Quique Setien's first Barcelona away game will take place on the party island of Ibiza.

Setien, who on Monday agreed to be Ernesto Valverde's successor at Camp Nou on a deal until 2022, will take his new team to the Balearic Island in the last 32 of the Copa del Rey.

The game, which will take place next midweek, will follow Setien's first game in charge, at home to Granada on Sunday.

Real Madrid were paired with Segunda B Group 2 strugglers Unionistas Salamanca while city rivals Atletico will visit Cultural Leonesa.

Defending champions Valencia, the final team in pot one, face a potential banana skin when they go to Segunda B Group 2 table-toppers UD Logrones.

Given he delivered back-to-back LaLiga titles and left Barcelona still at the summit, Ernesto Valverde's departure appears perplexing on the surface.

There has been no great decline to speak of, no obvious player revolt and no boardroom bickering.

Why then have the Blaugrana opted to part ways with their head coach and replace him with Quique Setien, a man who could only lead Real Betis to a 10th-place finish last term?

We have taken a look at the five games which might have ultimately resulted in Valverde's exit.

Roma 3-0 Barcelona. Champions League quarter-final second leg. April 10, 2018.

After being beaten in both legs of the Supercopa de Espana by Real Madrid to begin his reign, things picked up for Valverde, who enjoyed a 36-match unbeaten run at the beginning of the 2017-18 LaLiga campaign.

However, two and a half weeks before that title triumph was sealed, Barcelona were stunned in Europe.

Valverde's side were in control of the tie having beaten the Serie A side 4-1 at home, but Roma became only the third side in Champions League history to overturn a first-leg deficit of three goals or more.

Greek defender Kostas Manolas scored the crucial third goal eight minutes from time as Roma went through on away goals and Valverde suffered his first, but not last, European humiliation.

Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona. Champions League semi-final second leg. May 7, 2019.

Fast forward a year and a case of deja vu, with Barca sitting pretty on a 3-0 first-leg lead in their last-four tie against Liverpool.

The Reds were without Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino for the return fixture at Anfield, where Divock Origi's early goal only gave them a sliver of hope.

Yet Barca looked shell-shocked as Georginio Wijnaldum's double was followed up by another Origi strike, Liverpool incredibly progressing to a final they would win.

Described in the Spanish press as a "debacle", "tragedy" and "historic failure", the writing seemed to be on the wall for Valverde from that point.

Barcelona 1-2 Valencia. Copa del Rey final. May 25, 2019. 

Not even a second LaLiga title could silence Valverde's doubters, who had more ammo when his team lost to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.

Valverde had hoped a victory would ease the pain of the Liverpool loss but Barca were stunned again, Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo putting Valencia 2-0 ahead before Lionel Messi pulled one back.

Rather than wield the axe, though, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu absolved Valverde of blame for the result.

 

Espanyol 2-2 Barcelona. LaLiga. January 4, 2020.

Away defeats to Athletic Bilbao, Granada and Levante would have looked costlier had the champions' nearest rivals Real Madrid not stumbled along themselves in the first half of this season.

Both teams' struggles were evident in a 0-0 Clasico draw at Camp Nou in December, but it was Barcelona's first result back after the mid-season break that would have set more alarm bells ringing.

Derby rivals Espanyol were bottom of the table and had not beaten Barca in LaLiga since 2009 but Frenkie de Jong was sent off as the strugglers claimed a 2-2 draw.

Barcelona 2-3 Atletico Madrid. Supercopa de Espana semi-final. January 9, 2020.

Five days later and it got even worse for Valverde and Barcelona.

Leading 2-1 in Saudi Arabia with nine minutes to go, the Blaugrana collapsed again late on, with Alvaro Morata and Angel Correa sending Atletico through to a final against their cross-city rivals Madrid.

It meant Barcelona had won just one of their previous five games, a sour note to end on for Valverde.

Spain boss Luis Enrique will consider Valencia defender Gabriel Paulista for selection if he becomes available to the national team.

Brazilian-born centre-back Gabriel is in the process of gaining Spanish nationality and last year expressed an interest in representing Spain once he is eligible.

Speaking to Movistar+, Luis Enrique confirmed it was a situation he was monitoring.

"I am aware of every player who could be called up," he said.

"Paulista is going through a process that could make him eligible."

Should Gabriel make the cut for Euro 2020, it would evoke memories of Diego Costa making a switch to play for Spain as opposed to his native Brazil ahead of the 2014 World Cup.

Costa struggled as the defending champions were dumped out in the group stage and, although he eventually improved to 10 goals from 26 caps, the Atletico Madrid striker has not featured at international level since the penalty shoot-out defeat to hosts Russia at the 2018 World Cup.

Spain will face Sweden, Poland and a play-off qualifier in Group E at Euro 2020. 

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane was delighted with the performance of his new-look side in their 3-1 Supercopa de Espana victory over Valencia.

Goals from Toni Kroos, Isco and Luka Modric sealed a commanding victory for Madrid in Jeddah, with Dani Parejo's penalty in second-half stoppage time offering scant consolation.

With Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale unavailable along with longer-term absentees Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio, Zidane experimented with his line-up by playing without wingers and using Isco and Modric as the most advanced players in a five-man midfield.

The move paid dividends on Wednesday as both players produced excellent displays in support of Luka Jovic and in front of Kroos, Casemiro and Federico Valverde in deeper midfield roles.

Zidane suggested the tactic could be used again this season as it allows Madrid's full-backs more space to attack against teams defending in deep blocks.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, he said: "We put in all the ingredients to win the game and it's a deserved victory.

"We're working well. Emotionally, we're doing well. We have all the ingredients to play good games. That's what we did against Valencia, against opponents who are very good.

"We pressed high very well. The second half was much more direct and I'm happy because it's not easy against a very good team, who know how to play well. We can be pleased.

"Today, the option was to put Isco and Modric on the inside to have more runs from the full-backs.

"It was the option for today. We can play with wingers, but we did it the other way around, with more central players and using the wings with our full-backs. It worked for us.

"We prepare really well for games, we understand them very well. We're all together. In the end, it's the players that play, that give everything on the pitch."

Madrid will play Sunday's final against the winner of Thursday's second semi-final between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

Real Madrid breezed into the Supercopa de Espana final on Wednesday with a commanding 3-1 win over Valencia in Jeddah.

The first semi-final encounter of the inaugural expanded tournament was decidedly one-sided despite injury and illness robbing Madrid of Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale.

Toni Kroos broke the deadlock when he scored directly from a quickly taken corner before the excellent Isco struck a second in the first half.

Luka Modric completed the scoring midway through the second period to send Madrid into a final against either Barcelona or Atletico Madrid and consign Copa del Rey holders Valencia to an early trip home, Dani Parejo's late penalty proving scant consolation.

Some quick-thinking from Kroos caught out the local TV director as well as Jaume Domenech, with replays of earlier action still being shown to viewers as the Madrid midfielder curled a corner into the net despite the Valencia keeper's best efforts.

Kevin Gameiro blasted over the bar from a promising position after a rare attack from Valencia, who were limited to 36 per cent of the first-half possession as Madrid controlled the tempo with ease.

One clinical passing move set up Modric for a shot and, when his effort was blocked by Ezequiel Garay, Isco controlled the ball on his chest and volleyed expertly home from 12 yards.

Luka Jovic had a quiet half but should really have made it 3-0 before half-time, the striker failing to beat Jaume with the rebound after Isco hit the left-hand post with a header.

Federico Valverde rippled the side-netting in the second half but it was Modric who put the game beyond Valencia, gathering Jovic's pass into the box, working space with a step-over and bending a sublime shot past Jaume for his fifth goal of the season.

Parejo at least gave Valencia fans something to cheer in second-half stoppage time, firing a penalty high past Thibaut Courtois after a VAR review saw Sergio Ramos penalised for handball.

What does it mean? Zidane masterplan secures another final

This was one of Madrid's best performances of the season and it came with Benzema and Bale sidelined and with no recognised wingers in the starting line-up.

Instead, head coach Zinedine Zidane gave Modric and Isco licence to roam in front of Kroos, Valverde and Casemiro, giving Los Blancos an imperious level of control over a Valencia team who had little idea how to respond.

It would be no surprise to see Zidane replicate the line-up in the final and perhaps some of their more challenging games of 2020, such as the Champions League last-16 tie with Manchester City.

Isco sparkles in new-look line-up

Zidane opted to pack the team with ball-playing midfielders, with Isco and Modric pushed furthest forward, and it was a system in which the former flourished. He was a constant threat and took his goal well.

Kondogbia run ragged

Geoffrey Kondogbia offered little protection to his back four and did not help in building counter-attacks, either, which were evidently part of Albert Celades' initial game plan. He was replaced by Maxi Gomez after 55 minutes.

What's next?

Madrid will meet either Barcelona or Atletico in Sunday's final, with their next LaLiga game at home to Sevilla not until January 18. Valencia are back in action on January 19 at Real Mallorca.

Lionel Messi will draw the crowds in their droves despite fears over ticket sales for the Supercopa de Espana in Saudi Arabia, insists Juan Antonio Pizzi.

Reports suggest a fraction of the tickets allocated to the four competing clubs – Real Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Atletico Madrid and Valencia – have been sold ahead of the opening game on Wednesday.

The first fixture sees Valencia face Zinedine Zidane's side, with Barcelona taking on Atletico in the second semi-final on Thursday.

And Pizzi, who played for Barcelona between 1996-98 and recently had a spell in charge of the Saudi Arabia national team, is confident the venues will be full for all of the matches.

"I have no doubt," he told Marca.

"They're aware of how much it means to have the four best teams in Spain and four of the best in the world. It's exceptional for them, like a party.

"Also, you have to keep in mind Messi is there, who's a person they admire and recognise, so seeing him on the pitch will be a big deal for them.

"They fill grounds and love the sport. The level isn't like Europe yet, and they know that, but that's why they're investing so much and it's why they follow European football so much.

"Every weekend they watch LaLiga, the Premier League and even the Bundesliga."

Pizzi, who won a top-flight title with Barca in 1998, said his old club have to be considered favourites but warned of the threat Diego Simeone's men will carry.

"Barcelona are a favourite in every competition they play," he said. "But it's one match, so anything can happen. Atletico are a very strong team, too, and they're hard to score against. It's an attractive semi-final."

Zinedine Zidane described Luka Jovic as the future of Real Madrid ahead of what is likely to be an important test for the striker in the Supercopa de Espana.

With Karim Benzema injured and Gareth Bale ill, Jovic is likely to lead the Madrid attack in Wednesday's semi-final against Valencia in Jeddah.

It could be a key step for the 22-year-old, who has struggled for regular first-team football since joining from Eintracht Frankfurt for a reported €60million fee last June.

Jovic has started just four competitive matches under Zidane, with his only goal coming in the 5-0 LaLiga win over Leganes at the Santiago Bernabeu on October 30.

Zidane has been reported to be unconvinced by Jovic's potential but, speaking on Tuesday, the Madrid head coach made it clear that is not the case.

"The feelings are good, despite the absences. There's a very big squad and the rest are here to respond," he told reporters.

"Jovic is an obvious option. He is the future. He has to be calm. He is learning.

"He's a boy who wants to learn a lot. He's very good. He'll get a lot of goals. We've backed him and you have to be calm with him."

Madrid ended a run of three consecutive draws, which included a trip to Valencia that finished 1-1, with a 3-0 win at Getafe prior to heading out to Saudi Arabia for the first expanded Supercopa tournament.

Zidane's men are on a 14-match unbeaten streak and have kept clean sheets in four of their past six games in all competitions.

The former France star says their improvement in defence makes them a formidable opponent given their consistent threat in attack.

"We adapt to everything and now we're here to play a Supercopa match," he said.

"Every game is different. Valencia also have absences. Our mentality doesn't change at all. We're happy to be able to play in this competition.

"In order to attack well, you have to defend well, and that's what we're doing. If we're strong at the back and we don't let in many goals, we have the quality to cause problems for any opposition."

With Manchester City's Premier League title defence in tatters and a mounting injury list in defence, Pep Guardiola's side need reinforcements.

Aymeric Laporte and John Stones have been struck down by injuries this season, leaving City with limited options in defence.

As Liverpool run away with the title, City are eyeing an Inter star to rebuild their central defence.

 

TOP STORY – CITY TARGETING SKRINIAR

Manchester City have set their sights on Inter centre-back Milan Skriniar, according to The Mirror.

Premier League champions City have struggled with injuries in defence this season as rivals Liverpool charge towards the title.

City are reportedly ready to buy in January and Skriniar – also a target for LaLiga champions Barcelona and Real Madrid – is on the list.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Athletic says MLS outfit DC United want to sign Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric after Wayne Rooney's exit.

Juventus are "still hopeful" of signing Paris Saint-Germain loanee Mauro Icardi, reports Calciomercato. Icardi left Inter for PSG at the start of the season, having been linked to Juve and Napoli.

- Sky Sports claims Manchester United are interested in Leicester City star James Maddison, but are aware a January transfer will be difficult. Sky Sports also says the Red Devils are chasing Lille's Boubakary Soumare, along with Arsenal, Chelsea, Madrid and Valencia.

Mario Gotze will leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season, according to Bild. Gotze's contract is set to expire and he has been unable to agree a new deal.

- TZ says Bayern Munich are interested in Manchester City full-back Joao Cancelo, with the Bundesliga champions distancing themselves from RB Leipzig's Lukas Klostermann.

Real Madrid are set to be without Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale for the Supercopa de Espana.

The club on Monday announced Benzema had been diagnosed with a hamstring injury, while Bale has an infection in his upper respiratory tract.

No timescale for the recovery of either player was provided by Madrid.

Zinedine Zidane's squad were due to travel to Saudi Arabia on Monday ahead of their semi-final against Valencia in Jeddah on Wednesday.

With Eden Hazard, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez already sidelined, Zidane is set to give prominent roles to Luka Jovic, Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo Goes.

Valencia confirmed on Sunday Rodrigo Moreno had sustained a sprained knee but he was included in their 26-man squad to face Madrid.

Rodrigo Moreno has suffered a sprain to his right knee ahead of the Supercopa de Espana clash with Real Madrid, Valencia have confirmed.

Spain striker Rodrigo was substituted with seven minutes remaining of Valencia's 1-0 win over Eibar in LaLiga on Saturday.

The team travel to Saudi Arabia on Monday for the revamped four-team Supercopa, playing Madrid in Wednesday's semi-final.

Rodrigo's involvement in the tournament would appear to be in serious doubt following scans on his knee.

"His condition will be assessed over the coming days," a Valencia statement read.

The former Madrid man has four goals for Valencia in all competitions so far this season.

Pep Guardiola has appeared to rule out a January exit for Joao Cancelo by saying Manchester City sign players "for many years, not for six months".

Cancelo joined City from Juventus ahead of the 2019-20 season but has struggled to hold down a place in Guardiola's XI, starting just four Premier League matches.

The right-back has consequently been linked with mid-season moves to both his former club Valencia and Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich.

However, Guardiola insists Cancelo, 25, was a long-term signing and a departure is therefore unlikely at this stage.

"Today he was training with us," the City manager said. "In the last month, Kyle [Walker, the first-choice right-back] was the best Kyle I have faced. I have given continuity to him.

"[Cancelo] is adapting and has special quality. He can help us in many, many games.

"There are many rumours about how many players we are going to buy in the summer, so I don't comment on rumours. Rumours are rumours.

"Until the agents call, or we call the agents to buy other players, I don't take any interest in that.

"We buy players for many years, not for six months. But what happens will happen. I don't know what's going to happen in a few weeks. In the summer, we're going to discuss.

"If one player is not happy and wants to leave, it's simple. They have to call to the club, reach an agreement and he will leave. If he doesn't agree, he will stay here. It's as simple as that."

Guardiola is not expecting any incoming transfers either in January, suggesting City cannot afford to splash out and only a unique opportunity, as when Aymeric Laporte joined two years ago, could change his thinking.

"I took that decision. We could not invest in the summer, why would we be able to invest in December? I like my squad," Guardiola said. "I have problems with injuries.

"If I have an opportunity, like it happened with Aymeric Laporte, the release clause, we knew the potential of the player, we could do it. But that's not the position now. I don't think the market gives us this opportunity.

"I never say never, of course. We could have 25 injuries in the next two games and then we have to buy, or maybe two or three players want to leave in the transfer window.

"Then the club get money and we can invest. It can happen. But in the summer, we could not do what we could not do for money [reasons]. We could not invest more.

"We could not invest in the summer, so why could we invest three or four months later? It makes no sense, so that's why we will wait until summer time."

With Atletico Madrid struggling for regular goals, Diego Simeone is keen to address the problem.

Atletico have only scored 20 goals in 18 LaLiga matches this season – the club relying heavily on Alvaro Morata's seven strikes.

Simeone's solution could be about to arrive from the French capital, where a Paris Saint-Germain star has fallen down the pecking order.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID NEARING CAVANI DEAL

Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani is close to joining Atletico Madrid in January, according to Marca.

Cavani has reportedly agreed a two-and-a-half-year contract with Atletico, while PSG would prefer to keep the 32-year-old until the end of the season.

The soon-to-be free agent has found himself behind loanee Mauro Icardi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar this season.

Signing Cavani in the January transfer window could force Atletico to sell due to their salary-limit issue, with Thomas Lemar a possible casualty.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United pair Nemanja Matic and Marcos Rojo have been told they will be sold in January, according to the Daily Star. Matic has been linked with Serie A duo Milan and Inter, while Atletico have emerged as an option for the veteran midfielder.

- According to AS, Valencia want to sign right-back Joao Cancelo from Premier League champions Manchester City. The LaLiga outfit are keen for a January reunion with Cancelo, who initially joined Valencia in 2014 before leaving permanently in 2018. Valencia want to re-sign the Portugal international on an initial loan.

Hertha Berlin have entered negotiations with Granit Xhaka to bring the former Arsenal captain back to the Bundesliga, reports RMC Sport. Hertha have turned their attention to ex-Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Xhaka after failing to prise Lucas Tousart from Lyon.

Chelsea have been offered the chance to sign Isco. The Daily Express says Real Madrid are trying to offload players to free up funds to bring in Tottenham star Christian Eriksen in January. City are also reportedly interested in Madrid's Isco.

Mario Mandzukic's proposed switch to Qatari outfit Al-Duhail from Juventus has broken down due to wage expectations, according to Tuttomercatoweb.

- Mundo Deportivo claims Barcelona only want to loan out defender Jean-Clair Todibo in January amid interest from Milan and Bayern Leverkusen. United have also been linked with the 19-year-old.

Pep Guardiola will renew rivalries with Real Madrid after Manchester City were drawn to face Los Blancos in a blockbuster Champions League last-16 tie.

With City 14 points adrift of leaders Liverpool in the Premier League, success in Europe is likely to be Guardiola's main priority this season.

But their hopes of glory in the continent's premier club competition were not helped by a daunting clash with LaLiga giants Madrid, who have triumphed in four of the past six editions.

Guardiola is no stranger to Madrid having spent four years in charge of their fierce Clasico rivals Barcelona, while he was Bayern Munich coach when they were defeated 5-0 over two legs in the 2013-14 Champions League semi-finals.

Madrid have previous against City in the competition, too, coming out on top in a last-four clash in the 2015-16 campaign.

Holders Liverpool face Atletico Madrid – runners-up in 2013-14 and 2015-16 – in a return to the Wanda Metropolitano, the scene of the Reds' 2-0 win over Tottenham in last season's final as they became European champions for a sixth time.

Jurgen Klopp's side finished top of Group E by a solitary point from Napoli, who have the unenvious task of facing LaLiga champions Barcelona – aiming to get their hands on European football's most coveted prize for the first time since 2014-15.

In a draw brimming with sub-plots, Thomas Tuchel will return to Borussia Dortmund with his Paris Saint-Germain side, while Chelsea and Bayern Munich – the only team to win all six of their group-stage games – face off in what is a rematch of the 2011-2012 final.

Tottenham, aiming to beat their runners-up finish last term, go head-to-head with an RB Leipzig side playing in the knockout stages for the first time.

Juventus will start as favourites in their tie against Lyon, while fellow Serie A side Atalanta – who made the last 16 in their first endeavour into the Champions League – go up against Valencia for a place in the quarter-finals.

The first-leg matches will take place on February 18, 19, 25 and 26, with the return fixtures played on March 10, 11, 17 and 18.

Thibaut Courtois made the decision himself to go up for the late corner that saw Real Madrid snatch a last-gasp draw with Valencia, according to head coach Zinedine Zidane.

Madrid were staring down the barrel of a second LaLiga defeat of the season courtesy of Carlos Soler's 78th-minute striker at Mestalla.

However, Belgium goalkeeper Courtois saw a late header saved by Jaume Domenech and Karim Benzema lashed home to ensure Madrid returned to the capital with a point.

"He decided to go up and this shows that we wanted more, that we never give up," Zidane told a news conference.

"The equaliser is something that we put a lot of effort into. This is Real Madrid, a team that never gives up. They believed they could do it and they did.

"With everything we did, I think we deserved to score a goal that compensated with the effort of the team.

"Football is like this and you can't complain. You have to accept what football gives you. A point is little reward. 

"In the end, we got a big result, but it's a shame because we had a very good first half. They were better going forward in the second half and it was even."

Madrid were without Casemiro, who was rested against Valencia - likely due to the defensive midfielder being one yellow card away from suspension ahead of a midweek Clasico against Barcelona.

Zidane explained: "He wasn't meant to play and those that did did very well. Casemiro had played lots of games and I'm very happy that we did everything without him.

"We drew, but I think we deserved a bit more. He'd played 21 matches and he had to rest, but I was only thinking about the Valencia game."

Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt and now Donny van de Beek?

Ajax lost stars De Jong and De Ligt in the off-season and Van de Beek is now reportedly nearing an Amsterdam exit.

It may be the case that the midfielder can choose between the two Spanish powerhouse clubs.

 

TOP STORY –  BARCA & MADRID WANT VAN DE BEEK

LaLiga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid are battling to sign Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek, according to reports.

Van de Beek was heavily linked to Madrid as an alternative to Manchester United star Paul Pogba during the previous transfer window.

Now, Sport claims Van de Beek could be available for between €50-60million.

 

ROUND-UP

Bayer Leverkusen are poised to sign River Plate's Exequiel Palacios, says Kicker. Palacios – previously tipped to join Madrid – is set to move to Bundesliga outfit Leverkusen in January in a €22m deal.

- Mundo Deportivo and Calciomercarto claim Barca and Milan have met to discuss the future of defender Jean-Clair Todibo. LaLiga champions Barca are reportedly happy to part with the 19-year-old.

- According to 90min, Liverpool are set to beat Manchester City and Chelsea to Coventry City left-back Sam McCallum.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has walked away from negotiations with Milan, reports Calciomercato. A free agent after leaving LA Galaxy, Ibrahimovic has been linked with a return to Milan, as well as Napoli. But the 38-year-old is reportedly not moving back to San Siro after failing to reach an agreement.

- Valencia teenager Ferran Torres is high on the agenda of Madrid, according to AS. The 19-year-old is attracting interest from across Europe, including Liverpool and Juventus.

- Keen to provide competition for Tammy Abraham, 90min says Chelsea are considering a January bid for Bordeaux forward Josh Maja.

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