Valencia have sacked head coach Albert Celades with immediate effect following a poor run of results.

Assistant coach Voro will take charge of the first team on an interim basis until the end of the 2019-20 LaLiga season. It will be his sixth spell at the helm.

Valencia have won just one of their five games since the league returned from its coronavirus-enforced stoppage, and they have been victorious twice in their past 13 outings in all competitions.

Celades, who took over from Marcelino in September, leaves the club eighth in LaLiga, eight points adrift of the Champions League places.

A Valencia statement read: "Valencia have communicated to Albert Celades his removal from his position as first-team coach, with immediate effect.

"The club wish to thank him publicly for his work and dedication during his time at the club - a period in which we achieved qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League and important victories at grounds where we had previously not won.

"The club also value his help and contribution since he took over as coach of the first team in a moment of difficulty, and wish him every success in his future endeavours."

Valencia, who face Athletic Bilbao next in LaLiga, confirmed soon after that sporting director Cesar Sanchez has resigned.

Media reports suggest Sanchez quit his post after he had told the squad earlier in the day that Celades was to keep his job, only for club owner Peter Lim to make the decision himself.

Valencia have sacked head coach Albert Celades with immediate effect following a poor run of results.

Assistant coach Voro will take charge of the first team on an interim basis until the end of the 2019-20 LaLiga season. It will be his sixth spell at the helm.

Valencia have won just one of their five games since the league returned from its coronavirus-enforced stoppage, and they have been victorious twice in their past 13 outings in all competitions.

Celades, who took over from Marcelino in September, leaves the club eighth in LaLiga, eight points adrift of the Champions League places.

A Valencia statement read: "Valencia have communicated to Albert Celades his removal from his position as first-team coach, with immediate effect.

"The club wish to thank him publicly for his work and dedication during his time at the club - a period in which we achieved qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League and important victories at grounds where we had previously not won.

"The club also value his help and contribution since he took over as coach of the first team in a moment of difficulty, and wish him every success in his future endeavours."

Valencia face Athletic Bilbao in a LaLiga game at Mestalla in their next outing.

Barcelona and Juventus have hammered out the details of agreements that will see Miralem Pjanic line up alongside Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann next season, with Arthur poised to begin the next chapter of his fledgling career in Turin.

The part exchange deal involving these two stylish, deep-lying midfielders – Arthur's switch to Juve was valued at an initial €72million, with Pjanic costing Barca €60m – prompted plenty of raised eyebrows.

Pjanic has been a consistent performer since joining Juventus from Roma in 2016, while only last season Arthur was been spoken of as a potential heir to Xavi.

In order to try to make sense of why each club gave the green light for their players to trade places, we have enlisted a little help from Opta.

MIRALEM THE MAINSTAY

Much has been made of the age difference between the two players, especially given the near parity in transfer fees.

Pjanic is seven years older than Arthur, 23, but having those extra miles in his legs has not affected his output when it comes to time on the field.

Each man made 44 appearances in all competitions last term, but Pjanic's 3,277 minutes on the pitch dwarfed Arthur's 2,476.

That, in part, was as a result of the Brazil international establishing himself during a breakthrough campaign, but form and fitness issues have restricted him to 28 games and 1,541 minutes this time around. Pjanic is on 36 appearances and 2,903 minutes as Juve chase down another Scudetto.

GOALS AND ASSISTS

One area where there has been a notable uptick for Arthur this season is in front of goal. The former Gremio star has scored four times, having failed to find the net at all in 2018-19. He also has four assists, up from two.

Pjanic is far more noted for his creative qualities but only has two assists this term, down from eight in the previous campaign – perhaps indicative of him being slightly shackled within Maurizio Sarri's system.

The Bosnia-Herzegovina playmaker has seven goals across the past two seasons, although his numbers in both metrics owe a debt to his prowess from dead-ball situations. How many free-kicks Messi will let him take at Camp Nou feels like a legitimate question to ask.

PASS MASTERS

These are two players who cherish the ball and do not make a habit of letting it fall into opposition control. In their most recent seasons, neither dips below a pass completion percentage of 90.

Arthur completed 91.7 per cent of his passes in opposition territory last term – a figure he has maintained with 91.1 this time around.

Pjanic dips slightly to 88 per cent in the attacking half, figures that probably reflect his more ambitious and expansive style, along with the fact he lost possession 455 times in 2018-19 compared to 225 for Arthur.

DOING THE DIRTY WORK

In their positions at the base of the midfield, there is a burden on Arthur and Pjanic to destroy as well as create.

The Brazilian won 146 duels compared to 127 by his Bosnian counterpart last season and he is only two behind this term despite a significant disparity in playing time.

Pjanic is out in front when it comes to interceptions, winning 50 to Arthur's six this season and 53-19 in 2018-19, while the older man's recovery stats (256 and 213) are also comfortably more plentiful than his Juventus replacement (179 and 101).

Barcelona have a deal to sign Miralem Pjanic from Juventus for an initial €60million, with Arthur having agreed to move in the opposite direction in a separate arrangement.

Pjanic will put pen to paper on a four-year contract with Barca and join them at the conclusion of the 2019-20 campaign. The transfer includes an additional €5m in variables.

Earlier on Monday, LaLiga's champions confirmed Arthur will join Juve from next season for an initial €72m. The Bianconeri are yet to reveal the details of the Brazil international's contract.

Bosnia-Herzegovina international Pjanic is seven years Arthur's senior and has been at Juve since a switch from Roma in 2016.

The set-piece specialist has remained an integral part of the team since Maurizio Sarri replaced Massimiliano Allegri as head coach for this season, although he arguably does not entirely meet the ex-Napoli and Chelsea boss' very specific demands for his holding midfielder.

Pjanic has won Serie A in each of his three completed seasons in Turin, scoring 22 times in 171 appearances across all competitions.

He is well-placed to make it four in a row, with Juve four points clear of Lazio in this season's Scudetto race, although Barcelona's plans to freshen up their midfield are perhaps partially explained by them falling two points shy of Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga – meaning Arthur might struggle to leave as a back-to-back champion.

Arthur has agreed to join Juventus from Barcelona in a deal worth an initial €72million, LaLiga's champions have confirmed.

The Brazil international will conclude the 2019-20 campaign at Camp Nou before moving to Juve from next season. The transfer could be worth a further €10m in variables.

Miralem Pjanic is widely expected to complete a move in the opposite direction after both players were reported to have passed their medicals on Sunday.

Arthur joined Barcelona on a six-year contract in July 2018 for €40m, having impressed in Gremio's 2017 Copa Libertadores triumph

The 23-year-old impressed during his debut campaign, with his smooth passing style suggesting he might serve as a long-term heir to Xavi.

However, 2019-20 has proved trickier for Arthur, with Ernesto Valverde's exit as head coach and Quique Setien's appointment doing little for his prospects. Having played 44 times in all competitions last term, he has managed 28 this time around.

Earlier on Monday he was named in Barca's squad to face Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

Setien's side have drawn two of their past three games to fall two points behind Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga with six games remaining.

Arthur is part of Barcelona's squad to face Atletico Madrid on Tuesday despite the Brazil midfielder's €70million move to Juventus reportedly being close to completion.

Juve's Miralem Pjanic is set to move in the other direction, although both players will conclude the 2019-20 campaign at their current clubs.

Arthur was seen giving a speech to his team-mates at Barcelona's training session on Monday – an act that has been widely interpreted as the 23-year-old saying his goodbyes to a dressing room he joined in July 2018 from Gremio.

"I have no doubt about his greatest commitment until the last day he is here," Barca head coach Quique Setien told a pre-match news conference.

"He is a player until the last game of the season He has committed himself to being one more [member of the squad].

"He will dedicate himself fully to achieving the objectives. I have no doubts about him.

"He has said that he will be in the best conditions. I'll decide if he plays more or less."

Sergi Roberto is back in the Barca squad to face Atletico having sat out three matches with a fractured rib.

Two draws in their past three games have left the reigning champions two points behind Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga with six matches remaining, heightening speculation that Setien will be dismissed at the end of the season despite only being in post since January.

Barcelona head coach Quique Setien insists there are no problems between Lionel Messi and his coaching staff amid reports of behind-the-scenes unrest at Camp Nou. 

Barca have struggled for their best form since LaLiga's resumption and draws at Sevilla and Celta Vigo – either side of a laboured 1-0 home win over Athletic Bilbao – have handed Real Madrid the initiative in the title race. 

Zinedine Zidane's men are two points ahead with six matches remaining, while also holding a superior head-to-head record from this season's Clasico meetings. 

Having twice surrendered a lead in their 2-2 draw against Celta last time out, Barca face a tough assignment at home to in-form Atletico Madrid on Tuesday. 

Messi was seen apparently ignoring instructions from Setien's number two Eder Sarabia during the drinks break at Balaidos, where heated words were allegedly exchanged in the dressing room after the game. 

Speaking at a pre-match news conference for Atleti's visit, Setien insisted Messi and the squad are united in the battle to retain their title. 

"In reality it is true that there are always controversies, as in life, and it is normal that there are differences," he said of the Messi-Sarabia incident. 

"But this has always happened. I was not an easy player either. What we have to try to do is to convince everyone of the common idea.  

"I understand it as something natural. There is good communication. I don't give it any importance." 

Setien believes issues being raised within the camp should not be considered a surprise after dropping points in a high-pressure title race.

"When there are no wins and you don't win, everyone gets a point across," he said. "The relationship we have with the staff is good. It is true that at specific moments we do not agree.

"Yesterday we talked about many topics but we focused on the topic of football. We have to improve and do things better. 

"The situation we are experiencing, in which we are superior but do not generate goals, frustrates us. But the situations are normal. It is something we can change."

Atletico are on a run of four consecutive victories, having drawn their initial game back after the resumption to the season.

"They are a great team, very easily identified with their way of doing things," Setien added.

"They are going to make things very complicated for us. Winning is a tremendously decisive question because anything can happen but every time the matches are reduced and the margin [in the title race] is less. 

"We give due importance to this game as to others."

Real Madrid or Manchester United? 

The two European giants appear to be the likeliest options for Jadon Sancho, who continues to be linked with a move away from Borussia Dortmund. 

Sancho has been tipped to make the move to Old Trafford but the England international could be set to grace the Santiago Bernabeu instead. 

 

TOP STORY – MADRID AND UNITED FIGHTING OVER SANCHO

Real Madrid and Manchester United are going head-to-head to sign Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, according to Le10 Sport.

Sancho has been tipped to leave Dortmund for United, though Madrid, Chelsea, Liverpool, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain have all emerged as possible destinations.

Zinedine Zidane reportedly wants to bring Sancho to Madrid as Dortmund demand a huge fee.

 

ROUND-UP

- Could Sergio Aguero and Milan Skriniar be set to swap clubs? Calciomercato reports Inter are eyeing Manchester City star Aguero in a deal that would see Nerazzurri defender Skriniar move in the opposite direction. Inter could be in the market for a forward as Barca eye Lautaro Martinez, while Pep Guardiola's City are desperate to bolster their defence.

- There has been no decision on David Alaba's future, according to Bild journalist Christian Falk. The Bayern Munich star has been linked to City, Juventus, Chelsea and PSG.

Mauricio Pochettino is in talks to take over Portuguese giants Benfica, Record says. Pochettino has been out of work since he was sacked by Tottenham in November.

- Calciomercato claims Milan's hierarchy will confront Mino Raiola in the next 48 hours to try to finalise a new contract for star goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Arsenal have made an offer for Levante midfielder Enis Bardhi, reports Onda Cero. Fiorentina and an unnamed Bundesliga club are also interested.

Barca and Juve are expected to announce the swap deal involving Arthur and Miralem Pjanic on Monday after undergoing medicals, according to widespread speculation. Arthur will join Juve, while Pjanic is set to replace the Brazilian at Barca.

Xavi said his staff are preparing "a lot" to coach Barcelona as the Camp Nou great eyes a return.

Al-Sadd boss Xavi was linked with the Barca vacancy earlier this year when the LaLiga champions sacked Ernesto Valverde, before they turned to Quique Setien in January.

Barca have struggled to convince this season – the titleholders now two points behind bitter rivals Real Madrid in the race for LaLiga glory with six matches remaining.

While outlining his future plans for Barca, the 40-year-old insisted he will not come back unless he has the control to make decisions.

"The biggest hope I have now is to be Barca coach and get Barca back to winning ways," Xavi, who has led Al-Sadd to Qatari Super Cup and Qatar Cup silverware, said via Sport.

"Not me but these players and Barca triumphing. And as a consequence, our technical staff, who are preparing for it a lot and it makes us really excited."

Xavi, who won 25 trophies during his playing career with Barca, added: "I'm a club man. I would like to return at the right moment to start a project from zero.

"I've said it a lot of times but I want to take footballing decisions at Barcelona.

"It's clear that after the elections the stage would be set, of course. I'm not ruling anything out.

"They came for me in January, we were speaking. I told them the circumstances and timing weren't right."

Zinedine Zidane believes Karim Benzema's incredible assist in Real Madrid's win over Espanyol may be one of the plays of the season.

Benzema produced a moment of magic to set up Casemiro in Madrid's 1-0 victory that sent them two points clear atop LaLiga on Sunday.

The forward's outrageous backheel through the legs of defender Bernardo Espinosa gave Casemiro a simple finish.

Madrid head coach Zidane was unsurprised and believes Benzema's skill could go down as one of the best moments of the campaign.

"It doesn't surprise me. He is a player who invents things," he said, via AS.

"And then Casemiro is there. It can be one of the plays of the championship."

The goal lifted Madrid two points clear of rivals Barcelona with six games remaining in the LaLiga season.

Zidane said he expected the title race to go down to the final day of the campaign.

"Six games are missing and this will be decided on the last day. You have to fight in every game," he said.

"Today the second played against the last. You never know in this league."

Madrid are next in action against Getafe on Thursday.

Casemiro was unsurprised by Karim Benzema's incredible assist in Real Madrid's 1-0 win over Espanyol in LaLiga on Sunday.

Benzema produced a moment of magic to set up Casemiro as Madrid moved two points clear at the top of LaLiga.

The forward's 117th assist of his Madrid career came via an outrageous backheel through the legs of defender Bernardo Espinosa to give Casemiro a simple finish.

Casemiro said he knew Benzema was capable of such brilliance, paying tribute to the 32-year-old.

"What Karim did, for me is normal. We all know that the qualities he has aren't of a number nine, but of a number 10," the midfielder said.

"I know him, I know how he plays and the quality he possesses. I asked for the ball in space, and his backheel pass was incredible.

"It's Karim's goal. It's the backheel pass of a number 10 and you have to congratulate him."

With six games remaining, Madrid are on track to win LaLiga, holding a two-point lead over rivals Barcelona.

Casemiro is eager to help deliver Madrid a first LaLiga title since 2016-17.

"There is still a lot left, but we know that each match is a final," he said. "We want this league."

Madrid are next in action with a clash against Getafe on Thursday.

Real Madrid star Karim Benzema said he knew Casemiro was waiting on his ingenious match-winning assist against Espanyol, explaining: "I see football like that!"

Benzema stole the show as LaLiga leaders Madrid moved two points clear of bitter rivals Barcelona atop the table with a 1-0 win over bottom side Espanyol on Sunday.

At the end of a first half in which Madrid had hammered on the door without finding a way past former goalkeeper Diego Lopez, Benzema came up with a moment of sublime skill.

Benzema played a backheel through the legs of defender Bernardo Espinosa to grant Casemiro a simple finish for the decisive goal on the stroke of half-time.

"It was a good play, but the most important thing is the goal afterwards," Benzema said afterwards. "Casemiro gets it right. We are very happy."

Pressed on the piece of skill, the French forward added: "I see football like that! I knew Casemiro was coming from behind."

The goal was as important as it was arresting, as Madrid capitalised on Barca's failure to beat lowly Celta Vigo on Saturday.

"Of course we look at what Barca do, even though we are very focused on us," Benzema said. "I am not going to talk about Barca, but we are fine.

"We go from match to match and each game is a final for the LaLiga title.

"We are happy and we wanted to win. We left very psyched to get three points to take home."

Madrid have won all five of their matches since LaLiga resumed in June following the coronavirus-enforced break.

Zinedine Zidane's in-form Madrid play host to Getafe in the Spanish capital on Thursday.

Karim Benzema earned lofty praise after his sensational assist teed up the decisive goal in Real Madrid's 1-0 win at Espanyol.

Casemiro grabbed the only goal at RCDE Stadium to send Madrid two points clear at the top of LaLiga, yet the 45th-minute strike owed almost everything to the skill of Benzema.

The former France international's 117th assist of his Madrid career came via an outrageous backheel through the legs of defender Bernardo Espinosa to give Casemiro a simple finish.

The stunning touch swiftly prompted comparisons to ex-Madrid great Guti, who famously teed up Benzema for an open goal with a similarly stunning touch against Deportivo La Coruna in 2010.

As clips were shared of both goals on social media, Guti joined in the conversation to praise his former team-mate.

Sharing a picture of his own assist, the 43-year-old tagged Benzema and posted a series of clapping emojis.

"Magic, friend," he wrote. "Brutal."

Real Madrid moved two points clear at the top of LaLiga on Sunday, capitalising on Barcelona's draw at Celta Vigo by beating the Espanyol 1-0.

Zinedine Zidane's men led the league by virtue of their superior head-to-head record going into the weekend and were boosted by Celta's late equaliser against Barca on Saturday.

Madrid made sure not to pass up the opportunity to build a gap at the summit as Casemiro scored following a wonderful Karim Benzema assist in an entertaining if ultimately narrow away victory.

The capital club have control of the title race with just six matches remaining, although it was not all one-way traffic at RCDE Stadium despite bottom side Espanyol's accommodating defending.

Madrid looked similarly shaky at times in the first half as Sergi Darder saw an early deflected shot trickle wide before Wu Lei wastefully blasted over.

Former Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez scrambled to keep out an ambitious Casemiro attempt and watched both Sergio Ramos and the Brazil international head over, the captain missing the target from point-blank range.

Benzema was next to try his luck and draw a save from Lopez, whose busy outing continued with a double stop from Casemiro and Eden Hazard in a goalmouth scramble prompted by his own failure to deal with a high cross.

Casemiro's fifth effort before half-time finally evaded Lopez to break the deadlock, though, as Benzema teed up his team-mate with a cute backheel through Bernardo Espinosa's legs.

Madrid's momentum was slowed by the break, yet subsequent speculative Espanyol efforts from distance did not cause Thibaut Courtois significant concern as another win was sealed.


What does it mean? Madrid reinvigorated since restart

Defeat to Real Betis in March saw Madrid hand pole position back to Barcelona, but the coronavirus pandemic swiftly prompted the suspension of the season.

Zidane's side have entertained since the restart and could have run up a handsome scoreline against Espanyol. Crucially, though, they have won five straight matches, striking a balance between style and substance, while Barca have twice dropped points.

Casemiro in control

Nominally a holding midfielder, Casemiro provided Madrid's chief attacking threat in the first half. He appeared to be involved in each and every attack and deserved a goal long before it arrived courtesy of a gorgeous piece of skill from Benzema that meant, this time, Casemiro could not miss.

Wu wide of the mark

Madrid may have given up more chances than usual in recent weeks, but opponents must still make sure to take their opportunities when they arrive. Wu's profligacy saw Espanyol fail to do so. He should have hit the target when well placed in the first half and then aimed a tame shot into Courtois' clutches shortly after the break.

What's next?

Madrid host stuttering Getafe on Thursday, the same day Espanyol's unlikely bid to avoid the drop takes them to Real Sociedad.

Barcelona midfielder Arthur and Juventus' Miralem Pjanic are seemingly getting closer to swapping clubs.

The LaLiga and Serie A giants have been linked with numerous moves this close season, but one may be getting close to completion.

Arthur and Pjanic are set to trade places and it could be close to reality.

 

TOP STORY – ARTHUR, PJANIC SET FOR MEDICALS IN TURIN

Barcelona midfielder Arthur and Juventus' Pjanic will undergo medicals on Sunday, according to Sport.

The Catalan sports paper says Arthur flew to Italy on Saturday accompanied by a Barcelona doctor ahead of checks in Turin.

Arthur will then return to Barcelona and finish the season with the LaLiga champions, who slipped up again in their title defence on Saturday as Celta Vigo twice came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United may still be trying to find a way to land Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho. The Mirror reports United need to sell at least four stars – including Alexis Sanchez and Jesse Lingard – if they are to get a deal done for Sancho.

- Staying at Old Trafford and United could be getting closer to signing Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish. The Daily Express says Grealish has found a house to buy in the North West.

- Chelsea may yet strengthen further ahead of next season. According to The Sun, they are growing confident they will sign West Ham star Declan Rice in the close season.

- Arsenal's decision to re-sign David Luiz has been criticised. However, The Telegraph reports the Brazilian defender agreed to a significant pay cut.

- Tanguy Ndombele's future may be at Tottenham. Football.London reports Spurs have no plans to sell Ndombele at the end of the season, with Jose Mourinho having denied reports of a rift with the midfielder earlier this week.

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