Ernesto Valverde is facing a big week at Barcelona.

Valverde is under pressure early in the season after Barca slumped to a 2-0 loss at Granada to be left with just seven points from their opening five games of the LaLiga season.

Now, the next week is shaping as crucial for Valverde.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA PLAYERS LOSING CONFIDENCE IN VALVERDE

Several Barcelona players have started to lose confidence in Valverde, according to ESPN.

With seven points from five league games, Barcelona have made their worst start to a season since 1994-95.

Monday's cover of Sport says Valverde needs an urgent reaction, with his side hosting Villarreal on Tuesday and visiting Getafe four days later.

 

ROUND-UP

Barcelona are keeping an eye on Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz. Barca's sporting director Eric Abidal was present as Fabian scored in Napoli's 4-1 win over Lecce on Saturday, according to Calciomercato.

AC Milan want to strengthen at right-back and are considering Tottenham defender Serge Aurier, according to Sportmediaset, amid suggestions Andrea Conti is struggling to impress.

Jose Mourinho has had chances to return to management and the former Real Madrid and Manchester United boss apparently turned down a surprise opportunity last year. Fichajes reports Boca Juniors tried to convince Mourinho to take over, but the Portuguese tactician said he was not yet ready to leave Europe.

Everton have made a slow start to the Premier League season and are assessing ways to strengthen their attack. The Daily Express reports they are interested in signing Yussuf Poulsen from RB Leipzig. The Denmark international scored 15 Bundesliga goals last season.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is at the wheel but for how long?

After a blistering start to life at Manchester United, initially as interim manager, the Red Devils have struggled to convince.

United have won two of their opening five games ahead of Sunday's trip to West Ham and Paris could be the location of a possible replacement…

 

TOP STORY – UNITED AND BARCA BATTLE FOR TUCHEL

Manchester United have sounded out Paris Saint-Germain head coach Thomas Tuchel, according to Le10 Sport.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer signed a permanent three-year deal after initially replacing Jose Mourinho in December, but the Red Devils have been far from convincing following a brief upturn in results.

United have reportedly informed Tuchel of their interest, though LaLiga champions Barcelona are also tracking the German as pressure mounts on Ernesto Valverde after Saturday's shock loss at Granada.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to the Sunday Express, Tottenham have identified Leicester City star James Maddison as a potential replacement for soon-to-be free agent Christian Eriksen. Maddison has also been heavily linked to Manchester United.

United, meanwhile, have been told it will take £90million (€101m) to lure Germany star Kai Havertz from Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, claims the Express. The 20-year-old is also attracting interest from Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Liverpool. As for United and their hopes of signing RB Salzburg star Erling Haaland, they could be scuppered by agent Mino Raiola. The 19-year-old made headlines with a hat-trick on his Champions League debut. However, United's relationship with Raiola could thwart their plans, writes The Sun.

- The Mirror says Arsenal are keen to re-sign PSV's Donyell Malen, who left the Gunners two years ago. It could cost Arsenal up to £50m (€56m) to bring the 20-year-old back to London. Liverpool are also believed to be interested.

- Marca reports that Real Madrid are keen to sign Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga. The 16-year-old has dazzled in Ligue 1 this season.

Ernesto Valverde admits he is to blame for Barcelona's poor form after Saturday's 2-0 loss at Granada confirmed their worst LaLiga start in 25 years.

Barca went down to goals from Ramon Azeez and Alvaro Vadillo as the promoted side moved top of the table, with Valverde's men seventh after five games.

Seven points is the fewest they have collected at this stage of the season since a difficult 1994-95 campaign under legendary coach Johan Cruyff.

Valverde's team have failed to win any of their past seven away games in all competitions, a run that dates back to last season, with pressure growing on the coach.

Although Valverde has led Barca to the title in each of his two full seasons in charge, they lost last term's Copa del Rey final to Valencia after crashing out of the Champions League in humiliating fashion against Liverpool.

Questions about Valverde's future have been a constant background presence throughout his time at the club, and the coach accepts the blame for poor results must lie at his door.

"In the end the actors are the players and the coach is responsible," he told a post-match news conference.

"I feel responsible for what has happened. You can lose but when you lose you have to deserve to win - and today we have not deserved it.

"Away from home we are not reaping good results. When it happens in four games it is already a symptom that we are not too well.

"Today we have not been well. Away from home we are not playing good games. We are dominating but we do not translate it into goal situations. It is also true that the opponent is scoring the first goal."

Valverde gave credit to Granada, who have won three LaLiga games in a row without conceding a goal.

"Granada deserve a lot of credit and we have to recognise it," the coach added. "They have been intense, strong, they have troubled us a lot.

"The first goal has put the game in their hands and they hit us when they hurt us the most. They have made their game and that we have not played well is to their credit."

Luis Suarez accepted Barcelona's 2-0 LaLiga loss at Granada was a worrying result.

Goals from Ramon Azeez and Alvaro Vadillo moved promoted Granada top of the table and deepened Barca's growing crisis.

They are without a win in seven away games in all competitions, while their start to the new LaLiga campaign is their worst in 25 years.

Regardless of their poor form, Barca are only three points off the top of the table and Suarez called for Ernesto Valverde's side to buck up their ideas quickly.

"It is a defeat that worries and hurts, and we have to look at many things," he said after the game.

"We must be self-critical in order to improve.

"After going behind in the first two minutes it was difficult for us.

"We have to be more forceful to win the title. We must be self-critical."

Suarez, though, said it is inappropriate to consider Barca's slow start an extension of their underwhelming end to the 2018-19 campaign.

"It is not necessary to mix with the ones from the last year," he added.

"We must analyse the first games that we played as visitors, that obviously worries us with the lack of effectiveness."

Barcelona have made their worst start to a LaLiga season for 25 years after falling to a 2-0 loss away to promoted Granada.

The Spanish champions have taken a single point from their three away games this season, failing to win any of their past seven matches on the road in all competitions.

Ramon Azeez and Alvaro Vadillo struck to condemn Barca to defeat at Nuevo Los Carmenes on Saturday, a stunning result that moved newcomers Granada top of the table on goal difference.

Barca, meanwhile, are lagging behind in seventh spot with seven points from as many games.

However, similar troubles for Real Madrid and other elite LaLiga clubs mean they are only three points behind the leaders.

The last time they made such a poor start to a league campaign was in 1994-95, towards the end of the Dream Team era under legendary coach Johan Cruyff.

Barca finished fourth that season and exited the Champions League at the quarter-final stage, losing to Paris Saint-Germain.

Antoine Griezmann's problems adapting to life at Barcelona continued as he went a fourth away appearance for the club without managing a shot on target.

Barca went down 2-0 away to promoted Granada in LaLiga on Saturday, with Ernesto Valverde overseeing their worst start to a league season in 25 years.

The defending champions have taken just seven points from five games - only one of those points coming away from home - to increase the pressure on Valverde after last term's shock Champions League exit to Liverpool.

Griezmann has shouldered responsibility for Barca's goalscoring in the early weeks of the campaign. with club captain Lionel Messi yet to start a game as he recovers from a calf injury.

Luis Suarez has also been sidelined by injury, but Griezmann looked to have settled in quickly at Camp Nou when he netted a brace in a 5-2 home win over Real Betis, after which his audacious goal celebration made headlines.

It has been a struggle for the striker since then, though, with Griezmann going without a goal in six games for Barcelona and France, and his role in the Catalan side's attack appears unclear.

A controversial move from Atletico Madrid does not seem to be working out for Griezmann, with Barcelona drawing a blank in consecutive matches.

Granada shocked Barcelona 2-0 in LaLiga to increase the pressure on Ernesto Valverde, who has overseen the Blaugrana's worst start to the season since 1994-95.

Diego Martinez's side had won their past two league games and led in the second minute, Ramon Azeez heading in at the back post, and they made it 2-0 from the penalty spot.

Arturo Vidal was penalised for handball after a VAR check and Alvaro Vadillo sent Marc-Andre ter Stegen the wrong way to leave Barca, who brought Lionel Messi and Ansu Fati on at half-time, with a mountain to climb.

Barca are winless in seven away games in all competitions and struggling in seventh, while promoted Granada are the shock league leaders after their third straight clean sheet.

Junior Firpo was making his first LaLiga start for Barcelona but he made two errors as Granada took the lead with 63 seconds on the clock.

Antonio Puertas profited on Junior's twin mistakes to race clear and deliver a low cross that ballooned over Ter Stegen via a deflection off Gerard Pique for Azeez to nod home.

Luis Suarez hit a free-kick into the wall as Barca tried to strike back, but they ended the first half without recording a shot on target.

After Messi came on at half-time, Barca almost gifted Granada a second. Ter Stegen carelessly dropped a cross, the goalkeeper recovering in time to beat Roberto Soldado to the loose ball.

Granada doubled their lead in the 66th minute, Arturo Vidal conceding a penalty shortly after replacing Ivan Rakitic, with Vadillo beating Ter Stegen from the spot.

Despite Messi and Fati adding zest to their attack, Barca still could not find a way through, the captain forcing Rui Silva into his first save with eight minutes to play.

What does it mean? Problems mount for Valverde

Barca have taken a single point from three away league games this season, while they drew a blank at Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League in midweek. Messi's lack of fitness has exposed the weaknesses in Barca's squad and questions will continue to be asked of Valverde.

Granada's remarkable start to the season means they top the league ahead of Sevilla – who have a game against Real Madrid in hand – on goal difference, but Barca are only three points off the summit despite their issues both at the back and in attack.

Herrera sets tone for battling performance

Granada inevitably had far less of the ball than Barca, but Yangel Herrera's energetic midfield display helped keep the champions at bay. He recorded four tackles, four interceptions and two blocks - as many as anyone on the pitch for all three defensive metrics before his 83rd-minute withdrawal.

Perez out of his depth

Were it not for injuries to Messi and Ousmane Dembele, Carles Perez would surely be nowhere near the Barca squad.

Another limp performance from the 21-year-old indicated why Barca were so keen to bring Neymar back from Paris Saint-Germain this year as, Messi apart, the lack of stardust in attack is clear. Perez was withdrawn at half-time, with 16-year-old Fati, Barca's future, sent on in his place, although the similarly anonymous Antoine Griezmann could have also made way.

What's next?

Barca have a quick turnaround with Villarreal visiting Camp Nou on Tuesday. Granada go to Real Valladolid on the same day.

Lionel Messi is on the bench for Barcelona's LaLiga trip to Granada on Saturday.

Messi, who missed the start of the season with a calf injury, made his first appearance of 2019-20 as a substitute in the goalless Champions League draw away to Borussia Dortmund in midweek.

But with coach Ernesto Valverde easing the club captain back into action, Messi remains out of the starting XI for the trip to Nuevo Los Carmenes.

Luis Suarez starts after making a goalscoring return to fitness from the bench against Valencia last weekend, featuring in attack with Antoine Griezmann.

There is no place in the Barcelona side for teenager Ansu Fati, who has two LaLiga goals already this season, with Carles Perez replacing him in the XI.

With Jordi Alba sidelined by injury, left-back Junior Firpo makes his first LaLiga start since joining Barcelona from Real Betis, while Ivan Rakitic is in a LaLiga line-up for the first time this season.

Barca have taken a single point from their two away games in the league, following an opening weekend loss at Athletic Bilbao with a 2-2 draw at Osasuna.

However, the Spanish champions have won 15 of their past 16 LaLiga matches against Granada, including each the previous six with 21 goals scored and only two conceded in that run.

Zinedine Zidane is already under pressure at Real Madrid and his latest move displeased the LaLiga giants' board.

Madrid have made a slow start to the season, winning two of four LaLiga games and suffering a humbling defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

A decision Zidane made after that loss has reportedly upset the leaders at Madrid.

 

TOP STORY – ZIDANE ANGERS REAL MADRID BOARD WITH DECISION

Zidane's decision to give his players a day off on Thursday in the wake of their PSG defeat angered Real Madrid's board, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The latest report just adds to what has been a tough return to the Santiago Bernabeu for Zidane, back at the helm for a second stint.

With plenty of talk around his future, Sport reports it would cost Madrid €80million to sack Zidane, who signed a three-year deal in March.

 

ROUND-UP

- The man Zidane replaced, Santiago Solari, is close to landing a new job. Solari is the favourite to be the first coach of MLS side Inter Miami, according to beIN SPORTS.

- Juventus knew what they needed in the close season. Calciomercato says the Serie A champions prioritised the signing of Matthijs de Ligt for a reported €75m from Ajax over trying to land Joao Felix, who ended up at Atletico Madrid from Benfica.

- Nemanja Matic appears on the way out at Manchester United and Inter have been offered the midfielder, according to Calciomercato. However, the report says Matic is not a priority for Antonio Conte.

- Staying at Old Trafford and Manchester United are holding contract talks with 19-year-old midfielder Angel Gomes, according to the Manchester Evening News. Gomes is in the final year of his current deal and Barcelona are reportedly interested.

- Premier League clubs are on alert with Barcelona wanting to raise funds by selling midfielder Ivan Rakitic and defender Samuel Umtiti, according to the Daily Mail. The LaLiga giants are reportedly looking to raise at least €124m this season.

- AC Milan have held talks about possibly signing 20-year-old San Lorenzo forward Adolfo Gaich, according to Calciomercato. The Serie A side opted not to pursue a deal for the one-time Argentina international in the close season.

Diego Simeone dodged questions relating to Antoine Griezmann on Friday after reports claimed the France international negotiated a €14million signing-on fee with Barcelona while still an Atletico Madrid player.

Griezmann joined Barca in July when the Catalan club deposited the €120m to activate his release clause, which had dropped from €200m at the start of that month.

It brought an end to prolonged speculation about the attacker's future, though Atletico were adamant Barca and the player had struck some form of deal before July, meaning they felt they were owed a further €80m.

Barca insisted they only began negotiations in July, but Spanish newspaper El Mundo claimed on Thursday they had obtained evidence suggesting Griezmann discussed a commission in March.

Simeone was unwilling to address the matter in his pre-match news conference ahead of Saturday's visit of Celta Vigo, however.

"I'm thinking about Celta, I'm not interested in anything else," he told reporters.

"With all due respect to you, I understand the questions, but honestly, after playing on Wednesday we use the time to think about Celta.

"They have a reinforced team, the talent they have, the arrival of Rafinha, the presence of [Santi] Mina that creates an important attack. We are more focused on that.

"I understand your objective, but I've got mine."

New Atletico signing Renan Lodi received his first senior Brazil call-up on Friday, with the left-back having caught the eye during his early days at the club.

Although he was shown a red card on his LaLiga debut, he appears to have made the spot on the left of defence his own and Simeone is pleased with the 21-year-old's impact.

"He has been doing a great job since the first day he arrived," Simeone said. "He has extraordinary attributes that will grow with work.

"Hopefully he can maintain this situation of wanting to improve and I'm happy he's been selected by the national team."

Ernesto Valverde believes Barcelona need to be more forceful if they are to rectify their poor away form.

The Spanish champions have failed to win any of their last six competitive matches on their travels in a run stretching back to May, conceding 11 goals and scoring four.

Barca were somewhat fortunate to escape with a goalless draw against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League in midweek, having already lost to Athletic Bilbao and drawn with Osasuna in LaLiga.

Granada are up next for Valverde's men and the 55-year-old has demanded an improvement from his players.

"When we are away from home, our level of effectiveness and possession decreases," he said at Friday's pre-match news conference. 

"It is costing us in that we are not getting the results we expect when playing away. 

"Everything we have been doing well at home we forget to do away. We want to change this. We must be more forceful and decisive."

Lionel Messi made his first appearance of the season from the bench in Tuesday's stalemate with Dortmund and is in line to start against Granada, who are level on points with Barcelona after making a positive start to the campaign.

"Messi played well against Dortmund, despite having been out for a while," Valverde said. "We hope that as he gets more minutes. He gives us a lot - like he always has.

"His presence changes things in the attack. We will see who will play against Granada."

Ansu Fati has scored two LaLiga goals in three appearances and became the youngest player to feature for Barcelona in the Champions League after being named among their starers against Dortmund.

But Messi's return could see Fati drop down to the bench, while Ousmane Dembele is also closing in on a comeback after taking part in training this week.

Asked if Dembele is now behind Fati in the pecking order, Valverde said: "We will see if he has taken his place.

"So far they have not trained together. There is competition in the team and it will stay that way. It is a matter we will answer over time."

Inter Miami have found their star signing, set to land Manchester City playmaker David Silva.

The MLS side, set to start playing next year, have been linked with numerous big names, with Barcelona star Lionel Messi among them.

But they appear to have found the man to lead them into their debut campaign.

 

TOP STORY – DAVID SILVA SET TO JOIN MLS SIDE INTER MIAMI

David Silva is likely to join Inter Miami at the end of the 2019-20 season, according to the Independent.

The 33-year-old has previously said this campaign would be his last with Manchester City, the club he arrived at in 2010.

David Beckham is a co-owner of Inter Miami and it seems they are set to land the star they have been chasing.

ROUND-UP

- Unsurprisingly, Erling Haaland's Champions League exploits have led to interest from a couple of Europe's biggest clubs. The RB Salzburg forward, 19, scored a hat-trick against Genk on Tuesday. Barcelona have watched Haaland previously, according to Mundo Deportivo, while The Sun reports Manchester United have also joined the race for the Norway international.

- Barcelona may be busy in January, but only with departures. Marca reports the LaLiga giants are not planning to make any signings despite continued interest in Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar, but are considering selling first-team players Ivan Rakitic, Samuel Umtiti and Arturo Vidal.

- Mason Greenwood is set to re-sign with Manchester United. The Sun reports the forward, who scored his first senior goal for the club in the Europa League on Thursday, will sign a new contract before his 18th birthday on October 1, taking his wages from £800 to £25,000 per week.

- Antoine Griezmann made the move from Atletico Madrid to Barcelona in the close season and the forward received quite the bonus. The France international landed a €14million commission to sign for Barcelona, according to El Mundo.

- Like Haaland, another RB Salzburg player is being chased by a Premier League club. Arsenal have made a fresh approach for playmaker Dominik Szoboszlai, according to The Sun, having also chased the 18-year-old Hungarian during the close season.

- There appears to be some tension at Inter. Romelu Lukaku and Marcelo Brozovic exchanged words in the dressing room and had to be separated by team-mates after a 1-1 Champions League draw at home to Slavia Prague on Tuesday, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Barcelona chief executive Oscar Grau has confirmed Ernesto Valverde asked the club to buy Neymar, as the Spanish champions consider whether to make any future bids to Paris Saint-Germain.

Neymar was strongly linked with a return to Camp Nou, with PSG sporting director Leonardo confirming the Brazilian was for sale having asked to leave the French capital.

But despite Barca reportedly making a series of cash-plus-players offers to PSG, no deal could be completed before September 2's European transfer deadline.

Neymar scored on his first Ligue 1 appearance this term after failing to get his desired move, but PSG ultras have indicated he will not be welcomed back to the fray quickly.

Real Madrid have also long been linked with a move for Neymar, with Grau unwilling to say whether Barcelona will continue to pursue a deal for the Brazil forward.

"Neymar was a request from the sports area and the coach and the club did everything in order to get him, albeit in a financially sustainable way," Grau said on Thursday.

"We made many proposals to PSG. They always rejected them. I don't know if we are going to target him again next summer. Planning for next season will be done in the future.

"We would have been delighted to have the chance to bring Neymar back, but the terms always had to be reasonable.

"If some parameters had been accomplished, it would have been possible, but PSG were not happy about losing him."

Barca also missed out on Matthijs de Ligt, who opted not to follow his Netherlands team-mate Frenkie de Jong from Ajax to Camp Nou.

"We made him an offer, but he preferred to go to Juve, where Italian taxation allows him to earn a higher net salary," Grau added.

Barcelona expect to announce an eye-watering turnover in excess of €1billion ahead of schedule in 2020.

The forecast is claimed to be "a new record in the world of sport" and is on course to be reached before the club's stated target of 2021.

LaLiga champions in four of the past five seasons, Barca's revenue climbed €76million to a club-record €990m for the 2018-19 season.

The Camp Nou outfit spent large sums on Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann ahead of the 2019-20 campaign but project a three per cent reduction in "sporting salaries" and nine per cent increase in income for player transfers and loans after parting with Andre Gomes, Malcom and Jasper Cillessen among other fringe members of Ernesto Valverde's squad.

Barca's finances might look less robust if the club succeeds in its attempts to sign Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain. 

The Brazil international moved between the teams for €222m in August 2017 but wants to return to his former employers, who investigated the possibility of a deal during the last transfer window.

On the pitch, head coach Valverde's hopes of retaining his job appear to hinge heavily on delivering victory in the Champions League.

Lionel Messi made the competition a priority when he spoke of being committed to Barca on the condition of sustained success.

"For me, money or a clause don't mean anything. Other things motivate me and the most important thing is having a winning team," he told SPORT this month.

Samuel Eto'o has said he wants to become the first coach of colour to win the Champions League and vowed to emulate the style of former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola.

The former striker, who retired from playing this month, twice won Europe's elite competition with Barca – under Frank Rijkaard and then Guardiola – before lifting it again with Inter in 2010.

The 38-year-old has now set his sights on winning the tournament as a coach, using the same possession and attacking style of football adopted by Guardiola at Camp Nou.

Eto'o also hopes such a triumph would blaze a trail for non-white coaches, the ex-Cameroon star having become wearied by recent incidents of racism in the sport.

"I want to be the first coach of colour to win the Champions League, by playing with a team like Guardiola does," he told Cadena SER.

Eto'o was speaking in the wake of the alleged racist abuse of Inter striker Romelu Lukaku by Cagliari fans during a Serie A match in Sardinia. Cagliari avoided punishment from the Italian Football Federation (FIGC).

On Monday, television pundit Luciano Passirani was sacked for making a comment about Lukaku that, although apparently meant as a compliment, was considered by many observers to be racist.

"These have been very sad moments and the worst thing is it keeps repeating itself," Eto'o said. "I ask on my knees for you to help us so that football in the stands is cleaner, with more education.

"Yellow, black, orange... in the end, we're all the same, and our children should know that. They shout at you like a monkey and then ask you for a photo. They have a photo with a monkey."

Eto'o scored in Barca's Champions League final win over Arsenal in 2006 and then broke the deadlock when the Catalans beat Manchester United 2-0 in Rome three years later.

He celebrated the opening goal by slapping his exposed forearm, something he says was fuelled by the fact that "nobody talked about me" prior to the match.

"It meant, 'I am black and that is why they don't talk about me'," he said when asked to explain the celebration. 

"I was the only one from the two teams to have scored in a Champions League final [apart from Cristiano Ronaldo in 2008] and nobody talked about me.

"They talked about Cristiano, about my boy [Lionel] Messi, who had not yet arrived... but the one who had scored in a final before was me. And I scored again."

Most recently at Qatar SC, Eto'o has called time on his playing career but is already plotting a return to Barca, saying: "I'm sure I'll come back. How? I don't know, but I'll come back!"

For now, though, Eto'o says his post-playing plans are simply: "To relax and have fun with my wife."

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