Ernesto Valverde dismissed claims of Barcelona being in crisis as nothing more than a quirk of modern football as he remained relaxed about speculation over his future.

Barca's worst start to a LaLiga season in 25 years was confirmed by a shock 2-0 defeat at Granada on Saturday.

The result, a second defeat in five league games for the champions, left them four points adrift of first and extended their winless run away from home to seven competitive matches, a streak that includes draws at Osasuna and Borussia Dortmund.

Tuesday's home meeting with Villarreal presents a swift opportunity for Barca to get their campaign back on track and Valverde hopes to quieten a growing number of critics.

"In the world of football, we talk about a crisis every three days and in three days you can be out of the crisis," Valverde said at his pre-match news conference.

"That's what we want: we want to pick up the six points available this week.

"Why are we in this situation? Because we haven't won, that's clear. There were moments when we weren't creating enough chances to turn the game around.

"There are things we have to improve but, apart from the second half against Dortmund, none of our opponents have really been bombarding us with chances. We're getting penalised by occasional, one-off things that are happening.

"We're creating the chances, but we need to create more. That's where we really need to improve. We need to create more than the opposition."

One player capable of carving out scoring opportunities, Ousmane Dembele, will return to the squad against Villarreal after recovering from a hamstring injury.

The fit-again Lionel Messi will be considered for a starting place following two successive appearances off the bench, but Ivan Rakitic has been left out.

Anything less than victory at Camp Nou would pile further pressure on Valverde, who has faced stern scrutiny since last season's Champions League semi-final collapse against Liverpool.

"It's not new. I have felt under examination from the beginning," the Blaugrana boss said.

"There is a very large demand on coaches, much more in the case of Barca. The coach is always in the spotlight. It's no surprise."

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.

Zinedine Zidane admitted the 1-0 win over Sevilla on Sunday left him more satisfied than any of the results he has achieved in his second spell at the Real Madrid helm.

Madrid head coach Zidane had come in for increasing scrutiny following the 3-0 Champions League loss to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, but Karim Benzema's second-half header against Sevilla meant they returned to winning ways in LaLiga.

Sevilla had won the previous four LaLiga encounters between the two in Andalusia, but they were unable to muster a single shot on target, with Madrid boosted by captain Sergio Ramos' return to their defence.

Asked by Movistar if it was the best game of his second stint having returned in March, Zidane replied: "Yes, it is the game that leaves me the most satisfied since I came back.

"They have all helped each other on the field. We had complicated moments, but the solidarity that existed in those moments is obvious. This field is difficult."

Madrid trio Eden Hazard, James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale all failed to impress in an attacking sense in the victory, though Zidane was quick to highlight the other side of their games.

"We know we can create danger, but everyone's defensive work has been the key to winning," Zidane added.

"The three in particular have done it defending a lot. In a difficult game like today, everything had to be done."

Sergio Ramos said Real Madrid were "hungry and angry to win" as they beat Sevilla and bounced back from their loss to Paris Saint-Germain.

A humiliating 3-0 loss to PSG in the Champions League in midweek left Madrid with just two wins from their opening five games in all competitions, raising questions about head coach Zinedine Zidane's future. 

However, Karim Benzema's 64th-minute header ensured Los Blancos got back to winning ways against the previously unbeaten Sevilla as Zidane's men moved level with early leaders Athletic Bilbao on 11 points from five LaLiga matches.

Captain Ramos, who missed the PSG loss through suspension, claimed Madrid's desire for success cannot be questioned.

"We have achieved the goal and managed to be calm for a week, after what has been said," Ramos told Movistar.

"Madrid is always hungry and angry to win. The team is always very optimistic. The team's getting better.

"We are tied with Athletic on the table and we have to keep trying to improve as a team and above all take advantage of the occasions like today."

Sevilla had won four in a row at home in the league against Madrid but failed to register a shot on target in the entire match.

"We knew the difficulty of the game," Ramos added.

"It had been years since the team [Sevilla] did not win here. We have come with a very strong mentality, with the intention of committing the minimum possible errors."

Real Madrid responded to their humbling Champions League loss at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain by winning 1-0 against Sevilla thanks to Karim Benzema's second-half header.

Los Blancos had won just two of their first five games in all competitions and the 3-0 defeat in the French capital in midweek had raised further questions about head coach Zinedine Zidane's long-term future.

However, they got back to winning ways in a drab LaLiga contest in Seville as Benzema nodded home the game's only goal in the second half.

Madrid, who moved onto 11 points - level with leaders Athletic Bilbao - also kept their first clean sheet of the campaign as Sevilla failed to register a shot on target across the 90 minutes.

Sevilla came into the weekend top of the table but they struggled to emulate their early-season form in a forgettable first half.

Madrid at least managed to test the opposition's goalkeeper as Eden Hazard and then Dani Carvajal forced Tomas Vaclik into stops.

Hazard, still searching for his first Madrid goal, looked to squeeze an attempt inside the near post but was stopped by the arm of Vaclik, who then used his right foot to thwart Carvajal after the full-back had broken through down the middle of the pitch.

Neither side took control of the game in the early stages of the second half but Madrid made the breakthrough in the 64th minute through Benzema.

Gareth Bale fed Carvajal on the right and his cross from the byline was nodded in by Benzema after he had peeled off Diego Carlos to find space.

Former Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui responded by bringing on ex-Los Blancos striker Javier Hernandez for Sevilla five minutes later but he was unable to find a leveller, with Luuk de Jong heading wide from their only real opening.

Hernandez thought he had scored with three minutes remaining, but he was correctly adjudged offside when turning home a cross, while Bale fired into the side-netting at the other end in stoppage time.

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."

Paul Pogba will not be leaving Manchester United even if Real Madrid rekindle their interest when the transfer window reopens, says Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Pogba was reportedly a top target for Madrid and their French coach Zinedine Zidane prior to the new campaign, but they failed to land the World Cup winner.

Madrid have since made a stumbling start to the new campaign, while president Florentino Perez has hinted they could return for Pogba in January.

The midfielder, who had a difficult relationship with Solskjaer's predecessor as United boss Jose Mourinho, is currently sidelined by injury.

But Solskjaer reiterated Pogba's commitment to Old Trafford, even though the 26-year-old said after the end of the 2018-19 season he wanted a new challenge.

Agent Mino Raiola then indicated he was working on engineering a transfer for Pogba, but Solskjaer is certain United will continue to hold their prized asset.

"I don't listen to the president of Real Madrid," Solskjaer told reporters ahead of Sunday's Premier League trip to West Ham.

"But Paul is working hard here and he is totally committed to Manchester United. We have seen that while he's been injured. He has been working like crazy to get himself fit because he wants to play for us and he wants to help his team-mates.

"I am not worried now and I will never be worried in the future about Paul Pogba staying here. If it all kicks off again with Madrid in January then there will be no worries then either. If we have to live with the speculation again then we will handle it like we did in the summer.

"Paul is going nowhere. He is happy here when he's playing."

Pogba's mentality has occasionally been called into question since he returned to Old Trafford from Juventus in 2016, but Solskjaer has no doubts the midfielder is a good fit for his team.

"You need a big personality to play for Man United,” said Solskjaer, according to British newspapers. "You need a certain kind of confidence and arrogance and you have to be self-assured enough to be yourself in both the good times and the bad times.

"Paul Pogba is all of those things. He is one of our big characters. Paul will walk out onto any pitch and be full of confidence – and that's what I look for and what I demand from all of our players.

"It's not misplaced arrogance with Paul. It's about believing in himself. It's about the respect he has for his team-mates and his opponents."

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.

Atletico Madrid failed to win for a third successive game in all competitions as an inspired performance from Ruben Blanco secured Celta Vigo an unexpected 0-0 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Diego Simeone's side saw their 100 per cent LaLiga record come to an emphatic end against Real Sociedad last weekend, while they rallied on Wednesday to secure a 2-2 Champions League draw with Juventus.

However, their efforts in clawing back a two-goal deficit against the Serie A champions appeared to have taken a toll judging by their performance against Celta, with a sluggish Atletico failing to score at home in league action for the first time since May 2018.

Hector Herrera was rewarded for his equaliser off the bench in midweek with a first LaLiga start, while Simeone also selected Angel Correa in an attack-minded starting XI.

Yet for all their exerted efforts going forward, Atletico were unable to find a way to beat the outstanding Blanco.

He kept the home team at bay with a trio of fine saves in the first half, starting with an acrobatic effort to turn away Felipe's header from Kieran Trippier's inswinging free-kick.

The visiting goalkeeper also tipped over a rising long-range drive from Renan Lodi, with Blanco then denying Joao Felix's on-target prod from the resulting corner.

Koke tested the 24-year-old reflexes again from distance early in a second half where Atletico became increasingly frustrated with each passing minute.

Lodi's decision to go for goal from a tight angle rather than cross for the waiting Alvaro Morata summed up a below-par performance, while they were grateful substitute Pione Sisto failed to do better with a back-post opportunity in the closing minutes of a quickly forgettable encounter.

 

What does it mean? Sluggish Atleti come up short

After two tough fixtures, it is perhaps understandable Atleti were a little flat, despite the best efforts of a raucous home crowd to inspire their team.

Worryingly for Simeone, they have now managed just five goals in as many LaLiga outings in 2019-20, despite having 20 attempts on Saturday.

Blanco makes a point for Celta

The away team were resilient in defence but still relied on their goalkeeper to pick up a point on their travels. Blanco made five saves in total, the best of them his early denial of Felipe's close-range header.

Joao Felix fails to fire before departure

The Portugal international has still managed just the one goal for the Spanish club since his big-money arrival from Benfica. As was also the case against La Real, the teenager was withdrawn when his side were searching for a way to find a breakthrough in attack.

What's next?

With a midweek round of fixtures in Spain, Atletico Madrid travel to Real Mallorca on Wednesday. Celta, meanwhile, are in action the following day, as they host Espanyol.

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.

Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui insists he has no extra motivation to beat Real Madrid, despite his short-lived spell at the Santiago Bernabeu last year.

Lopetegui lasted four and a half months before being axed by Madrid last October following a heavy 5-1 loss to bitter rivals Barcelona.

The 53-year-old took just 14 points from a possible 30 during his time in the Spanish capital but has had far more joy at Sevilla since his appointment in June.

Sevilla are two points better off than Madrid ahead of Sunday's clash at Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan, but Lopetegui claims he is not out for revenge against his former side.

"There is no room for extra motivation when you coach Sevilla, something I can hopefully do for many years," he said.

"There are three points at stake and that is enough motivation, even if we know the impact of facing Real Madrid.

"I always have a very good memory of all the clubs where I have been, as I stay with the positive.

"I try to be responsible and ambitious, and [Sunday] will be no exception. The central characters are the players, not the coaches."

Sevilla have won three and drawn one of their opening four matches and maintained their momentum with a 3-0 Europa League win at Qarabag on Thursday.

Lopetegui is refusing to look too far ahead, though.

"I do not focus on what I hope or don't hope for, but on the day-to-day and on preparing each game well," he said.

"We look at the very short term. It is the best way of using the energy we have as coaches.

"We know that in front of us there is an extraordinary team, with spectacular talent, that will force us to give our best version.

"I would like to see a Sevilla side that knows how to attack and defend well.

"We want the three points and we will go for the three points."

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