Cristiano Ronaldo brought up 1,000 career appearances in Juventus' trip to SPAL in Serie A on Saturday.

A hero for Portugal, Sporting CP, Manchester United and Real Madrid across a decorated career, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner has racked up a succession of impressive landmarks.

And there have been plenty of moments of magic that live long in the memory along the way.

Here, we take a look back at 10 of Ronaldo's very best goals.

 

Manchester United v Portsmouth: January 30, 2008

Perhaps the finest free-kick Ronaldo has struck in his career.

The Portuguese developed his reputation as a set-piece master at United and he lashed a phenomenal 25-yard effort past David James as part of a double to send Alex Ferguson's side to the top of the Premier League.

His knuckleball technique sent the ball swirling into the top-right corner for one of his defining Old Trafford moments.

 

Porto v Manchester United: April 15, 2009

He had absolutely no right to score this one.

Back in his homeland for a Champions League quarter-final against Porto, Ronaldo picked up the ball in the middle of the opposition half, got it out of his feet and sent a searing strike flying past Helton to seal a 1-0 win at the Estadio do Dragao and a 3-2 aggregate triumph.

 

Almeria v Real Madrid: April 15, 2010

Ronaldo has developed into more of a penalty-box poacher in recent seasons, but this effort against Almeria was a reminder of how devastating he could be when starting from outside the area.

Rafael van der Vaart won back possession in the Almeria half and the ball was worked to Ronaldo, who accelerated past two challenges, left a third defender for dead with a stepover, and drilled home with his left foot. The visitors would go on to win 2-1.

 

Sevilla v Real Madrid: December 17, 2011

Sevilla have grown sick of the sight of Ronaldo – he has scored 27 times against them, after all – but this strike in a 6-2 thrashing is perhaps the best of them all.

Collecting Karim Benzema's pass 30 yards out, Ronaldo took advantage of the time and space given to him by the defence to blast a shot into the top-right corner, the swerve on the ball making it totally unstoppable. It was one of three he scored that day at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

 

Real Madrid v Valencia: May 4, 2014

It was not enough to keep Madrid's title chase alive, but this was another goal that showcased Ronaldo's killer instinct and dexterity.

In second-half injury time, with Valencia 2-1 ahead, Angel Di Maria volleyed over a cross from the left and Ronaldo swivelled to score a backheel volley and snatch a point.

 

Real Madrid v Espanyol: January 31, 2016

Although his game had become more refined from those buccaneering early days, Ronaldo showed here he was not quite done when it came to solo runs and spectacular finishes.

With Madrid already 3-0 up in what would prove to be a 6-0 thrashing, James Rodriguez's pass was deflected into Ronaldo's path and he did the rest, showing brilliant footwork to skip beyond three challenges before rifling home from the edge of the area with his left foot.

 

Hungary v Portugal: June 22, 2016

Portugal fell behind to Hungary three times in Lyon during Euro 2016, and Ronaldo brought them level on the second occasion with a display of fine skill.

The captain added a deft flick with his trailing leg to Joao Mario's right-wing cross to make it 2-2, and he cancelled out Balazs Dzsudzsak's second with a double of his own. It was enough to send Portugal into the knockout stages and from there they went on to claim a maiden international title.

 

Juventus v Real Madrid: April 3, 2018

Arguably the best goal Ronaldo has produced.

Moving away from goal as Dani Carvajal dug a cross towards the penalty spot from the right, he rose into the air to connect with a marvellous overhead kick. His leg was at a right angle to his body as he struck with the sweetest of volleys that flew past Gianluigi Buffon.

 

Portugal v Spain: June 15, 2018

Having twice given his side the lead, Ronaldo found Portugal 3-2 down to their Iberian neighbours in their thrilling opener at the 2018 World Cup.

The was a sense of inevitability when he stood over an 88th minute free-kick, but the execution was sheer perfection – power and dip combined to leave David de Gea with no chance.

 

Juventus v Manchester United: November 8, 2018

Another decorated Portuguese was celebrating at full-time when Jose Mourinho watched his Manchester United team complete a 2-1 comeback win.

But Ronaldo struck first with a sumptuous and technically brilliant strike, watching Leonardo Bonucci's raking ball over his shoulder to volley home.  

Cristiano Ronaldo is set to make his 1,000th appearance for club and country when Juventus face SPAL in Serie A on Saturday.

The Portugal superstar was named in Maurizio Sarri's starting XI after being rested for the 2-0 win over Brescia last weekend.

Providing the 35-year-old comes through the warm-up unscathed, he will bring up his incredible landmark and seek to add to his tally of 724 goals. 

It will be the five-time Ballon d'Or winner's 73rd outing for Juve, with the bulk of his matches having come for Real Madrid (438).

Manchester United sit second on that list (292), with 31 of his games coming for Sporting CP, a further two for Sporting B and 164 for his country. 

Gennaro Gattuso has confirmed Napoli could be without key defender Kalidou Koulibaly for next week's Champions League game against Barcelona.

Injuries have hampered the Senegal international this season and he has only played one Serie A match since the turn of the year.

Napoli head to Brescia on Friday before hosting Barca four days later in the first leg of their last-16 tie with the LaLiga champions.

And Gattuso, whose side have won five of their past six games in all competitions, is unsure whether Koulibaly will be available.

"We'll need to objectively see what he has," Gattuso told reporters on Thursday. "He has swelling, so we need to listen to how he feels. 

"Right now I have opted, together with the medical staff, to keep him sidelined for seven to 10 days.

"We will evaluate after that how he feels physically. He will tell us how he feels."

Napoli's improved form has lifted them to ninth in Serie A but they are 12 points behind fourth-placed Atalanta in the race for Champions League qualification.

Gattuso is staying focused on the trip to second-bottom Brescia - with Koulibaly not included in the Napoli squad - rather than allowing the looming Barca game to act as a distraction.

"I haven't heard anyone talk about Barcelona," Gattuso added. "We haven't prepared for Barcelona yet. We have prepared for the match against Brescia. We will think about Barcelona on Saturday after the analysis of the match against Brescia."

Napoli striker Fernando Llorente will miss the Brescia game due to flu.

Jose Mourinho is hoping to end a six-year wait to win a Champions League last-16 tie when Tottenham take on RB Leipzig.

The Spurs boss has suffered frustration in Europe's elite club competition since taking Chelsea to the last four back in 2014.

Tottenham are at home for the first leg against Leipzig, a team they have never played before, with Atalanta taking on Valencia in the other game to take place on Wednesday.

Here, we highlight the best Opta stats for the two Champions League fixtures.

 

Tottenham v RB Leipzig

6 - Mourinho last made it past the round of 16 of the Champions League six years ago, leading Chelsea to the semi-finals in 2013-14. It is also nearly 10 years since he last reached the final, with Inter in 2010.

9 - Son Heung-min has scored nine goals in his past 10 Champions League starts. In the knockout stages with Spurs, his record is five goals in seven starts.

20 - The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has seen more goals than any other venue in this season's Champions League (20 goals; 11 for Tottenham, 9 against).

11 - Between them, Timo Werner (6) and Emil Forsberg (5) have scored over half of RB Leipzig's all-time goals in the Champions League (55 per cent, 11 out of 20).

1 - Only one of Spurs' 21 Champions League home games has ended in a draw (0-0 v Milan in March 2011).

Atalanta v Valencia

0 - Atalanta have never played Valencia, or indeed any Spanish team, in a competitive fixture before.

1 - The Italian team are the first Champions League debutants to make it to the knockout stages of the Champions League since Leicester City in 2016-17. The English side were eventually knocked out in the quarter-finals by Atletico Madrid.

13 - Valencia are in the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time since 2012-13. It has been 13 years since they last made it past the round of 16 (2006-07).

3 - Atalanta are the first team to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League in its current format after losing their opening three group games.

4 - Rodrigo Moreno has been involved in four goals in five Champions League games this season (two goals, two assists). That is more than in his previous 24 matches in the competition, from which he produced two goals and one assist.

Jose Mourinho jokingly questioned whether Manchester City's two-season European ban for breaching UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations could end up giving him another Premier League title.

UEFA announced the sanction for City, as well as a €30million fine, on Friday for "overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016".

The reigning Premier League champions criticised the process and announced their intention to appeal the suspension at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

It has since been reported that City could be stripped of their 2014 Premier League title but Mourinho opted against making an extensive evaluation of UEFA's decision after Tottenham's 3-2 win over Aston Villa on Sunday.

However, he quipped he would be more interested if a chance arose for the Manchester United side he led to second in 2017-18 to be retrospectively awarded the crown claimed that season by City.

Pep Guardiola's team finished that campaign with a record 100 points, 19 more than United amassed in second.

Mourinho said: "My view is that I didn't lose one single minute analysing what UEFA and FIFA have to analyse.

"If I go into that analysis I have to ask if the team that finished second in 2018 is going to be champion, yes or no? That would be interesting. But jokes apart, I just wait calmly."

Should the sanction on City remain in place it would mean the team that finishes fifth in the Premier League this season would earn Champions League qualification.

Spurs assumed that position thanks to Son's 94th-minute winner at Villa Park, but Mourinho acknowledged there is plenty of competition.

"I don't think about fourth or fifth, I just think about doing the best we can, getting the most points we can, the best position we can and at the end of the season we will see where we are," he said.

"Because maybe we are sixth or seventh and then it doesn't matter if the fifth goes to the Champions League, so we have a big fight.

"You could see [on Saturday] Liverpool first against the last [Norwich City], you could see today Villa fighting to stay in the division and us fighting for the top positions, how difficult it was.

"This is the Premier League. So when we speak about the fifth, I think Wolves, Sheffield United, Manchester United, Arsenal, Everton, everybody looks to the table and they say 'we can do it' and they can, so it's going to be very hard."

Unai Emery believes he missed out on the chance to become the world's best coach during his time at Paris Saint-Germain because there was no VAR.

The Spaniard won seven domestic trophies in two seasons in the French capital but left in 2018 after failing to mount a serious Champions League challenge.

In their first season under Emery, PSG thrashed Barcelona 4-0 in the round-of-16 first leg only to suffer an astonishing 6-1 defeat in the return match at Camp Nou.

A year later, they reached the same stage of the competition only to lose 5-2 on aggregate to Real Madrid, who went on to lift the trophy for the third season in a row.

Emery thinks his fortunes as an elite-level coach might have been better had VAR been in existence for those ties.

"In Paris, I missed the chance to become the best coach in the world," he told France Football.

"I won the league, four domestic cups and two Trophees des Champions. But the ultimate goal was the Champions League.

"The first year, in the round-of-16 against Barcelona, were played a really high-level first leg. In the return leg, we were knocked out because VAR didn't yet exist. We were very clearly knocked out by refereeing decisions.

"The second year, against Real Madrid, we bowed to a team who recorded an historic hat-trick and, again, in the first leg, we could find fault with the officiating.

"To conclude: we lost the first time on refereeing decisions, and the second against the defending and future champions."

The 4-0 win over Barca came despite Thiago Silva being left out of the starting line-up.

It was initially reported the Brazil centre-back had an injury but reports soon suggested his omission was more of a tactical decision.

Emery has now explained he had grown frustrated with the player for not following his instructions to hold a higher defensive line.

"I wanted the team to defend higher. Thiago Silva is a great player, but I wanted him to be higher and I couldn't get him to accept that," Emery said.

"I wanted him to get out of his comfort zone, to dare to defend higher so that the general pressure of the team on the opposition would be more effective. I worked with him to make him accept this, but I didn't succeed.

"This characteristic of Thiago Silva's game reflected on the whole team, which, under pressure, had a natural tendency to drop deeper."

Despite a disappointing end to his two seasons in charge, Emery insists he always felt he had the backing of president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

Indeed, the former Arsenal boss says it was left to him to convince Neymar of PSG's plans ahead of his world-record €222million transfer from Barcelona

"I always felt supported by president Nasser," he said. "For example, when we were about to sign Neymar, it was up to me to explain in person to Ney that we were going to build the team around him.

"With such a phenomenal player, you can't tell him there is already a team there and that he will have to adapt. You have to create the team for him. Otherwise, he wouldn't come - that's for sure.

"The president and the directors discuss the contract, but it's the coach who has to convince him of the game plan."

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo defended Kylian Mbappe following his strop at being substituted early by head coach Thomas Tuchel, insisting the star forward is not a "spoiled child".

Mbappe vocally questioned Tuchel's decision to replace him after 68 minutes with PSG already five goals ahead in last weekend's 5-0 Ligue 1 rout of Montpellier.

Former France international Christophe Dugarry criticised the youngster's reaction and said he has lost respect for his 21-year-old compatriot.

However, Mbappe has since played 90 minutes in back-to-back games for the Ligue 1 champions and Leonardo attempted to further play down the incident amid links to Real Madrid.

"I heard things about Mbappe. On his personality. It makes me feel uncomfortable," he told Canal+. 

"If a player leaves the field, and talks to the coach, okay... he is at fault. We will talk about it and settle this. But to say that he is a spoiled child? I don't accept that. 

"He's an adorable, very committed person and a fantastic player."

Mbappe has formed a formidable partnership with Neymar this term, scoring 38 goals between them in all competitions.

And Leonardo questioned the negativity surrounding PSG, who are on a 21-game unbeaten run in all competitions.

"In the top four players in the world, there is one 35 years old, another 32 years old and the other two are 28 and 21 years old," Leonardo said.

"And those two are with us. Let us rejoice. I am a happy sports director. We should take advantage of that. It's the joy of football. We have to stop talking about the problems."

PSG remain on course for a domestic and European quadruple as they prepare for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Borussia Dortmund later this month.

The French giants have been eliminated at this stage in the past three seasons, but Leonardo vowed his side will take on Bundesliga outfit Dortmund with no fear.

"In recent times, I have taken a step back and I have tried to see how it is going [around the club]," he said. 

"Whenever the knockout round of the Champions League looms, there is the same trial. 

"We're starting to talk too much. We say that this team is not ready, that Ligue 1 is not at the level, that the club does not know how to manage its stars. 

"I want to understand why? Because we have the right to be happy from time to time. The team is first, with a 12-point lead. We have an incredible squad. 

"Our best players are in shape. Why do we have to be worried every time when the last 16 arrives? Why do we have to stress? It won't be a matter of life and death. 

"We're just playing a Champions League match. I think the team is ready. If we win, that's good. Otherwise, too bad, PSG will continue to grow. We have to get out of this."

Barcelona supporters can expect to see more of young attacker Alex Collado but head coach Quique Setien admitted Riqui Puig's first-team chances could be limited this season.

Collado has made just one LaLiga appearance this term, playing for five minutes as a substitute in Barca's 2-0 defeat at Valencia in January, while Puig has played for 22 minutes across two cameos.

The pair are seen as two of the club's brightest prospects as established players like Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets enter the latter stages of their careers, and Setien indicated that Collado's ability to play as part of a front three means he is of more immediate use than central midfielder Puig.

"They are two very different kind of players," Setien told reporters.

"We try to think which player we need most at certain times of the game. They're two very good players and they've both got chances to play. We're getting to know them better every day.

"We're seeing what they're capable of doing for us in every training session. It's a time of learning.

"With Riqui there are a lot of players in the position where he would normally play but Collado, playing up front, he's going to get chances. We'll have to see how things go."

Setien saw his players get knocked out of the Copa del Rey on Thursday, when they were beaten 1-0 by Athletic Bilbao.

As he prepared for Sunday's trip to face his former club Real Betis, he reflected on the positive aspects of that game and indicated he is hopeful of ending a three-game winless run on the road in LaLiga.

"It's about the dynamic of how this team has been playing away from home for some time," said Setien. "The other day I thought we improved a lot but unfortunately the result didn't go our way.

"We need to try to take the good conclusions from that game and it's a question of getting back out onto the pitch, playing another game. There's not much time to dwell on your sorrows at this club. You need to be fresh and lucid.

"We've improved a lot. We're seeing continuity but the three points are important because we want to be chasing for the title until the end.

"It's time to ratify the improvement in the cup at a really difficult ground.

"We were hurt by losing the cup game but we've learned a lot from it."

Barcelona head coach Quique Setien believes the club have taken a step forward, despite crashing out of the Copa del Rey on Thursday.

Inaki Williams' 93rd-minute goal condemned last season's runners-up Barca to a 1-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao in the quarter-finals.

Barca have lost back-to-back away games under Setien, who replaced Ernesto Valverde last month, however the Spanish boss maintains the LaLiga champions are heading in the right direction.

"Taking into account what has happened to us in other games from home, we have taken a step forward in terms of what we have to improve," Setien told reporters.

"It is the same as ever; there are days when you have one chance and put it in, and there are days where you have ten and can't do it. There isn't a reasonable explanation.

"I have never known what to blame it on. Their goal came from a play that wasn't dangerous. There are things that can't be controlled and this is one of them.

"Everything went well, except for the result. I am happy with the team's work."

Setien added: "We controlled the second half. Marc-Andre [ter Stegen] didn't have any saves to make and it was a shame because we had the game under control.

"We created several clear chances and they got the goal when there was no time for us to react. We looked good and we were the better team.

"We didn't win but it will come. It is a pity the competition doesn't give us the chance for revenge but we must be positive despite not deserving to be eliminated."

Barca – three points behind LaLiga leaders Real Madrid – travel to Real Betis on Sunday.

Gerard Pique said Barcelona's dressing room was united despite the LaLiga champions suffering a crushing blow in an already troubling week, eliminated by Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey.

A 1-0 defeat to Athletic saw Barcelona knocked out of the Copa in the quarter-finals on Thursday, with that familiar route to silverware now cut off to the 30-time winners.

The setback followed criticism from director of football Eric Abidal, who questioned the team's effort under former head coach Ernesto Valverde, which led to a rebuke from star man and captain Lionel Messi.

"It's not time to air the dirty washing. The dressing room is fully united," Barca defender Pique told reporters. "Elimination is a big blow but we said in the dressing room that we've taken a step forward and played well, despite all the noise that's been generated."

He added, according to several Spanish newspapers: "We have to focus on playing and winning. We have to return to winning ways. The players have the ability to keep winning and we are working on that every day, finding a better feel for the game."

With LaLiga and the Champions League still in their sights, Pique said of Barcelona, who are three points behind Real Madrid: "There is enough confidence and talent to be able to win the two remaining titles."

Pique hobbled off in the second half in Bilbao with what initially appeared to be a groin injury, but he said the blow was to his adductor and "not serious".

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu said Barcelona looked to be on the right track, after a match they could easily have won.

Messi and Antoine Griezmann missed clear chances before Inaki Williams headed the winner deep in second-half stoppage time.

"The first thing is to congratulate Athletic, who will be in the semi-finals, but I also thank the Barca fans who have come and I also congratulate the Barca players because they fought, dominated and played well. [Athletic] have only had one chance and they scored," Bartomeu told Barca TV.

He said that he appreciated Barcelona's "performance and ambition".

"The ambition and the attitude that I saw on the pitch encourages me with a view to LaLiga and the Champions League, so successes can come," Bartomeu added.

"I repeat that we had clear occasions, such as those of Griezmann and Messi, and we dominated. Now we focus on LaLiga and the Champions League, but I want to emphasise the ambition, the attitude and the work done. We deserved to go through."

Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets said, according to AS: "It is a sad day for everyone. We have two competitions that we have to keep fighting in. This does not stop, we have to continue, we have done things well and we have had the game quite under control. In an isolated play at the end we are out of the Copa."

Marco Reus will be sidelined for at least four weeks after suffering a muscle injury in Borussia Dortmund's DFB-Pokal loss to Werder Bremen on Tuesday. 

Lucien Favre's side were beaten 3-2 by the Bundesliga strugglers as Reus was forced off in the closing stages of a damaging evening for the visitors. 

Dortmund tweeted on Wednesday to confirm their captain would not be fit to return to training until next month, ruling him out of the Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain on February 18.

"Captain Marco Reus contracted a muscle injury in the DFB-Pokal," the tweet read.

"According to the current status, he will be able to start training again in around four weeks."

That timeframe would rule the attacking midfielder out of the next four top-flight matches, but he could be back in the reckoning for the trip to Paris on March 11.

Quique Setien described being appointed Barcelona coach as being beyond his "wildest dreams", calling the role the highest accolade in world football.

Setien – who left Real Betis in May 2019 – was named Barca coach in something of a surprise appointment on Monday following Ernesto Valverde's departure.

Barca great Xavi had been strongly linked with the job, though reportedly turned down the offer to succeed Valverde at this stage in the season.

And having been handed the opportunity to manage one of the world's biggest clubs, ex-Las Palmas coach Setien – who acknowledged his shock at the speed of the move – is convinced his eagerness for the job will be easy to transmit to Barca's star-studded squad, even if it will be impossible to improve on the team's past achievements.

"Without a doubt I want to thank this institution for the opportunity they've given me to come here," he said. 

"Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this. I'm someone who is very emotional and today is very special for me.

"I am excited to start with this project and that is the biggest thing I have to transmit to the players, we know we depend on the players.

"I need to transmit this desire, this enthusiasm, this will to win, this confidence that I have now and normally this is not very complicated for me to transmit it.

"We have had the first training session and everything has gone very quickly. [On Monday] I was walking around by the cows in my town and now I'm at the training ground at Barcelona coaching the best players in the world for a huge team which I'll never be able to improve upon.

"This is the highest accolade."

Thursday's defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana proved to be the final straw for Valverde, who took over at Camp Nou in 2017 and guided Barca to two LaLiga titles plus a Copa del Rey triumph.

Setien, though, lauded his predecessor's work. 

"I want to thank Ernesto. He's always seemed to be a very good person, he's always been very nice to me," the 61-year-old said. 

"I value the work he has done, how he is, his principles and many other things about him. I'm also trying to get some contact with him because there are many things from his work which are going to be very good for us.

"I want to thank him for leaving me with a side which are top of the league. You can imagine I was waiting for an opportunity. You always assume a team down at the bottom in a negative run of form.

"The work Ernesto has done and how he has left the team is something to be thankful for. It is not normal to be left with a side which are top of the league."

Josep Maria Bartomeu wasted little time in outlining his ambition for Barcelona under Quique Setien, and hopes his decision to part with Ernesto Valverde will result in a treble this season.

Valverde was sacked late Monday after a prolonged period of uncertainty following the Supercopa de Espana defeat to Atletico Madrid last week.

Barca board members sounded out former midfielder Xavi while there were widespread reports that Mauricio Pochettino, Ronald Koeman and Massimiliano Allegri were also high on Barca's wish-list.

They instead settled on Setien, handing the former Real Betis boss a contract until 2022 - although there is a break clause in 2021 due to club elections - and Bartomeu made clear he is hoping for instant results.

Speaking at Setien's presentation on Tuesday, the Barca president said: "The dynamic of the team could be improved. We are in the next round of the Champions League and the Copa is getting started but we felt the dynamic could be improved.

"We spoke about this many times with Valverde, very openly with him and we have always been very close to Ernesto Valverde with a good relationship and have always spoken about what could be improved.

"With this momentum and with this new dynamic we aspire to win LaLiga, the Champions League and the cup." 

Bartomeu admitted Barca had spoken to other coaches but insisted the repeated links had not come from the club themselves, adding: "Over the last weeks and months we have talked with other coaches to discuss the future. It is our obligation.

"We spoke to other coaches but we did not publish this information."

Setien is a renowned disciple of former Barca player and coach - and the man credited with the club's philosophy - Johan Cruyff and took charge of training for the first time on Tuesday.

His first game at the helm will be on Sunday when Granada visit Camp Nou.

Bartomeu said: "We all know Setien is a huge fan of Johan Cruyff's style and we share the same objectives."

Barca sporting director Eric Abidal was also thrilled to have Setien on board.

The former France defender said: "To have him here is a great joy for us. He's a coach who has shown through the teams that he has had that he has great skills.

"What I like most is the communication he has with his players, his way of working, his way of coaching.

"He is always focused on details. To compete at the highest level, the details are very important, whether it's in the league, the cup or the Champions League."

Given he delivered back-to-back LaLiga titles and left Barcelona still at the summit, Ernesto Valverde's departure appears perplexing on the surface.

There has been no great decline to speak of, no obvious player revolt and no boardroom bickering.

Why then have the Blaugrana opted to part ways with their head coach and replace him with Quique Setien, a man who could only lead Real Betis to a 10th-place finish last term?

We have taken a look at the five games which might have ultimately resulted in Valverde's exit.

Roma 3-0 Barcelona. Champions League quarter-final second leg. April 10, 2018.

After being beaten in both legs of the Supercopa de Espana by Real Madrid to begin his reign, things picked up for Valverde, who enjoyed a 36-match unbeaten run at the beginning of the 2017-18 LaLiga campaign.

However, two and a half weeks before that title triumph was sealed, Barcelona were stunned in Europe.

Valverde's side were in control of the tie having beaten the Serie A side 4-1 at home, but Roma became only the third side in Champions League history to overturn a first-leg deficit of three goals or more.

Greek defender Kostas Manolas scored the crucial third goal eight minutes from time as Roma went through on away goals and Valverde suffered his first, but not last, European humiliation.

Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona. Champions League semi-final second leg. May 7, 2019.

Fast forward a year and a case of deja vu, with Barca sitting pretty on a 3-0 first-leg lead in their last-four tie against Liverpool.

The Reds were without Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino for the return fixture at Anfield, where Divock Origi's early goal only gave them a sliver of hope.

Yet Barca looked shell-shocked as Georginio Wijnaldum's double was followed up by another Origi strike, Liverpool incredibly progressing to a final they would win.

Described in the Spanish press as a "debacle", "tragedy" and "historic failure", the writing seemed to be on the wall for Valverde from that point.

Barcelona 1-2 Valencia. Copa del Rey final. May 25, 2019. 

Not even a second LaLiga title could silence Valverde's doubters, who had more ammo when his team lost to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.

Valverde had hoped a victory would ease the pain of the Liverpool loss but Barca were stunned again, Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo putting Valencia 2-0 ahead before Lionel Messi pulled one back.

Rather than wield the axe, though, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu absolved Valverde of blame for the result.

 

Espanyol 2-2 Barcelona. LaLiga. January 4, 2020.

Away defeats to Athletic Bilbao, Granada and Levante would have looked costlier had the champions' nearest rivals Real Madrid not stumbled along themselves in the first half of this season.

Both teams' struggles were evident in a 0-0 Clasico draw at Camp Nou in December, but it was Barcelona's first result back after the mid-season break that would have set more alarm bells ringing.

Derby rivals Espanyol were bottom of the table and had not beaten Barca in LaLiga since 2009 but Frenkie de Jong was sent off as the strugglers claimed a 2-2 draw.

Barcelona 2-3 Atletico Madrid. Supercopa de Espana semi-final. January 9, 2020.

Five days later and it got even worse for Valverde and Barcelona.

Leading 2-1 in Saudi Arabia with nine minutes to go, the Blaugrana collapsed again late on, with Alvaro Morata and Angel Correa sending Atletico through to a final against their cross-city rivals Madrid.

It meant Barcelona had won just one of their previous five games, a sour note to end on for Valverde.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has revealed his opposition to suggestions the Champions League should expand in a move that could mean more games for Europe's elite teams.

According to a Daily Mail report, leading Premier League clubs including Liverpool are backing plans that could see the Champions League significantly restructured.

The group stage could grow from a six-match commitment to 10 games per team, the British newspaper said. Such a step could boost earnings potential but also have an impact on existing domestic football schedules.

Klopp's team lead the Premier League, and in the coming week they head to Qatar to compete in the Club World Cup, after earning a place in that event by winning the Champions League.

Injuries are beginning to take a toll at Anfield, with Georginio Wijnaldum joining the casualty list on Saturday when he suffered a muscle problem in the 2-0 win over Watford.

One Liverpool team will face Aston Villa in the EFL Cup on Tuesday, before another plays Monterrey at the Club World Cup a day later.

"The fixtures are like they are. You all like watching us suffering - that's how it is," Klopp said. "You look a little bit concerned, but at the end nobody cares really."

He added: "Today I read an article [saying that] the top clubs want to do more games in the Champions League or whatever. I am not involved in these plans. So that's absolute b******s as well.

"That's how it is. We can talk about everything but we have to cut off games, not be putting more in.

"Until then we have to do what we do and we will do that and we are quite positive about it.

"We need each point we can get because it's a tough and long season. You [the media] can make early judgements... but we can't. We just have to recover and play the next game."

Klopp dismissed the idea his team were off their game against Watford, who had enough chances to win the match rather than leave empty-handed in Nigel Pearson's first game as Hornets manager.

"No, just a difficult game. It was not an off-day," Klopp said. "We scored sensational goals.

"It was just a difficult game and I'm completely fine with that."

Klopp also cast a questioning look at the arrangements in place for FIFA's Club World Cup.

The opening matches have been played at Doha's Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, but all games from now on will be contested at the city's Khalifa International Stadium, with five fixtures due to be played on the same pitch in five days.

That scenario has come about because FIFA said in early December that the Education City Stadium, which had been due to host Liverpool's semi-final against Monterrey, plus the third-place play-off and final, was not ready in time to stage games at the tournament.

That venue is being built primarily for the 2022 World Cup.

Klopp recognised Liverpool would be going into a warmer climate after their seven-hour flight to the Middle East, but added: "I think it's raining there. Perhaps it doesn't help the pitch - the one pitch we are playing all on ... it's sensationally good organisation - where all the games are on one pitch and it's raining.

"I'm not sure if the people in Qatar are used to a lot of rain. We will see how the pitch will be. That's a bit of a problem."

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