Barcelona boss Quique Setien does not expect the injured Frenkie de Jong to miss the remainder of the LaLiga season.

Midfielder De Jong has a calf injury and will not be involved when the Catalans host Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday.

There have been suggestions the Netherlands international is likely to miss the rest of the league season, as Barca attempt to defend their title from Real Madrid over the final eight matches.

Setien, though, expects De Jong to recover sooner rather than later.

When asked if De Jong could miss the rest of 2019-20, he told reporters on Monday: "We hope that won't be the case. He has a small injury in the area of his calf and we'll see how he progresses. But I'm sure he'll be able to play a few games.

"He's a complete player because he gives us a lot of things when we have the ball, but he's also physical and covers a lot of space. He's young, he has dynamism, enthusiasm and quality. He's learning many things we've been trying to improve.

"It's true that he's an important loss and he could help us a lot. We're a little upset that he's not there, but these are things you have to adapt to. I still have confidence in the people who are going to play in his position."

Barca, who will also be without Sergi Roberto against Athletic, lost their place at the top of the table on Sunday as Real Madrid beat Real Sociedad 2-1 to take advantage of the champions' draw with Sevilla.

Although they are behind Madrid by virtue of their head-to-head record this season, meaning the title race is no longer in their hands, Setien says his Barca players have trained positively in recent days.

"We've trained very well. There's a bit of residual fatigue but we're going to try to keep up the excitement and expectations because we're convinced we can win the title and we're going to try to improve the footballing aspects we have to control," he said.

Setien included Jorge Cuenca and Dani Morer from the B team in his 24-man squad, but he does not necessarily expect either to play.

However, he says Samuel Umtiti has a chance of forcing his way back into the first-team picture after returning from suspension.

"As they gave us the option of taking 23 players, it's difficult for Cuenca to play, but we can't include players who haven't passed the [COVID-19] tests," he said.

"We'll see tomorrow because one of the two [Cuenca and Morer] will be left out. But they train with us every day and they're here.

"If we decided he [Umtiti] has to play, he would play. He's getting better and better and this is strictly a subject for me. These are football issues.

"It's true he's better but he was injured for a while and he hasn't been at the level of others. He's much better now and has his chances to play, like everyone else."

Setien added that Ousmane Dembele is progressing well in his recovery from a thigh injury but that his return to group training "will have to wait".

For so long, Real Madrid have been tipped to sign Kylian Mbappe.

Zinedine Zidane has made no secret of his admiration for the Paris Saint-Germain sensation.

But, Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool could throw a spanner in the works, especially if Sadio Mane departs Merseyside.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL EYEING MBAPPE AMID MANE FEARS

Liverpool are plotting a move for Real Madrid target Kylian Mbappe amid fears over Sadio Mane's future at Anfield, according to The Sun.

Mane is contracted until 2023 but Liverpool are reportedly growing anxious as Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain monitor the situation.

As a result, Liverpool are eyeing PSG star Mbappe and Mane could figure in a swap deal plus £200million (€221m), which could disrupt Madrid's grand plans for the French forward.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport Bild claims Bayern Munich have offered €40m (£36m) for Manchester City star Leroy Sane, who is set to leave the Premier League giants at the end of the season. Meanwhile, the Bundesliga champions are targeting Ajax sensation Sergino Dest. Sport Bild reports the United States international will arrive if they satisfy Ajax's demands, though Bayern are only thinking of a loan deal at the moment.

- It is a race against time for Miralem Pjanic to move to Barcelona. Sport says Barca and Juventus want to reach a deal by the end of June so it can be counted as part of the current season. The proposed deal would likely see Pjanic and Mattia De Sciglio join Barca, with Arthur moving in the opposite direction. However, Arthur is reluctant to swap Barcelona for Turin.

- Sport Bild reports Borussia Dortmund see no reason to sell Manchester United target Jadon Sancho in the off-season unless a club offers over €100m.

Mario Gotze remains in the sights of Milan, reports Calciomercato. Gotze will not renew his expiring contract at Dortmund and is set to leave Signal Iduna Park. Lazio have been linked but Milan are eyeing the German, with Ralf Rangnick reportedly in line to take over in the dugout.

- Napoli have turned down Liverpool's bid for star centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, according to Corriere dello Sport.

- Tuttosport says Juve want Napoli's Arkadiusz Milik to partner superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. Juve are willing to offer Federico Bernardeschi as a makeweight in the deal.

- FC Inter News says Inter have rejected an offer from Marseille for midfielder Joao Mario. The Portuguese has spent the season on loan in Russia via Lokomotiv Moscow.

Lautaro Martinez is "flattered" with links to Barcelona but has not asked to leave Inter, according to Giuseppe Marotta. 

The Argentina international has a release clause of €111million and has been strongly tipped to join the LaLiga side in the next transfer window. 

He has enjoyed an impressive campaign at San Siro, scoring 16 goals in 31 matches, and is also rumoured to be a target for Real Madrid. 

However, Inter CEO Marotta reiterated he is confident the club can keep hold of Martinez beyond the end of this season, with the forward yet to put in a request to move elsewhere. 

"Lautaro Martinez is the focus of other clubs' attention in the transfer market, everyone knows this," he told Sky Sport Italia.

"He has immense quality and many teams who would love to negotiate with us for him.  

"We have no intention of selling our best players, so if a player does not express the desire to leave, then we'll hold on tight. 

"Lautaro is flattered by the attention of big clubs, but he has never expressed the desire to leave. Never. I am very optimistic that we'll see him playing for us again next season." 

Former Inter goalkeeper Luca Castellazzi suggested this week Martinez's performances have been affected by the ongoing speculation over his future. 

The 22-year-old struggled to make an impact in last weekend's 1-1 draw with Napoli - a result that saw Inter exit the Coppa Italia at the semi-final stage - but Marotta is not concerned.  

"There has been a lockdown for three months," Marotta said. "He should be evaluated on what he's done all season, not just in the Coppa Italia semi-final." 

Maurizio Sarri has emphatically dismissed rumours of a row with Miralem Pjanic as Juventus prepare to resume their Serie A campaign. 

A story in the Italian media claimed the Juve boss had a disagreement with the midfielder - who has been heavily linked with Barcelona - during a training session ahead of the game against Bologna on Monday. 

However, Sarri made clear on Sunday that there has been no clash between the pair, revealing he has a good relationship with Pjanic and branding the report fake news. 

The 30-year-old was allegedly set to be dropped but Juve are lacking options in midfield; Aaron Ramsey is still not ready to play 90 minutes, according to his coach, while Sami Khedira is sidelined. 

"The story of my quarrel with Pjanic is one of the biggest hoaxes of the season," Sarri told Sky Sport in Italy.  

"I talk a lot with Miralem, maybe he is one of the guys with whom I have more discussions and a better relationship. Pjanic has done the same as the team in these last two games - made a good start and then subsequently dropped off.  

"For tomorrow's game, let's see how he is and then we'll decide.  

"Of course we don't have many other solutions in that role at the moment. Ramsey is more likely to play in part of the game, rather than for 90 minutes." 

Juve have played twice already since the action restarted in Italy following the suspension of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

They drew at home with Milan to progress in the Coppa Italia, only to lose on penalties to Napoli in Wednesday's final in Rome.

Now their focus switches back to the league, Sarri's table-topping squad holding a one-point lead over Lazio as they bid to be crowned champions for a ninth straight season.

"The first games are the most dangerous, because there are no certainties about the teams' responses," Sarri said ahead of the trip to opponents who sit in 10th place.

"Bologna are doing very well, playing good football. We have to hold them in high regard, play a shrewd game and hope to go up a level."

Barcelona confirmed they have detected an issue in the soleus muscle in Frenkie de Jong's calf after missing the draw with Sevilla.

The Netherlands international had to miss Friday's trip to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, where Barca were frustrated in a goalless stalemate.

It was confirmed a day earlier that De Jong had been ruled out through injury, though the club did not reveal what the issue was.

Following further medical tests, Barca were able to determine the former Ajax talent is suffering with a problem in his soleus muscle in the right calf.

However, the club have not commented on how long he could be out for, saying the "evolution of the injury will condition the player's availability."

De Jong is in his first season at Camp Nou and has made 38 appearances across all competitions.

Barca are next in action at home to Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday, but by then they could have surrendered their place atop of LaLiga.

Friday's draw in Seville leaves them just three points ahead of Real Madrid, who have a game in hand.

Should Los Blancos win that match – away to Real Sociedad on Sunday – they will go top of the league due to their superior head-to-head record against Barca.

Dean Henderson has a decision to make as he continues to impress on loan at Sheffield United.

He is Manchester United's future number one, but Premier League rivals Chelsea are reportedly interested.

Could the 23-year-old goalkeeper swap Old Trafford for Stamford Bridge?

 

TOP STORY – UNITED AND CHELSEA IN TUG-OF-WAR OVER HENDERSON

Chelsea are trying to lure Dean Henderson away from Manchester United, according to The Sun.

Henderson has flourished at Sheffield United during his loan spell away from United.

Manchester United are offering Henderson a new contract amid doubts over David De Gea but Chelsea are reportedly plotting a big-money move for the Englishman.

 

ROUND-UP

- It appears as though Juventus will miss out on Barcelona midfielder Arthur. Marca says Arthur has rejected an annual salary of €5million to move to Turin.

- Liverpool are eyeing Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele after missing out on Timo Werner, claims Bleacher Report. Werner swapped RB Leipzig for Chelsea.

Inter are interested in Hertha Berlin's Matheus Cunha, reports Calciomercato. The 21-year-old Brazilian only arrived from Leipzig in January.

Jadon Sancho's head is already at Manchester United, according to German journalist Heiko Wasser. Borussia Dortmund star Sancho has been heavily tipped to join United, while the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Real Madrid are also eyeing the England international.

- Staying at San Siro and The Suns claims Inter want to sign Manchester City full-back Kyle Walker.

Dortmund have reached an agreement with Thomas Meunier to bring the Paris Saint-Germain full-back to the Bundesliga on a free transfer. It is also reported that Edinson Cavani will not sign a new deal and will sit out PSG's Champions League fixtures. He has been linked to Atletico Madrid and Inter.

- The Daily Mail says Juve are interested in bringing Wolves striker Raul Jimenez to Serie A amid interest from United and Madrid.

- Ansu Fati to United? Mundo Deportivo reports the Barca sensation wants to stay at Camp Nou and fight for his place.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane insists nothing has changed in the LaLiga title race despite Barcelona's slip-up at Sevilla.

Barca were held to a 0-0 draw at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Friday, opening the door for Madrid to draw level on points with the Blaugrana if they win at Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Victory would see Madrid leapfrog Barca at the top courtesy of their superior head-to-head record.

Speaking after their draw, Barca defender Gerard Pique told Movistar Plus that it would be "very difficult" for them to retain LaLiga, expressing his belief that "it's going to be difficult for Madrid to lose points" having seen what has happened in the games since the restart following the coronavirus-enforced hiatus.

Those comments were regarded by some as a reference to seemingly favourable refereeing decisions Madrid have received in their wins over Eibar and Valencia.

Zidane, though, showed little interest in Pique's remarks at his pre-match media conference on Saturday, telling reporters: "Nothing has changed.

"We have a game tomorrow and we have talked about 11 finals. We will give everything and without thinking about anything else."

Asked about Pique's comments, he replied: "Say one thing or another. What interests me is tomorrow's game.

"I have my opinion, but I will not comment on it because it can happen the other way around. The truth is that what encourages us is tomorrow's game. Nothing else."

"I don't believe they are favouring us," Zidane said when pressed on whether refereeing decisions had been benefiting Los Blancos.

Sociedad are contending for the Champions League places but have been held by Osasuna and beaten by Deportivo Alaves in their two games since the restart.

"I don't know if they are playing worse, the results have been worse, but they can get you into trouble at any time," added Zidane. "Tomorrow is another final."

Marc-Andre ter Stegen believes Barcelona will secure the LaLiga title if they can win their remaining games.

Barcelona were held to a 0-0 draw by Sevilla on Friday, giving Real Madrid the chance to join them on 65 points when they visit Real Sociedad.

Madrid would also hold the upper-hand thanks to their head-to-head record against Barcelona after their El Clasico victory in March.

But Ter Stegen believes Barcelona will be crowned league champions if they can win each of their remaining eight games.

"We no longer depend on ourselves and we will be watching what the rivals do, but we are improving," the goalkeeper said, via Sport.

"Defensively we are showing our best face and I am convinced that by winning all the remaining games we will be champions."

Barcelona dropped points for the first time since returning from the coronavirus-enforced break, but they are yet to concede in three games.

However, Ter Stegen felt a draw against third-placed Sevilla was a fair result.

"I think we have played a good match, especially in the first half. We knew we were coming to the field of a very complicated team and we have dominated," he said.

"All in all, I consider that the draw was fair, because Sevilla have also had good chances."

Barcelona are in action again with a clash against Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday.

Barcelona coach Quique Setien disagreed with Gerard Pique and believes Real Madrid will drop points late in the LaLiga season.

Setien's men were held to a 0-0 draw at Sevilla on Friday, giving Madrid the chance to join them on 65 points when they visit Real Sociedad.

Pique said it was hard to see Madrid dropping points in their remaining nine games, but Setien disagreed.

"I think that about Pique is the frustration of the moment. We were very confident because we had 30 very good minutes at the beginning of the game and then we got messy," he said, via AS.

"In the second half, we lost balls that gave them life.

"Tomorrow, he will surely think differently because I am sure that Madrid will not win everything."

A win against Sociedad on Sunday would send Madrid top of the table thanks to their head-to-head record against Barcelona after their El Clasico victory in March.

But Setien, whose side host Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday, is remaining upbeat.

"The rivals always have things to say, there are very tough confrontations and you have to be optimistic," he said.

"We don't depend on ourselves, but you have to be optimistic."

Gerard Pique said it was hard to see Real Madrid dropping points between now and the end of the season after Barcelona handed Zinedine Zidane's team a huge title boost.

A goalless draw at Sevilla on Friday opened the door for Madrid to potentially join Barcelona at the top of LaLiga on Sunday, when they tackle Real Sociedad at Anoeta.

Pique could not inspire Barcelona to find a breakthrough at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium, leaving the race for glory wide open again.

He said afterwards: "It's going to be difficult to win this league. We're going to do everything we can but very few points will be lost.

"From what I've seen in recent weeks, it's going to be very difficult for Real Madrid to lose points."

Lionel Messi went close with a first-half free-kick and provided a familiar spark at times, but Barcelona faded after a bright opening 30 minutes.

Pique felt he and his team-mates missed an opportunity to take another three points, but he might later reflect on how it might have been worse.

Sevilla defender Sergio Reguilon, on loan from Real Madrid, had a glorious last-gasp chance but made a hash of a close-range shot and Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a comfortable save.

After this weekend, both frontrunners will have eight games left to play in the league.

Asked if it felt as though two points had got away in Seville, Pique said: "Yes, because we were in control and had more chances. They looked a bit tired. I think we were good with the ball but there was little space. We couldn't get the goal."

Barcelona slipped up with a 0-0 draw at Sevilla to hand Real Madrid a huge LaLiga title boost, as Lionel Messi was kept waiting for his 700th career goal.

Messi had scored 37 in his 38 previous outings against Sevilla, more than against any other team, but a series of threatening free-kicks were repelled by the home side this time.

Antoine Griezmann was surprisingly left out of Barcelona's starting line-up for the clash with third-placed opposition, as Martin Braithwaite was preferred, and the visitors lacked penetration.

The draw leaves them still top of the table, but Real Madrid, with a game in hand, are just three points off the summit.

This stalemate at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium could prove a costly one for Barcelona come the end of the season, and it was almost worse for them, with Sevilla's Sergio Reguilon, on loan from Real Madrid, squandering a glorious late chance.

Sevilla defender Jules Kounde drilled an early shot a yard wide, but Barcelona were soon on top and for a while they looked terrific.

It took two Sevilla players to stop Messi at the expense of a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area at the 20-minute mark.

Up stepped Messi, and his shot beat the wall and might have beaten Tomas Vaclik too, but the goalkeeper was done a favour by Kounde, who cleared the ball from almost on the line with a flicked header over the bar.

Messi tested Vaclik moments later with another free-kick, and the goalkeeper was more comfortable second time around.

Inevitably at the centre of things, Messi avoided punishment for shoving Diego Carlos to the ground in first-half stoppage time after the home defender fouled Suarez.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen came to Barcelona's rescue early in the second half with a fine parry to deny Lucas Ocampos, the goalkeeper's strong left hand keeping out a thunderous shot from a tight angle to the right of goal.

The German thwarted Munir moments later too, pushing away a vicious left-footed strike.

Vaclik tipped another Messi free-kick over his crossbar at full stretch as the game entered its final 20 minutes, before Jordi Alba made a key block at the other end as Sevilla launched a three-on-one breakaway raid.

Ocampos drew a save from Ter Stegen with a low shot but neither side could successfully plot a way to a goal, Reguilon failing to properly get hold of a close-range shot at the death, to Barcelona's great relief.

Neymar has been ordered by a judge to pay Barcelona €6.7million over a contract dispute with the LaLiga champions.

The Paris Saint-German and Brazil forward had claimed he was owed €43.6million by Barca in unpaid bonuses.

Neymar insisted he was due the huge sum as a loyalty bonus, having signed a new five-year contract with the Catalan giants in 2016.

The Brazil international, who joined PSG for a world record fee of €222m in August 2017, has instead been told he must fork out to his former employers - although an appeal could be lodged.

Barca, who have been linked with a move to re-sign Neymar, welcomed the verdict on Friday.

A club statement said: "FC Barcelona expresses its satisfaction with the verdict announced today by Social Court 15 in Barcelona in relation to the lawsuit involving FC Barcelona and the player Neymar Jr regarding the amount of the signing bonus in the final renewal of the player's contract.

"The ruling has fully dismissed the player's claim for payment of 43.6 million euros, and has accepted a large part of the defence presented by FC Barcelona, as a result of which the player must return €6.7million to the club.

"Since the player's representative is entitled to appeal this decision, the club shall continue to fervently defend its legitimate interests."

Lautaro Martinez has been tipped to make the move to Camp Nou.

The Inter forward is at the top of Barcelona's list of targets as the Spanish giants eye a long-term replacement for veteran Luis Suarez.

But Inter are not making things easy for Barca.

 

TOP STORY – INTER NOT BUDGING OVER MARTINEZ

Inter are standing firm over Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez, according to Sky Sport Italia.

LaLiga champions Barca are determined to sign the Argentina forward but Inter are unwilling to budge on their demands – either pay his €111million release clause or splash €90-95m plus a player chosen by the Serie A club. 

The same network claims Inter loanee  Alexis Sanchez  could renew his loan deal from Manchester United.

 

ROUND-UP

Inter are interested in Real Madrid full-back Achraf Hakimi, reports Calciomercato. Achraf, who has spent the past two seasons on loan at Dortmund, has been linked with the likes of Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and others. Inter are admirers of the Morocco international but remain some way off luring him to Milan.

- The Times says Chelsea are prepared to sell star midfielder N'Golo Kante to raise funds for extra transfers. Madrid are thought to be keen on the Frenchman as Chelsea look to sign Leicester City full-back Ben Chilwell and Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz.

Napoli have reached a "total agreement" with Lille for defender Gabriel Magalhaes, says Footmercato. The Brazilian centre-back has also been linked to Everton and Tottenham.

- Sky Sport Italia journalist Gianluca Di Marzio reports Fiorentina are battling Milan and Everton for outgoing PSG defender Thiago Silva, who is a free agent.

Milan have been mooted as the most likely destination for Naby Keita as Liverpool consider selling the former RB Leipzig midfielder, according to Milan Live.

David Alaba to leave Bayern Munich? The Telegraph claims the Bundesliga champions are open to a sale, alerting the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City, United and PSG.

Former Barcelona assistant coach Juan Carlos Unzue has revealed he has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND).

Unzue announced on Thursday he was diagnosed with the rare neurological disorder amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the most widely suffered type of MND, in February.

There is no known cure for ALS, which causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles. Unzue said he wants to raise awareness and funds for research.

"I insist I am coping well, I feel privileged to be able to have lived the life I have and now I feel privileged about what I will be able to do about ALS, which is a disease that anyone can get," Unzue told a news conference at Camp Nou.

"I will try together with the Luzon Foundation to help improve the quality of life. We want to create a series of challenges or events that allow us to raise money for research. Hopefully in the not too distant future we will find a solution."

Unzue represented Barca and Sevilla as a goalkeeper during his playing days and was assistant to Luis Enrique at Camp Nou from 2014-17, helping the team win two LaLiga titles, three Copas del Rey and the Champions League.

Luis Enrique, now Spain boss, was among those in attendance on Thursday, along with Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu and several of the first-team squad.

"People have a great capacity to adapt to life," Unzue added.

"I have met other sick people who are very much eager to continue living, despite the difficulties, because life is worth it."

After leaving Barca, Unzue spent a season as head coach of Celta Vigo, where he previously worked under Luis Enrique, and was most recently in charge of Girona.

Barcelona boss Quique Setien has called for UEFA to allow the Catalans to face Napoli at Camp Nou in their unresolved Champions League tie.

A 1-1 draw in Naples on February 25 should have been followed on March 18 by the second leg in Barcelona, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the match to be called off.

That left the last-16 tie hanging in the balance, and UEFA said on Wednesday the second leg will be played on August 7 or 8.

Barcelona feel it would only be fair for the Napoli match to be played on their own pitch, given the Italians had home advantage for the first game.

UEFA has held off making a ruling so far but could tell the clubs to play at a neutral ground in Portugal, given the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final of the competition will all be hosted in Lisbon from August 12-23.

"What I hope is that against Napoli we can play here," Setien said on Thursday. "They already played at home with a lot of people cheering on their team."

Napoli showed their improvement under coach Gennaro Gattuso by edging out Juventus on penalties to win the Coppa Italia on Wednesday, and they pose a major threat to Barcelona's hopes of progressing.

Setien is also wary of the format that UEFA has imposed from the quarter-finals onwards, albeit conscious they had little other option than to compress the rest of the competition to one-off matches, given time constraints.

He said: "I think it is worse, but not only for Barca, for everyone. With two games you have the possibility of solving a mistake in one of them.

"We all would like to play a two-leg game, but the circumstances are what they are, and you have to adapt. There are many new circumstances and this is going to be another."

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