Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann has suffered a thigh muscle injury, the LaLiga club have confirmed.

The France international was replaced by Luis Suarez at half-time of Saturday's 1-0 victory away to Real Valladolid.

Medical tests on Sunday showed Griezmann has damaged the quadriceps in his right leg and is facing a spell out of action.

The 2018 World Cup winner, a €120million signing from Atletico Madrid last year, is likely to miss Thursday's league match against Osasuna at Camp Nou.

Griezmann has scored just nine goals in 35 league appearances during a difficult first season with Barca.

He was dropped from the starting line-up by coach Quique Setien for the 2-2 draws with Celta Vigo and Atleti last month but made a goalscoring return in the 4-1 win over Villarreal on July 5.

Juventus and Inter are reportedly ready to do battle for Roma star Nicolo Zaniolo.

Zaniolo, 21, made his return from a serious knee injury this month and has repeatedly been linked with a move away from Roma.

A pair of Serie A giants may be ready to fight for the midfielder's services.

 

TOP STORY – INTER, JUVE TO BATTLE FOR ZANIOLO

Inter are ready to challenge Juventus to sign Roma star Zaniolo, according to CalcioMercato.

Zaniolo is considered one of Europe's best young talents, and left Inter for Roma in 2018.

Roma reportedly want at least €50million for the five-time Italy international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Contracted at Manchester City until 2021, Sergio Aguero may yet stay at the Etihad Stadium a little longer. The Mirror reports City have not ruled out giving the star forward, 32, a one-year extension.

- With Neymar repeatedly linked with a return to Barcelona, it seems the LaLiga giants are wanting to distance themselves from the Paris Saint-Germain star. Marca says Barca are keen to see the rumours of a potential return for Neymar stop.

- Staying at Camp Nou and Barcelona apparently have interest in two players from Tottenham. The Daily Star says Barca want Ryan Sessegnon and Tanguy Ndombele. However, it reports Spurs will reject all offers for Sessegnon this close season.

- Philippe Coutinho's future remains unclear. Mundo Deportivo reports the playmaker, who is on loan at Bayern Munich from Barcelona until the end of the season, will not decide his future until after the Champions League next month.

- Plenty of talk continues to surround Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is coming out of contract at the Premier League club next year. The Daily Star reports the forward will sign a contract extension with Arsenal – if no other club makes an official approach.

- After just two goals in 25 games for Real Madrid, Luka Jovic seems set for an exit. According to Mundo Deportivo, Juventus, Inter, Chelsea, Leicester City, Milan and Napoli are all considering moves for the forward.

Quique Setien said Lionel Messi needed a rest as his "tired" Barcelona kept the pressure on Real Madrid with a 1-0 win over Real Valladolid.

Messi set up Arturo Vidal's 15th-minute goal on Saturday as Barca moved back within a point of rivals and LaLiga leaders Madrid, who have a game in hand.

But the superstar attacker played 90 minutes as Barca's busy schedule continued and Setien said afterwards that Messi needed a rest.

"He probably will get a rest, yes," the Barcelona coach told a news conference.

"I've mentioned it to him previously and perhaps today if we'd got a couple more goals, as I think we deserved, he probably would have come off to get a little bit of a rest."

Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez, meanwhile, each played 45 minutes, with the Uruguayan replacing the France international at half-time.

Setien, who said Griezmann had taken a "knock", feels Barca were tired after a third game in the space of a week.

"I think it's mostly tired legs. It's less than 72 hours since we played our last game," he said.

"It was very hot today and the pitch felt a lot bigger towards the end of the match. You could see that, a lot of players were not looking fresh on late in the game and they probably lacked that touch of intensity.

"We've played many games and it's very draining and we have quite a few players who've played a lot of minutes so we can't blame our football, I blame mostly our tired legs for today's game.

"Sometimes that can affect your decision making, but this is normal for the current situation we're in."

Arturo Vidal vowed Barcelona will fight all the way after a scrappy 1-0 win at Real Valladolid kept their title hopes alive.

Had they dropped points for a fourth time since LaLiga's restart, there would surely have been no coming back for Quique Setien's side.

But Vidal's fine finish in the 15th minute, coupled with a second-half starring role for goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, kept pressure on leaders Real Madrid.

Until Zinedine Zidane's team cannot be caught, there will always be hope in the Barcelona ranks that Los Blancos might stumble.

"We know it depends. We just have to win all the games that we have remaining," Vidal said in a post-match interview.

"It doesn't depend on us. We just have to do what we have to do and see what the other teams around us do."

There is only one "other team" that Barcelona are concerned about, and Madrid will go to Granada on Monday hoping to capitalise on their game in hand by going four points clear with two games to play.

Barcelona have German shot-stopper Ter Stegen to thank for the fact Madrid cannot be crowned champions in that game, given that would have been the case had Setien's team dropped points in Valladolid.

Barcelona missed chances, particularly in the first half, which saw one awful fluffed effort from Antoine Griezmann, who missed his kick from in front of goal.

By the closing stages, the final whistle could not come soon enough for the flagging visiting players.

"We had our chances and didn't take them and we knew they'd have theirs," Vidal said.

"We have to improve going forward and take our chances. The important thing is we've done what we came here to do and we've got three points."

It was a hot early evening in Valladolid, and Vidal indicated Barcelona were feeling the pace in the second half.

"It's difficult against a team that were very hard to play and they played very well. Also, the conditions complicated things slightly, but I'm glad we won," he said.

"We knew we'd have to work very hard and wouldn't necessarily be able to maintain our rhythm throughout.

"We wanted to improve. We kept ourselves in the title race and that's the most important thing."

 

Lionel Messi's clever pass to set up Barcelona's opening goal against Real Valladolid on Saturday saw him reach a notable double in LaLiga.

Arturo Vidal was the beneficiary of Messi's short ball from the edge of the penalty area, with the Chilean sending a low shot in off the left post to nudge Barcelona 1-0 ahead.

It means Messi has achieved the stunning feat of both scoring and creating 20-plus goals in the Spanish top flight this season, having already netted 22 times prior to the trip to Valladolid.

No other player has ever achieved the individual double during a single campaign in Spain in the 21st century, while the only other to do so in Europe's top five leagues is Thierry Henry, who managed 24 goals and 20 assists for Arsenal in 2002-03.

Messi is also the first in LaLiga to register 20 assists in a season since former team-mate Xavi in the 2008-09 campaign, when Barca won the league, Copa del Rey and Champions League under Pep Guardiola.

Although Messi's strike rate this season has not yet reached the heights of recent times, the 33-year-old has managed a combined haul of 40 or more goals and assists in LaLiga for a sixth successive campaign.

Barcelona will keep Real Madrid waiting for the coronation that is surely coming their way after Arturo Vidal's strike secured a 1-0 win at Real Valladolid. 

The gap at the top of LaLiga is down to a single point, but Madrid can go four clear with two rounds of games remaining when they face Granada in their game in hand on Monday. 

Lionel Messi provided the killer pass that gave Vidal the chance to strike the 15th-minute goal that sank Valladolid, a 20th assist of the league season for the Argentinian. 

Had Barcelona failed to win Saturday's game at Estadio Jose Zorrilla, Madrid would have had the opportunity at Granada to clinch the title with two games to spare. Now it cannot come until Thursday at the earliest. 

Worryingly for Barcelona, they came into this game with just three wins from their last nine away games in LaLiga, but nerves were soon calmed by Vidal's fine finish. 

The Chilean midfielder received a lovely dink through from Messi and quickly got away a shot low across goal, his strike going in off the left post. 

Messi's assist made him the first player to reach the 20 mark in a single campaign in the Spanish top flight since Xavi in Barcelona's 2008-09 treble-winning year. 

Taking into account his 22 goals this term too, Messi can hardly be blamed for Barcelona missing out on the title. 

Antoine Griezmann, however, chosen ahead of Luis Suarez for this game, continues to flatter to deceive. 

He squandered an early half-chance before missing a sitter four minutes after Barcelona's breakthrough, getting his feet in a pitiable tangle when Nelson Semedo's skidding low cross from the right reached him eight yards from goal. 

Full-back Semedo had a thumping shot saved by Jordi Masip before Barcelona were thankful for Kike Perez stumbling after getting in behind their defence as the hosts sought an equaliser. 

Suarez unsurprisingly replaced Griezmann for the second half, with coach Quique Setien looking for more from a Messi sidekick than the Frenchman had been able to provide. 

Perez, Javi Sanchez and Enes Unal all had chances for Valladolid but could not make them count, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen kept busy, while Messi saw a free-kick tipped over by Masip, the king of the assists always a threat. 

Lionel Messi's clever pass to set up Barcelona's opening goal against Real Valladolid on Saturday saw him make LaLiga history.

Arturo Vidal was the beneficiary of Messi's short ball from the edge of the penalty area, with the Chilean sending a low shot in off the left post to nudge Barcelona 1-0 ahead.

It means Messi has achieved the stunning feat of both scoring and creating 20-plus goals in the Spanish top flight this season, having already netted 22 times prior to the trip to Valladolid.

No other player has ever achieved the individual double during a single campaign in Spain, while the only other to do so in Europe's top five leagues is Thierry Henry, who managed 24 goals and 20 assists for Arsenal in 2002-03.

Messi is also the first in LaLiga to register 20 assists in a season since former team-mate Xavi in the 2008-09 campaign, when Barca won the league, Copa del Rey and Champions League under Pep Guardiola.

Although Messi's strike rate this season has not yet reached the heights of recent times, the 33-year-old has managed a combined haul of 40 or more goals and assists in LaLiga for a sixth successive campaign.

Manchester City are reportedly ready to give up two players in a deal for Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly.

Koulibaly, 29, has regularly been linked with a move from Naples, with several of Europe's biggest clubs apparently keen to land the centre-back.

And City may know who they are ready to offer up as part of a deal.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY PREPARED TO GIVE UP TWO PLAYERS FOR KOULIBALY

Manchester City could use Nicolas Otamendi and Oleksandr Zinchenko in a deal for Napoli star Koulibaly, according to The Sun.

The report says the Serie A club have already contacted City about Otamendi and Zinchenko.

Napoli are said to want €100million for Koulibaly, who has also been linked to Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool have been repeatedly linked with a move for Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara over recent weeks. However, ESPN reports the Premier League champions will not pursue a deal for the former Barcelona star.

- Speculation around Eric Garcia's future continues. According to Mundo Deportivo, the Manchester City defender is motivated to return to Barcelona, but the Premier League club have offered the 19-year-old a bumper contract, with his current deal expiring in 2022.

- Jonathan Ikone is seemingly attracting some interest. Le 10 Sport reports Chelsea and Inter are interested in the Lille forward. Ikone scored three goals and provided six assists in 28 Ligue 1 games in 2019-20.

- Will Roma get a deal done for Chris Smalling? Gianluca Di Marzio says Roma are in negotiations with Manchester United to make the defender's move permanent. The report says Roma's offer of €3m (£2.7m) to extend the loan for a season before a €15m (£13.4m) offer to make the move permanent has been deemed too low.

- Mesut Ozil wants to see out his contract at Arsenal, with his deal expiring in 2021. The Sun reports the attacker has told friends he will only consider playing in MLS or the Turkish Super Lig after he leaves Arsenal.

- Paris Saint-Germain could be looking to strengthen while weakening one of their Ligue 1 rivals. Foot Mercato reports PSG are interested in Lyon and France defender Leo Dubois.

Barcelona head coach Quique Setien believes fairness has prevailed after UEFA confirmed the second leg of their Champions League last-16 encounter against Napoli will take place at Camp Nou.

Friday's draw for the final stages of the Champions League handed Barca a tough-looking route to glory if they manage to successfully negotiate their Serie A opponents.

Bayern Munich are the likely quarter-final foes for the winner of that tie, as they hold a 3-0 first-leg advantage ahead of Chelsea's visit to the Allianz Arena.

The winner of that game will take on whoever comes out of the Real Madrid or Manchester City v Lyon or Juventus clashes, meaning a semi-final Clasico in Lisbon is a possibility.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's trip to Real Valladolid in LaLiga, where victory is essential to preserve Barca's fading LaLiga title hopes, Setien was in no mood to be drawn on such permutations.

However, the decision to make Napoli travel to Camp Nou and not stage the concluding game of the tie at a neutral venue pleased him.

"I didn't have much in the way of expectations for the draw. I think it's important that we focus on the game against Napoli, which is the key," he said.

"We know that we're going to be playing at home now, which is something that I think is fair.

"As for the rest of the draw, it's okay to know what it is and it's good to analyse some of the possible opponents.

"But the first thing we have to do is focus on the work for the game tomorrow against Valladolid. We need to take three points. Then the game against Napoli is vital for us. When the moment comes we will face that.

"First we need to keep our option open for winning the title."

Junior Firpo is back in the Barca squad to face Valladolid but Arthur is an injury absentee.

The Brazil midfielder has not featured for the Blaugrana since his pending switch to Juventus was confirmed but Setien insisted his omission is purely because he is not fit.

"It is a specific issue," he said. "His involvement is the same. He tries to give his best in each training session.

"Next week he will overcome this process he has and will return to action. We are going to need everyone."

Setien is set to have another boost to his midfield options after Frenkie de Jong returned to training from a calf problem.

"We considered taking him on the trip [to Valladolid] but we have thought the best thing is [to wait until] he has really good feelings.

"We preferred not to take risks and wait a few more days for the sensations to be excellent."

If Real Madrid beat Deportivo Alaves on Friday, Barca will take to the field four points in arrears, with an inferior head-to-head record and three games remaining for both sides.

Nevertheless, Setien is not ready to give up just yet.

"Everything can happen in football," he added. "We have seen inexplicable things. 

"We must focus on what is ours and wait for that opportunity that the rival in front of us may fail."

Real Madrid could face a reunion with Cristiano Ronaldo before a Clasico showdown with Barcelona after Friday's draw mapped out the final stages of this season's Champions League.

There are plenty of pieces to fall into place before that scenario is possible, with Madrid nursing a 2-1 deficit ahead of their last-16 return against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium next month.

The winner of the City-Madrid tie will face the victor from Lyon versus Juventus when the reformatted one-off final stages begin in Lisbon from August 12.

Ronaldo and his team-mates are 1-0 down following the away leg against their Ligue 1 opponents.

Those teams will do battle for a spot in quarter-final one, the winner of which will take on the team to emerge from quarter-final three, which was drawn as Napoli or Barcelona versus Chelsea or Bayern Munich.

Fresh from their domestic double, Bayern are strongly placed having won 3-0 at Stamford Bridge in the initial match, although Lionel Messi and his colleagues have their encounter on a knife edge following a 1-1 draw at Stadio San Paolo.

The other quarter-finals comprise teams who have already booked their spots in Lisbon.

PSG overturned a first-leg deficit to knockout Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16 and face the similarly free-scoring Atalanta.

The winner of that tie will take on RB Leipzig or Atletico Madrid, who overcame respective Premier League opposition in the form of Tottenham and holders Liverpool in the previous stage.

Champions League quarter-final draw in full:

QF1) Real Madrid or Manchester City v Lyon or Juventus
QF2) RB Leipzig v Atletico Madrid
QF3) Napoli or Barcelona v Chelsea or Bayern Munich
QF4) Atalanta v PSG

Champions League semi-finals

Winner QF1 v Winner QF3
Winner QF 2 v Winner QF4

Carl Robinson hopes Wolves keep star duo Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez, but the former midfielder knows the Premier League club may have to sell in order to improve their squad. 

Traore and Jimenez are reportedly attracting plenty of interest as Nuno Espirito Santo's Wolves continue to challenge the Premier League's elite since their return to the top flight in 2018-19. 

Wolves, who finished seventh last season, are sixth through 34 matches this term and flirting with another European berth thanks to Traore, Jimenez and a star-studded squad, including Portugal internationals Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho and Rui Patricio. 

Jimenez – linked to Manchester United and Juventus – has scored 15 Premier League goals and tallied six assists in 2019-20, while reported Liverpool, Manchester City and Barcelona target Traore has set up nine goals and netted four of his own. 

While Traore and Jimenez could leave Molineux in big-money deals, Robinson insisted how Wolves reinvest transfer funds would be crucial in the club's bid to maintain their position and crack the Premier League's top five.

"The reality is, they've played fantastically well for Wolves this season, so there is going to be top clubs sniffing around them," Robinson, who made over 150 appearances for Wolves between 1995 and 2002, told Stats Perform News. 

"Wolves' decision will be: can they afford to keep them, can they afford to turn down these huge transfer fees and if they do and say we're going to turn down £70million for Traore, how can they invest and build the squad from where they are at the moment? 

"If they can't, they might have to look at the £70m and Nuno will ask the question, how much of that £70m can I have invested in the football squad because our starting point is lower than where we are today. That's why sometimes, unfortunately, managers lose jobs because their starting point is a lot lower, but expectations go higher based upon the club getting £70m and Nuno is spending £20m. 

"I hope they keep those players at Wolves because if they don't, there will be two major gaping holes. But I also understand football is a business and if they get £150m for two players, I'm not sure too many teams could turn that down. 

"You could bring in four or five £30m players. If you look at your squad, sometimes you have to go sideways, or backwards, to go forwards. But do it for the right reasons, do it because you're selling one of your key players knowing you have a youngster coming through in maybe 12 months.  

"That's an understandable plan you have as a club. That's why the executives and big boys are paid the big money, because they have to make major decisions. The buck stops with them. If they get it wrong, they lose their jobs." 

Wolves have come a long way since Chinese conglomerate group Fosun International purchased the club in 2016 – progressing from a mid-table side in the Championship to FA Cup semi-finalists last season and Europa League participants in 2019-20. 

Santo's side are six points adrift of fifth-placed Manchester United with four Premier League matches remaining, while Wolves – back in Europe for the first time since 1980 – are preparing to resume their Europa League last 16-tie against Olympiacos next month after the competition was suspended in March due to coronavirus following the 1-1 draw in Greece. 

"When you have Mexico's number nine, when you have three Portuguese international players, the Portugal international goalkeeper in your team, when you have four or five other players who cost you £10-15m each, when you have Adama Traore, who you've managed to buy and develop and now maybe possibly on the verge of a move to Liverpool for £70-80m, you have a standard of players that are of high quality," Robinson, now head coach of Australian team Newcastle Jets, said.  

"When you have better players, they are able to win you games in moments where games are tight. Games are tight in the Premier League especially. The investment has been fantastic, not only on the field but off it.

"They've tried to regain some of what Wolverhampton is about – it's a good old honest, working men's town. It's not the city, the bright lights of London, it's Wolverhampton. When you go there, you see it and you're proud to play for Wolves. But you're only proud to play for them if you understand what they're about. 

"They've managed to be successful and compete at the top half of the Premier League. That's very important and it's great, it's got the interest back in Wolves. It's good when they see their rivals – Aston Villa, Birmingham and West Brom especially – languishing.

"Their issue now, and it's a good issue to have, is to maintain where they are and keep up with the big boys, they need to invest at the minimum level to what they've already invested. We see football clubs sometimes going out of business and drop. Hopefully Wolves will never be at the stage because of the continued investment. 

"Most clubs in football are feeder clubs and I'll say this with the greatest respect to other than four or five teams, and even Premier League champions Liverpool had to sell Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho. They might have to sell either Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah because there are clubs bigger that can pay the money.

"As a club, you know if you're successful you will lose your key players. How you replace them is key. 

"Wolves are in a great place. Hopefully they can stabilise where they are for the next three, four or five years and then continually try to crack the top five or six, which won't be easy." 

Manchester City, Juventus and Barcelona will have home advantage for the crucial second legs of their Champions League last-16 ties after a UEFA ruling on Thursday.

Their respective clashes against Real Madrid, Lyon and Napoli are all on a knife edge after tight first games.

There had been talk of the return games possibly being played on neutral territory, as European football's governing body deals with how to finish its 2019-20 competitions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Champions League will be played to a conclusion in Portugal from the quarter-final stage onwards, and the Europa League will conclude similarly with its final rounds being played in Germany, with each competition aiming to complete by the end of August.

UEFA said it considered the "principle of sporting fairness" in reaching its decision regarding the last-16 ties that had started but were unresolved in each competition.

That means Manchester City will defend their 2-1 lead over Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium, Juventus will welcome Lyon to Turin, chasing a deficit after losing 1-0 to the French side in the first game, and Barcelona and Napoli will play again at Camp Nou after a 1-1 draw in Italy.

Bayern Munich, who lead Chelsea 3-0 after a successful trip to London, will take on Frank Lampard's side at the Allianz Arena.

The same rule will apply in the Europa League, although two last-16 ties in that competition have yet to begin and have been moved to Germany, where they will be played as single-leg fixtures, with Inter facing Getafe and Sevilla playing Roma.

UEFA said in a statement: "Consistent with the principle of sporting fairness and considering that current conditions - all clubs due to play at home the return leg of the round of 16 are currently playing the remaining matches of their domestic leagues in their own stadiums and that travelling is possible without restrictions for the visiting clubs – the UEFA executive committee decided that the remaining UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League round of 16 second-leg matches will be played at the home teams' stadiums.

"UEFA will continue to monitor the situation and reserves the right to reassign any such matches to the venues of the final tournament of the relevant competition should new events occur that would make it impossible to play one or more matches at the original venues."

UEFA said it would announce fixture details after Friday's quarter-final draws at its Swiss headquarters.

The governing body also said all its matches would be played behind closed doors until further notice.

"UEFA will monitor the evolution of the situation and advise on any full or partial lifting of restrictions at the appropriate time," its statement added.

Kai Havertz is reportedly ready to leave Bayer Leverkusen – and he knows where he wants to go.

The Germany international enjoyed another fine campaign with the Bundesliga club, leading to interest from across Europe.

And, it seems Havertz knows his preferred destination.

 

TOP STORY – HAVERTZ WANTS CHELSEA MOVE

Havertz wants a move to Chelsea and his agents have told Bayer Leverkusen he would like to leave if an important bid arrives in the next few weeks, according to Fabrizio Romano.

The 21-year-old is contracted at Leverkusen until 2022, but has been linked with the likes of Real Madrid.

Havertz scored 17 goals for Leverkusen in 2019-20, having netted 20 times in the previous season.

ROUND-UP

- Amid growing pressure on Antoine Griezmann, Barcelona have reassured the forward he has a future at the LaLiga club, according to ESPN.

- Real Madrid will listen to offers for forward Luka Jovic, according to Marca. The Serbia international has struggled during his first season at the LaLiga giants, scoring just twice in 25 games. Jovic has been linked to the likes of Milan, Arsenal and Newcastle United.

- Staying at Real Madrid and Sport reports the LaLiga leaders will target Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe and Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga next year.

- Paul Pogba may be happy to stay at Manchester United. Fabrizio Romano reports United have opened contract talks with the midfielder's agent Mino Raiola, with Pogba having been linked to Madrid and Juventus.

- Alexandre Lacazette could be set for an Arsenal exit. CalcioMercato reports Juventus have already started talking to the forward's agents about a possible move.

- Also in Turin, CalcioMercato says Juventus are considering a move for Atalanta left-back Robin Gosens if Alex Sandro decides to leave.

Barcelona head coach Quique Setien lauded Luis Suarez after the star forward moved third on the club's all-time goalscoring list thanks to his match-winning display against Espanyol.

Suarez surpassed Ladislau Kubala with his 195th Barca goal from 278 appearances in Wednesday's 1-0 win over LaLiga rivals Espanyol, who were relegated as a result.

Only two players have scored more goals for Barca – superstar captain Lionel Messi (630) and Cesar (232) – following his 56th-minute strike at Camp Nou midweek.

And Setien was full of praise for Suarez, who arrived from Premier League giants Liverpool in 2014.

"It wasn't difficult to figure out Luis Suarez was eventually going to score goals again as he continues to play games," Setien told reporters.

"When you're not playing for a while you need time to get back into your rhythm. That's something you only get through minutes on the pitch.

"He knows how to score goals and he's always showed that throughout his career. He did it, which moves him up to third in Barcelona's all-time scoring list and you can't take that away from him."

Barca moved within a point of bitter rivals and leaders Real Madrid, who have a game in hand as they prepare for Friday's match against Deportivo Alaves.

Setien's Barca are nine games unbeaten following back-to-back wins, though they were far from their best after Sunday's 4-1 rout at Villarreal.

"I think we certainly weren't brilliant," Setien said. "It was a difficult match. We managed to win and we'd all like to repeat, of course, the same performance we produced against Villarreal but it's not easy.

"You always need to take your opponents into account. In any case, I'm very happy with the win because I watch practically all the matches in LaLiga and I see a lot of teams are winning 1-0 and finding it a struggle. It's a very level playing field right now."

Barca substitute Ansu Fati was sent off after coming on at the start of the second half, while Espanyol's Pol Lozano was also dismissed.

Five minutes after coming on teenager Fati was heading off again, a VAR review upgrading his caution to a red card as he was punished when a high right foot caught Fernando Calero.

"He was very humble afterwards," Setien added on Fati. "He came to talk to me. He felt very bad about what happened.

"He wasn't provoked. He went in to win the ball. After I watched it, the challenge looked harder than it actually was. It's a moment that could have been avoided. When he goes to win the ball I saw he tried to fold his leg back so there wouldn't be any contact, but the decision was made.

"He'll be affected by this and we'll see what the punishment is but it's a moment that I don't blame him for."

Pep Guardiola is confident Eric Garcia will stay at Manchester City amid reported interest from Barcelona.

Garcia, 19, has been linked with a return to the LaLiga club, the outfit he left to join City in 2017.

The Spain youth international has made nine Premier League appearances this season, but was an unused substitute in Wednesday's 5-0 thrashing of Newcastle United.

City manager Guardiola said he would try to convince Garcia to stay at the club for "many, many, many years".

"I am confident he will stay but in the end it is his decision," he told a news conference.

"He knows we want him but it was the same with Leroy [Sane, who has joined Bayern Munich]. We want him but if he doesn't want to stay we cannot do anything else.

"He knows, his agent knows, his family knows that we want him. And if Barcelona want him, they have to call Txiki [Begiristain, City director of football]."

City are away to Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League on Saturday.

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