Zone Blitz: Are Barcelona doing the right thing by trying to re-sign Neymar?

By George Davis, Mariah Ramharack&Lance Whittaker July 18, 2019

It's said you should never go back to your ex but Barcelona and Neymar could be a re-marriage made in heaven.

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  • Real Sociedad 2-2 Barcelona: Catalans slip up ahead of Clasico Real Sociedad 2-2 Barcelona: Catalans slip up ahead of Clasico

    Barcelona suffered a potentially costly slip-up ahead of Wednesday's Clasico as they were held to a 2-2 draw at Real Sociedad.

    Luis Suarez scored one goal and made another as Ernesto Valverde's men, who had won their previous six games in all competitions, came from behind to lead at Anoeta.

    However, Alexander Isak's 62nd-minute strike earned fourth-placed Sociedad a deserved share of the spoils, meaning Real Madrid now have the chance to move two points clear at the top of LaLiga with victory at Valencia on Sunday.

    Barca could have few complaints about their failure to win, having been outplayed for large parts of an entertaining contest, and Ernesto Valverde's men will know they must deliver an improved display against Madrid in their next match.

    Sociedad moved ahead after 12 minutes when Sergio Busquets was penalised for tugging Diego Llorente's shirt at a corner and Mikel Oyarzabal calmly sent Marc-Andre ter Stegen the wrong way from 12 yards.

    The hosts remained in the ascendancy for much of the first half, but Barca pulled level in the 38th minute courtesy of a devastating break. Sociedad were left short of bodies at the back after Llorente was caught under the ball near the halfway line and Suarez drove forward before slipping in Antoine Griezmann, who clipped a deft finish into the bottom-right corner in front of his former home fans.

    Imanol Alguacil's men were again guilty of slack defending as Barca took the lead four minutes into the second half. A glorious lofted pass from the previously unimpressive Busquets put Lionel Messi clear and he selflessly squared the ball to leave Suarez with the simple task of finding an open goal.

    Griezmann and Gerard Pique came close to adding a third for Barca, but Sociedad soon hit back, Isak converting a simple rebound after Ter Stegen had needlessly parried a Nacho Monreal cross into the striker's path.

    Monreal required treatment and a new shirt after comically injuring himself celebrating the goal. He and Oyarzabal attempted to bump chests but instead collided face to face.

    Neither side could find a winner thereafter, home substitute Willian Jose coming closest when he fired a close-range shot into Ter Stegen's legs with the keeper grounded, while Barca saw an injury-time penalty appeal waved away when Pique and Llorente tumbled to the floor together contesting a Suarez cross.

     

  • Zidane vows to respect Mbappe and PSG amid transfer talk Zidane vows to respect Mbappe and PSG amid transfer talk

    Zinedine Zidane vowed to respect Paris Saint-Germain's relationship with Kylian Mbappe amid rumours of disharmony at Parc des Princes.

    Mbappe, 20, was publicly told by Thomas Tuchel to respect coaching decisions after seemingly ignoring the PSG boss when substituted late in last weekend's Ligue 1 win at Montpellier.

    French newspaper L'Equipe then claimed the World Cup winner has at times questioned his importance and treatment in comparison to team-mate Neymar.

    The report fuelled speculation Mbappe could seek a move to Real Madrid in future but Zidane, who recently admitted to being "in love" with the talented France forward, tried to avoid driving a wedge between player and coach.

    "Mbappe plays for PSG. I can't comment on what goes on there behind the scenes," the Madrid boss said on Saturday ahead of his side's LaLiga game against Valencia.

    "That would be a lack of respect on my part. You know that I know him very well, but I have to have respect."

    Madrid's trip to Mestalla on Sunday marks their final match before El Clasico on Wednesday, a potentially pivotal encounter in the title race.

    Zidane insisted his team was focused only on beating Valencia and would not be distracted by the upcoming match at Camp Nou.

    "We don't even talk about it," he said. "We are not interested in what will happen on Wednesday. We are only interested in tomorrow's game.

    "Valencia are playing very well, getting very good results, they're through to the next stage of the Champions League.

    "What we want is to give the best version of ourselves and to try to continue growing as a team. That is what interests us."

    Zidane offered no clues over his starting XI but promised Gareth Bale had not fallen out of favour after the winger went unused against Club Brugge in the Champions League.

    "I don't think Gareth's role is less important now," he said.

    "He is one of us and I will count on him, but I have 25 players and they are all important to me. I follow the squad's progress day by day and everyone puts in. Bale is as important as the others."

  • Rumour Has It: Arsenal seek Nuno talks and keep Martinez in mind Rumour Has It: Arsenal seek Nuno talks and keep Martinez in mind

    Arsenal appear to have strengthened their interest in Nuno Espirito Santo.

    Just over two weeks after dismissing Unai Emery, the Gunners are reportedly ready to hold talks with one of the top contenders to take over at Emirates Stadium.

    But the Portuguese is not alone when it comes to candidates with Premier League experience.

     

    TOP STORY – GUNNERS STEP UP NUNO CHASE

    Arsenal will ask Wolves for permission to conduct formal discussions with Nuno next week, according to the Daily Mail.

    The north Londoners are reportedly ready to "set to accelerate their interest" in the 45-year-old former Valencia and Porto head coach.

    Belgium boss Robert Martinez is also said to have been approached, while Mauricio Pochettino, Mikel Arteta and Patrick Vieira continue to be linked.

    Freddie Ljungberg has overseen two draws, a defeat and a solitary victory since taking charge on an interim basis.

    ROUND-UP

    - Like his former employers, ex-Arsenal boss Emery will not be rushed into a decision on his next move. Marca says the Spaniard has turned down the chance to speak to two Chinese clubs and managerless Everton since becoming a free agent on November 29.

    - Premier League champions Manchester City hope to bring wantaway winger Jadon Sancho back to the Etihad Stadium after losing him to Borussia Dortmund in 2017, reports the Daily Mail.

    - On the outer at Chelsea, Olivier Giroud appears to be moving closer to the Stamford Bridge exit door. L'Equipe claims the France striker is close to agreeing personal terms on a January switch to Inter, where he would reunite with Antonio Conte.

    - Serie A side Milan will be offered the chance to sign Luka Jovic on loan from Real Madrid in January, according to Tuttomercatoweb.

    - Barcelona will listen to offers of €10million for teenage defender Jean-Clair Todibo, reports Mundo Deportivo. The Spanish newspaper claims Bayer Leverkusen, Milan, Monaco, Southampton and Watford have submitted bids.

    - Real Betis have sealed a deal to sign former Atletico Madrid winger Yannick Carrasco from Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang, according to Deportes Cuatro.

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