Antoine Griezmann could be set to renew his contract at Barcelona.

The France international has faced criticism for failing to live up to expectations since joining Barca from Atletico Madrid last year.

However, Griezmann may join the list of players renewing with the LaLiga giants.

 

TOP STORY – GRIEZMANN SET FOR BARCELONA RENEWAL

Griezmann could be among the next group of players to renew at Barcelona, according to EFE.

It claims Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto may also re-sign, amid reports players are reducing their wages at the club.

It comes after Barcelona announced the re-signings of Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Gerard Pique, Frenkie de Jong and Clement Lenglet on Tuesday.

Griezmann scored 15 goals in 48 games for Barca last season, while he is yet to net in four appearances in 2020-21.

 

ROUND-UP

- A former Barcelona head coach could be set for a new job. Marca reports Palmeiras have made a move for Quique Setien after the departure of Vanderlei Luxemburgo.

- Despite signing Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias in the close season, Manchester City are reportedly look for another defender. Fabrizio Romano suggested the Premier League giants are monitoring Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres.

- Christian Eriksen's Inter future remains uncertain. CalcioMercato reports Inter turned down a loan bid from Borussia Dortmund in the close season, but the Serie A club could be open to the midfielder leaving in January.

- After Virgil van Dijk suffered a serious knee injury, Liverpool are linked with defenders. The Sun says Brighton and Hove Albion would demand at least £50million for Ben White if the Premier League champions make a move for the centre-back in January.

Juan Foyth has joined Villarreal on a season-long loan deal after signing a new contract with Tottenham.

The 22-year-old Argentina defender has not played a competitive game for Spurs this year and will spend the remainder of the 2020/21 campaign in Spain.

His move was announced on Sunday by Tottenham, who also said Foyth had signed a one-year extension to his deal with the Premier League club.

That means Foyth has a Tottenham contract that runs until 2023, but may have played his last game for the north London side.

Foyth has made 32 appearances since arriving from Estudiantes in August 2017, but the loan could become a permanent switch if Foyth impresses in LaLiga.

Villarreal, in announcing Foyth's signing, stated: "The loan agreement has a purchase option at the end of the season."

Foyth has been selected in Argentina's squad for their upcoming World Cup qualifying matches against Ecuador and Bolivia.

Atletico Madrid failed to register an on-target attempt in a LaLiga game at the Wanda Metropolitano for the first time as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Villarreal.

Luis Suarez made his first home start for Atleti but Diego Simeone's side struggled in attack, leading to them drawing a blank for a second successive outing.

Atletico were also shut out by Huesca in midweek, meaning they have had two 0-0 results in the opening three games of a league season for the first time in the competition's history.

Yet Simeone, who had seen his side open the 2020-21 campaign with a 6-1 thrashing of Granada, is not too concerned by the issue, praising his players for their attitude on Saturday.

"Sometimes it is difficult to explain this type of situation in which with the intentions the team had, we could not generate opportunities," the Atletico boss said.

"I have to stay with the good, though, and in general I like the intention and the attitude. The results are not those that we wanted, but I like the attitude.

"When it is like that you have to have patience to translate it into goals."

Atletico had 13 attempts but failed to work visiting goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo, meaning - for the fourth time in Simeone's reign - they did not muster a shot on target in a LaLiga fixture.

Suarez had three efforts before being replaced in the 70th minute by Diego Costa, part of a triple substitution by the Atleti boss that failed to inspire a late push for victory.

"I think that at all times the attitude and predisposition to try to hurt them was there," Simeone said.

"But then a bad touch or a bad pass to finish cost us, particularly when teams close very well, as Huesca and Villarreal did.

"You have to look for alternatives when presented with this scenario. We had nine corners and they had one, we will have to take better advantage of set-piece opportunities."

Atletico Madrid had to settle for a second successive 0-0 draw in LaLiga as they were held at home by Villarreal on Saturday. 

Diego Simeone's side began the new season with a resounding 6-1 thrashing of Granada at the Wanda Metropolitano but, after being shut out in midweek by Huesca, they failed to fire in attack once again. 

Not even Luis Suarez could inspire Atleti on his first home start, the Uruguayan unable to affect proceedings in the same way he did when introduced off the bench in that stunning opening win. 

Suarez - who scored twice in a 20-minute cameo against Granada following his move from Barcelona - struggled to make an impact before making way for Diego Costa, part of a triple substitution by Simeone in the 70th minute. 

Yannick Carrasco and Marcos Llorente were also introduced, yet a determined Villarreal stood firm through to the final whistle, picking up a useful point that sends them top of the table in the embryonic stages of the 2020-21 campaign. 

Atletico had failed to trouble Sergio Asenjo in the away goal during a tepid first half that saw them on top without truly threatening, Suarez having two of their six off-target attempts before the break.  

Indeed, the visitors had the only chance of note in the opening 45 minutes, Mario Gaspar's rising attempt from outside the penalty area forcing Jan Oblak to tip the ball over his crossbar.  

Villarreal's captain was again denied by the Atletico goalkeeper soon after the interval, this time with a low shot that was parried away by Oblak, while Gerard Moreno had a glorious late chance to secure victory for Unai Emery and his team. 

Picked out by substitute Samuel Chukwueze, the Spain international caught his volleyed attempt cleanly but sent it narrowly wide, one of few opportunities in a game that will not live long in the memory for those who witnessed it.

 

What does it mean? Atleti's lack of cutting edge a concern

The rout of Granada quickly raised expectations that the shackles could be cut free, but the arrival of Suarez was never going to see Simeone suddenly change his approach.

Still, if Atletico want to challenge for the trophy in LaLiga, rather than just be content with another top-four finish, they must avoid too many more results like this on home turf.

Despite having 13 attempts, none were on target. Their best effort was actually an inaccurate cross, sent in by full-back Renan Lodi.

No repeat from Suarez 

The striker not only managed a double but also provided an assist in the rout of Granada. However, he was a passenger here against Villarreal, having just 24 total touches before his departure when his side were still looking to break the deadlock.

Emery makes his point

Villarreal were thrashed on their previous away outing, going down 4-0 at Barcelona. Yet that result has been the outlier, rather than the norm, at the start of Emery's reign. The midfield screened their defensive colleagues superbly, Dani Parejo showing his willingness to do the dirty work by making five tackles.

What's next?

Domestic duties are put on hold as international football takes centre stage. Atleti's next outing is against Celta Vigo, quickly followed by a huge Champions League clash with Bayern Munich in Germany. As for Villarreal, they will play host to local rivals Valencia.

Atletico Madrid had to settle for a second successive 0-0 draw in LaLiga as they were held at home by Villarreal on Saturday. 

Diego Simeone's side began the new season with a resounding 6-1 thrashing of Granada at the Wanda Metropolitano but, after being shut out in midweek by Huesca, they failed to fire in attack once again. 

Not even Luis Suarez could inspire Atleti on his first home start, the Uruguayan unable to affect proceedings in the same way he did when introduced off the bench in that stunning opening win. 

Suarez - who scored twice in a 20-minute cameo against Granada following his move from Barcelona - struggled to make an impact before making way for Diego Costa, part of a triple substitution by Simeone in the 70th minute. 

Yannick Carrasco and Marcos Llorente were also introduced, yet a determined Villarreal stood firm through to the final whistle, picking up a useful point that sends them top of the table in the embryonic stages of the 2020-21 campaign. 

Atletico had failed to trouble Sergio Asenjo in the away goal during a tepid first half that saw them on top without truly threatening, Suarez having two of their six off-target attempts before the break.  

Indeed, the visitors had the only chance of note in the opening 45 minutes, Mario Gaspar's rising attempt from outside the penalty area forcing Jan Oblak to tip the ball over his crossbar.  

Villarreal's captain was again denied by the Atletico goalkeeper soon after the interval, this time with a low shot that was parried away by Oblak, while Gerard Moreno had a glorious late chance to secure victory for Unai Emery and his team. 

Picked out by substitute Samuel Chukwueze, the Spain international caught his volleyed attempt cleanly but sent it narrowly wide, one of few opportunities in a game that will not live long in the memory for those who witnessed it.

Joao Felix has once again started the season positively and Diego Simeone hopes the Atletico Madrid forward can maintain his form this time around.

After his €126million arrival from Benfica, Joao Felix contributed two goals and an assist in his first six LaLiga games for Atletico in 2019-20 but the remainder of his campaign was punctuated by injuries that made it difficult for him to consistently produce.

Atleti started this season by thrashing Granada 6-1, with the Portugal international winning a penalty, assisting a goal for Angel Correa and scoring one of his own in an impressive display.

Although Simeone's side were held to a goalless draw by newly promoted Huesca in midweek, Joao Felix had six attempts on goal and created two chances for his team-mates.

The Atleti boss hopes to see more of the same from Joao Felix when his team entertain Villarreal at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday.

"Last season, in the pre-season, he had the same enthusiasm and joy in the game that he's showing now," Simeone said in a news conference on Friday.

"In the first four or five games, until he suffered the injury, he made a very good start to the season.

"Let's hope he can maintain it, keep growing with the team and we can continue to benefit from a player in whom we have a lot of hope."

Atleti only lost four times in LaLiga last season but drew 16 games as they finished third, 17 points adrift of champions Real Madrid.

Simeone expects his team to improve this term but refuses to take his eyes off the task at hand and focus on long-term goals.

"It is an important season because the players have grown compared to the previous season," he said.

"We will not move away from going game by game… what counts is the game against Villarreal.

"We will face a great team with great footballers who will compete to be among the top positions in the league."

AC Milan must navigate a tricky route through the Europa League group stage after surviving a dramatic play-off.

Stefano Pioli's team will face Celtic, a team they have frequently battled with in the Champions League, along with Sparta Prague and French club Lille in Group H.

Milan looked like being eliminated on Thursday until a last-ditch spot-kick in extra-time against Portuguese side Rio Ave gave them a 2-2 draw, and the Rossoneri went on to win 9-8 on penalties after a lengthy shoot-out.

They have been regular foes of Celtic in the Champions League, with the teams drawn to face each other in four seasons from 2004-05 to 2013-14, and Milan also lost to Lille in that competition during the 2006-07 group stage.

A 2-0 setback against the Ligue 1 side did not prevent Milan going on to become European champions in that campaign, but they are fallen giants in Italy who are slowly getting back into shape under Pioli.

Jose Mourinho's Tottenham will tackle Ludogorets, LASK and Royal Antwerp in Group J, with the Portuguese manager looking for a repeat of the Europa League triumph he achieved with Manchester United in the 2016-17 season.

Friday's draw also saw Roma handed tests against Young Boys, CFR Cluj and CSKA Sofia in Group A, while Group F will see Serie A and LaLiga collide, with Napoli and Real Sociedad drawn alongside Dutch outfit AZ and Rijeka of Croatia.

Arsenal, led by Mikel Arteta, will face Austrian side Rapid Vienna, Norwegian outfit Molde and Irish club Dundalk.

Europa League group stage draw:

Group A: Roma, Young Boys, CFR Cluj, CSKA Sofia
Group B: Arsenal, Rapid Vienna, Molde, Dundalk
Group C: Bayer Leverkusen, Slavia Prague, Hapoel Beer Sheva, Nice
Group D: Benfica, Standard Liege, Rangers, Lech Poznan
Group E: PSV, PAOK, Granada, Omonoia
Group F: Napoli, Real Sociedad, AZ, Rijeka
Group G: Braga, Leicester City, AEK, Zorya Luhansk
Group H: Celtic, Sparta Prague, AC Milan, Lille
Group I: Villarreal, Qarabag, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Sivasspor
Group J: Tottenham, Ludogorets, LASK, Royal Antwerp
Group K: CSKA Moscow, Dinamo Zagreb, Feyenoord, Wolfsberg
Group L: Gent, Red Star Belgrade, Hoffenheim, Slovan Liberec

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman was impressed by Ansu Fati's impact in Sunday's season-opening 4-0 win over Villarreal but he tempered excitement around the teenager as he revealed pre-season concerns.

Fati, 17, was in devastating form for Barca at Camp Nou as Villarreal were swept aside, scoring two fine first-half goals in a five-minute period, before then winning a penalty that was converted by Lionel Messi.

With Messi's future seemingly unclear, Fati had been billed as the poster boy of a new era at Barca – fittingly it was the Spain international who got the ball rolling in style.

And while Koeman was impressed – the Dutchman had been shown beaming as he embraced Fati after his 70th-minute withdrawal – he was keen to remind both the player and fans that the youngster still has much to learn.

"We must highlight the game and performance of Ansu Fati," Koeman told reporters. "I was complaining a little last week about him not having the maximum level of performance in the pre-season.

"He is only 17 years old, he will have a great future, but he must improve things. Sometimes he lacks a bit of concentration.

"One of my criticisms was in the friendly against Elche – he was not good. Today he was. His intensity out wide was immense, he played a great game and we took advantage of his qualities."

Sergio Busquets hit a similar note, stressing the need for patience with Fati.

"We have to be calm with him, we know the potential he has," he told Movistar. "He is tremendous for his age, but we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves.

"He has many team-mates from whom he can continue to learn so that his ceiling is as high as possible.

"You have to let him play his football and take advantage of the fact that he is at a good point."

Lionel Messi has dominated the headlines for Barcelona since their 2019-20 season finished, but he showed little sign of letting off-field matters impact his performances as he helped secure a 4-0 win over Villarreal.

Barca were in action on Sunday for the first time since losing 8-2 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals last month, a result that seemed to start a tumultuous chain reaction at the club.

Quique Setien was sacked and replaced by Ronald Koeman, Luis Suarez was deemed surplus to requirements and ultimately sold, that angered an already disillusioned Messi – who attempted to force a transfer, and supporters subsequently launched a bid to oust president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

But the Blaugrana returned to the pitch and blew Villarreal away to begin the Koeman era victoriously, Barca's baggage seemingly left to one side and forgotten about for an evening at Camp Nou.

Messi was at the fore as he usually is and, after seeing Ansu Fati terrorise the visitors with two early goals, the superstar Barca captain dispatched a penalty that the teenager won.

That goal meant Messi has scored in 17 successive LaLiga seasons, making him just the fourth player to ever achieve the feat.

Real Madrid greats Santillana and Sergio Ramos – who scored against Real Betis on Saturday – both netted in 17 consecutive LaLiga campaigns, with the former doing so between 1971 and 1988.

The only player to have scored in more successive LaLiga seasons is Agustin Gainza, who reached 19 straight campaigns for Athletic Bilbao from 1940 to 1959.

Given the uncertainty around Messi's future, one has to wonder whether the 33-year-old will make it to 18.

Lionel Messi's desire to leave Barcelona showed no sign of impacting his on-pitch performance as he and Ansu Fati led the 4-0 dismantling of Villarreal on Sunday, marking a triumphant start to the Ronald Koeman era.

Barca have been engulfed by all manner of turmoil since losing 8-2 to Bayern Munich in their previous competitive match on August 14, with the unsuccessful attempt to force a transfer by club talisman Messi undoubtedly the major headline, but as they started their 2020-21 season they proved this is not a team to write off lightly.

Fati got the ball rolling with an impressive double in a five-minute period, before then winning the penalty that was scored by Messi, who subsequently saw a cross of his turned in by Villarreal defender Pau Torres.

Unai Emery's side tightened up in the second half, with Barca consequentially having a little less freedom in the final third, but Villarreal's slight improvement had no impact on what was an easy start for Koeman in LaLiga.

With Messi's future up in the air, Fati had seemingly been billed as the poster boy of this new era at Barca and fittingly he was their inspiration here, opening the scoring 15 minutes in with an emphatic first-time finish from Jordi Alba's cut-back.

The teenager was decisive again a few moments later, latching on to Philippe Coutinho's throughball and coolly slotting past the helpless Sergio Asenjo, who also had no answer to Messi's penalty, which was won by the omnipresent Fati as well.

Things got even worse for the visitors on the stroke of half-time, Torres poking Messi's cross beyond Asenjo as the unlikely spectre of Sergio Busquets lurked for a tap-in.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Barca's intensity did drop after the interval and Villarreal became a more compact unit following a couple of half-time changes.

Koeman took the opportunity to give Fati a bit of a rest with 20 minutes to go, with another talented teenager – Pedri – given the chance to come off the bench for his LaLiga debut after joining from Las Palmas.

Miralem Pjanic and Francisco Trincao were also given their debuts as substitutes, with the young Portuguese winger almost adding a fifth goal when stinging the palms of Asenjo, but Villarreal managed to avoid any further embarrassment.

What does it mean? A smooth landing for Koeman

The first five-and-a-bit weeks of Koeman's reign had been anything but straightforward, from watching the fallout of Barca's Champions League humiliation to partaking in the unceremonious dumping of Luis Suarez that – in part – contributed to Messi's disillusionment.

Even just this week Messi vocalised his disdain for the Barca hierarchy following their treatment of Suarez, who earlier enjoyed a goalscoring debut for Atletico Madrid.

But once out on the pitch, Barca's baggage vanished. While this certainly remains a flawed squad, Messi, Coutinho and Fati provided a devastating reminder that it is also a group with immense attacking ability.

Fati sinks Yellow Submarine

While Messi certainly did well with all eyes on him, Fati was the standout, even more so given his age.

In scoring twice, Fati became the youngest player from Europe's top five leagues to net 10 times in all competitions since 2019-20 began, but he also won the penalty and provided a couple of key passes before his 70th-minute withdrawal.

The Griezmann conundrum lingers on

It will be hoped that Koeman finds the secret to getting the best out of Antoine Griezmann this term.

Leading the attack in Suarez's place might help in the long run, but he was practically anonymous here, touching the ball just 30 times (seven fewer than goalkeeper Neto), having only one shot and failing to create a single chance in his 78 minutes on the pitch.

What's next?

Barca go to Celta Vigo on Thursday, while Villarreal will hope to bounce back at home to Deportivo Alaves a day earlier.

Ronald Koeman insisted he was not "the bad guy" in Luis Suarez's transfer away from Barcelona, although he could understand Lionel Messi's anger at the move.

Suarez, third on the list of all-time Barcelona goal scorers, left Camp Nou this week for Atletico Madrid.

It was reported Suarez was one of a number of senior stars informed by new coach Koeman they would have to leave the club following an underwhelming 2019-20 season.

But Koeman suggested some portrayals of this conversation were not entirely accurate, saying Suarez could have stayed but would have had a reduced role.

"It seemed that I had been the bad guy in this movie, but it is not like that," Koeman said ahead of the Blaugrana's LaLiga opener against Villarreal.

"Since the call [regarding Suarez's future], I have shown respect for him and I have always told him that it can be difficult to play but, if he stayed, he would be one of the squad.

"Before I signed the contract, the club was thinking about things, and I have tried to support those things. They are not just decisions of the coach.

"Luis and I respect each other and we have spoken clearly about his future. He had the opportunity to go to Atletico and I wish all the luck in the world."

Suarez's exit prompted a furious Instagram post from captain Messi, whose own attempted departure was blocked by the club.

Messi said Suarez did not deserve "to get kicked out like [he] did", adding he was not surprised by Barca's actions.

Koeman responded: "It is normal for him to be upset that a friend has left, but I have no doubt about Messi. I have seen him train."

The former Netherlands coach, who would not rule out moves for Lautaro Martinez or Memphis Depay, is not concerned by the tumultuous nature of his early Barca reign.

"If you ask the coaches who have been at Barca, they will surely tell you that they have never had a quiet day," he said.

"I knew that when I had to face changes I would have people in favour and others against. I knew it.

"No problem, it is part of being in the best club in the world, although I hope there is a little more peace of mind."

It is 16 years since Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid were all beaten to the Spanish title. Valencia were the victors then.

The season before saw Real Sociedad push Madrid all the way in the title race; Sevilla entered the final day of the 2006-07 campaign with a chance of an unlikely success, while Villarreal finished second the following year.

In more ways than one, it feels like a bygone era. As the money in football grew exponentially, so did the margin for error for the biggest clubs.

Atletico managed to buck the trend, re-establishing themselves as a top club through smart recruitment, plenty of money and finding a coach in Diego Simeone who was not only able to get the best out of players, but improve them.

Although they haven't quite kicked on in the manner many might have expected, stagnating perhaps, Atletico have finished in the top three every season since 2011-12.

But ahead of 2020-21's kick-off on Saturday, there is a feeling there might finally be the possibility for other clubs to join the party again.

With Madrid, champions though they are, by no means spectacular and seemingly reluctant to spend, Barcelona tearing themselves apart from the inside and Atletico in stasis, now seems to be as good a time as any for a challenge to come from elsewhere.

Sevilla and Villarreal will hope it's their time.

"Why can't we dream?"

In the past 14 years, if any club has mastered knockout football, it's Sevilla. Six UEFA Cup/Europa League trophies now fill the museum at their atmospheric Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan home – no other team have won as many titles in UEFA competitions in that time.

So far they have failed to elevate themselves to the next level, though, with only one genuine title challenge in the same period – it's difficult to even consider them Champions League regulars either.

But their most recent Europa League success felt a bit different. Their route to the final was tricky, beating Roma, Wolves and Manchester United, before winning 3-2 against a resurgent – and expensively assembled – Inter in the showpiece.

It was a statement of intent, a declaration of ambition – it was the Europa League, but they beat Champions League-level opponents to win it.

The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly impacted upon the transfer market, and that has hampered the way Sevilla usually work. Sporting director Monchi makes no secret of the fact the club must sell every year in order to build a squad they otherwise would not be able to afford.

But the flipside to that is, for arguably the first time since Monchi first took up his role in 2000, Sevilla will begin the season with a settled squad. Sergio Reguilon and Ever Banega are the only major departures, while Oscar Rodriguez and Ivan Rakitic are fine acquisitions to replace the latter.

Coach Julen Lopetegui took a while to win over supporters, but by the end of the season he had Sevilla looking consistent and difficult to beat, setting a new club record of 21 matches unbeaten in all competitions.

That being said, Lucas Ocampos aside, the jury is out on their attack. Youssef En-Nesyri and Luuk de Jong failed to reach double figures for goals in LaLiga, and one gets the impression Sevilla will struggle to reach the next level without a deadlier finisher in the squad – their haul of 54 in 2019-20 was not especially remarkable.

But at the back Sevilla were frequently excellent, their 34 goals conceded being the third-fewest in the league and the lowest – by 13 – they have managed over the past five years.

The transformation in the team's style of play has been significant. They went from 35 fast breaks in 2018-19 to 19 last term, made almost 3,000 more passes and became increasingly direct, with headed attempts on goal up to 93 from 75.

But again, their main problem comes back to goals – they dropped 20 points from winning positions, and when you look at their 13 draws, seven were in matches where Sevilla netted first, and five of those finished 1-1. An extra goal in each of those five games would equate to 10 more points across the season.

Enough to win then the title? Not quite, but it highlights the fine margins - clubs like Sevilla don't have the room for error that Barca and Madrid do. They have to be more ruthless, and if they are, who's to say where they'll end up.

"Why can't we dream [about winning LaLiga]?" asked club president Jose Castro, quoted on the front cover of Marca recently. Challenging for the title is the next step and they look readier now than they have in 13 years.

Yellow Submarine ready to make a splash

The mess at nearby Valencia has proven particularly beneficial for Villarreal. Los Che are financially crippled, not in Europe this season and the whole club appears to be at odds with itself.

But few expected to see certain key players leave.

Captain Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin headed for the Ceramica, joining Villarreal for a combined figured of just €8m – the former was a free transfer.

Landing Spain international Parejo represents a remarkable coup for Villarreal. He had been a long-term servant at Valencia, spending nine years there and developing into one of LaLiga's most complete midfielders.

His arrival at Villarreal could be a game-changer, while Coquelin has also proven himself dependable in LaLiga. Add to that pair the precocious talents of Takefusa Kubo, a loan arrival from Madrid, and there's plenty of cause for optimism.

The Yellow Submarine finished fifth last term, 10 points adrift of Sevilla in fourth, but until the latter stages they had pushed Lopetegui's men - and Atletico - hard.

Villarreal's end-of-season struggles led to the sacking of Javi Calleja as coach, but in Unai Emery they have a replacement with pedigree, who also has a point to prove.

No one is expecting Villarreal to challenge for the title, but given the positives of 2019-20 and their impressive business off the field, there's certainly reason for optimism regarding a top-four push. Whether that also puts them in touch with the leaders depends on the form of Barca, Madrid and Atletico.

Defensively they will need to improve – 49 goals conceded meant only two teams in the top 10 let in more. At the other end of the pitch, they netted 63, making them the third-highest scorers in the division.

With Paco Alcacer, Gerard Moreno and Samuel Chukwueze all still there, it seems unlikely they will suddenly have problems in attack this term.

Their mentality was also questioned at times and it's easy to understand why when you consider they gained just four points from losing positions, while they also spurned 52 big chances. Although a slight decrease from the season before (54), those totals of big chances gone begging in each of the last two years were a significant increase on the previous three campaigns.

One of the main differences between Villarreal and Sevilla last season was the latter's superior resilience, as they gained three times as many points (12) from losing positions, but the right coach can inspire changes in such areas – Emery had the very same effect on Los Nervionenses in their run of three successive Europa League wins from 2014 to 2016.

He may have been criticised back then for not doing better in LaLiga, but in Europe Emery's Sevilla never knew when they were beaten and always seemed to have immense belief.

Villarreal will do well to mount a title challenge, that much is clear, but they look set to be a force to be reckoned with. The Yellow Submarine can summon everything necessary to make a splash in 2020-21.

It seems little progress was made between Barcelona and Lionel Messi.

Messi, 33, has sensationally requested to leave the LaLiga giants, but the transfer saga looks set to drag on.

A meeting between the parties was tipped to provide some clarity, but it seems little has changed.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI, BARCELONA YET TO REACH AGREEMENT

Messi and Barcelona did not reach an agreement on Wednesday, according to widespread reports in Spain.

AS reports Messi is insisting he leaves, while Barca are refusing to negotiate.

Messi has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester City, while Paris Saint-Germain, Inter and Juventus have also been credited with an interest.

According to The Telegraph, Messi could leave for as little as €100million.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Barcelona and Luis Suarez has also been linked with a move away from Camp Nou. Gianluca Di Marzio reports the forward has almost agreed terms with Juventus, who may pay Barcelona a small fee for the 33-year-old. Suarez is out of contract next year.

- Liverpool are seemingly still trying to sign Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara. RMC Sport reports Liverpool is Thiago's only choice despite links to Manchester United.

- Inter Miami could be set for a huge signing. ESPN reports Juventus forward Gonzalo Higuain is very close to agreeing to personal terms with the MLS club.

- After a fine loan spell at Roma, Chris Smalling is wanted by the Serie A club. Gianluca Di Marzio reports there is confidence from Roma they can get a permanent deal done for the Manchester United defender, who could sign a three-year deal.

- Roma and Manchester United may yet be involved in another deal. CalcioMercato reports Roma are looking at United midfielder Fred on a loan deal with an obligation to buy for €20m (£17.8m) to €25m (£22.2m).

- Emiliano Martinez continues to be linked with a move from Arsenal. The Telegraph reports Villarreal, who have former Arsenal boss Unai Emery in charge, are considering the goalkeeper if he is told he will not be Arsenal's first choice this season.

Dani Parejo has joined Villarreal on a four-year contract, leaving rivals Valencia where he was captain.

The transfer became the second between the two clubs to go through on Wednesday, with Parejo following Francis Coquelin to El Madrigal - reportedly for a cut-price combined fee of just €13million.

Valencia have already sold Ferran Torres to Manchester City in recent weeks and pressure appears to be building on owner Peter Lim.

Club great Santiago Canizares questioned "the sale of your two best midfielders", with new head coach Javi Gracia yet to take charge of a competitive fixture.

Parejo played 383 times for Valencia since signing from Getafe in 2011 and had spoken of wanting to retire at the club despite reports of his looming departure.

However, Torres, following his move to City, said Parejo "wasn't a good captain with me".

"He's a great player but I never had a relationship with him," winger Torres said of the 31-year-old.

Valencia released a short statement as Parejo's departure was confirmed, thanking the player for "all his effort and commitment", echoing the response to Coquelin's move.

Villarreal have completed the signing of Francis Coquelin from rivals Valencia, with Dani Parejo seemingly set to follow.

Former Arsenal midfielder Coquelin has signed a four-year deal with Villarreal, having spent two and a half seasons with Valencia, winning the 2018-19 Copa del Rey.

It is anticipated Parejo, the Valencia skipper, will join his team-mate in making the short trip to El Madrigal.

Parejo had previously spoken of retiring at Valencia but was subsequently criticised by new Manchester City signing Ferran Torres.

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