla star Antonio Puerta to argue their case.

Barcelona have won all of their previous five competitive meetings with Hungarian sides and dominated the Camp Nou fixture against Ferencvaros in a 5-1 triumph last month.

Messi opened the scoring with a penalty in that game and also laid on a late assist for Ousmane Dembele.

However, he will now sit out of a second straight Champions League match, having also been rested for the 4-0 win over Dynamo Kiev last time out in the competition.

Barca have fared surprisingly well without Messi, winning eight of their last nine Champions League games that he missed and drawing the other since losing to Ajax in 2013, according to Opta statistics.

The club are looking to win each of their first five UEFA Champions League group stage games for the first time since the 2002-03 campaign.

Lionel Messi's goal and his celebration in honour of Diego Maradona were "great in every sense", according to Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman.

Messi scored in fine style to cap a 4-0 victory over Osasuna at Camp Nou on Sunday, a game that was preceded by a tribute to former Barca star Maradona, who died on Wednesday.

Having found the net, Messi removed his Barca shirt to reveal a Newell's Old Boys jersey bearing Maradona's famous number 10. The 1986 World Cup winner spent a season at the club, where Messi was later a youth player, towards the end of his career.

Koeman was impressed both with his captain's finish and with the way he chose to pay his respects to his Argentine compatriot.

"These are the things of a great player: first because of the play and the goal, and second because of the gesture towards Maradona. It was something really great in every sense," Koeman said.

"I didn't know Leo was going to do that celebration."

Antoine Griezmann was arguably Barca's star performer against Osasuna, assisting Philippe Coutinho's goal after having scored a stunning volley three minutes before half-time.

The France international at last appears to be finding his feet for the Catalans, having been directly involved in six goals in his past six matches after contributing to just one in the previous 20.

"Antoine looked very good today," said Koeman. "From his position, he played with a lot of freedom, he gave an assist and scored a great goal. This is the player we want.

"I don't think he has changed. He always worked hard to have this opportunity, but he scored a great goal and now it seems he feels freer on the pitch and that's a positive."

The opening goal was scored by Martin Braithwaite, who has scored in consecutive matches for the first time since January for Leganes and has contributed three goals and one assist in his most recent four games.

"We needed more of a number nine today to fix the centre-backs and to be able to find more space behind a team that closes up at the back," Koeman said.

"Martin is working very well. We know the team works well in defence, they played with five at the back, and we had to play with a high rhythm with the ball to look for goal."

The only sour note for Barca was the loss of defender Clement Lenglet to what looked like an ankle problem, with Koeman having already seen Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti and Ronald Araujo succumb to injuries.

However, the coach hopes his remaining senior centre-back has not suffered anything serious.

"I have spoken with the doctor and it seems we will have to wait for tomorrow for tests, but it does not seem that serious," Koeman said.

"I don't know about Wednesday's game [against Ferencvaros in the Champions League] but I hope it's nothing major."

Lionel Messi paid tribute to Diego Maradona on Sunday with a goal celebration that came as a "beautiful surprise" to his Barcelona team-mates.

Former Barca and Argentina great Maradona died on Wednesday at the age of 60 and has been honoured before all LaLiga matches over the weekend.

Messi scored his side's fourth goal in the 4-0 win over Osasuna and afterwards removed his Barca shirt to reveal a Newell's Old Boys jersey emblazoned with Maradona's famous number 10.

He then pointedly saluted the sky in honour of his compatriot, who spent a season at Newell's - the club where Messi began his youth career.

Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho each got a goal in Barca's comfortable victory, along with striker Martin Braithwaite, who opened the scoring in the first half.

They described afterwards how they were not aware of what Messi was planning on a moving day at Camp Nou, where Maradona played from 1982 to 1984.

"We lost Maradona, a global idol, we all miss him," Coutinho said.

"We didn't know what Messi had prepared to honour Maradona," added Griezmann. "It was a beautiful surprise."

Newell's responded through their English Twitter account, saying: "It's all about number 10. The best player in the world and his tribute to #D10S."

Barca's victory moved them into eighth in the table, for a few hours at least, nine points behind leaders Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid in second.

Antoine Griezmann starred and Lionel Messi paid tribute to Diego Maradona as Barcelona beat Osasuna 4-0 at Camp Nou on Sunday.

Ronald Koeman had called on his players to produce a performance befitting the former Barca and Argentina star, who died this week.

They duly delivered, Griezmann scoring the pick of the goals in a fine performance against a side who won 2-1 at this ground in July.

There were also goals from Martin Braithwaite, Philippe Coutinho and Messi, who honoured compatriot Maradona with his celebration after scoring the fourth.

A brilliant goal-line clearance from Unai Garcia stopped Coutinho from opening the scoring after Griezmann teed up the Brazilian.

The breakthrough eventually came in scrappy fashion. Messi's pass split the defence, Jordi Alba found Coutinho, Sergio Herrera saved his shot and Braithwaite's rebound, but the latter managed to bundle the ball over the line with Messi's help.

Ante Budimir turned past Marc-Andre ter Stegen after a brilliant double save by the keeper, but the goal was correctly ruled out for offside against Oier Sanjurjo.

Barca doubled their lead just two minutes later, Griezmann walloping a volley past the motionless Herrera after Alba's cross had been cleared to the edge of the box.

Griezmann turned provider 11 minutes into the second half, teeing up Coutinho for a tap-in after good work from Braithwaite to win back possession in the Osasuna half.

A good outing for the Catalans was soured when they suffered another defensive injury, Clement Lenglet unable to continue after apparently taking damage to his ankle.

Roberto Torres rattled the post before Ousmane Dembele had a goal ruled out for offside, but Messi soon made it 4-0 with a fierce strike from the edge of the box, the Argentine then removing his Barca shirt to reveal a Newell's Old Boys jersey emblazoned with the number 10.

What does it mean? Barca edge closer to leaders

Barca's victory moves them into seventh place, three points behind champions Real Madrid in fourth, with a game in hand.

They can take some confidence into coming league matches with Cadiz and Levante before the meeting with leaders Real Sociedad on December 16.

Osasuna are 15th, three points above the relegation places.

A turning point for Griezmann?

Griezmann seemed to vent months of frustration with his emphatic volley, but he had already looked Barca's brightest attacking player before then.

The France star hit the target with three of his four shots, completed more passes than any other forward (68) and looked, at last, to be enjoying himself.

Defensive worries abound

Any serious injury to Lenglet would leave Barca without a fit senior centre-back, with Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti and Ronald Araujo all sidelined.

Osasuna offered scant attacking threat, with only three shots on target throughout, but there are tougher opponents to come in December.

What's next?

Barca, who have already qualified for the Champions League last 16, visit Ferencvaros on Wednesday before next Saturday's league trip to Cadiz. Osasuna have a week to prepare for a home game against Real Betis.

Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong are all back in the Barcelona squad for Sunday's LaLiga clash with Osasuna.

Messi and De Jong were afforded rests in midweek, meaning they missed the 4-0 Champions League win away to Dynamo Kiev.

But both are likely to come straight back into the starting XI at Camp Nou on Sunday, when Messi will be hoping to continue his fine run against Osasuna, having scored 22 goals in 18 LaLiga meetings with the Pamplona side.

Busquets has not played for Barca since the 5-2 win over Real Betis on November 7 as he sustained a knee injury on international duty with Spain.

It is unclear if Busquets is to start, but he has seemingly been deemed fit enough to at least be on the bench.

Sergino Dest has been included in the selection after reportedly suffering with a muscular problem.

Should he be unable to take up a place on the bench, B team defender Oscar Minguez is also there to fill in.

Barca's most recent results against Osasuna have left a lot to be desired, having failed to win either of their previous two clashes.

Osasuna might fancy their chances of extending that run, too. After all, Barca's 11 points from eight games this term is their worst record at this point since 1991-92.

 

Diego Simeone hailed Joao Felix's new-found consistency after another brace from the Portuguese helped Atletico Madrid to a 3-1 win over Osasuna on Saturday. 

Joao Felix followed up his two-goal showing in the midweek Champions League win over Salzburg with another fine performance in Pamplona, putting Atleti ahead from the penalty spot in the first half before missing a spot-kick shortly after the restart. 

He put that behind him in the 69th minute, though, giving Atleti a 2-0 advantage with a glorious finish from 18 yards.

Although substitute Ante Budimir pulled one back for the hosts 10 minutes from time, Atleti added a third late on through Lucas Torreira's first goal following his loan move from Arsenal. 

With five goals to his name already this season, Joao Felix is well on his way to surpassing last term's total of nine goals across all competitions.

He also enjoyed the second-highest pass completion rate of any Atleti starter (90.3 per cent) and Simeone is delighted with the progress the former Benfica man is making.

"He has looked good at the start of the season," Simeone said. "He has had lots of important moments. What is making everyone talk about him like they are is the continuity and regularity that he is showing in his work. 

"Last year, we spoke about things like transitioning with him and he is learning from that."

The result stretched Atleti's unbeaten run in LaLiga to 22 games – a record that equals the fourth-best unbeaten streak in the competition's history. 

While the final scoreline looked relatively comfortable, Simeone says it was not without some fraught moments. 

"We created chances by countering from the inside with great speed," he added. "There were more spaces and the team was creating different attacking possibilities.

"Shortly after the penalty came, we created some scoring situations. We made it 2-0 but they pulled one back and there was a lot of tension. 

"Luckily, Lucas scored a great goal that allowed us to close a game that I think was very good."

Joao Felix followed up his Champions League heroics with another brace as Atletico Madrid maintained their unbeaten start to LaLiga with a 3-1 win over Osasuna. 

The Portugal international scored twice in the 3-2 midweek win over Salzburg – including a late winner – and got Diego Simeone's side up and running with a well-struck penalty shortly before the interval in Pamplona.

He missed a second penalty after 48 minutes, but doubled Atleti's advantage in the 69th minute with a sublime strike from the edge of the area.

Although substitute Ante Budimir pulled one back for the hosts 10 minutes from time, Atleti added a third late on through Lucas Torreira to move up to third in LaLiga – two points behind leaders Real Madrid.

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone is confident Joao Felix will continue to improve his all-round game as he backed the young forward to thrive in a more reserved position.

The Portugal international scored twice in an impressive display to rescue his side a 3-2 win against Salzburg in Tuesday's Champions League clash.

At 20 years and 352 days, he became the second-youngest player to score a brace for Atletico in the Champions League after Sergio Aguero (20 years, 106 days) against PSV in September 2008.

He has started five games for Atleti in all competitions this term and been used just off main striker Luis Suarez in each of them, scoring three times in total.

The ex-Benfica attacker is averaging 4.94 touches of the ball in the opposition box in LaLiga this term, which is behind only Suarez (6.49) and Yannick Carrasco (5.41) among Atletico players.

Some have questioned whether Simeone's system can get the best out of the young talent, suggesting he needs greater freedom to thrive, but the Atleti head coach insists it is always about putting the team first.

"I'm not going to talk about the opinions of players or others," Simeone said at a pre-match news conference ahead of Saturday's LaLiga trip to Osasuna.

"Everyone has an opinion and I am very respectful to others. I have made it clear what we need from Joao. There is room for his game to grow.

"He played a very good game against Granada and Huesca, against Villarreal and in the last minutes versus Celta Vigo, plus two games for Portugal.

"We talked the other day and I have no problems responding to questions about Joao - I will continue to do so.

"But I don't understand what it means by more freedom. Freedom is not about playing anywhere you want. Important players always give for the team, regardless of the position."

Atleti have conceded six goals in their past three matches, four of those coming in a heavy loss away to Bayern Munich, and Simeone acknowledges his side need to tighten up.

"I don't want to talk about individual situations in defence," he said. "But collectively, when we work hard as a team, the whole side benefits.

"We have to improve because our strength has always been having a strong defence, but at the same time we are growing in other aspects. It is about finding the right balance."

Atletico are seeking a fifth league win in a row against Osasuna without conceding and Simeone is happy with his side's overall start to the campaign.

"Things have been good so far," he said. "We need to continue with the same regularity now. We face a tough opponent next, but we will take the game to them and try to hurt them."

Quique Setien says Lionel Messi was right to send out a warning to his Barcelona team-mates ahead of their Champions League last-16 tie with Napoli and did not feel attacked by his superstar forward.

Barca were beaten 2-1 at home by Osasuna on Thursday as the defence of their title in LaLiga officially came to an end, albeit Real Madrid's victory over Villarreal by the same scoreline rendered their result meaningless.

After the game an emotional Messi issued a rallying cry, with an eye on the second leg against Napoli to conclude a tie delicately poised at 1-1.

"We need to change a lot, otherwise we will also lose against Napoli," he told Movistar. 

"I already said before that playing like this we won't be able to fight for the Champions League and you see, we could not even fight for the league. We need to be self-critical."

Setien understands Messi's message but insisted it is not all doom and gloom at Barca.

"It is true that if we play as badly as in the last matches, obviously it is not going to give us what we need to win the match," head coach Setien said ahead of Barca's final LaLiga contest against Deportivo Alaves on Sunday.

"But we have also had great moments and if we play like this it can give us what we need to win it. We are all aware that there are many things to improve, we must be more consistent and more reliable. 

"This is the reality. If we manage to play a match like [the 4-1 win at] Villarreal, where everything went well, it surely gives us what we need to win the Champions League. 

"We must be more reliable during the 90 minutes and convince ourselves that if we give our best level, of course we can win the Champions League. "

When questioned if he felt Messi's words were a slight on him, Setien added: "No, not at all. 

"We all say things that are misinterpreted and others well, it is lived daily. I do not give it more importance. We all need a break, clean our minds. We will try to think in this sense."

Setien was only hired by Barca in January but reportedly finds his position under threat at Camp Nou.

However, he has little intention of walking away.

"The day I arrived I said that I would enjoy until the last day. I continue to enjoy despite the circumstances and I never thought that this would be easy," he said. 

"Defeat is always an option to overcome. I am not living nothing that I have not lived before. At no time have I had the feeling of wanting to leave."

Speculation his position is under threat grew after Setien met with president Josep Maria Bartomeu this week.

But Setien says the meeting was just par for the course.

"It's normal that there are meetings with the president," he added. 

"The meeting consisted of preparing for the future. The concern we all have for improving is evident and we are trying to find solutions."

Luis Suarez has shown Barcelona how they can put their LaLiga disappointment behind them and end the season on a high in the Champions League, according to Bojan.

Barca's title defence faltered following LaLiga's resumption from a three-month suspension amid the coronavirus pandemic, with Real Madrid winning 10 straight games and securing top spot with a 2-1 victory over Villarreal on Thursday.

That result coincided with Quique Setien's side going down 2-1 at home to 10-man Osasuna, a match that saw the experienced trio of Suarez, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba start on the bench.

Suarez acknowledged prior to the fixture that Barca's title hopes were effectively over, while Lionel Messi said following the defeat things must change or they will not win their Champions League last-16 second leg against Napoli on August 8.

Former Barca attacker Bojan believes Suarez's comments were motivational rather than defeatist, ensuring the Blaugrana keep their focus and aim to reach next month's mini-tournament in Lisbon.

"I can only applaud the message that Luis Suarez has repeated in all the interviews he granted in recent days," Bojan wrote for Catalan publication SPORT.

"That a reference like him, a striker who has just surpassed [Laszlo] Kubala in goals [for Barcelona], avoids looking for excuses and, above all, points to the dressing room itself as the biggest factor in what happened this season seems to me not only admirable, but also an exercise in humility. Not referees, not VAR, not anything like that.

"Honestly, I am comforted by hearing his words because only from analysing what you have done wrong yourself can you change and improve. And not only that, it shows the dressing room suffers, it suffers with each defeat, with each title that evaporates.

"In addition, Suarez, obviously, is laying the groundwork for the team to react, step forward, avoid feeling free from all guilt and end the season by winning the Champions League.

"Luis, in fact, does nothing but encourage his team-mates to believe. He is pointing towards Lisbon, where the Champions League is played in August."

Bojan said it would be "essential" to address this season's shortcomings in the future, but that for now the best route would be to follow Suarez's lead.

Setien admitted after the Osasuna loss he was unsure if he would still be in charge for the Champions League campaign.

Having been on the receiving of surprise comebacks from Roma and Liverpool over the past two seasons, Bojan believes the fact the final rounds of the competition will not be conducted over two legs boosts Barca's chances.

"If they reach the quarter-finals, they will arrive in Lisbon to play a tournament without two-legged ties in which, in recent seasons, Barca have suffered too much mentally," he wrote.

"Nor should physique be a key factor. Three games at 90 minutes. And with the talent to dream."

Lionel Messi says Barcelona "need to change a lot" if they are to avoid being knocked out of the Champions League by Napoli after relinquishing their LaLiga title.

Barca fell to a shock 2-1 loss to Osasuna in Thursday's clash at Camp Nou when only a win would do to prevent Real Madrid from sealing top spot for the first time in three years.

The defeat ultimately did not matter in the grand scheme of things as Karim Benzema's double earned Madrid a 2-1 win over Villarreal.

Barca exited the Copa del Rey at the quarter-final stage in February and all focus is now on next month's Champions League last-16 second leg with Napoli.

The rearranged tie will either be played on neutral soil in Portugal or at Camp Nou and is finely poised at 1-1 after Antoine Griezmann cancelled out Dries Mertens' opener in the first leg five months ago.

And Messi, who was on target in the defeat to Osasuna, fears Barca will exit the competition at the first knockout stage hurdle unless his team-mates show more fighting spirit.

"People are losing patience after defeats to Roma and Liverpool in recent years," he told Movistar. 

"We need a break and forget about this if we want to fight for the Champions League. We need to change a lot, otherwise we will also lose against Napoli. 

"I already said before that playing like this we won't be able to fight for the Champions League and you see, we could not even fight for the league. We need to be self-critical."

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