Jurgen Klopp out, Steven Gerrard in?

Klopp ended Liverpool's 30-year wait for league glory last season, but the German manager could be set for a return to his homeland.

His exit could see Gerrard return to Merseyside.

 

TOP STORY – GERRARD TO REPLACE KLOPP IN LIVERPOOL RETURN

Steven Gerrard may soon return to Anfield but as manager to replace Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, according to The Mirror.

Liverpool reportedly expect Klopp to take up an opportunity with Germany in the near future amid doubts over long-time head coach Joachim Low.

As a result, Liverpool legend Gerrard has been sounded out as he has Rangers on a cusp of a drought-breaking league title in Scotland.

Gerrard, who made more than 700 appearances for Liverpool, took control of Rangers in 2018.

 

ROUND-UP

- Erling Haaland seems to be on every club's wish list but the Mirror reports Manchester City have joined the queue for the Borussia Dortmund star. City manager Pep Guardiola and Haaland's agent Mina Raiola have a testy relationship but the Premier League leaders will press ahead with an alleged £100million (€115m) deal. English pair Chelsea and Manchester United are also reportedly interested along with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

- Fabrizio Romano says Chelsea want to keep veteran defender Thiago Silva beyond the 2020-21 season. Chelsea signed Silva on a free transfer following his PSG exit.

- LaLiga giants Barcelona are in the market for a young defender and have set their sights on Inter's 21-year-old Alessandro Bastoni, according to Calciomercato.

Arsenal are in the hunt for Wigan Athletic sensation Kyle Joseph, with the teenager scoring five goals in 14 appearances. The Mirror claims the Gunners have joined Celtic and Rangers in their interest in the London-born Scotland youth international whose current contract expires in June.

Liverpool and rivals United are eyeing Leicester City's Harvey Barnes, reports the Mirror. The 23-year-old has established himself as a key player for the Foxes.

- Eric Bailly is in talks with United over a new long-term contract, claims The Sun. The 26-year-old defender, who has been plagued by injuries at Old Trafford, is out of contract in 2022. It comes amid United's reported interest in Sevilla's Jules Kounde, Ibrahima Konate of RB Leipzig and Brighton and Hove Albion star Ben White.

Ronald Koeman insists he was not sending a message to Antoine Griezmann by leaving the misfiring forward on the bench for Barcelona's 2-0 victory over Sevilla.

Griezmann has gone six games without a goal in all competitions and was named among the Barca substitutes for the second match running on Saturday.

Unlike in the 3-0 win over Elche in midweek, the France international was not brought on as Koeman instead turned to Martin Braithwaite with the game poised at 1-0.

Explaining his decision to bring on Braithwaite instead of Griezmann for the final eight minutes, Koeman said: "It's not a message, no. 

"We decided to change the system and, to be able to get in behind, we put Dembele up top. 

"With the first goal, we said that we needed someone quicker than Griezmann on [Lionel] Messi's side. It's not a punishment."

Dembele opened the scoring just short of the half-hour mark at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan and Messi sealed the victory with his 30th goal against Sevilla in LaLiga - his best return against any opponent.

Barca's win was their ninth in 10 LaLiga outings and leaves them two points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a couple of games in hand.

The Catalan giants face Sevilla again on Wednesday at Camp Nou, where they will be looking to overturn a 2-0 deficit in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final tie.

And after overcoming the Europa League winners in the league, Koeman is hopeful of a repeat scoreline when the teams reconvene in Catalonia.

"Of course we believe," he said. "That's our mentality, but Wednesday's game will be different because they will analyse the mistakes they made. 

"But yes, of course, we have a chance. I don't want to give more importance to the Copa game. We have to win and we have to fight. We will try to stay in all competitions until the end."

The victory may have come at a cost for Barcelona, however, as Gerard Pique and replacement Ronald Araujo - only just back from an ankle injury - both sustained knocks.

Pedri also left the field in the final 20 minutes after injuring his leg and will be assessed on Sunday, with all three players now doubtful for the cup tie against Sevilla.

"We have to wait and see about the injuries, we still don't know," Koeman said. 

"But despite the changes we had to make we kept the same rhythm because we have a deep squad that doesn't get annoyed [when not playing]."

Gerard Pique believes Barcelona have the opportunity to turn their entire season around by knocking Sevilla out of the Copa del Rey having beaten the same side in LaLiga on Saturday.

The first part of a huge double-header went Barca's way in a 2-0 away triumph as Ousmane Dembele and Lionel Messi scored to take Ronald Koeman's men to second.

The Blaugrana are now only two points behind league leaders Atletico Madrid, albeit having played two games more, and have their confidence renewed heading into Wednesday's home Copa semi-final second leg against Sevilla, where they must overturn a two-goal deficit.

A 2-0 defeat in the first leg earlier in February had contributed to a downbeat mood at Camp Nou, combined with a humbling Champions League defeat to Paris Saint-Germain and a modest league position.

But Barca stalwart Pique is now feeling positive, even though Pedri and the returning Ronald Araujo appeared to suffer injuries.

He explained: "There is a league [title race]. We have seen much worse things. We are not in a perfect situation, but there is confidence. We hope we can do something.

"Everything is in the head. During my time at Barca, we have had many moments of these injuries, but if the team is good in the head, it does not matter who plays. It is a matter of having team spirit.

"If we turn it around in the tie on Wednesday, the season changes completely.

"It's a matter of looking for that life that allows us to fight for titles until the end, which is what Barca are asked to do."

After the Copa first leg kickstarted a run of one win in four for Barca, they have enjoyed back-to-back victories and were good value for Saturday's success, Koeman's first against Sevilla in his coaching career.

Sevilla did not muster a single first-half attempt and finished with only four in total, while Barca had three big chances - from which Opta would expect them to score - and netted two of them.

"The last times I have come to speak [to the media] have been painful moments," Pique said. "Today I am very proud of the team. We came from hard blows and the team has risen.

"Today I think we have shown that the team is still very much alive, that it has the squad to compete and that on Wednesday we will fight."

Araujo, back having been out since prior to the February 10 trip to Sevilla, was only involved due to Pique's substitution on 67 minutes.

Pique, whose seven aerial duels contested was more than any other Barca player, was not injured, though, rather still working to recover full fitness following a three-month layoff with a knee injury.

"It is a small inconvenience," he said. "I had not played for a long time and I am playing more than expected.

"It was agreed that this would be the minute. I am very happy to continue participating."

Barcelona claimed a deserved 2-0 LaLiga win at Sevilla on Saturday in the first of the sides' two crunch clashes.

The Blaugrana will host Sevilla in their Copa del Rey semi-final second leg in midweek but first took care of business in the league thanks to strikes from Ousmane Dembele and Lionel Messi.

A display of similar dominance will now be required at Camp Nou, as Barca trail 2-0 from the first leg of their Copa tie.

Ronald Koeman's men will certainly not be short of confidence, though, after climbing to second, only two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid having played two games more.

[17:09] bensprattjourn (Guest)

Barca had initially lacked a focal point, playing a 3-5-2 formation without a natural striker, yet their unorthodox front two combined to great effect for the opener after 29 minutes.

As Messi dropped deep to collect the ball, Dembele tore away on the shoulder of the last defender and met a pinpoint pass to fire under Yassine Bounou.

That was the only moment of real quality in a low-key first half, but Barca twice in quick succession should have added to their advantage after the break.

Sergino Dest blasted against the post when the ball broke his way following a patent move, before Dembele raced away again and teed up Messi, who blazed over.

Clement Lenglet then had a header ruled out for offside, yet Messi settled any nerves as he played a smart one-two with Ilaix Moriba and prodded in the rebound when Bounou blocked his dinked attempt five minutes from the end.

Only an apparent injury to Ronald Araujo, 15 minutes after his return to action, put a dampener on Barca's day.

Lionel Messi is reportedly open to staying at Barcelona, but the LaLiga giants have work to do.

Messi, 33, stayed at Barca after sensationally requesting to leave ahead of this season.

But the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is out of contract at the end of the campaign, leading to more talk over his future.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI OPEN TO BARCELONA STAY

Messi is open to staying at Barcelona and is prioritising the sporting project over the economic offer, according to Marca.

The report says Barca strengthening their squad could convince Messi, who has been linked to Manchester City.

Signing City forward Sergio Aguero, Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, Chelsea's N'Golo Kante or Liverpool's Roberto Firmino would help Barca's position in their bid to re-sign the superstar.

ROUND-UP

- With Real Madrid linked with a move for Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, such a deal could lead to questions over Eden Hazard. AS reports Mbappe joining Madrid could lead to an exit for Hazard, who has struggled with injuries since joining the LaLiga giants.

- Staying at Real Madrid and there is uncertainty over Raphael Varane's future. AS reports Madrid are prepared to listen to offers for Varane ahead of next season if they cannot agree to a new deal with the defender, who is out of contract in 2022. Manchester United have been linked with Varane, who is valued at £60.7million (€70m).

- Harry Kane has again starred for Tottenham this season. The Telegraph reports the forward, who is contracted until 2024, is set to stay at Spurs for at least another campaign.

- Amid suggestions Sevilla defender Jules Kounde is too expensive, Manchester United could look elsewhere. Eurosport reports Villarreal's Pau Torres may be a more realistic target due to his reported release clause of around £43m (€49.6m).

- Alexandre Lacazette seems set for an Arsenal exit. The Mirror reports Monaco are targeting the forward ahead of next season.

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman will not vote in elections to decide the next club president as he battles to show he should keep his job under the new regime.

Dutchman Koeman declared on Friday that he will not side with a particular candidate, with Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Antoni Freixa the three men vying for the post.

The election takes place on March 7 and its outcome could have a profound effect on Koeman's chances of getting a second season in charge.

His first campaign has been a struggle, with the club hit hard financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning Koeman has had to operate on a limited budget and with wranglings over pay cuts carrying on in the background.

The future of Lionel Messi is also up in the air, with the club's record goalscorer due to reach the end of his contract once this season finishes.

Koeman will watch and wait for the election results, but he told a news conference: "I do not vote because I am not someone who has to vote.

"Each one has his own story. Each candidate thinks that he is the best for the club. I have to wait to know the results. I have to wait and the members have to decide."

Once the successful candidate makes clear his plans for the club, Koeman will have more to say, but until then his focus is on getting results and ending an arduous February on a high note.

There have been LaLiga wins over Real Betis, Alaves and Elche, but it has been a month in which defeats to Paris Saint-Germain and Sevilla in the first legs of the Champions League and Copa del Rey have hit Barcelona's trophy prospects.

Those ties remain retrievable, but Barcelona must go up several gears, starting with Saturday's league trip to Sevilla.

A 2-0 defeat at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium two and a half weeks ago must be quickly forgotten as Barcelona face a side battling alongside them in the top four to apply pressure on Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

Sevilla will travel to Camp Nou next Wednesday for the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg, but Koeman said of the double-header: "They are two different games. We must try to win both.

"We will know that in the Copa there is a 2-0 deficit and in LaLiga we must continue our streak, add and put pressure on those above us."

Barcelona have won 11 of their last 14 LaLiga matches, drawing the other three and last losing in early December to Cadiz.

It is the cup results that have hurt them, along with allowing Atletico Madrid to streak so far clear early in the league season that catching them remains a tall order for Barcelona.

Koeman said Barcelona's senior players, such as Lionel Messi, need to find support from the younger members of the squad.

"The older players have tried to take command but they cannot do it alone. They need help from others. The clearest example is that Leo [Messi] has 17 or 18 goals and the rest of the forwards together have more or less the same number," Koeman said.

"He needs help from the others. The responsibility must lie with the whole team."

Koeman, who left his role as Netherlands head coach to return to the club he graced as a player, may need a trophy to sustain his stay, even though his contract runs through to the end of next season.

Asked about the prospect of finishing without a title this season, Koeman said he always took a positive view and focused on winning rather than losing.

"I know that being a Barca coach implies that there is always a lot of pressure," he said. "If you don't win or lose matches, the culprit is the coach."

Manchester City are reportedly considering a double swoop for Erling Haaland and Giovanni Reyna.

The Borussia Dortmund stars have been linked with moves, with Haaland in particular in high demand across Europe.

And high-flying City have their eyes on the duo.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY CONSIDER HAALAND, REYNA

Manchester City are considering moves for Dortmund stars Haaland and Reyna, according to 90min.

Haaland, 20, has scored 17 goals and provided three assists in 17 Bundesliga games this season.

Reyna, the 18-year-old American, has three goals and four assists in 21 league games.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United continue to be linked with centre-backs. But the Daily Mail reports the Premier League club are unwilling to meet Sevilla defender Jules Kounde's £68million (€79m) release clause, although they remain interested in the 22-year-old.

- With Liverpool enduring a difficult season, Jurgen Klopp's future has become a talking point. Bild reports Klopp could take over as Germany coach after the 2022 World Cup despite having a contract with Liverpool until 2024.

- Another club linked with a move for Haaland are Chelsea. Metro reports Tammy Abraham, who has scored 12 goals this season and is out of contract in 2023, is unwilling to discuss a new deal with the club amid the Haaland rumours.

- Jesse Lingard is attracting interest after an impressive start to his West Ham career. The Daily Express reports Leicester City are prepared to challenge West Ham if they try to sign Lingard, who is on loan from Manchester United, permanently ahead of next season.

- Still without a club, it remains to be seen where Maurizio Sarri ends up next. CalcioMercato reports Fiorentina again met with the former Juventus and Chelsea boss, but a potential agreement remains complex.

Ronald Koeman has not given up on Barcelona winning LaLiga as they face a pivotal run of fixtures that could define their season, starting with Elche at home on Wednesday. 

Barca sit fourth in the table after only managing a draw at home to Cadiz at the weekend, a surprise result that ended a streak of seven successive league wins. 

However, with leaders Atletico Madrid losing at home to Levante, meaning they have managed just one victory in their previous four outings, Koeman retains hope his team can make up ground and get involved in a title race. 

Atleti have a three-point cushion over second-placed Real Madrid, who have played a game more than their neighbours, while Barcelona are eight points adrift.  

In between the two Clasico rivals are Sevilla, to whom Koeman's side travel to play this weekend in league action. They then host the same opponents next Tuesday in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final, Barca needing to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the previous meeting if they are to progress. 

"I still believe that we can fight for the championship," Koeman told the media ahead of the visit of Elche to Camp Nou. "Results are showing that each team can come down.  

"It will depend on the two games that come, which are very important to fight for the title.  

"Then, in the cup, we have to come back. In the two competitions, we can do things. This week, we have three games that are important.

"It is difficult because we have to overcome a home game against Sevilla without an audience, with an audience it would be easier." 

Barca had 20 attempts and 81 per cent of possession against Cadiz but were punished for their wastefulness when Clement Lenglet was ruled to have fouled Ruben Sobrino in the penalty area, allowing Alex Fernandez to convert for an 89th-minute equaliser for the visitors with their only shot on target.

While they have scored 50 goals in LaLiga this campaign – the most by any team in the competition – Koeman wants to see his players become more ruthless in attack. 

"The problem is not that we do not create. It would be worse if we did not create opportunities," the Dutchman said when reflecting on Sunday's performance.

"We must ask for more effectiveness from the players at the top. We create opportunities and we did not score to make it 2-0.  

"These are important moments and, this season, we lack effectiveness. The percentage of goals is low for a team like Barcelona."

Koeman confirmed that Ronald Araujo is not yet ready to return from injury, though the defender is "improving" and could feature in either of the upcoming games against Sevilla.

Juventus, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and now Manchester United are all reportedly chasing Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Days out from his 22nd birthday, Donnarumma has reportedly closed a deal with the Red Devils.

Is David de Gea's future in doubt?

 

TOP STORY – RED DEVILS SWOOP FOR RECORD-BREAKER

Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma has agreed to a provisional deal with Manchester United, according to Todo Fichajes.

The report claims the deal would make the Italy star the best paid goalkeeper ever in world football.

United have had goalkeeping issues this season, with number one keeper David de Gea making a number of errors, while understudy Dean Henderson has made a handful of appearances.

Donnarumma, who celebrates his 22nd birthday on Thursday, became the youngest player in Serie A history to reach 200 appearances in Sunday's 3-0 derby defeat to leaders Inter.

The 21-year-old's current deal with the Rossoneri expires at the end of this season and he has been linked with a host of clubs including Serie A champions Juventus, Champions League holders Bayern Munich and Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain.

Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo will look to inflict more Champions League pain on Porto and Borussia Dortmund travel to Sevilla for the first leg in the round of 16 on Wednesday.

Juve advanced from Group G at a canter, winning five of their six games to finish level on points with Barcelona.

The Serie A champions will be expected to knock Porto out, but Andrea Pirlo will be braced for a stern test in the first leg at Estadio do Dragao.

Sevilla do battle with Dortmund at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan a couple of days after it was announced that Borussia Monchengladbach head coach Marco Rose will take over at the Bundesliga club at the end of the season.

We take a look at the best stats on the two ties courtesy of Opta.

Dayot Upamecano will be a Bayern Munich player in 2021-22, meaning Liverpool and Chelsea must go back to the drawing board.

The Premier League rivals had each been linked with a move for the RB Leipzig centre-back as they look to add to their options at heart of defence.

Now they each must look to different targets come the end of the season, with injuries and poor play at the back having derailed the Reds' hopes of winning a second successive league title.

But which centre-backs could be part of Liverpool and Chelsea's plans to pose a more serious challenge to Manchester City next season?

Here we look at four players who could be playing their football at Liverpool or Stamford Bridge next season.

Bremer

The Torino defender is reported to be Liverpool's top close-season target after an impressive season in Serie A.

His 75 clearances are the second-most in the Italian top flight among defenders, while Bremer has also excelled at making recoveries.

Indeed, he has tallied 114, putting him 11th among defenders to have played at least 10 league games. Only four defenders have won more aerial duels than Bremer's 47.

David Alaba

Chelsea have been linked with the man Upamecano is seemingly set to replace, though Alaba’s wage structure may reportedly be a sticking point for the Blues.

Alaba's versatility to play across the back four and in midfield would certainly appeal to Chelsea and former Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel.

The Austria international has consistently demonstrated his prowess in attack as well as at the back.

He has created at least 17 chances in every season since 2010-11 and has crafted 10 in 19 league appearances this season.

Ibrahima Konate

Could Leipzig be raided again? Both Chelsea and Liverpool have been linked with Konate, the France Under-21 international signed from Sochaux in 2017.

Injuries have been a problem for Konate, who has played only 15 league games since the start of last season.

However, when he has played extensively, he has shown his quality. 

Konate featured 28 times in the Bundesliga in 2018-19 and was sixth in the league with 100 aerial duels won, contributing to 12 clean sheets, a tally only bettered by two players – his Leipzig team-mates Marcel Halstenberg (15) and Willi Orban (13).

Jules Kounde

Liverpool are thought to be keen on Kounde, but they will likely face competition from across Europe for the Sevilla defender's services.

Kounde has emerged as one of the finest young defenders in European football is again excelling this season.

With 106 recoveries in 2020-21, Kounde – who has also previously been linked with Barcelona and Manchester City – has proven a reliable presence in the heart of defence, while he can also start attacks.

His 136 successful passes into the final third are more than Barca's Clement Lenglet (132) and Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos (128).

Ramos (84.77) and Lenglet (80.49) have a higher accuracy percentage on those passes than Kounde's 76.84, but at just 22 he has the time and the talent to develop into one of the world's top centre-backs.

If reports are to be believed, Lionel Messi will leave Barcelona at the end of the season.

However, his next destination remains a mystery.

The United States, though, could be next on the list for the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

 

TOP STORY – MIAMI MOVE ON THE CARDS FOR MESSI?

Lionel Messi could be keen on joining David Beckham's Inter Miami in MLS, claims Sport.

Messi, whose contract is set to expire, is tipped to leave Barcelona at the end of the season amid strong links to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants Manchester City.

But the six-time Ballon d'Or winner could be lured to the United States, where Beckham co-owns Inter Miami.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to The Sun, Manchester United are battling Barca and Real Madrid to sign Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde. United are reportedly determined to bolster their defence and Kounde has emerged as a key target.

Liverpool have made Torino defender Bremer their top transfer target at the end of the season, reports the Mirror. Despite the January arrivals of Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies, Liverpool still want to strengthen their defence.

- Spanish journalist Siro Lopez says Sergio Ramos has made his decision to leave Madrid. It comes as the likes of United, PSG, Juventus and Chelsea eye the superstar Madrid captain on a free transfer.

Madrid are interested in Real Betis midfielder Nabil Fekir, reports Estadio Deportivo. Inter, Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Napoli are also believed to be eyeing the Frenchman.

Real Madrid are considering a move for Kalidou Koulibaly, while Manchester United are targeting Jadon Sancho in a cut-price deal.

Amid uncertainty over Sergio Ramos' future at Madrid, the LaLiga giants continue to be linked with centre-backs.

They seemingly have plenty of options – and Napoli star Koulibaly is among them.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID LIKE KOULIBALY

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane likes Napoli defender Koulibaly, according to AS.

The report says Bayern Munich star David Alaba, who is out of contract at the end of the season, is still Madrid's first option.

With Ramos potentially leaving when his contract expires at campaign's end, AS also says Villarreal defender Pau Torres and Sevilla's Jules Kounde will be expensive.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United opted not to sign Borussia Dortmund star Sancho ahead of 2020-21, and it could pay off. Eurosport reports United could land Sancho for just £50million (€57.1m) in the next transfer window. The Bundesliga club were demanding about £100m (€120m) for Sancho last year.

- Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Florian Neuhaus is seemingly attracting plenty of interest. Kicker reports Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool, Manchester City and Juventus are interested in the three-time Germany international.

- Arsenal look set to strengthen ahead of next season. The Sun reports they are close to finalising a deal for 18-year-old Sporting CP forward Tiago Tomas for £20m (€22.8m).

- On loan at Real Betis from Barcelona, Emerson may not return to Camp Nou. CalcioMercato reports Milan are considering a move for the right-back.

- Former Milan and Chelsea forward Alexandre Pato will join Orlando City on a one-year deal, according to Fabrizio Romano and The Mane Land. Pato has been without a club since leaving Sao Paulo in August last year.

Monchi claims Isco is keen to leave Real Madrid but swatted away rumours Sevilla are preparing to sign the Spain international.

Attacking midfielder Isco has made just three LaLiga starts this season for Zinedine Zidane's team, with suggestions circling in the Spanish media that he fancies a change.

Sevilla director of football Monchi appreciates why Isco has been linked with a move to the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, given his former Madrid and national team boss Julen Lopetegui is head coach of the Europa League winners.

But Monchi says it is a non-starter, even if Isco's name came up in discussions he had with club president Jose Castro.

Speaking to Estadio Deportivo, Monchi said: "The conversation lasted approximately 15 or 20 seconds. It is news that had come out, he asked me and I said no, that was all the interest in Isco."

Monchi added: "I talk to the president or vice-president on a day-to-day basis. There are things that jump out and the president asks me if that is true and I say 'Yes, yes, I have not told you', but it is not the case with Isco.

"It is a rumour, a logical rumour, because he wants to leave, and here is a coach who has had him and for whom he played at a high level, but there was absolutely nothing, not a movement."

Isco was born and raised in Andalusia, and after a spell away in Valencia's system he joined Malaga, which is where he caught the eye of Madrid.

This is his eighth season at Madrid, and Isco has now entered the last 18 months of his contract.

It remains to be seen whether there is a future with Los Blancos for a player who scored 10 goals and had eight assists in the 2016-17 LaLiga campaign, and who in his debut campaign at Madrid created a remarkable 71 chances despite starting only 23 games.

Certainly, Sevilla appear to have made their position clear. They appear content with their attacking options, with Papu Gomez having newly joined from Atalanta and with players out on loan capable of returning and staking a claim.

Monchi said: "Fortunately in that position we have very interesting players. It is one of the positions on the field in which we can be calmer.

"In the profiles that Isco can play, we have players here and elsewhere that will give us a solid performance."

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman does not believe Sevilla's 2-0 Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg win over the Blaugrana was a fair reflection of the match, while he also questioned the officials.

Jules Kounde opened the scoring in the first half with a fine individual effort, before former Barca midfielder Ivan Rakitic wrapped up a potentially significant win in the latter stages.

Lionel Messi did go close several times for the visitors, with Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou keeping him at bay as he made four saves in total – the Moroccan has saved all 18 shots on target he has had to face in this season's Copa.

The two teams renew hostilities at Camp Nou on March 3 for the second half, though Barca have only progressed past Sevilla once in the Copa when losing the first leg to the Andalusians.

Barca shaded the possession (53.6 per cent) and their 13 shots were two more than the hosts, with Koeman left convinced his side had been hard done by.

"It is a result with too much reward for them," Koeman said. "We have seen a Barca playing well, creating a very clear chances.

"We have put a lot of pressure in the second half. I cannot blame the team. There is another game left, we have to try to win and play the final.

"It is difficult at 2-0. We had opportunities to score, but their defence was good, as was their goalkeeper too, but at home this Barca is capable of anything."

Barca were left frustrated by a moment in the second half where Suso was adjudged to have fouled Jordi Alba just outside the box, yet Koeman and his players were convinced the offence occurred inside the box.

The VAR did not appear to intervene, and this left Koeman bemused.

"Mateu Lahoz [the referee] I think was good in general," Koeman said.

"Of course, there was always doubt with the incident of the penalty, because everyone says it was a penalty, so I have to believe them – not only the Barca people [said it should have been a penalty].

"I don't know why the VAR has not intervened."

Sevilla go into the second leg with a significant advantage and know that an away goal will give Barca a mountain to climb, but they are not getting ahead of themselves, aware the most difficult task is yet to come.

"We knew it was going to be very difficult, the team played a great game, we fought to the end and that is worth it, football gives back to you in this way," Rakitic said.

"But we have half the work left to do in Barcelona."

Coach Julen Lopetegui echoed that sentiment, adding: "The team played a great game against a Barcelona that arrived in good form.

"We played well, we defended well and it was a very beautiful game. Now, we have the most complicated and most difficult thing left, which is to play at the Camp Nou. We are aware of the challenge."

Page 1 of 10
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.