Jordi Alba implored Barcelona to come together and be "more united than ever" as the LaLiga giants battle financial difficulties.

Xavi and Blaugrana president Joan Laporta are looking to strengthen in the transfer window after finishing second in the league, some 13 points behind champions Real Madrid.

Robert Lewandowski has emerged as the main target from Bayern Munich, but doubts persist as to whether Barca can afford the Poland talisman, who has made his desire to move to Camp Nou clear.

LaLiga chief Javier Tebas suggested Barca must sell their prized assets, such as Frenkie de Jong to Manchester United, to afford Lewandowski.

Laporta hit back by insisting Tebas was intending to "harm" Barca's interests, but Blaugrana economic vice-president Eduard Romeu acknowledged sales were needed to help ease the club's worries.

Alba, speaking before Spain's Nations League clash with Czech Republic on Sunday, admitted he would like more signings but understands the situation his side is in.

"It's the situation we're in. It's not always going to be rosy. Barca would like to be in a better economic situation," he told reporters.

"We're going to go out and if we can't sign we'll have to pull from the academy, where there are very good players.

"It's the idea that the club has and I can't say more. I'd like to sign many players, but the situation is this. We have to be more united than ever, say it all behind closed doors and that's it."

Alba, Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets were named as the joint captains of Barca when Lionel Messi left amid financial struggles at the start of the 2021-22 season.

On Friday, Roberto became the fourth of the captains to agree a new contract with Barca, with the other three all reportedly taking a significant drop in wages to ease the financial burden.

While Alba was delighted to see Roberto extend his stay with Xavi's team, the left-back assured the captains are committed to the project.

"There should be no doubt of our commitment to the club. I can't control what is said in the press or outside our reach, nor do I want to," Alba added. 

"The needs of the club are what they are and we will be here to help. The four captains will help and I'm sure some more. We have always been committed to the club and we will continue to be.

"It's been a difficult year at club level but I'm convinced that next year will be much better."

Barcelona took another big step towards Champions League qualification as Memphis Depay and Sergio Busquets scored superb goals in a 2-1 LaLiga win over Real Mallorca.

Looking to avoid a fourth consecutive home defeat, the Blaugrana calmed a nervous Camp Nou crowd through Depay's excellent first-half volley on Sunday.

Busquets then fired a low effort beyond Sergio Rico and the Catalan giants held on for the win despite Antonio Raillo's 79th minute goal.

After being forced to watch rivals Real Madrid win the title on Saturday, Xavi's side at least look likely to join them in next season's Champions League after moving back into second place.

Rico was forced into an excellent save after five minutes, diving to his right to turn away Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's goal-bound header, before Fer Nino squandered a fantastic opportunity for the visitors when firing over at the back post from close range.

Ronald Araujo saw a powerful 22nd-minute header ruled out for offside, but the Blaugrana did take the lead three minutes later when Depay expertly volleyed into the bottom-left corner after controlling Jordi Alba's ball over the top.

The hosts lost Gerard Pique to injury before the break, but doubled their advantage after 54 minutes when Busquets drilled a left-footed effort into the bottom-right corner after striding onto a loose ball on the edge of the area.

Depay went close to another brilliant goal when he shot narrowly wide from range after dancing through the visiting midfield, before Barca had another goal ruled out by VAR after Ferran Torres's shot deflected in off Aubameyang in an offside position.

Xavi handed Ansu Fati his first appearance since November from the bench, as the hosts clung on for a vital win despite Raillo prodding home from Salva Sevilla's cross. 

What does it mean? Blaugrana end Camp Nou misery 

Barcelona had seen much of the positivity surrounding the club dissipate after suffering three consecutive home defeats for just the second time in their history, but bounced back to secure three precious points.

In doing so, Xavi's side stretched their lead over fifth-placed Real Betis - who have a game in hand - to nine points with four matches to play, taking a huge step towards sealing a Champions League spot.

Alba assumes creative role again

Having teed up Depay's goal, Alba has recorded nine assists in La Liga this season, the best such record managed by a defender in the competition since Real Madrid's Marcelo registered 10 in 2016-17.

Alba's return also represents the best managed by a Barca defender since Dani Alves teed up 11 goals in the 2011-12 campaign.

Depay shows his worth

Although Barcelona's push for Champions League football has seen January arrivals Aubameyang and Torres star in the attacking positions, Depay provided a reminder of his quality by striking a terrific opener.

The Dutchman has now scored 11 goals in LaLiga this season, more than any other Blaugrana player.

What's next? 

Barcelona's next outing sees them travel to Betis for a huge contest on Saturday, while Mallorca host fellow strugglers Granada on the same day.

Barcelona's victory over Real Sociedad at Reale Arena on Thursday was "crucial for the future of the club", according to coach Xavi. 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the only goal of the game as Barca defeated La Real 1-0, moving up to second in LaLiga increasing their advantage over fifth-placed Real Betis to six points. 

It was the Blaugrana's only attempt on target across the entire game and they had 44.3 per cent possession – their second-lowest amount since 2005-06 – with poor finishing from Alexander Sorloth and Alexander Isak letting the visitors off the hook. 

Barca are now unbeaten in their past 13 LaLiga away games, which is their best such run since April 2019. 

Xavi was pleased with the fact their win came against a top-four rival, even if their performance was far from what he would have wanted. 

"I am satisfied with the three points. They are vital and crucial for the future to the team and the club. It's a golden victory," Xavi said. 

"But I'm not satisfied with the game. The first half, yes, but in the second half we suffered. We have to be honest and self-critical. We haven't been good. 

"We have to improve. This is not the way. It's not been our ideal game. These are three crucial points against a direct rival for the Champions League. 

"It's the game in which I've suffered the most, along with the one against Villarreal. We noticed the fatigue." 

Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba played on after appearing to sustain muscle injuries and signal for substitutions, while Ronald Araujo was withdrawn with a knee problem and Dani Alves also appeared to struggling with an issue. 

"Jordi, Ronald, Pique – we are suffering a lot. There's a lot of fatigue because the calendar is demanding," said Xavi. 

"It's not that we don't train well, it's the way the game is played. And the calendar is demanding. But the effort is spectacular. 

"[Pique] has been playing with discomfort for two or three months … at 35 years old, he is in shape. It's vital." 

Jordi Alba marvelled at the maturity of young Barcelona team-mates Pedri and Gavi because he was playing at a significantly lower level at their age. 

Gavi became the youngest player to make a senior appearance for Spain when he featured in their Nations League semi-final win over Italy last October aged 17 years and 62 days. 

Pedri, meanwhile, started all six of La Roja's games at Euro 2020 and was named Young Player of the Tournament. He only turned 19 last November. 

When he was 18, Alba was playing for Cornella in a regional league in Catalonia. He did not make his Spain debut until he was 22, two years after his first top-flight appearance.

"They are very mature for their age. When I was their age, I was lucky that experienced people helped me adapt, whether it was to the national team, Valencia or Barcelona. I try to do the same," Alba told a news conference when asked about Pedri and Gavi. 

"We are lucky that many high-level players have come from Barcelona and that they are Spanish. 

"At their age, I was playing at Cornella and they are playing European Championships and the World Cup. It's wonderful to watch them play." 

Alba will captain Spain when they take on Albania in a friendly at RCDE Stadium in Cornella de Llobregat on the outskirts of Barcelona. It will be La Roja's first match in Catalonia since 2004. 

"I expect a spectacular atmosphere, like in all the cities in Spain we visit," said Alba. 

"We haven't seen the national team in Barcelona for a long time. I'll be able to enjoy it with my people. Hopefully the party moves onto the pitch and we'll achieve our goal of winning the game." 

Spain do not have any members of their World Cup-winning side from 2010 in the squad during this international break, but Alba has no doubts about the ability they possess. 

"They talked about it during the European Championship and we did well because there are very young people but with experience, and with the ability to play a World Cup," said Alba. 

"People are leaving the national team due to their age and young people arrive. The work of the coach and his staff in that aspect has been spectacular. 

"Whoever comes into the national team will respond, will do very well. Unfortunately, the European and world champions are retiring and those who come in will do very well." 

Barcelona produced arguably the most impressive performance of Xavi's tenure as the Blaugrana made something of a statement in their 4-2 defeat of Atletico Madrid.

Diego Simeone brought up Xavi's past criticism of Atletico's style of play in the build-up, though the latter had the last laugh at Camp Nou as Barca replaced Los Colchoneros in fourth.

The visitors did enjoy a promising start with Yannick Carrasco's well-worked opener eight minutes in, but Barca were soon ahead thanks to Jordi Alba's excellent volley and a Gavi header.

Ronald Araujo increased Barca's lead just before half-time and Dani Alves blasted in a fourth for his first goal since his return.

Luis Suarez pulled one back against his former club and Alves was dismissed, but Barca went on to claim a deserved win.

Atletico led in style as Suarez latched onto Koke's excellent pass and fed Carrasco into the box, with the Belgian sweeping his first-time finish into the bottom-left corner.

They were pegged back just two minutes later when Dani Alves crossed to the left and Jordi Alba met it with a spectacular sliced volley that spun high into the far corner of the net.

Another Barca cross proved decisive soon after as the hosts went in front, debutant Adama Traore seeing his pinpoint delivery nodded in by Gavi.

Araujo then made it 3-1 late in the half, smashing in from close range after Ferran Torres headed Alves' free-kick onto the crossbar.

Alves became the fourth-oldest player to score in LaLiga this century early in the second half, drilling home from Alba's cut-back.

Barca were made to suffer as Suarez headed in and Alves was sent off for scraping his studs down Carrasco's calf, but Atletico could not salvage a result.

 

What does it mean? Advantage Barcelona in top-four race

The title is all but out of reach for both Barca and Atletico, meaning securing Champions League football is the priority.

While it is not beyond the realms of possibility that both could finish in the top four, victory for Barca here is certainly a significant boost – and the opposite is true for Atletico, who drop to fifth.

In previous years, one might be inclined to back Atletico in such a race, but they have been so poor defensively that it is difficult to be so optimistic.

Traore makes a statement

Many were a bit surprised by Barca's desire to bring Traore back to the club given he was not even a starter at Wolves, but he did show just how much of an impact he can have. He had a role in Barca's first goal and then set up the second with an excellent cross. Beyond that, his carries caused problems in the Atletico defence, and such an explosive player could be invaluable for a Barca side that has often looked short of invention.

Alves' moment of madness

The veteran Brazilian right-back was excellent for much of the game, setting up Alba's volley and getting a lovely goal of his own, but his decision to scrape his studs down Carrasco's calf made no sense and was asking for a red card. That put Barca under pressure – luckily for him, they got the job done.

What's next?

Barca have the local derby with Espanyol to look forward to next Sunday. Atletico host nearby Getafe the day before.

Jordi Alba feels "singled out" at Barcelona and says he is "killed" by his critics every time he has a bad performance.

The Spain international is approaching a decade at Camp Nou and remains a regular for Barca, who have endured another difficult campaign.

He has featured 408 times for the Catalan giants in all competitions since his debut in August 2012 and has helped the club to 15 trophies.

But Alba has come in for criticism of late, with Barca losing to Real Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals before exiting the Copa del Rey to Athletic Bilbao. 

After impressing in Sunday's 1-0 win over Deportivo Alaves, a game in which he led the way for touches (112) and fouls won (four), Alba expressed his frustration.

"I have felt singled out for many years, it is not the first time it has happened to me," he told Movistar+. "I accept the criticism that there is in this circus. Criticism will always be there, I have assumed it.

"If I play a good game they won't talk about me, if I don't play well like the other day [against Athletic], I admit it, they will kill me. I have accepted it.

"I don't care because I have respect from my team-mates and from all the coaching staff I've had.

"It seems that there are only 'veterans' in Barcelona. There has been talk of veterans for four or five years, and I was 28, damn it. But I've always accepted it."

 

Alba has started 23 games under Ronald Koeman and successor Xavi this season – only Marc-Andre ter Stegen (27) and Sergio Busquets (29) have done so more times.

No defender has more assists than Alba's four in LaLiga this term, while his 1.62 chances created per 90 minutes is the fourth-best among those to have played more than once.

Responding to Alba's comments following the win over Alaves, Xavi praised the 32-year-old for learning to live with the weight that comes with playing for Barcelona.

"Alba was criticised and he played a great game," Xavi said at his post-match news conference. "At Barca, the shirt is 20 kilos more than at another club."

Barcelona have announced that defender Jordi Alba has tested positive for COVID-19.

The left-back must now self-isolate, making him unlikely to be able to travel to face Mallorca on January 2 for Barca's next LaLiga game.

The 32-year-old becomes the third Barca defender to be sidelined with COVID-19, joining fellow full-back Dani Alves and centre-back Clement Lenglet.

Barca's official statement read: "First-team player Jordi Alba has tested positive for COVID-19, ruling him out of Tuesday afternoon's training session at Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper from 6pm CET.

"The player is in good health and self-isolating at home. The club has reported the case to the relevant authorities.

"He joins Clement Lenglet and Dani Alves on the sidelines, who also tested positive for COVID-19."

Xavi must now consider how to replace Alba in the side as he looks to steer Barca out of seventh place in the table and into the Champions League spots, with Rayo Vallecano two points ahead of them in fourth.

Only Sergio Busquets, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Memphis Depay and Frenkie de Jong have played more minutes across all competitions than Alba's 1,526, highlighting his importance to the team.

Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain each have four nominees in the 23-man shortlist for the FIFA FIFPRO Men's World 11 for 2021.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold are also included, although there is no place for Mohamed Salah.

PSG's attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are among the forwards, as is Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Veteran Dani Alves also won enough votes to make the list, even though the 38-year-old, who recently rejoined Barcelona, only played 16 times in domestic competition in Brazil this year.

Professional footballers across the world were asked to vote for the three players they considered to have the best seasons during the 2020-21 season among goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and forwards.

FIFPRO said: "For the first time in 17 years, FIFPRO is updating the announcement about the most-voted players, reducing the shortlist from 55 to 23. This has been done to resemble a real-life 'squad' which, usually for international competitions, is the number of players involved. 

"The three goalkeepers, six defenders, six midfielders and six forwards with the most votes earned a place in the 23-men World 11 'squad'. To complete this elite selection, the two remaining outfield players with the most votes were added."

The keeper, three defenders, three midfielders and three forwards with the most votes will be chosen for the World 11, with the remaining spot assigned to the outfield player with the next highest number of votes.

The final 11 will be announced at The Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony on January 17.

 

FIFA FIFPRO MEN'S WORLD 11 23-PLAYER SHORTLIST:

Goalkeepers:
Alisson (Liverpool, Brazil)
Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan/Paris Saint-Germain, Italy)
Edouard Mendy (Chelsea, Senegal)

Defenders:
David Alaba (Bayern Munich/Real Madrid, Austria)
Jordi Alba (Barcelona, Spain)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool, England)
Dani Alves (Sao Paulo/Barcelona, Brazil)
Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus, Italy)
Ruben Dias (Manchester City, Portugal)

Midfielders:
Sergio Busquets (Barcelona, Spain)
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City, Belgium)
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United, Portugal)
Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona, The Netherlands)
Jorginho (Chelsea, Italy)
N'Golo Kante (Chelsea, France)

Forwards:
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid, France)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus/Manchester United, Portugal)
Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund, Norway)
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich, Poland)
Romelu Lukaku (Inter/Chelsea, Belgium)
Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain, France)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Paris Saint-Germain, Argentina)
Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain, Brazil)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's future is in doubt as Manchester United continue to struggle.

United were outclassed effortlessly by neighbours Manchester City in Saturday's Premier League derby.

Struggling for form, Solskjaer could pay the price at Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – SOLSKJAER SET FOR AXE?

Manchester United are considering the departure of under-fire manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to the Daily Mail.

Manchester City eased past United 2-0 in the Premier League derby showdown at Old Trafford, where Solskjaer's side were left sixth and nine points off the pace.

There are reports of a player revolt as Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo grow frustrated with life in Manchester.

Zinedine Zidane and Ajax boss Erik ten Hag have been linked as possible replacements.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims Real Madrid and Newcastle United are interested in Liverpool star Mohamed Salah. The Egypt international, who is contracted to Liverpool until 2023, is keen to sign a new deal at Anfield.

City are weighing up a move for Juventus and Netherlands centre-back Matthijs de Ligt, says El Nacional. De Ligt has also been linked with Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United.

Karim Benzema is open to joining Paris Saint-Germain should Madrid sign Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, per El Nacional. Benzema has reportedly snubbed a move to Newcastle, while Haaland has been linked with City, United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, PSG, Chelsea and Juve.

Gerard PiqueSergio BusquetsSergi Roberto and Jordi Alba will be allowed to leave Barca under new head coach Xavi, according to El Nacional. Fabrizio Romano adds Xavi will look to re-sign Pablo Gavi and Ousmane Dembele.

- Calciomercato claims Atletico Madrid are interested in Udinese's Nahuel Molina, who is also wanted by Inter.

Jordi Alba lamented Barcelona's "bad point" after the embattled LaLiga giants were held to a 1-1 draw by Deportivo Alaves.

Barca – playing for the first time since Ronald Koeman's sacking – saw Memphis Depay's sublime 49th-minute strike cancelled out within three minutes at Camp Nou on Saturday.

Spanish side Barca have taken 16 points from 11 games in LaLiga this season (W4 D4 L3) – equalling their worst start at this stage in the three points for a win era (also 16 in the 2000-2001 and 2002-03 campaigns).

"It's a bad point," star Barca full-back Alba told Movistar. "Anything other than three points for Barcelona is bad and even more so when you see where we are in the table.

"We did enough, but we're struggling to score and teams are scoring against us with very little. It's tough. The team is trying, but it's complicated." 

Sergi Barjuan has stepped in to replace Koeman on an interim basis amid growing links with club great Xavi, who is currently head coach of Qatari outfit Al-Sadd.

Sergi became the first Barcelona coach without a win in his LaLiga debut since Pep Guardiola in 2008.

"They're different coaches, but the idea is the same," Alba said when asked about Koeman and Sergi. "We had very clear chances.

"I hope we can improve, for our own good. We're grateful to the fans that are with us in difficult moments."

Barca are ninth in the standings after 11 rounds, eight points behind leading trio Real Madrid, Sevilla and Real Sociedad.

Ronald Koeman says Ansu Fati still has plenty of room for improvement and does not expect the youngster to achieve the "impossible" by completely filling Lionel Messi's void.

The 18-year-old has committed his long-term future to Barca by agreeing terms on a new contract, which Los Cules announced on Wednesday.

Fati inherited Messi's number 10 shirt following the latter's shock switch to Paris Saint-Germain and is considered Barca's big hope now the club's all-time leading scorer is no longer around.

But he was guilty of missing a great opportunity in Wednesday's Champions League clash with Dynamo Kiev, which Barca only won 1-0 despite controlling the contest.

The Spain international has scored 15 goals in 48 games for Barca in total, a tally that is bettered only by Luis Suarez (21), Antoine Griezmann (35) and Messi (69) – none of whom are still at the club – since his debut 26 months ago.

Still regaining fitness after nearly a year on the sidelines with a knee injury, Koeman does not want supporters to get carried away when it comes to Fati's development.

"Ansu's chance today shows he still lacks things. He needs to improve," Koeman said at his post-match news conference.

"That is entirely normal. He will only turn 19 at the end of the month. He cannot be expected to solve all our problems, or what Leo Messi left behind. It's impossible.

"You have to help each other go step by step. We cannot expect miracles, especially when he has been out injured for a long time and is still only 18."

Barca had 11 shots against Dynamo but only found the target from three of those, with Gerard Pique scoring what proved to be the winner with 36 minutes played.

As well as becoming Barca's oldest Champions League goalscorer at 34 years and 260 days, Pique is now also the joint-leading goalscorer among defenders in the competition's history, level with Roberto Carlos (16 each).

Koeman felt his side should have won by a more comfortable margin against accommodating opponents Kiev, who failed to muster a single attempt on target at Camp Nou.

"I'm happy with the performance, but not because of our effectiveness," he said. "In a game when we were so superior and created opportunities, we should have scored more.

"If they don't have opportunities, you can't ask for more from the attackers, but they did. The normal outcome today would have been 3-0 or 4-0.

"I understand that people leave upset, because I am too. We have achieved the result we wanted, but with the opportunities we have created, we have to score more."

Barcelona's victory was their first in the Champions League in six attempts since December 2020, a run that includes back-to-back 3-0 losses to Bayern Munich and Benfica to begin their 2021-22 campaign.

The LaLiga club are now back in contention for a top-two finish in Group E at the midway point, but full-back Jordi Alba – who set up Pique's winner – accepts his side were made to work harder for the points than they perhaps needed to.

"In the first half we had chances to score more than once," he told Movistar. "In the second half we weren't so good under pressure and we suffered a bit.

"They did not create opportunities but we were still not in a good place. We have to improve on the second-half display."

In a worrying update ahead of Sunday's Clasico clash with Real Madrid, Alba confirmed he sustained an injury during the Kiev match despite playing the full 90 minutes.

"It's my toe. We'll have to wait and see what it is," he said. "But now we look forward to the Clasico. We have won our last two games and the fans have responded to that, helping us grow. 

"We are expecting a tough game against Madrid, but we hope to bring more joy to the fans."

Barcelona's injury problems have deepened as midfielder Pedri and left-back Jordi Alba have been ruled out with muscular injuries sustained in the 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich.

Alba was taken off in the 74th minute of Tuesday's Champions League contest with a hamstring issue, while Pedri played a full part on his return to action following a three-week rest.

Barca announced on their official website on Wednesday that Pedri is suffering with a thigh problem and has joined Alba in the treatment room ahead of Monday's LaLiga clash with Granada.

No timeline has been given for both players' return to action.

"The first team player Pedri has a quadriceps muscle injury in his left thigh," Barca revealed. "The player is unavailable for selection and his recovery will dictate his return.

"Tests carried out on Wednesday morning on the first team player Jordi Alba show that he has a hamstring injury in his right thigh. 

"The player is unavailable for selection and his recovery will dictate his return."

Barca's injury issues are piling up ahead of a busy spell of five games in a fortnight, including a huge clash with LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid early next month.

Martin Braithwaite is expected to miss the rest of 2021 after undergoing knee surgery, while fellow attackers Sergio Aguero, Ousmane Dembele and Ansu Fati are also out of action.

According to Spanish outlet Marca, Barca boss Ronald Koeman feels the club's medical department are partly to blame for the growing list of absentees.

The loss of Alba will leave a big void to be filled in the troublesome area of left-back, with academy product Alejandro Balde coming on for his senior debut in the heavy defeat to Bayern.

Pedri has also been a regular under Koeman over the past 13 months, making 55 appearances in all competitions since the start of last season – only Youssef En-Nesyri (57) and Manu Trigueros (59) have been used more often among LaLiga clubs.

Jordi Alba leapt to the defence of Spain coach Luis Enrique after La Roja suffered their first World Cup qualifying defeat since 1993 at the hands of Sweden on Thursday.

In what was their first game since losing to Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 semi-finals, Spain were in Stockholm hoping to go top of Group B on the road to Qatar 2022.

It was initially going well too, as Carlos Soler opened his account less than four minutes into his international debut as he turned in an Alba delivery.

But the Valencia midfielder made an error almost straight after the restart and Alexander Isak netted from 20 yards, meaning Spain's lead lasted just 63 seconds.

Viktor Claesson got the winner for Sweden in the second half, producing a cleverly disguised finish after inventive play by Dejan Kulusevski, with Spain's late pressure coming to nothing.

In the end, Spain – who had 75 per cent of the ball – finished with an expected goals value of 2.2 to Sweden's 0.6, highlighting the lack of decisiveness shown by La Roja in front of goal compared to their hosts.

Alba does not believe a major re-think is required for Luis Enrique, though he accepts Spain now have to be faultless if they are to usurp Sweden atop Group B given they are now two points adrift having played a game more than Janne Andersson's men.

"As in all matches, when you win or lose, you have to improve," he told Teledeporte. "The ideas of ​​the coach have been very good since he arrived and the players are taking to it perfectly. We have to improve as in all games, but we are doing a good job.

"It's clear we still have a lot to do. We have no margin for error. Today we have lost and there are still difficult games to be won.

"We have done things well, they have had their chances, they have put them in and we must continue to improve and do the job that the coach asks of us.

"We didn't deserve to lose. We had a very good first half, it's just a shame that after our goal they scored their goal in the next play.

"In the second half they waited for their strengths [counterattacks] and they did very well. We have no margin for error, we must win every game; we had that idea from the beginning, but now more than ever."

Luis Enrique echoed his left-back's sentiments and stressed Spain did not play poorly in general, though he rued a lack of success in midfield duels as well as Sweden's success in transition, with the pace and ability of Kulusevski and Isak routinely threatening the defence.

"It was not a bad game, there was ambition, good positioning, we have created many chances but we have lost many duels in midfield," he added.

"And with the transitions they have done us a lot of damage. We have lost many duels and they have generated more transitions than in the last ten games."

Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba have followed Gerard Pique in taking pay cuts to allow Barcelona to register Sergio Aguero and reduce financial concerns.

Lionel Messi could not be signed to a new deal because of spiralling costs at the Catalan club and, with no signs of improvement, Barca risked not being able to register new signings Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Aguero.

However, after Pique agreed to a salary reduction and deferral of payments, Ronald Koeman's side confirmed they were able to register Depay, Garcia and Rey Manaj.

Alba and Busquets have now, too, agreed to alterations to the terms of their contracts.

Both players will collect reduced wages for this season and deferred payments for the rest of their deals, with also Sergi Roberto reported to be negotiating changes to his terms.

The agreements with Busquets and Alba mean cash-strapped Barca can now register Aguero, who is expected to be out injured until the middle of October, while avoiding complications with financial fair play regulations.

Left-back Alba created the second most chances at the club last term in LaLiga (53), while Busquets led the way for tackles and interceptions while also completing the second most passes.

Jordi Alba accused people of spreading misinformation regarding his willingness to take a pay cut at Barcelona, insisting he will join Gerard Pique in reducing his salary to help the club's dire financial situation.

After a tumultuous week that saw Lionel Messi complete his stunning switch to Paris Saint-Germain, Barca launched their LaLiga campaign with a 4-2 win over Real Sociedad in which Pique opened the scoring on Sunday.

The former Spain defender headed home a free-kick from new signing Memphis Depay, who was only playing because Pique agreed a substantial salary reduction that allowed Barcelona to register the Netherlands forward within their league-enforced salary limit.

Speaking after the match, where Martin Braithwaite scored two goals and laid on the game-clinching goal for Sergi Roberto, Pique confirmed fellow club captains Alba, Roberto and Sergio Busquets would also bring down their pay.

"My commitment to Barca has always been total, I've been here all my life, 10 years in the first team and eight in the youth categories," Alba told reporters after the game to address suggestions in some quarters he had not been as forthcoming as Pique in Barcelona's time of need.

"I can speak for myself and for the president [Joan Laporta]. We are all going in the same direction. As Gery has said, the commitment has always been the same. Now it will be our turn [to take pay cuts] and there should be no doubt about us.

"What hurts me is that lies are told, I think I've shown how I feel about Barca. The club has given me a lot and we have to be grateful. What hurts me is the lies.

"I think I have to give face, I will give everything as I have always done on the pitch. Things can turn out better or worse, but no one can doubt the commitment.

"My commitment has always been to help the club, just like the rest of the captains."

Alba also reflected on the departure of Messi, with whom he shared a close bond on and off the field.

However, he insisted it had not been within the capabilities of himself and the other club captains to make it financially viable for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to remain at Camp Nou.

"Leo, apart from being the best in history, was the player I understood the best, so imagine the efforts I would have made for him," the left-back said.

"Leo is an issue separate from the captains, it is a matter of the club

"What I cannot bear is lies and things being leaked so that my character is doubted. I am the first to admit it if I am wrong, but I can't stand the lies."

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