Ernesto Valverde admitted Barcelona cannot help but depend on Lionel Messi after the talismanic forward scored a hat-trick to inspire a 4-1 LaLiga victory over Celta Vigo.

Messi's treble came at the end of a week that began with a 3-1 defeat at Levante and was not helped by a goalless draw at home against Slavia Prague in the Champions League.

Barcelona were short of their best against struggling Celta at Camp Nou but Messi, who had scored six goals in his previous six games, converted a penalty and two free-kicks to all but carry his side to victory on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters after the game, head coach Valverde underlined the Argentina international's importance, telling reporters: "It's impossible not to depend on Messi. That's how it works. He lights up everything.

"Today we were fluent and he scored three times. It is an advantage that we have, that our opponents fear and that is fine.

"When we win, we all win. Those who play are many, besides Leo.

"Everyone does their job."

Valverde admitted the defeat at Levante created an unsettled atmosphere at Camp Nou, saying: "When you do not win, there is uncertainty surrounding your environment.

"It's good that it happens because you have to react. Because when you are used to a regular feeling, it forces you to improve."

Valverde said he hoped the forthcoming international break would benefit his players ahead of a tricky run of fixtures.

The Blaugrana are top of LaLiga on goal difference after 12 games, and will travel to Leganes on November 23 before meeting Borussia Dortmund at home in the Champions League.

"We will take the opportunity to rest," said Valverde. "Some players leave, others stay, but after this break come very strong matches in which we play a lot."

Lionel Messi scored a penalty and two free-kicks in Barcelona's 4-1 win over Celta Vigo to draw level with Cristiano Ronaldo as the player with the most hat-tricks in LaLiga history.

Messi scored three times at Camp Nou as Barca eased back to the top of the table after a tough week in which they lost to Levante and drew with Sparta Prague.

Both Blaugrana talisman Messi and Ronaldo have now netted 34 trebles in Spain's top tier, although the former Real Madrid forward, having previously played for Sporting CP and Manchester United before joining Juventus last year, had a shorter stay in the division.

The Portuguese spent nine seasons at Madrid and became the club's record LaLiga hat-trick scorer ahead of Alfredo Di Stefano (22) and Ferenc Puskas (12).

Messi is in his 16th campaign as a first-team player at Barcelona and, with eight goals in seven LaLiga games so far this season, appears likely to eclipse Ronaldo's record before the season is out.

Lionel Messi scored a scintillating hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Celta Vigo as he dug Barcelona out of a rut almost single-handedly at Camp Nou.

It had been a torrid week for the Blaugrana, who lost 3-1 at Levante before being held to a goalless draw by Slavia Prague, but Messi scored a penalty and two superb free-kicks as his side returned to the top of LaLiga.

The Argentina international delivered much more than just goals on a night when only a win would be acceptable for the Spanish champions, frequently dropping deep and driving an otherwise sleepy Barcelona side into attack.

Messi's goals took his tally to nine in his last seven games in all competitions and drew him level with Cristiano Ronaldo as the player with the most LaLiga hat-tricks, having netted 34, and Sergio Busquets scored his first league goal of the season late in the game.

The defeat was Celta's fifth in a row and newly appointed head coach Oscar Garcia will have his work cut out as he tries to lift them out of the bottom three.

Ernesto Valverde's out-of-sorts side took the lead when Junior Firpo's cross hit Joseph Aidoo's arm as the full-back slid in to block it and Messi nonchalantly rolled a side-footed penalty into the corner of the net, sending Ruben Blanco the wrong way.

But five minutes before the interval, Pape Cheikh sprinted through Barcelona's midfield only to be fouled by Messi 20 yards from goal and Lucas Olaza bent a superb free-kick into the corner of Marc-Andre ter Stegen's net.

Not to be outdone, Messi restored Barcelona's lead with a glorious strike after Fran Beltran fouled Arthur, the club's all-time leading scorer curling a picture-book goal into the top corner from 25 yards.

Ousmane Dembele came off the bench and sent a shot just past the angle of post and crossbar after a jinking solo run early in the second half.

Moments later Messi struck again, stepping up after Frenkie de Jong was fouled and sending a carbon copy of his first-half free-kick looping beyond the diving Blanco to complete his hat-trick.

Pione Sisto tested Ter Stegen from a tight angle as Celta probed for a way back into the game but the hosts continued to dominate and Antoine Griezmann should have put the result beyond doubt when he fired straight at Blanco from close range.

Griezmann trudged off as Valverde sent Luis Suarez on for the last 17 minutes but it was fellow substitute Busquets who stole a slice of Messi's glory when he collected a poor defensive header and drilled a low shot into the net to make sure of the victory five minutes from time.


What does it mean? Valverde can breathe again

Any kind of blip can lead to an unsettled mood around Camp Nou but Valverde's job looks safe again after Messi demonstrated the kind of swagger that is expected at Barcelona.

No stopping Messi's magic

The way Messi scored an unforgettable free-kick just before half-time and then casually repeated the feat three minutes after the break provided a reminder - if it were needed - that he operates on a level above any of his peers.

Griezmann shrinks in the shadow of greatness

One goal in six LaLiga matches is a poor return from Griezmann, who missed a gilt-edged chance and offered very little throughout the game.

What's next?

Barcelona head to Leganes when LaLiga resumes after the international break, while Celta face a trip to Villarreal.

Diego Simeone has demanded greater consistency from Atletico Madrid if his side are to challenge Real Madrid and Barcelona for this season's LaLiga title.

Atleti sit fourth after 12 games, winning five and drawing six with one defeat, heading into Sunday's meeting with Espanyol - who beat Ludogorets 6-0 in Europe on Thursday but have lost their last two league matches.

Los Rojiblancos are just two points behind current leaders Real Sociedad, though could have - temporarily at least - moved top themselves last week had they overcome Sevilla.

A defeat to Bayer Leverkusen in Wednesday's Champions League encounter means Atleti are now without a win in their last three matches in all competitions, and Simeone acknowledged his side - who have been hit by injuries to Jose Gimenez, Stefan Savic and Joao Felix - must regain the consistency which has made them regular title contenders in recent seasons.

"We keep thinking about the match. On Saturday, we play against an opponent with an important motivation with the new coach and it will be a complex match," Simeone told a news conference when asked if Atleti could challenge their city rivals and Barca.

"It is complex. We have three important players injured, Joao Felix, Savic and Gimenez. When they are all fit we have more strength and competition. We need to convince ourselves of what we can do and from that find the consistency, which is what we are looking for.

"There are good passages, other bad ones and we need to work on concentration. That is what you get on the field, not from words. It is given by training and matches.

"We want to keep improving and our thinking does not go beyond the match against Espanyol."

Paris Saint-Germain have identified their priorities and an extension for Neymar is seemingly not among them.

Neymar, 27, reportedly almost left the Ligue 1 champions in the close season amid strong links to LaLiga giants Barcelona.

The Brazil international is contracted until 2022 and PSG appear to be in no rush to extend his stay.

 

TOP STORY – PSG STOP NEYMAR TALKS AMID MBAPPE FOCUS

PSG's negotiations with Neymar about a contract extension have stalled, according to L'Equipe.

However, the report says PSG have not ruled out a potential extension for Neymar in the future.

It comes amid talk the club are eager to re-sign Kylian Mbappe, who is also contracted until 2022 and has been linked with a move to Real Madrid.

 

ROUND-UP

- Like Neymar and Mbappe, the talk around Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba will not go away. Sport reports Juventus want to bring the midfielder back to Turin, while Tuttosport says Pogba is also eager to return to the Serie A giants.

- Ivan Rakitic has made just one start for Barcelona this season and the midfielder could be on the move in January. Mundo Deportivo reports Juventus and Inter have the Croatia international – who is contracted at Camp Nou until 2021 – in their sights.

- Nicolo Zaniolo's impressive performances for Roma are leading to renewed interest in his services. Juventus are ready to pay more than €40million for the midfielder, according to CalcioMercato, although Roma are eager to keep Zaniolo, who has scored three Serie A goals this season.

- Unai Emery is under fire at Arsenal and the Premier League club are already eyeing his replacement. Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers is being earmarked for the job at Emirates Stadium, according to The Sun.

- Staying at Arsenal and AC Milan are considering a €40m (£34.5m) move for midfielder Lucas Torreira in January, according to Fichajes.com. Meanwhile, Turkish-Football reports Arsenal have made contact with the representatives of Juventus defender Merih Demiral about a potential move.

- Alessandro Florenzi could make a move from Roma in January, according to CalcioMercato. Fiorentina and Inter are reportedly interested in the right-back.

Marcelo Gallardo played down rumours he could take over as Barcelona coach, saying his focus was on River Plate.

Gallardo has been linked with a move to Camp Nou amid reports Ernesto Valverde will leave no later than the end of the season.

However, the River coach discussed the rumours ahead of a big finish to the year, including a Copa Libertadores final clash against Flamengo on November 23.

"No party came forward to start a conversation, especially knowing that we are in a very important phase for our club, playing decisive matches," Gallardo told a news conference on Friday, via Globo Esporte.

"Of course there is nothing that takes my focus off the goals ahead."

"I can't echo the rumours," he added. "No one came to suggest a meeting or analysis of what to do in the future.

"This is not the time for that."

Gallardo has been in charge of River since 2014, winning two Copa Libertadores titles.

River are third in the Argentinian Primera Division, a point adrift of Argentinos Juniors and Lanus through 12 games.

Antoine Griezmann must learn to play to Barcelona's strengths if his Camp Nou career is to take off, according to head coach Ernesto Valverde.

The France international joined Barca from Atletico Madrid for €120million in July but has failed to find his best form in Catalonia.

He has been used predominantly in a wide role and has scored just four goals in 14 matches in all competitions, firing blanks in his last four outings.

Having spent five seasons playing a different type of football under Diego Simeone at Atletico, Griezmann has been told by Valverde to adapt his style of play.

"A lot is said about his situation, but I think it's a lot simpler than it seems," he said at Friday's news conference. "He is used to a different type of football. 

"I played against Simeone teams lots - his players drop back quickly. As soon as they lose the ball, they run back. 

"Players like Koke and Saul [Niguez], [Diego] Costa and [Alvaro] Morata. That's the way Atletico play, a side that likes to get back and fill space. At Barcelona, we play a short passing game. 

"It's a case of looking for players and seeing space. Antoine is generous in that way - in fact we ask that of him, to lose his marker and create space. 

"When you go forward you must come back but I think he needs to mature into the way we play. Likewise, our players need to get used to the things Antoine does. 

"It's not been easy in his first year, but once players start to gel it rolls a lot more smoothly."

Griezmann has played a full part in Barcelona's last two matches, the LaLiga champions following up a 3-1 league loss to Levante with a goalless home draw against Slavia Prague in the Champions League.

The 28-year-old was not alone in being criticised for his display against Slavia, with Ousmane Dembele also failing to impress prior to being replaced by teenage forward Ansu Fati.

"Tuesday's game was difficult. Ousmane could have done more in the first half but did better after half-time. I still see Ansu as a better option off the bench given his age," Valverde added.

Jordi Alba suffered a relapse of a previous hamstring injury against Slavia, potentially opening the door for Junior Firpo to start for the first time since September when Celta Vigo travel to Camp Nou on Saturday.

"This could be a game for him to have a chance," Valverde said. "We are happy with him. He is a good player and will do good things for us."

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde insists he is not worried about his future at the club.

A 3-1 LaLiga defeat at Levante last Saturday was followed by a 0-0 draw with Slavia Prague at Camp Nou in the Champions League, in which home fans made their frustrations clear with whistles from the stands.

Barca sit top of LaLiga after 11 matches but criticism is nonetheless mounting on Valverde, who appeared close to the sack at the end of last season but was given support by president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Valverde says he still feels he has the backing of the board and that he is not concerned about his position, especially since Barca had previously been on a seven-game winning run in all competitions.

"I'm not worried about my future," he told reporters on Friday. "The other day I had dinner [with Bartomeu]. I feel supported and respected.

"Whether you understand [the criticism] or not, it's how it is. I don't have much to say.

"If we'd scored a goal [against Slavia], everyone would be more calm. It's how it is. You have to accept things as they come.

"A week ago, we were on the highway, we had seven wins in a row. Now, we'll see."

Barca host Celta Vigo on Saturday in their final match before the international break.

Oscar Garcia's side are on a poor run of their own, having lost five of their past six league games, with just two goals scored in that run.

Despite a relative lack of preparation time for the match at Camp Nou, Valverde is determined to get his team back to winning ways.

"We need a win," Valverde admits. "We lost a game in six minutes [at Levante]. We need to get back on the path of taking three points because we need them and because we know what it means for this team to lose.

"We're motivated and we know how difficult a game it will be.

"We prepared for Slavia in two training sessions because we didn't have any more. It's normally like that for the whole season. There are two game days, four to prepare for the games – that seems normal to me."

Spain head coach Robert Moreno says there is no reason why Barcelona youngster Ansu Fati could not be in the squad for Euro 2020.

The 17-year-old, born in Guinea-Bissau but a resident of Spain since the age of six, has been a revelation at Camp Nou this season during an inconsistent first half of the season from Ernesto Valverde's side.

Fati was cleared to play for his adopted country in October and was named in the Under-21 squad for this month's qualifying matches for the Euro Under-21 finals in 2021.

Moreno admits he will keep an eye on the winger's progress with a view to including him for the senior tournament next year, for which Spain have already qualified.

"Ansu Fati is in the preliminary list and so there is no reason why he can't be with us at Euro 2020. He ticks all the boxes," Moreno told reporters in Madrid.

Spain's latest squad for their final Euro 2020 qualifiers against Malta and Romania includes Dinamo Zagreb winger Dani Olmo, who has impressed in the Champions League this season.

"Dani Olmo enjoyed a great tournament with the Under-21s [at this year's European Championship] and he's doing well for his club in the Champions League. We're very happy to be able to give him this opportunity," said Moreno.

Moreno also suggested there could be a place in future squads for Valencia centre-back Gabriel Paulista, who has not played for Brazil and is now obtaining a Spanish passport.

"Gabriel Paulista is processing his passport but right now he cannot be called up," he said. "When he gets his Spanish passport, we'll see.

"There are a lot of very good players but only 23 are able to make the squad. Out of a list of 45 players, we end up selecting the 23 who we think will do the best."

Moreno took charge after Luis Enrique stepped down in June for family reasons.

The 42-year-old wants to remain at the helm as far as the 2022 World Cup, but he says there are no plans for talks over a new deal.

"I haven't been offered the chance to renew and nor am I expecting it to happen in the near future," he said. "If you were to ask me how long do I expect to be in the job - I would like to still be here for the Euros and the World Cup - so at least for one whole period. But that will depend on the results, that's how it is for all coaches."

Bayern Munich have removed another name from their list of potential replacements for Niko Kovac.

Arsene Wenger reportedly contacted the managerless German giants to personally express his interest in becoming head coach but will not considered for the role.

Now back to winning ways, Bayern could even delay the naming of a new boss until the end of the season.

 

LEAD STORY – BAYERN DELIVER BAD NEWS FOR WENGER

Arsene Wenger's hopes of coaching Bayern Munich have been dashed, according to Sport Bild.

A new report from the German publication claims the Bundesliga champions, while respectful of Wenger's work at Arsenal, are not considering him for the job, despite his attempts to convince chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

Interim boss Hansi Flick, who steered a wounded side to a 2-0 win over Olympiacos in the Champions League, could now remain in charge until the end of the season, when it will become easier to approach either Erik ten Hag or Thomas Tuchel.

 

ROUND-UP

- Kai Havertz's future is becoming a matter of intense speculation. SPORT say Barcelona have strengthened their interest in the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder and sent scouts to watch him in the midweek Champions League win over Atletico Madrid. Havertz was linked with an £80million move to Manchester United earlier in the week.

- Havertz is not the only player on Barcelona's radar. Spanish television programme El Chiringuito believes the LaLiga's champions are interested in signing Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

- Arsenal, meanwhile, are preparing to part with Granit Xhaka in January after stripping him of the captaincy. The Mirror claims the former Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder could be shipped back to Germany in the next transfer window.

- Manchester United have added Spain international Jose Gaya and his Valencia team-mates Ferran Torres and Carlos Soler to their list of transfer targets, reports Medios Deportivos. 

- There is good news for United's rivals Manchester City, who could welcome Leroy Sane back into the first-team fold in February, according to The Sun. Sane suffered a serious knee injury in the Community Shield in August.

Antoine Griezmann will go on to enjoy a successful Barcelona career, Didier Deschamps believes, adding he has no concerns over the forward's form.

Griezmann left Atletico Madrid for Barca in a €120million deal in the close season, but he has failed to find his best form so far at Camp Nou.

Having played predominantly out wide rather than in the central role he occupies for France and used to fulfil for Atleti, the 28-year-old has four LaLiga goals in 10 appearances this term.

However, Deschamps has no concerns over Griezmann, claiming he simply needs more time to adapt to life at his new club.

"Not at all. Even if you have great players at Barcelona, it doesn't happen in a day. It depends on how they play, how they work with each other," Deschamps told a news conference after again selecting Griezmann for international duty.

"Also, he's put in different positions than the ones he has with France, even though he played [wide] a long time ago.

"He must fit in, the other players as well. He didn't choose the easiest solution and it's a big club, so the expectations are huge. He's always part of a team, but he's not used to it yet.

"Even when he's not as good, he's always positive for the team. With us, it's a different situation, different position, he can play at his best position where I've put him a long time ago. Of course, he has a very important role in how we play."

Another forward who has made the cut for France and has been a pivotal player under Deschamps is Olivier Giroud.

Giroud has made just four Premier League appearances for Chelsea so far this season, with Frank Lampard preferring Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi to the 33-year-old, who has been restricted to 211 minutes of club action across all competitions.

However, the former Arsenal striker remains a key player for France, scoring against Iceland and Turkey in October.

"I picked him last month because of what he did in the past. He's an important player for us. He proves it on the pitch," said Deschamps, who again stressed the importance of Giroud getting more game time. 

"When he scores, it's good for him. It happens quite frequently and, even when he doesn't score, he's an important player for us.

"Sadly, the situation hasn't evolved for him, but he is there because I trust him, because of what he has done in the past and in October. Of course, and he knows it, I hope the situation will change with his club for our games in March.

"He needs to play, even though he is very fit, he needs to be more on the pitch."

Kylian Mbappe continues to be linked with a move away from Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool are seemingly well in the race.

Mbappe, 20, has starred for PSG since arriving in 2017, but is reportedly a target for LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

However, Champions League winners Liverpool could also make a move for the France international forward.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL INTERESTED IN MBAPPE

Liverpool are set to battle Real Madrid for Mbappe, according to El Desmarque.

The report says the Premier League leaders have the funds to sign Mbappe after a quiet transfer window ahead of the 2019-20 season.

Mbappe remains the main target for Madrid despite being contracted at PSG until 2022.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich are looking for a coach to replace Niko Kovac and Arsene Wenger may, or may not, be a target. Bild reports the Bundesliga giants have spoken to the former Arsenal manager, while The Athletic says Bayern do not want Wenger.

- There could also be a coaching change coming at Barcelona. LaLiga's champions look set to part ways with Ernesto Valverde at the end of the season, with Marca reporting Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman is the top target to take over at Camp Nou.

- Back at Anfield and Liverpool could be lining up a move for Genk midfielder Sander Berge. Norwegian newspaper VG claims Jurgen Klopp told Berge he was a "very interesting player" after Liverpool's 2-1 Champions League win over Genk on Tuesday.

- Napoli are well off the pace in Serie A and it could see Carlo Ancelotti make a January exit. FOX Sports reports Boca Juniors are interested in the Italian tactician.

- Chelsea look set to make changes to their squad in January. The Premier League side are open to listening to offers for Olivier Giroud and Pedro in early 2020, according to The Telegraph.

- Amid a lack of playing time, Nemanja Matic is considering a Manchester United exit in January, according to the Manchester Evening News. Matic has made just two Premier League starts for United this season.

Aaron Ramsey scored a landmark goal for Juventus on Wednesday, as his opener against Lokomotiv Moscow marked the Serie A club's 300th in the Champions League.

Ramsey, making his first start since September, put Juve ahead three minutes into the Group D contest in Russia when he capitalised on a mistake from goalkeeper Guilherme, who had failed to keep out Cristiano Ronaldo's free-kick.

Juve are the fifth team to reach 300 goals in the competition, joining Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United in an elite club.

The lead was short-lived for Maurizio Sarri's side, however, with Aleksey Miranchuk pulling Lokomotiv level with a deft header nine minutes later.

Paul Pogba is injured, Juan Mata is on the fringes and Manchester United are in desperate need of creativity.

Kai Havertz, the talented Bayer Leverkusen midfielder, might hold the answer.

According to a new report, the Germany international could soon be the subject of a massive transfer bid from Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – HAVERTZ HEADED TO MANCHESTER?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made 20-year-old Kai Havertz his top transfer target, says the Daily Star.

But the report suggests Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is willing to wait until the end of the season before making an £80million offer.

Havertz, who has been linked with Bayern Munich, is one of the most admired young midfielders in Europe.

He scored 17 Bundesliga goals last season and has notched twice in nine appearances this term.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca claim Barcelona have joined the race for sought-after Salzburg striker Erling Haaland. The teenage sensation scored his seventh Champions League goal in Tuesday's draw at Napoli and has reportedly attracted interest from Barca's LaLiga rivals Real Madrid, among others.

- Barcelona do have at least one exciting prospect dreaming of joining them. Highly rated Ajax defender Sergino Dest told Bleacher Report his "biggest goal" is to play for the Blaugrana, while the United States international also has his eye on a stint in the Premier League.

- Trouble is brewing in Naples. Gazzetta dello Sport suggest Napoli head coach Carlo Ancelotti and his players are in rebellion against president Aurelio De Laurentiis, who ordered the team to enter a training retreat amid a poor run of results. Ancelotti did not appear for the customary post-match news conference following the 1-1 draw with Salzburg at Stadio San Paolo.

- Another successful Italian coach, Massimiliano Allegri, should reject any approach from managerless Bayern Munich and instead focus on becoming the next Manchester United boss. That is the view of Fabio Capello, who told Radio Anch'io Sport his compatriot would be the "best choice" for the Red Devils.

- Back to the Premier League and England, where Granit Xhaka is dealing with the fallout from being stripped of the Arsenal captaincy. The Daily Mirror report the Gunners could now look to offload the midfielder in January, given his fractured relationship with the club's fans.

Barcelona have confirmed Jordi Alba suffered a reoccurrence of a hamstring injury during the Champions League clash with Slavia Prague.

Alba went off at half-time in the 0-0 draw at Camp Nou on Tuesday, with Sergi Roberto replacing the full-back for the second half.

Spain international Alba was sidelined for several weeks with a hamstring injury earlier on in the campaign, and Barca have revealed the 30-year-old has suffered a reoccurrence of the same problem.

Barca, who confirmed the news on their official Twitter channel, offered no timescale on Alba's return.

"Tests performed have shown that Alba has had a relapse of the injury to his left biceps femoris [hamstring]. He is out and his recovery will determine his availability," the club's tweet read.

Barca's draw left Ernesto Valverde's side without a win in their last two matches, and they look set to be without Alba for Saturday's LaLiga match against struggling Celta Vigo.

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