Lionel Messi has been left out of Barcelona's squad for Wednesday's Copa del Rey trip to Sevilla as he is given a rest, but new signing Kevin-Prince Boateng is included.

Messi was absent from Barca's starting XI for the visit of Leganes in LaLiga on Sunday, coming on as a substitute to spare their blushes – playing a role in Luis Suarez's goal before also scoring himself.

Coach Ernesto Valverde acknowledged in the lead up to that game that he was likely to take opportunities to rest Messi in the coming weeks ahead of a busy period, which includes the return of the Champions League.

Sevilla – a team he boasts a fine record against – are the lucky beneficiaries of his time out of the side, as Barca travel to Andalusia for the first leg of their Copa quarter-final.

However. Boateng is in line to make his first appearance for the club.

The Germany-born former Ghana international joined Barca in a shock loan deal from Sassuolo on Monday, a move which caught many by surprise.

The 31-year-old makes his return to Spanish football having previously featured for Las Palmas.

Young talent Riqui Puig is included in the squad as well, with opponents Sevilla aiming to arrest a run of three successive defeats in all competitions.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has defended the arrival of Kevin-Prince Boateng, telling the media they have been critical of "all" signings during his tenure as coach.

Boateng completed an unlikely loan switch from Sassuolo on Monday, with Barca also having the right to purchase him for €8million during his stay.

The signing raised eyebrows throughout world football, with many surprised by Barca opting to sign the journeyman midfielder, whose three most recent clubs were Sassuolo, Eintracht Frankfurt and Las Palmas.

But Valverde pointed out media coverage of Barca's signings during his time at the club has generally been negative, yet few have been deemed failures.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Wednesday's Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg at Sevilla, Valverde said: "Since I've been here, all of them are controversial signings, and then...?

"[About] Arturo Vidal, Paulinho, you talked a lot, with Arthur also, then he also gives us a great performance. Things always end up going well.

"The departure of Munir [El Haddadi] is a matter of the club, and we would like to have strikers in the team who score 15 goals, but that's not been the case. Boateng arrives for a few months.

"He knows the trade, a player who, having made a career in other positions, now plays as a number nine, he knows LaLiga and the role he is playing in.

"He was available, Munir left, the club thought he was the best option and I hope he helps us a lot."

Boateng has on occasion been accused of having problems with his attitude, but Valverde insists the former Ghana international has a clean slate at Camp Nou.

"We trust in the presumption of innocence," Valverde said. "We do not want to fight with him, but want him to help us and to score goals. In Las Palmas he had a great year."

One player linked with a move away from Barca is Brazilian winger Malcom, who is said to be interesting Tottenham, among other clubs.

Valverde accepts the former Bordeaux talent could depart, though he feels Malcom has the talent to play for Barca if he commits himself.

"Until January 31, everything can happen," Valverde said. "But we cannot run out of players.

"There are players who play more and others less. Malcom must fight to play more, because he has the qualities to do so. We expect a lot from him."

Guernsey Police have suspended the search for Emiliano Sala, with the force having so far found "no signs of those on board" an aircraft on which the Cardiff City striker was travelling.

The French Civil Aviation Authority confirmed on Tuesday that the 28-year-old was on a plane that had gone missing while travelling from Nantes to Cardiff late on Monday.

Sala, who was confirmed as Cardiff's record signing on Saturday after opting to leave Ligue 1 side Nantes, is said to have been one of two people on an aircraft that disappeared while crossing the English Channel.

Search and rescue teams searched for Sala throughout Tuesday but Guernsey Police confirmed in a statement that operations would not take place through the night.

"During the course of the 15-hour search, which used multiple air and sea assets from the Channel Islands, UK and France, a number of floating objects have been seen in the water," the force's statement said. 

"We have been unable to confirm whether any of these are from the missing aircraft.

"We have found no signs of those on board. If they did land on the water, the chances of survival are at this stage, unfortunately, slim.

"Search and rescue operations have been suspended as the sun has now set. The current plan is for it to resume at sunrise tomorrow.  There will be no further updates tonight."

Fans have begun to lay tributes to Sala outside Cardiff City Stadium, while a rally will be held by Nantes supporters on Tuesday.

Nantes' Coupe de France fixture against Entente SSG, which was set to be played on Wednesday, has been postponed.

Cardiff chief executive Ken Choo also gave an update on the Sala situation to Sky News.

"He's such a great person, he was so happy to join Cardiff City, you can see from his place that he is so happy to be here and so ready to start," Choo said.

"Words cannot describe the look on his face when he met us and we walked him around the ground. He was absolutely ready to give it a go and we knew him then and we really feel sad to hear of this news because he is such a great person.

"You could see the happiness on his face when he signed for Cardiff, it was one of the best days of his life. We are very sad and we'd like to thank all the people who are supporting us today, we have received lots of messages. 

"We've had support from the Premier League executives as well but we are just waiting for information like everyone else with the authorities on whereabouts the plane is and the circumstances.

"When we get some news we will convey it from the club but we have a lot of supporters who are very concerned and we understand that, we are too.

"We are just waiting for them [the authorities] to inform us and we are trying to communicate with them as well. We're trying to reach the agent of the player, the family as well because we are very concerned. We'd like to reach out to the family because it's a tough time for them. We just want to know if he's okay and if the pilot's okay and where the plane is."

Sala's former Nantes manager Claudio Ranieri - now at Fulham - also paid tribute to the striker, lauding his character and "wishing" for good news.

"I was devastated to hear the news," the Italian said on Tuesday. "Emiliano is a wonderful character. He's a fighter.

"The world of football will be united in wishing for some positive news. I pray for Emiliano and his family."

 

Bassam Al Rawi hit a brilliant free-kick as Qatar beat Iraq 1-0 at Al Nahyan Stadium to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup.

Al Rawi was on target in scoring a set piece against Lebanon in Qatar's opening game of the tournament and he came up trumps again for Felix Sanchez's side on Tuesday.

Qatar, set to host the next World Cup in 2022, will now face South Korea in the last eight while 2007 Asian Cup champions Iraq are out.

Abdelkarim Hassan, who will miss the quarter-final through suspension, hit the crossbar with a powerful early effort before Qatar had a pair of penalty appeals rejected.

Iraq were then dealt a blow when Humam Tariq Faraj went down hurt off the ball and had to be carried from the field on a stretcher.

A cross from Qatar's Hassan deflected on to the outside of the post moments before half-time and chances were hard to come by for both sides after the break before Al Rawi settled matters.

Akram Hassan Afif won a free-kick 25 yards out in the 62nd minute and Al Rawi stepped up to curl his strike beyond both the wall and the dive of Iraq goalkeeper Jalal Hassan Hachim.

Mohanad Ali Kadhim and Ahmed Ibrahim missed headed chances for Iraq as Srecko Katanec's team tried to break down the determined Qatar back line.

Qatar had never won a knockout game at the Asian Cup before but, with Iraq further depleted by injuries to substitute Ali Hisny Faisal and Alaa Ali Mhawi, Sanchez's men held on to reach the quarters.

Former Chelsea striker Demba Ba has signed for Istanbul Basaksehir.

Ba last played for Shanghai Shenhua, scoring five goals in 17 Chinese Super League appearances last year.

And the 33-year-old is returning to the Super Lig having had two previous spells with Besiktas, his new club confirming the move on Tuesday.

Istanbul Basaksehir are six points clear at the top of the table as they seek their first-ever Super Lig title.

Ba's arrival boosts their attacking options further following the signing of former Brazil forward Robinho earlier this month.

Ex-Arsenal and Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor is also on Istanbul Basaksehir's books, as well as on-loan Barcelona winger Arda Turan.

Tottenham's injury woes have deepened after the club confirmed attacking midfielder Dele Alli has a hamstring injury that will rule him out until March at the earliest.

Retired track and field star Usain Bolt believes things could have been handled differently when it came to his dream of pursuing a professional football career but nonetheless admits that dream has ended.

The 32-year-old former sprint has always expressed an interest in playing professional football and chased after that goal after departing athletics in 2017. The Jamaican had stints at Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund, South African club Mamelodi Sundowns and Norwegian club Stromgodset before moving to join Australia A-League club Central Coast Mariners.

None of the moves bore fruit, however, with the former sprinter turning down an eventual deal with the Australian club after failing to agree on monetary compensation.  Despite being disappointed things did not work out, the Bolt admits he enjoyed the process but now looks forward to the future as a businessman.

"I don't want to say it wasn't dealt with properly, but I think we went about it, not the way we should and you learn your lesson, you live and you learn," Bolt said in a recent interview.

"It was a good experience. I really enjoyed just being in a team and it was different from track and field and it was fun while it lasted,” he added.

"I'm just doing many different things ... the sports life is over, so I'm now moving into different businesses, I have a lot of things in the pipeline, so as I say, I'm just dabbling in everything and trying to be a businessman now."

South Korea sealed their place in the Asian Cup quarter-finals with a 2-1 victory over Bahrain after extra time in Dubai.

Kim Jin-su's header in the second minute of injury time at the end of the game's first extra period was enough to deny Bahrain a famous win over a side ranked 60 places above them in FIFA's global standings.

Mohamed Al Romaihi had cancelled out a goal from Hwang Hee-chan to force the additional 30 minutes at Rashid Stadium, but Kim Jin-su met Lee Yong's cross to settle a tense last-16 encounter.

South Korea dominated the early possession, but it was a stinging strike from Mohamed Marhoon that threatened to break the deadlock in the opening minutes.

Paulo Bento's side were struggling to find a way through a resilient Bahrain defence, but they finally struck two minutes before half-time, when Hwang Hee-chan side-footed home after goalkeeper Sayed Shubbar Alawi had blocked Lee Yong's cross at the left-hand post.

Bahrain remained a sporadic threat on the break and it took a fine one-handed save from Kim Seung-gyu to keep out Jamal Rashed's curling strike, but they drew level with 14 minutes to go, Al Romaihi firing high into the net after Hong Chul blocked Mahdi Alhumaidan's goalbound effort into his path.

Hwang Ui-jo was gifted a chance to win the match in injury time after Waleed Al Hayam's error, but he scuffed his effort wide of the right-hand post with only the goalkeeper to beat.

An emotional Alawi was taken off on a stretcher in the first half of extra time, having failed to recover from an injury sustained while taking a goal kick, and replacement Abdulkarim Fardan could do nothing to stop Kim Jin-su securing a place in the last eight.

 

What does it mean? South Korea march on despite failing to sparkle

The 2-1 defeat to Australia in the 2015 final was the last time South Korea conceded a goal at the Asian Cup, and their defence again looked reasonably resolute until Al Romaihi's shock leveller.

That said, this was not a particularly inspired performance, especially in attack, where Son seemed to become isolated as a roving number 10. They may need more from their star man in the last eight.

This was only Bahrain's second appearance in the knockouts in the last six tournaments, but they can be proud of the performance they delivered, even if they fell just short.

Al Hayam a powerhouse

Goalkeeper Alawi may have had a much busier outing were it not for centre-back Al Hayam, who made more clearances (12) than any other player on the pitch. He deserved to see Hwang Ui-jo spurn a late chance in normal time that came from his error.

Son fails to shine

Expectations were high on Tottenham star Son Heung-min ahead of his second outing of the tournament, but he looked a long way from his explosive best in a tepid South Korean attack.

What's next?

South Korea will meet the winner of the match between Qatar and Iraq later on Tuesday. The quarter-final will take place at Zayed Sports City Stadium on Friday.

Cristian Zapata suffered a thigh injury in AC Milan's Serie A win at Genoa, the Rossoneri announced on Tuesday.

Zapata was hurt in the opening stages of Monday's game and had to be replaced by Andrea Conti in the 14th minute.

Milan released a statement that said a scan diagnosed Zapata with "a lesion of the biceps femoris muscle of the right thigh".

He will be assessed again in a fortnight, meaning Zapata will be out for at least Milan's next two matches, which are both against Napoli.

Gennaro Gattuso's side face Napoli at home in the league on Saturday before meeting them again three days later in the Coppa Italia at San Siro.

Zapata, who has been linked with a January move to Fenerbahce, has made 10 Serie A starts so far this season, with Milan fourth in the table after beating Genoa.

Benjamin Mendy could make his Manchester City return from a knee injury in Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Burton Albion, with Pep Guardiola acknowledging he has missed the Frenchman.

Left-back Mendy missed most of last season after rupturing the cruciate ligament in his knee, and then had to have surgery on his meniscus in November after starting the season well.

Mendy last played for City on November 11, the 3-1 derby win over Manchester United, meaning Guardiola has generally had to play players out of position to ease the loss.

City travel to Burton on Wednesday having won the first leg 9-0 in Manchester, and Guardiola is expected to ring the changes, with Mendy part of the group heading to the midlands.

"He [Mendy] is in the squad tomorrow [Wednesday], yes, he travels with us, maybe [he will be on the bench," Guardiola told reporters.

"The results say what we have done, I would say they say we have not missed him much, but I would say I miss him a lot.

"He is unstoppable, especially in the last third. He's so clever. He doesn't cross to just cross, he's clever.

"I have the feeling he gives us extra. Hopefully in the last part of the season the club can use him."

Kevin De Bruyne is also among those heading to Burton and will feature in some capacity as he continues to build up his fitness, while some of City's younger players look set for a run-out, with Phil Foden included.

"We're going to play Phil and have a few [youngsters] on the bench," he added. "Two, three or four [young players] will play, and two, three or four on the bench. De Bruyne is going to play."

Goalkeeper Arijanet Muric, just 20, has featured in four EFL Cup games this season and is set to feature again on Wednesday, and he is very highly rated by Guardiola.

"He has incredible potential as a goalkeeper," Guardiola said. "He's so big, tall, fast, and not scared. He can show how good he is [against Burton]."

Cardiff City will continue to "pray for positive news" over missing striker Emiliano Sala.

The French Civil Aviation Authority has confirmed the 28-year-old was onboard a plane that has gone missing while travelling from Nantes to Cardiff late on Monday.

A Cardiff statement on Tuesday read: "We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing. We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team.

"Our owner, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, and chairman, Mehmet Dalman, are all very distressed about the situation.

"We made the decision first thing this morning to call off training with the thoughts of the squad, management staff and the entire Club with Emiliano and the pilot.

"All of us at Cardiff City FC would like to thank our fans, and the entire footballing family for their support at this difficult time.

"We continue to pray for positive news."

Argentine Sala, who was confirmed as Cardiff's record signing on Saturday after opting to leave Ligue 1 Nantes, is said to have been one of two people on the aircraft that disappeared while crossing the English Channel.

An immediate search and rescue operation was launched in the area but was halted in the early hours of Tuesday due to worsening weather conditions. Local and French authorities resumed their efforts at 0800 local time.

The latest update from Guernsey Police, given at 1315 local time, read: "There are currently two planes, two helicopters and a lifeboat searching for the aircraft.

"No trace has yet been found. Conditions during the search last night were challenging, with wave heights of up to two metres, with heavy rain showers and poor visibility.

"Today the sea is much calmer, and although visibility was good, it is now deteriorating.

"UK authorities have been calling airfields on the south coast to see if it landed there. So far we have no confirmation that it did.

"The search will continue throughout the afternoon, with a decision taken at sunset as to whether it will carry on overnight."

Channel Islands Air Search Chief Officer John Fitzgerald admitted, however, the longer the search goes on, the lower the chances of finding the plane and its passengers.

He told Wales Online: "We have been up since early this morning and just had a crew change at lunchtime, but there has been nothing in terms of finding casualties.

"As time goes on, the chances of finding survivors gets more and more unlikely. The water temperature is extremely cold at this time of year. The area is very tidal and moves very quickly but the search conditions are quite good as it is overcast, which helps because there is no glare off the water."

Sala's father, Horacio, told Argentine media he was "desperate", according to L'Equipe.

His mother, Mercedes, said to C5N: "The plane is [owned by] the president of the Cardiff club. We were informed the plane had disappeared and that they were looking for it. We're in touch minute by minute."

Sala joined the Bluebirds from Nantes on a three-and-a-half-year deal. He said his goodbyes to his team-mates at the Ligue 1 club on Monday.

It is reported that Nantes' Coupe de France match with Entente SSG, scheduled for Wednesday, will be postponed.

Cardiff City will continue to "pray for positive news" over missing striker Emiliano Sala.

The French Civil Aviation Authority has confirmed the 28-year-old was onboard a plane that has gone missing while travelling from Nantes to Cardiff late on Monday.

A Cardiff statement read: "We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing. We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team.

"Our owner, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, and chairman, Mehmet Dalman, are all very distressed about the situation.

"We made the decision first thing this morning to call off training with the thoughts of the squad, management staff and the entire Club with Emiliano and the pilot.

"All of us at Cardiff City FC would like to thank our fans, and the entire footballing family for their support at this difficult time.

"We continue to pray for positive news."

 

New Barcelona signing Kevin-Prince Boateng dismissed suggestions of a past allegiance to Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo by lauding Lionel Messi as the best player "in this world and every world" during his official presentation.

Boateng completed a shock move to Barca on Monday, with the Catalan club bringing him in from Sassuolo on a loan deal until the end of the season which includes an €8million purchase option.

Despite being undoubtedly talented, the 31-year-old represents a left-field option for Barca, considering the level Boateng has been operating at for the last two years.

Before Sassuolo, Boateng played for Las Palmas and then Eintracht Frankfurt, never quite living up to the early expectations of him after impressing as a teenager with Hertha Berlin.

After rumours of his move began to circulate, past quotes from Boateng declaring himself a Madrid fan and praising Ronaldo as the world's best player began to resurface, but he had a concise response on Tuesday.

"I am a Barcelona player and Lionel Messi is the best player in this world and every world," the Germany-born former Ghana international told reporters.

"Why are you laughing? That's the truth, he has shown that with all that he has won in the last 10 years.

"It's a great honour [to be at Barcelona] because Messi is the best player in the world, and Luis Suarez the best striker in the world.

"They play amazingly and being able to play by their side is a great gift."

Boateng is fully aware that he has not been brought in to slot straight into the starting XI, but believes his versatility will serve him well, as he is able to play in midfield and further forward.

"At my age, the number nine role is perfect for me, but for a coach, I think a player like me is a plus because I can play in different positions, but I feel very good as a number nine," the former AC Milan man said.

"I have not talked to the coach [Ernesto Valverde], but I know I have not come to play in the starting line because there are incredible players in this team.

"I'm here because of my experience and to help. I'm here to play well and sign on for more years here, that's my goal."

Xabi Alonso insists he will fight to the end to clear his name after being accused of tax fraud by Spanish prosecutors.

The former Real Madrid and Bayern Munich midfielder is alleged to have committed three tax offences between 2010 and 2012, while he was a player in LaLiga.

Alonso attended court in Madrid on Tuesday, where he learned that his case will be postponed until further notice.

Speaking to reporters, former Spain international Alonso said: "The court has assessed whether or not they are competent to start the case. I have to wait for their assessment, and respect and continue to trust in what justice will decide.

"Now, we have to wait. I'm still confident, as the previous court acquitted me and here I'm continuing to defend my innocence and trust in justice."

Alonso appeared in court on the same day that former Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo was handed a 23-month prison sentence and €18.8million fine after accepting charges of tax fraud.

However, when asked if he could strike a similar deal with prosecutors to that which Ronaldo accepted, Alonso replied: "No, because I have the conviction and confidence of having done everything right, collaborating from the start without hiding anything.

"I've come here and I'm going to keep going until the end because I have confidence in justice. I've done everything okay.

"I would be worried if I had something to hide or I had not done something right. They're studying and evaluating my case and we have to wait."

Alonso, 37, joined Madrid from Liverpool in 2009 and spent five years at the club before leaving for Bayern.

He retired at the end of the 2016-17 season.

Wesley Hoedt has joined Celta Vigo from Southampton on loan for the rest of the season.

The LaLiga club have the option to sign the centre-back on a permanent deal in the post-season transfer window.

Hoedt, 24, joins Sofiane Boufal in leaving the Premier League for Balaidos this term.

"Hoedt's move will allow him to gain additional playing time between now and the end of the season, while also further helping [Ralph] Hasenhuttl to achieve his aim of trimming the first-team squad this month," Southampton said in a statement.

"The club would like to wish Wesley good luck for the rest of the season."

Hoedt joined Saints in August 2017 from AZ for a reported fee of £15million, signing a five-year deal.

The Netherlands international made 28 league appearances last season and managed 13 starts this term, but was left out of the side by new boss Hasenhuttl.

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