Barcelona can qualify for the knock-out stages of the Champions League when they face Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday night but Xavi Hernandez had a warning for his players before their trip to Germany.

After two seasons in which they failed to progress beyond the group stages of Europe’s top competition, something once unthinkable for the Catalan giants, Barcelona can wrap up qualification with two games to spare when they face Shakhtar in Hamburg.

But while they have cruised through Group H campaign so far, scoring eight goals and conceding only once in three wins, Xavi was left angered by his side’s performance in a sluggish 1-0 win over Real Sociedad at the weekend.

The coach felt his side were still carrying something of a hangover from their 2-1 home defeat to Real Madrid, but said the lack of intensity was unacceptable – and something they could not afford to repeat.

“We cannot play this football,” he said. “We entered the match with zero intensity. If we play like this in the Champions League, we will not compete. The first half is completely unacceptable for us.

“Last week we deserved to win and we lost. This week we didn’t deserve to win but we did. That is football.”

Barca’s injury problems eased at the weekend, with Robert Lewandowski making his first start since September – lasting 57 minutes – and Pedri coming off the bench following a hamstring injury which has troubled him from the second week of the season.

Both players are still a way off full fitness, but their return was a significant boost for Xavi, with captain Sergi Roberto and midfielder Frenkie De Jong now the only players missing.

“Lewandowski is coming back from an injury and it’s hard for him to stay 100 per cent fit,” the coach said. “We have to manage injuries and substitutions well…

“The face of the team is going to change. (Pedri) came back well and this is great news for him and for the entire team.”

Barca had to work hard to secure a 2-1 win when these sides met last month, the first game in charge for new Shakhtar boss Marino Pusic, who was encouraged by how quickly his players had taken on the roles asked of them.

Pusic secured his first league win at the weekend with an encouraging 1-0 victory away to Dynamo Kiev, further reinforcing the progress he is making.

“At this moment we work very hard together to play the game like we want to play, to be dominant and have good ball possession,” he said. “I can only say that the players are responding very well to it and are working very hard.

“I am very satisfied with their efforts and the way they worked.

“It is very good. It is always a parallel process: You work with the players, you work with the team, but at the same time you also think about how to improve the team, make them bigger and stronger.”

Barcelona snatched an unlikely victory after Ronald Araujo headed home the only goal of the game in the third minute of stoppage time at Real Sociedad.

The defending LaLiga champions had captain Marc-Andre ter Stegen to thank after the German goalkeeper made several crucial saves to keep an energetic Sociedad side at bay.

Xavi’s side struggled to muster any genuine openings until the final embers of the match and cruelly took all three points when Araujo planted a power header through the legs of goalkeeper Alex Remiro, which was initially ruled offside, with virtually the last attack to seal the 1-0 victory.

The hosts made a rapid start when Ander Barrenetxea forced ter Stegen into a fine diving save inside the first minute.

Aihen Munoz was next to try his luck and should have done better, while Mikel Merino glanced a free header wide during a frentic opening three minutes.

La Real continued their momentum as Barcelona struggled to get into the match and Takefusa Kubo found himself with a great chance to break the deadlock, but ter Stegen denied the Japan international’s fierce far-post effort.

Mikel Oyarzabal should have done better when he latched on to a slack back pass from Barca defender Jules Kounde, but the Sociedad captain poked his effort wide when one-on-one with ter Stegen.

Sociedad ensured play was deep in Barca’s half and piled on the pressure further through a series of corners around the half-hour mark, which created more opportunities to opening the scoring.

Martin Zubimendi juggled the half-clearance from a Kubo corner before sending in a low cross. His centre was deflected to ter Stegen, but he spilled the ball and Oyarzabal was fastest to react as he stabbed an effort goalwards, only to be denied by the goalkeeper for another corner.

As half-time approached, Barcelona appealed for two penalties, firstly when Robert Lewandowski went down under a challenge before Joao Felix jinked past Zubeldia, where there was substantial contact, but referee Javier Alberola Rojas and VAR decided it was not worthy of a spot-kick.

In the 66th minute, the home side appealed for a penalty when Oyarzabal was felled in the area but to no avail, before Sociedad tested the visitors’ goal once more.

A long throw was half-cleared by the Barcelona defence, which fell in the direct of Barrenetxea on the edge of the box to fire a brilliant volley which was pushed wide by ter Stegen.

From the following corner, Kubo then raced around Gavi to get to the byline inside the area, but his cutback was cleared by a retreating Pedri.

Substitute Raphinha fired a 25-yard free-kick just over for the away team before they produced one of their best moves of the match, with a flowing counter-attack resulting in Ferran Torres picking up the ball on the edge of the area, but he blazed way over.

Barcelona almost snatched victory when another break led Pedri to patiently lay off to Gavi inside the area, but his effort was expertly saved by Remiro.

Araujo initially looked in anguish as he headed home Ilkay Gundogan’s teasing cross after the assistant flagged him offside. However, following a VAR check, the Uruguayan defender had timed his run to perfection to be Xavi’s unlikely match-winner.

A fine imposed on Barcelona for a breach of UEFA’s financial reporting rules has been upheld following an appeal by the club.

Barca were fined 500,000 euros (£434,000) in July by the UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) First Chamber for wrongly reporting profits on the disposal of intangible assets, other than player transfers, in the financial year 2022 which were not considered as relevant income.

Now, the CFCB’s Appeals Chamber has rejected the club’s appeal and upheld the First Chamber’s initial decision and sanction.

UEFA has not said precisely what the profits wrongly reported by the club related to.

In 2022, Barcelona sold 25 per cent of their domestic television rights for the next 25 years to global investment firm Sixth Street. Sixth Street said the purchase of the first 10 per cent of those rights in June last year was worth 267million euros (231.7m) to the club.

The club are also the subject of a separate UEFA investigation into allegations they made payments to a former vice-president of Spain’s referees’ committee.

Reports in February claimed the club paid companies owned by Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira 7million euros (£6.2million) between 2001 and 2018.

Negreira was the vice-president of the Spanish football federation’s refereeing committee from 1993 to 2018.

Barcelona have denied any wrongdoing, with club president Joan Laporta saying earlier this year: “Barca have never bought referees nor influence.

“That was never the intention and that has to be clear. The facts contradict those that are trying to tell a different story.”

Barcelona boss Xavi admits he and his players are “raging inside” after losing El Clasico, but is determined to get back on track against Real Sociedad.

Jude Bellingham scored twice – including a dramatic stoppage-time winner – as Real Madrid came from behind to beat Barca 2-1 last weekend.

The England midfielder struck a stunning equaliser after 68 minutes at the Lluis Companys Olympic Stadium and then settled his first El Clasico with a close-range volley in the dying moments.

The home side had led at the interval through former Manchester City captain Ilkay Gundogan’s early goal, but the defeat dropped them four points behind their fierce rivals, who top LaLiga on goal difference from Girona.

Xavi’s men face a tough task to return to winning ways when they travel to fifth-placed Sociedad, who have won seven of their last nine games in all competitions.

“This will be a difficult test,” Xavi said in quotes reported on the club’s official website.

“(Sociedad manager) Imanol Alguacil does a wonderful job, he gets intensity and good football out of his players. As for us, we need to make higher demands of ourselves and keep humbly working to cut down the four-point difference on the leaders.

“And this game is the ideal scenario to demonstrate that we can do it. We always pursue excellence. FC Barcelona never settles for anything else.

”We need to reset at a difficult ground. We’re angry, we’re raging inside, but we have to make amends for our mistakes. It’s the small details that matter, we can’t afford to have any more lapses in concentration.”

Xavi will be boosted by the return to fitness of midfielder Pedri following a hamstring problem, the Spain international having not featured since scoring in the 2-0 win over Cadiz on August 20.

“We have a healthy squad,” Xavi added. “I am happy with the work and willingness of all the players. We have players that are hungry to win.

“And having Pedri back is really good news for the team. He is a capital player for getting us to play the way we want to.

“We have so many different options in this team. (Ronald) Araujo and (Jules) Kounde can both play, but I’m very happy with (Joao) Cancelo. He is a physically and mentally strong player.

“Raphinha and (Robert) Lewandowski are both looking good. But Frenkie de Jong is still feeling pain despite being able to train with the group.”

Barcelona and Spain midfielder Aitana Bonmati has won the women’s Ballon d’Or, France Football has announced.

The 25-year-old enjoyed a fine year for club and country – winning a league and Champions League double before playing a pivotal role in Spain’s World Cup success, where she also won the Golden Ball.

Bonmati beat Chelsea and Australia striker Sam Kerr into second place, with her Spain and Barcelona team-mate Salma Paralluelo coming third.

Two of England’s Lionesses who reached the World Cup final made the top 10, with Manchester United goalkeeper Mary Earps fifth and Rachel Daly of Aston Villa 10th.

Manchester City were crowned the men’s team of the season after Pep Guardiola’s side delivered the treble of Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.

Meanwhile, City’s Erling Haaland won the Gerd Muller Trophy for the world’s top-scoring striker after hitting a record 56 goals last season.

Aston Villa and Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez won the Lev Yashin Trophy for goalkeeper of the year after his starring role in his nation’s World Cup win.

England international Jude Bellingham was voted the Kopa Award winner for the best under-21 player in the world.

The Real Madrid and England midfielder picked up the trophy after the 20-year-old finished 18th for the main award.

Bellingham has hit 13 goals in 13 appearances since moving to Madrid in the summer, including a double to lead Real to victory in his first El Clasico against Barcelona on Saturday, but his success was for last season – where he shone for Borussia Dortmund and England.

Real Madrid midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni has stressed that Barcelona’s Gavi was not to blame for the injury he suffered in El Clasico.

Tchouameni sustained a fracture in his foot during Saturday’s contest at Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium.

Replying to a social media post showing footage of a coming together between him and Gavi in the game, the France international wrote: “It’s not Gavi’s fault. I was injured at the end of the first half.”

Real had said on Sunday: “After the tests carried out on our player Aurelien Tchouameni by the Real Madrid medical services, he has been diagnosed with an incomplete stress fracture in the second metatarsal of his left foot.”

A dramatic encounter saw the visitors came from behind to win 2-1 thanks to a Jude Bellingham brace, with the England midfielder’s second goal coming in stoppage time.

Calo Ancelotti’s Real lead LaLiga on goal difference from second-placed Girona, while Xavi’s defending champions Barca are four points behind in fourth.

Jude Bellingham admitted he had done something great after almost single-handedly winning his first El Clasico for Real Madrid.

The England midfielder scored a stunning equaliser and dramatic stoppage-time clincher as Real came from behind to beat arch-rivals Barcelona 2-1 at the Lluis Companys Olympic Stadium on Saturday.

It continued Bellingham’s extraordinary start as a Real Madrid player, with the 20-year-old having now scored 13 goals in as many appearances for Los Blancos.

Bellingham told the club’s website: “I had watched many Clasicos from the sofa with my family and I told them that today it was my turn to live it first-hand and do something great. I’ve done that and I’m very happy.”

Real trailed at half-time to an early Ilkay Gundogan strike and Bellingham conceded he had not been at his best.

Such is his confidence, however, that he only had one thing on his mind when a shooting opportunity opened up 25 yards out with 68 minutes gone.

He duly lashed home a fine equaliser and he was not done there, volleying in from close range in the dying moments.

He said: “I wasn’t at my best. Sometimes it’s not about trying to do something special every time you have the ball, but to combine with those up top.

“I fulfilled that task well but as soon as I got the ball there I knew I was going to score.

“I got the ball on the edge of the box. I’ve been saying for a few weeks that I need to try from outside.

“Maybe the opponents expect me to try to get into the box or combine with a team-mate and I wanted to surprise them by hitting it from outside the box.

“I know I have the technique and it went into the top corner.”

Real coach Carlo Ancelotti, whose side moved back to the top of LaLiga with the win, has been stunned by the impact Bellingham has had.

He said: “We’re all surprised at the level he’s at, especially in terms of how effective he’s been. He could easily score 20 or 25 goals.

“He looks like a veteran. His attitude is very good. He’s the player who has made the biggest difference.”

Jude Bellingham scored twice – including a dramatic injury-time winner – as Real Madrid came from behind to beat arch-rivals Barcelona 2-1 on Saturday.

The England midfielder struck a stunning equaliser after 68 minutes at the Lluis Companys Olympic Stadium and then settled his first El Clasico with a close-range volley in the dying moments.

Barcelona had led at the interval through former Manchester City captain Ilkay Gundogan.

Real’s Bellingham-inspired fightback took them back above Girona to the top of LaLiga and left Barca third, four points behind.

Bellingham has now scored 13 goals in as many appearances in what has been a remarkable start to his Real Madrid career.

Barca took the lead on six minutes when Gundogan combined with fellow former City player Ferran Torres and calmly fired past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Vinicius Junior spurned a chance to level and Barca almost doubled their advantage when Fermin Lopez struck the post.

Real also hit the woodwork when Dani Carvajal drove against the post before the break.

Lopez hit the post again early in the second half and Kepa reacted quickly to deny Ronald Araujo on the rebound.

Real began to rally in the latter stages with Aurelien Tchouameni having a powerful drive touched onto the frame of the goal.

Bellingham then took charge of proceedings when he brilliantly curled home a shot from 25 yards.

The game could still have gone either way and Robert Lewandowski had a chance to put Barca back ahead when he fired over 10 minutes from time.

It was Bellingham who was to have the final say, however. The 20-year-old was once again in the right place at the right time as he pounced to clip home after a Cavajal cross was flicked on by Luka Modric.

Barcelona host Real Madrid on Saturday with just a point separating the teams in the LaLiga table as they go toe to toe in El Clasico.

With Barca a point behind their rivals, both teams know that victory at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys could have a major impact on the title race, albeit surprise early challengers Girona may go on to have a critical say.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at five memorable meetings between the two Spanish superpowers.

Barcelona 5 Real Madrid 1 – October 2018

Barca romped to a stunning home win with a performance driven by a sensational Luis Suarez hat-trick. Philippe Coutinho opened the scoring after 11 minutes before Suarez got the first of his treble from the penalty spot. Marcelo dragged the visitors back into it just after the break, and it took until the final 15 minutes for Barca’s scoring to resume with the former Liverpool striker netting twice in eight minute, before Arturo Vidal completed Real’s humiliation late on.

Real Madrid 3 Barcelona 4 – March 2014

Lionel Messi’s hat-trick inspired a thrilling win for Barca against 10-man Real at the Bernabeu. Andres Iniesta put the visitors ahead before Karim Benzema’s brace turned things around. Messi then struck with his first just before half-time to level the score. A Cristiano Ronaldo penalty put Real 3-2 ahead before Sergio Ramos was sent off for the hosts – and Messi completed his hat-trick with two penalties to snatch victory for the Catalan side.

Barcelona 5 Real Madrid 0 – November 2010

Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona inflicted the biggest margin of defeat in an El Clasico since 1994 when they beat Jose Mourinho’s Real 5-0 at the Nou Camp. The hosts never looked back after going 2-0 up inside 18 minutes through Xavi and Pedro. Messi did not score but he set up David Villa for the third and fourth goals in the space of three second-half minutes before Jeffren wrapped up the win after Ramos received a red card.

Real Madrid 2 Barcelona 6 – May 2009

Barcelona stormed to a 6-2 win at the Bernabeu on their way to their first title for three years in 2009. Gonzalo Higuain nodded Real into the lead before Thierry Henry scored the equaliser and defender Carles Puyol headed Barca ahead. Messi struck either side of a Ramos header to keep Barca in front before Henry tapped in his second and Gerard Pique added a sixth.

Real Madrid 4 Barcelona 2 – April 2005

At the peak of the Galacticos era, Michael Owen and David Beckham inspired Real to a 4-2 win over their arch rivals. Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo put Los Blancos two goals up inside 20 minutes before Samuel Eto’o pulled one back. Raul made it 3-1 on the stroke of half-time before Beckham picked out Owen, who beat Victor Valdes to make it 4-1 in the 65th minute. Ronaldinho expertly curled in a free-kick to reduce the arrears but it was too little too late.

Teenager Lamine Yamal could become the youngest man ever to play in Spain’s El Clasico on Saturday.

Twelve months ago, the 16-year-old striker was turning out for Barcelona Under-19s, but he now has 13 senior appearances under his belt and has Real Madrid firmly in his sights.

Yamal told Barca’s official website: “Everything I do, being so young, is a record almost. People tell me but the most important thing for me is for the team to win and that I enjoy it.”

The youngster warmed up for a potential showdown with Madrid at the Estadi Olimpic by playing the full 90 minutes in Wednesday night’s 2-1 Champions League victory over Shakhtar Donetsk.

He was joined in the starting line-up by 20-year-old midfielder Fermin Lopez, who was playing his football on loan at third-tier Linares last season, but has emerged as a genuine option for boss Xavi since his return.

Lopez scored what proved to be the winning goal in Wednesday night’s 2-1 Champions League victory over Shakhtar, and is hoping for a chance to make his mark against his club’s arch-rivals.

Asked about his rise since last year, he said: “It was unthinkable at that time, but I did learn a lot. Now, I am dreaming about winning a Clasico.

 

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“We won in pre-season, but this time is a competitive game and it will be a dream to win it.”

Hernandez’s side head into the game sitting in third place in the LaLiga table and unbeaten in all competitions so far this season, a return which head left them just a point adrift of leaders Real.

They have been hit by injuries in recent weeks and although vastly experienced frontman Robert Lewandowski could return after being left out in midweek, Barca still have doubts over Frenkie de Jong and Raphinha, while Pedri is still out.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men, who won 2-1 at Braga on Tuesday to maintain – like Barca – a perfect start to their Champions League campaign, have been indebted in recent weeks to the form of summer signing Jude Bellingham.

The England international, who is being touted in certain quarters as the best player in the world as a result of his blistering run of form, has scored 11 goals in 12 appearances to help keep his team, whose 3-1 derby defeat at Atletico Madrid last month is their only reverse to date, on the right track.

Bellingham, 20, came off in Portugal with an adductor strain after scoring, but is expected to be fit to take his place in the starting line-up.

He told TVE in Spanish: “I’ll be at the Clasico.”

Asked about the fans hailing his dazzling form with choruses of ‘Hey Jude’, he added: “I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

“On the pitch after I’ve scored a goal or made a tackle or a piece of skill and I start to hear it slowly and then louder and louder, it’s something that I’m really proud of.

“I’m so grateful for the fans for how they’ve treated me coming into the club.

“So far it’s been a good start, but I look to continue to repay them for how they’ve welcomed me.”

Group H leaders Barcelona moved a step closer to reaching the Champions League knockout stages after a 2-1 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk.

Barca made it three wins from as many matches through goals from Ferran Torres and Fermin Lopez before they held on in the second half after Heorhiy Sudakov’s 62nd-minute strike.

Xavi’s men produced moments of quality with a rotated side ahead of Saturday’s El Clasico against Real Madrid at Nou Camp in LaLiga.

Barca nearly had a dream start after seven minutes. Oriol Romeu’s high press forced the turnover in Shakhtar’s box which allowed Lopez to jink inside and shoot, but the midfielder’s effort was kept out by Dmytro Riznyk.

Barca’s persistence paid off when they opened the scoring in the 28th minute through Torres.

Lopez picked up another dangerous position inside the box and his effort cannoned off the post into the path of Torres who smashed home.

VAR initially deemed the goal offside but the ruling was overturned after Lopez held his run long enough.

And the potent Lopez doubled Barca’s lead in the 36th minute in spectacular fashion.

The La Masia youth product marauded into the open space from midfield, beat his man with a feint before producing a rocket on his right foot which saw the ball smash off the post into the back of the net.

The goal, which was Lopez’s second of the season, was completely deserved after the 20-year-old dazzled in the first half under the lights at Nou Camp.

The LaLiga champions started where they left off in the second half and came close through Joao Felix, who was denied by Riznyk from a tight angle.

The visitors persisted in their plan of playing out from the back which encouraged blue and red shirts to swarm them in possession as they struggled to deal with the relentless Barca press.

But Shakhtar stunned Xavi’s men when they struck against the run of play to make it 2-1.

Felix lost possession and Shakhtar advanced into the Barca half through Irakli Azarovi who picked out the rapid Sudakov and he ghosted past Romeu and held his nerve with a blasted effort past Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.

Moments after Lopez hit the post in the 68th minute, his headed effort was ruled offside as Barca tried for a third.

Barcelona boss Xavi said his players will not be distracted by the upcoming El Clasico against Real Madrid when they face Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Wednesday.

The meeting with the Ukrainian champions at the Nou Camp will be Barca’s last match before hosting LaLiga leaders Real on Saturday, where victory against their great rivals will see them leapfrog Carlo Ancelotti’s side in the table.

The manager will be without the suspended Gavi against Shakhtar after he was red carded in added time at the end of the 1-0 win against Porto before the international break, while midfielder Pedri is almost certain to be out after he missed training on Monday.

Victory on Wednesday will see Barca put one foot in the last 16 after they won their first two games of this season’s competition, against Porto and 5-0 at home to Belgian side Royal Antwerp.

It would be their first time in the Champions League knockout rounds since 2021 after they were eliminated in the group stages of each of the last two editions.

And Xavi said the prospect of cementing their position at the top of Group H will be sufficient to focus his side despite the spectre of Real looming.

“For us it is a vital game and really important in terms of getting out of the group,” he said. “The three points tomorrow against Shakhtar are key for our objective.

“This is the Champions League, the biggest competition there is for clubs and for us getting nine points from nine is very important.

“I don’t need to take anyone’s mind off Saturday’s game against Real Madrid because the Champions League makes you focused and switched on.

“We are focused on tomorrow’s game because it will not be easy. Shakhtar are a dynamic side, strong and I think they can cause us problems. We can’t lose our focus.

“Shakhtar are in a difficult situation, it’s uncomfortable, far from their families. Speaking only in footballing terms, they have changed coach and now they have (Darijo) Srna who I know well and respect a lot.

“The team has quality players even though perhaps they are not well known, and technically they are very good.”

Srna, Shakhtar’s director of football who was appointed caretaker manager last week following the dismissal of Patrick van Leeuwen, has warned supporters not to expect miracles under his brief tenure.

It was announced on Tuesday that Marino Pusic will take charge of the team on a permanent basis following the Barcelona match.

The team are currently third in the Ukrainian Premier League behind surprise early-season leaders Kryvbas Kryvyi Rih and Polissya Zhytomyr.

“I told (the club) that I am not (Pep) Guardiola nor (Jurgen) Klopp, that I am Darijo Srna, that I do not have a lot of experience as a coach,” said Srna.

“But I have a heart of a miner (the club’s nickname), and that this heart has said to me that I have to help in a difficult situation, for the country and for Shakhtar.”

Teenager Marc Guiu made a dream debut off the bench to score a late winner as Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 to move up to third in the LaLiga table.

After Joao Felix had hit the crossbar early on, Barca – still without the injured Robert Lewandowski – looked to have been left frustrated by a string of fine saves by Athletic goalkeeper Unai Simon.

But moments after being sent on by Xavi for his first senior appearance, the 17-year-old Guiu raced down the left channel to dispatch a composed finish and close Barca to within a point of leaders Real Madrid ahead of El Clasico next weekend.

Ahead of kick-off in Montjuic, both clubs paid tribute to former England and Manchester United midfielder Sir Bobby Charlton, who died on Saturday aged 86.

Athletic made a bright start, as Inaki Williams tested Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen from the edge of the box.

Barca almost took an early lead in the 10th minute when Ferran Torres cut into the penalty area and picked out Joao Felix, who swept his shot onto the top of the crossbar.

Athletic keeper Simon saved from Fermin Lopez after a surging run from left-back Alexandro Balde before – at the other end – Germany stopper Ter Stegen tipped a rising shot from Inaki Williams over the crossbar.

The visitors were forced into a change in the 26th minute when left-back Yuri Berchiche went off injured and was replaced by Inigo Lekue.

Joao Felix then saw his claims for a penalty waved away before Barca again had Ter Stegen to thank for keeping the scores level.

Athletic, managed by former Barca boss Ernesto Valverde, broke down the left through some quick passing from the Williams brothers.

Inaki Williams then fired in a low, angled drive which was pushed away by Ter Stegen before Inigo Martinez, facing his former club after joining Barca in the summer, then made a saving block from the follow-up shot by Nico Williams.

Ter Stegen was forced into action again in first-half stoppage-time when he made smart save with his feet to deny Nico Williams, who had again cut in on the angle from the left.

Athletic threatened again early in the second half, and again it was the Williams brothers who linked up before Inaki Williams fired the ball into the side netting.

As the hour mark approached, Simon made a fine double save to first deny Joao Felix and then Lopez from the follow-up after good work from former Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan.

Barca continued to press, but were again frustrated by another great stop by Simon, this time getting down to push behind a shot from Joao Cancelo, who had cut in from the right.

The breakthrough finally came with 10 minutes to go when substitute Guiu, who had only just been sent on for a LaLiga debut, raced onto a pass from Joao Felix down the left channel.

The 17-year-old took a touch in the penalty area before coolly dispatching his effort past Simon, who got an arm to the ball but could not keep it out.

Simon tipped a late header from Joao Felix over the crossbar as Barca closed out a hard-earned win.

Xavi has urged Barcelona to “recover our ideology” before beginning a critical week of their season.

Barcelona have three home games in the space of six days, starting against Athletic Bilbao in LaLiga on Sunday.

Shakhtar Donetsk provide Champions League opposition on Wednesday and Real Madrid make the trip to the Nou Camp next Saturday for the first El Clasico of the season.

As LaLiga returns following the international break, leaders Real held a three-point advantage over Barcelona.

“At the start of the season, we’ve had some great moments of playing well,” said Xavi, whose side have dropped points in two of their last three league games with 2-2 draws against Mallorca and Granada.

“We must recover our ideology and get the three points by playing well.

“We are in a situation with a lot of absentees, but it won’t be an excuse for the game and to be able to play well.”

Alejandro Balde and Lamine Yamal have both been declared fit for the Bilbao clash.

But Frenkie de Jong, Jules Kounde, Pedri, Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski and Sergi Roberto remain unavailable.

Lewandowski, Barca’s top scorer with six this season, is closing in on a return after ankle trouble and Xavi said the Poland forward “has a very good feeling” of returning against Real Madrid.

Xavi said: “He’s a great leader and always goes forward, he wants to be there and he’s hurting less and less every day.

“He has a very good feeling. He always pulls himself forward.

“But there is a lot of variety (in attack) and people with confidence in front of goal. That is great. Last year, we depended a lot on Lewandowski.”

On the potential return of other individuals, Xavi added: “The player’s feelings will tell when he will arrive. We won’t force anyone.

“Feelings are the key and they will mark the return of all of them.”

Bilbao began the weekend in fifth place, four points behind Barcelona after beating Almeria 3-0 before the international break.

The Basques side are managed by Ernesto Valverde, who won two LaLa titles and a Copa Del Rey during his time in charge of Barcelona between May 2017 and January 2020.

Xavi said: “Athletic are very strong physically and technically gifted. Valverde is a great coach and likes to press high.

“I’m expecting a difficult opponent, we have some injuries but that’s no excuse and we need our fans.

“We’re three points behind the leaders. But we have to keep working hard, to keep fighting, and to keep improving, because there is a long way to go in LaLiga.”

Barcelona president Joan Laporta is being investigated for bribery in relation to alleged payments to a former refereeing official, according to Spanish media reports.

It was reported on Wednesday that an ongoing probe into alleged corruption at the club is now looking at a period which includes some of Laporta’s first term at the helm, which ran from 2003-10.

It emerged in March that Spanish prosecutors had filed a complaint following reports that Barcelona had paid more than 7million euros (£6.2million) to companies owned by Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, the former vice-president of the Spanish FA’s refereeing committee, between 2001 and 2018.

The initial focus of the case was on payments made between 2014 and 2018, incorporating the tenures of two other past presidents in Sandro Rosell and Jose Maria Bartomeu.

According to the reports, the period being investigated has now been extended back to 2008, which is the maximum permitted under a 15-year statute of limitations.

Barcelona have been approached for comment by the PA news agency.

The club have previously denied wrongdoing, stating that they had paid an external consultant for “technical reports related to professional refereeing”, saying that was common practice in the game.

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