Sergio Busquets acknowledged Barcelona cannot afford to continue making costly defensive errors if they are to turn their season around after a dismal defeat at Cadiz.

Barca went down 2-1 in Andalusia on Saturday to extend their winless run away from home in LaLiga to four matches.

The winning goal, scored by Alvaro Negredo, came after a dreadful mix-up at the back as Clement Lenglet failed to control a simple throw-in and Marc-Andre ter Stegen's clearance was charged down.

The goalkeeper was not blameless, but the decisive strike went down as a Lenglet error, according to Opta, his first in 99 league games for the Blaugrana.

While it was a rare lapse for the centre-back, these mistakes are becoming worryingly common among his team-mates.

In their past three away games, from which Barca have taken just a point, Ronald Koeman's side have conceded three of four goals due to errors.

Neto was embarrassingly tackled in the draw at Deportivo Alaves, before Ter Stegen needlessly charged from his line in the one-goal defeat to LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid.

Even the opener at Cadiz, although not deemed an error, came after Oscar Mingueza aimed a header at his own goal, allowing Alvaro Gimenez to tuck away the rebound.

It meant Barca lost despite boasting 82.1 per cent of the possession, the second-most for a beaten side in LaLiga since 2005-06, behind only the 2013-14 Blaugrana team at Granada (82.28 per cent in a 1-0 defeat).

"We reacted, but it costs us much more if there are two goals," midfielder Busquets told Movistar. "We made a mistake and then there was half an hour left when we equalised, but we made another mistake.

"Individual mistakes are costing us a lot. We will have to correct that, have more fortune, and continue."

Barca have had six errors leading to shots and three to goals in LaLiga this term, yet their three such mistakes in Champions League matches – including one from Lenglet – have gone unpunished.

Koeman's men lead their European group with five wins from five and can clinch top spot against Juventus on Tuesday.

"In the Champions League, the team seems different," Busquets added. "I do not know why.

"What I can say is that, in recent games, occasional errors turn the game against us. If they score a goal, they close up at the back.

"We cannot blame ourselves for attitude or commitment but this costs you games."

The meeting with the Bianconeri provides a welcome distraction from what is turning into a particularly testing league campaign, with Barca way down in seventh and already 12 points behind Atleti.

Busquets said: "There are many defeats. It is clear that there is a lot of LaLiga left, but the more we lose the more we fall away from the top positions."

Lionel Messi's goal and his celebration in honour of Diego Maradona were "great in every sense", according to Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman.

Messi scored in fine style to cap a 4-0 victory over Osasuna at Camp Nou on Sunday, a game that was preceded by a tribute to former Barca star Maradona, who died on Wednesday.

Having found the net, Messi removed his Barca shirt to reveal a Newell's Old Boys jersey bearing Maradona's famous number 10. The 1986 World Cup winner spent a season at the club, where Messi was later a youth player, towards the end of his career.

Koeman was impressed both with his captain's finish and with the way he chose to pay his respects to his Argentine compatriot.

"These are the things of a great player: first because of the play and the goal, and second because of the gesture towards Maradona. It was something really great in every sense," Koeman said.

"I didn't know Leo was going to do that celebration."

Antoine Griezmann was arguably Barca's star performer against Osasuna, assisting Philippe Coutinho's goal after having scored a stunning volley three minutes before half-time.

The France international at last appears to be finding his feet for the Catalans, having been directly involved in six goals in his past six matches after contributing to just one in the previous 20.

"Antoine looked very good today," said Koeman. "From his position, he played with a lot of freedom, he gave an assist and scored a great goal. This is the player we want.

"I don't think he has changed. He always worked hard to have this opportunity, but he scored a great goal and now it seems he feels freer on the pitch and that's a positive."

The opening goal was scored by Martin Braithwaite, who has scored in consecutive matches for the first time since January for Leganes and has contributed three goals and one assist in his most recent four games.

"We needed more of a number nine today to fix the centre-backs and to be able to find more space behind a team that closes up at the back," Koeman said.

"Martin is working very well. We know the team works well in defence, they played with five at the back, and we had to play with a high rhythm with the ball to look for goal."

The only sour note for Barca was the loss of defender Clement Lenglet to what looked like an ankle problem, with Koeman having already seen Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti and Ronald Araujo succumb to injuries.

However, the coach hopes his remaining senior centre-back has not suffered anything serious.

"I have spoken with the doctor and it seems we will have to wait for tomorrow for tests, but it does not seem that serious," Koeman said.

"I don't know about Wednesday's game [against Ferencvaros in the Champions League] but I hope it's nothing major."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be ready to extend his contract at Milan after a fine start to the season. 

Ibrahimovic returned to the Serie A club in January, extending his deal in August through until the end of the 2020-21 season. 

However, the veteran striker could be set to remain at the club for longer, per speculation in Italy.

 

TOP STORY – IBRAHIMOVIC COULD RENEW AT MILAN UNTIL 2022

Ibrahimovic's agent Mino Raiola is already studying a plan to extend the striker's deal at Milan until 2022, according to Corriere della Sera.

The 39-year-old has scored four goals in two Serie A games for league leaders Milan this season, including a brace in the derby win over rivals Inter at the weekend.

Ibrahimovic netted 10 goals and provided five assists in 18 league appearances in 2019-20.

ROUND-UP

- Unhappy about being left on the bench against Crotone, Paulo Dybala's future at Juventus is again a subject of interest. However, Tuttosport reports the aim is still for the playmaker – who is contracted until 2022 – to renew his deal before January.

- Barcelona could be set for good news. Goal reports Barcelona are working on new deals for Frenkie de Jong and Clement Lenglet after agreeing to a contract with goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Meanwhile, AS says Gerard Pique is ready to accept a pay cut.

- Phil Jones is yet to play for Manchester United this season and could leave in January. The Sun reports United could demand £20million for the defender, who is contracted until 2023.

- Maurizio Sarri could be set for a return to coaching. CalcioMercato reports the former Juventus and Chelsea boss is a target for Fiorentina amid pressure on Giuseppe Iachini after the club collected just four points from their opening four Serie A games of the season.

- Out of contract at Marseille at season's end, Florian Thauvin could be set for a move. Le 10 Sport says Milan are interested in the forward.

- With Virgil van Dijk out due to a serious knee injury, Liverpool could be looking for a defender in January. Football Insider says Brighton and Hove Albion defender Ben White remains on the Premier League champions' radar.

Ronald Koeman felt Clement Lenglet was unfortunate to be sent off in Barcelona's 3-0 win at Celta Vigo but was full of praise for the way his side coped with being a man down.

Lenglet was shown a second yellow card late in the first half after referee Carlos del Cerro Grande felt the defender impeded Denis Suarez with his arm.

Barca were one goal up at the time courtesy of Ansu Fati's strike and went on to make it two LaLiga wins out of two, Lucas Olaza scoring an own goal after brilliant work from Lionel Messi and Sergi Roberto adding a third in stoppage time.

Koeman had sympathy for Lenglet, yet felt it was more important to discuss the character shown by the Blaugrana on a wet and windy Thursday at Balaidos.

"You can debate whether it was a yellow or not," the Barca boss is quoted as saying by Marca. "It was a tough punishment. It's difficult being a referee. It's a decision we don't have to discuss.

"It was more important to talk about how to play with a man down than to discuss that.

"I'm very proud of this team in today's match. We worked very well and played with a lot of discipline in the team, with one man down.

"We're doing a job good. These results invite us to think that we're on the right track."

Fati looked sharp after also scoring twice in the 4-0 rout of Villarreal on Sunday, while Messi was outstanding yet again on a day which saw Barca draw Juventus in the group stage of the Champions League.

Koeman said of the attacking duo: "They were very good, like the whole team. Leo worked a lot without the ball."

Lionel Messi tormented Celta Vigo and Ansu Fati scored his third goal in two LaLiga games as 10-man Barcelona secured a 3-0 victory in horrendous conditions at Balaidos.

Fati followed up his double in a 4-0 rout of Villarreal on Sunday by scoring the opening goal on Thursday before Barca defender Clement Lenglet was harshly sent off for a second bookable offence late in the first half.

Celta were unable to capitalise on their numerical advantage and Lucas Olaza's own goal, created by the mercurial Messi, gave Ronald Koeman's side breathing space.

Messi also had a goal disallowed for offside when he looked to be level, but the Blaugrana were not to be denied another three points in the wind and rain and Sergi Roberto added the final flourish in stoppage time.

Barca knocked the ball around with a swagger following their demolition of Villarreal and were in front after 11 minutes when Fati took a first-time pass from Philippe Coutinho and poked home with the outside of his right foot.

Lenglet was cautioned for upending Gabri Veiga, who had a shot palmed away by Neto, and Barca breathed a sigh of relief when Gerard Pique's red card for a professional foul on Denis Suarez was overturned with the midfielder offside.

Pique's fellow defender Lenglet was given his marching orders three minutes before the break, though, when Carlos del Cerro Grande harshly adjudged him to have impeded former Barca man Suarez for a second yellow.

Koeman reacted by replacing Antoine Griezmann with Ronald Araujo, but the Blaugrana doubled their lead five minutes after the break, thanks in no small part to Messi.

The captain darted away from two challenges and Olaza could only turn the Argentina forward's right-footed cross into his own net as the rain continued to hammer down.

Messi looked to have added a third but was given offside when he turned in the rebound after Coutinho struck the post and Pique was unable to convert a dangerous cross from his outstanding skipper.

Miguel Baeza saw his deflected effort strike the crossbar on a frustrating night for Celta as Barca showed great spirit and quality to make it two wins out of two in LaLiga, with Roberto putting the icing on the cake by drilling in a third right at the end.

Barcelona returned to training on Tuesday ahead of the resumption of the Champions League, with Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann on duty.

The French duo have both been sidelined with injuries but underwent individual recovery work as they continued their rehabilitation.

Griezmann suffered a thigh problem in the 1-0 win over Real Valladolid on July 11, forcing him to miss the final two LaLiga games as Barca were dethroned by Real Madrid during the run-in.

As for Dembele, his season was seemingly over when he underwent surgery to repair his damaged hamstring back in February.

However, the extension of the 2019-20 campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic has raised the possibility of the winger featuring in Europe.

Meanwhile, defender Clement Lenglet also worked away from the rest of the group, the centre-back attempting to overcome a groin injury suffered on the last day of the league campaign.

Barca are beginning preparations for the delayed second leg of their last-16 tie against Napoli, to be played on August 8 at Camp Nou. The teams drew 1-1 in the first meeting, which took place on Italian soil in February.

The subsequent knockout rounds will take place in Portugal, all as one-off games following changes to the schedule caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

Clement Lenglet sees his future at Barcelona amid an uncertain financial climate in world football and understands why his playing time has declined under Quique Setien.

France defender Lenglet has made 19 LaLiga starts this season and has been the first-choice partner for Barca stalwart Gerard Pique for the majority of the campaign, which was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic in March.

Lenglet has not always necessarily been an automatic starter since Setien replaced Ernesto Valverde in January, however, and was on the bench for the Clasico defeat to Real Madrid in March, with Samuel Umtiti favoured to start.

But Lenglet, whose agent in March quashed tentative rumours of a move to Napoli, sees his future at Barca, who like most teams in Europe face a testing transfer window as clubs deal with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis.

Speaking to RMC, Lenglet said: "You never really know what the future will be like when you are a football  player, but I hope to be at  Barcelona next season, yes.

"It will necessarily depend on the transfer window, this is a special period for the clubs, and we're safe, but I hope to stay."

When asked about why he has sometimes been benched, Lenglet added: "There are several reasons for this.

"The arrival of a new coach, Samuel who was good when he played too. The cards were redistributed.

"I played a lot [too], we are pretty much the same [in terms of playing time with Umtiti].

"However, I did not play the Clasico, it was a little disappointing for me but it is part of the life of a footballer. I prepare myself well, hoping to play very regularly."

Lenglet, who joined from Sevilla ahead of the 2018-19 campaign, also reflected on a couple of hectic years.

"I have been fortunate to experience some pretty crazy things for a very short time, I hope it will last," he said.

"There were bound to be special moments in the season but it remains a good season, I discovered the French team, I played games one after the other, it was a great year for me."

While the football world may be at a standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic, that's not stopping transfer rumours from swirling in their usual manner, with Sevilla's Diego Carlos a name persistently mentioned of late.

A Brazilian centre-back recruited from Nantes last year in a reported €15million deal, the 27-year-old is enjoying a fine debut campaign in LaLiga, quickly establishing himself as a fan favourite and key member of Julen Lopetegui's team, who are third in LaLiga.

An impressive physical specimen, athletic and comfortable with the ball at his feet, Diego Carlos has been most intensely linked with Liverpool – Jurgen Klopp is said to be a big fan and has apparently identified him as a potential partner for Virgil van Dijk.

But Barcelona and Real Madrid have also been mentioned as admirers, having been able to have a close-up look at him in LaLiga.

With a €75m release clause, Diego Carlos certainly won't come cheap – but we've examined Opta's data to compare him with 16 of Europe's best centre-backs…

THE HOLLYWOOD PASS

The Sevilla team Diego Carlos plays in is quite direct, as such it's no surprise to see he plays a large portion (229) of his passes long – of our select group, only Van Dijk (281), Leonardo Bonucci (249) and Mats Hummels (235) have attempted more.

That undoubtedly impacts his overall pass accuracy of 83 per cent, the worst of the 17 players examined. However, Sergio Ramos has attempted only 10 fewer long-range passes, yet his overall completion rate is significantly better at 91 per cent.

His accuracy is even more unimpressive in the opposition's half, as it comes down to 64 per cent, compared to Ramos and Clement Lenglet at 87 per cent. Nevertheless, Sevilla's vertical style of play is significantly different to the setups of Real Madrid and, in particular, Barcelona, while the data does not take into account how difficult each pass was.

Regular Sevilla watchers will tell you Diego Carlos has a penchant for an eye-catching cross-field pass, but the data doesn't lie – many don't reach their target.

Only 48 per cent of his long-range passes find a team-mate, which again is the worst of the players analysed. It poses the question as to whether such a direct system is suited to Diego Carlos' attributes.

He is less prone to giving the ball away when distributing short – as you would expect most players to be – as he finds a Sevilla player with 90 per cent of those passes, but only Harry Maguire (89 per cent) has a lower record in this scenario, the highest being Presnel Kimpembe (96 per cent).

MUSCLE FOR A TUSSLE

Don't let his clean-cut, well-coiffed exterior fool you - one thing Diego Carlos certainly cannot be accused of is shying away from collision. He has been involved in 196 duels this season, with only Maguire (287), Van Dijk (247), Ramos (213) and Mats Hummels (205) from our select group recording more.

The Brazilian's success rate of 56 per cent in those duels is middling, though. Van Dijk leads the way here, coming out on top 75 per cent of the time in such situations.

But Diego Carlos does come off fairly well with respect to tackling, having attempted 30 and been successful 19 times. That gives him a success rate of 63 per cent, better than 10 others in this select group, including Van Dijk (55 per cent) and Ramos (62 per cent).

Diego Carlos isn't dribbled past very often either, with only eight occurrences of that this term. Six of the chosen group have better records, though three of them are on seven and only one – Leonardo Bonucci (two) – has been beaten fewer than six times.

GET RID!

The clearances metric is where Diego Carlos performs best. He has found himself in the right position to clear danger 128 times in 2019-20, the third best among defenders in LaLiga.

Only Van Dijk (135) and Maguire (132) have a better record in this area from our group, though it's worth bearing in mind the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and others do not find themselves in defensive situations as often as Sevilla.

He also leads the way in terms of headed clearances in LaLiga with 71, just shy of Maguire's 80, while Diego Carlos' 25 interceptions is a solid effort as well, though it is some way behind the Manchester United captain's 53.

While it's fair to say Diego Carlos still has areas of his game that can be improved, it's worth stressing that some data points reflect – or are influenced heavily by – the team's setup.

Although the accuracy of Diego Carlos' long passes – a feature of Sevilla's direct system – leaves a mark against his name here, as an out-and-out defender, he is not disgraced when compared to a group of centre-backs most would consider the elite, an applaudable feat given this is only his fourth season in one of Europe's top-five leagues.

Defenders included in the select group: Virgil van Dijk, Harry Maguire, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Clement Lenglet, Raphael Varane, Presnel Kimpembe, Marquinhos, Dayot Upamecano, Benjamin Pavard, Mats Hummels, Manuel Akanji, Matthijs de Ligt, Leonardo Bonucci, Milan Skriniar, Kalidou Koulibaly

 

Lionel Messi grabbed a hat-trick of assists as Barcelona ended a tumultuous week with a pulsating 3-2 LaLiga win over Real Betis at the Benito Villamarin on Sunday.

The Catalan giants were dumped out of the Copa del Rey by Athletic Bilbao in midweek, while Messi has been involved in a public spat with technical director Eric Abidal after he questioned the work ethic of some players under previous boss Ernesto Valverde.

Quique Setien's side got off to a terrible start against his former employers, with Sergio Canales' penalty putting the hosts ahead early on, but a wonderful goal from Frenkie de Jong pulled the champions level soon after.

Nabil Fekir - who was later dismissed for two bookable offences in quick succession - restored the hosts' advantage with a fine finish, before Sergio Busquets scored a second equaliser on the stroke of half-time.

Clement Lenglet then headed home Messi's free-kick 18 minutes from time to ensure Barca remain three points behind leaders Real Madrid after their 4-1 win at Osasuna earlier in the day, although the Frenchman blotted his copybook by picking up a second yellow card soon after Fekir's dismissal.

Betis opened the scoring in the sixth minute, Canales stroking home from the penalty spot after Lenglet had handled Fekir's strike inside the penalty area.

Their lead lasted just three minutes, though, as De Jong chested down Messi's superb ball over the top and volleyed past Joel Robles from six yards.

Fekir rounded off a swift counter-attacking move with a fine low strike from 18 yards past Marc-Andre ter Stegen to restore Betis' advantage just before the half-hour mark.

Messi was again the provider for Barca's equaliser in first-half stoppage time, his deep free-kick turned in by Busquets from eight yards.

Messi was twice denied by Robles after the interval but he was central to Barca's winner, floating in a free-kick that was headed home by a towering Lenglet.

Fekir saw red 14 minutes from time, picking up quickfire bookings for a foul on Lenglet and dissent, while Barca's French defender also received his marching orders three minutes later after catching Joaquin.

Clement Lenglet called for two contentious refereeing decisions to be respected after Real Madrid were left disgruntled with VAR during Wednesday's goalless Clasico.

The Barcelona defender was fortunate not to concede a penalty when he caught Raphael Varane's thigh with a raised boot in the first half at Camp Nou.

Referee Alejandro Jose Hernandez Hernandez allowed play to continue and decided against punishing another apparent infringement on Varane a few moments later, the Madrid centre-back tumbling to the floor following a tug on his shirt from Ivan Rakitic.

Neither incident was reviewed on the pitchside monitor as video official opted not to intervene.

Madrid called attention to the "two controversial moments" in a statement on their website after captain Sergio Ramos criticised the failure of technology to fix what he viewed as "pretty clear" fouls.

Lenglet disagreed and said the decisions should be respected.

"For me, it's not a penalty," he told Movistar when asked about his challenge on fellow France defender Varane.

"I wanted to get the ball out with my head and give strength to my movement. I used my body and legs for that and unfortunately I touched Raphael's leg.

"I'm the protagonist and I know I'm going to clear the ball. I'm not a player who likes to kick people. But if some believe it's a penalty, it's up to the VAR.

"The VAR made a decision and must be respected."

Madrid winger Gareth Bale later had a goal disallowed for an offside against Ferland Mendy as neither side mustered a winner.

Jordi Alba squandered a good chance for Barca before Lionel Messi, who had one attempt cleared off the line, made a mess of a late opportunity to snatch all three points.

"We had clear scoring chances," Lenglet said. "Two for Messi, Luis Suarez. We're left with a bittersweet feeling.

"Madrid are a team with quality and when they come here, they come more to defend."

Sergio Ramos questioned why VAR was not used to check two "clear" fouls on Raphael Varane in the penalty area during Wednesday's goalless Clasico.

In the first half at Camp Nou, Varane was caught by a high challenge from compatriot Clement Lenglet and then had his shirt pulled by Ivan Rakitic when competing for a corner.

Referee Alejandro Jose Hernandez Hernandez did not award a penalty and neither incident was checked using the VAR pitchside monitor midweek.

Madrid captain Ramos was left bemused as to why VAR did not intervene, having watched back the footage at half-time.

"We saw them at the break and they look pretty clear. They're both penalties, but we can't change that now," he said to Movistar.

"VAR is here to help. It's bad luck. On another day, it'll be our turn to have a penalty that they don't check."

Gareth Bale saw a second-half goal correctly disallowed for offside after a VAR check, as Madrid failed to make their early dominance count and Barca's front three struggled to get into the game.

The result means defending champions Barca remain top of LaLiga but level on points with Madrid, who are now unbeaten in 12 matches in all competitions.

Ramos, who became the top appearance-maker in the fixture's history as he played Madrid's fierce rivals for the 43rd time, is frustrated the mid-season break starts after Sunday's game against Athletic Bilbao as he wants to sustain momentum.

"You can't be happy when you don't win, but getting something here is always positive," he said.

"We saw a great Real Madrid today, with a lot of personality, on a very tough pitch. We went to steal the ball, which helped us create many chances. There were few mistakes and that's the end result.

"We controlled the game quite well. We had more chances than them. It's not easy to get the ball off them. The strategy of pressing high worked well.

"We're going through a great dynamic in terms of play and we're also good physically. It's a shame the year is ending - we'd like this not to stop.

"Now, we have Athletic and hopefully we'll continue like this after the holidays."

Gareth Bale saw a goal disallowed as Barcelona and Real Madrid played out a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou on Wednesday.

LaLiga's top two went into the contest level on points this season and with 72 wins each from previous league meetings, and there was nothing to separate them in a tense clash in Catalonia.

The match was rearranged from October after the initial date became a security risk due to the prospect of Catalan independence protests, and there were fans inside and outside the stadium making their voices heard over one of Spain's most divisive issues.

The action on the pitch was a little less fraught, Bale's second-half strike - ruled out for offside - representing the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock.

Madrid controlled the early exchanges and only Gerard Pique's timely intervention on the line denied Casemiro an opening goal with a header.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen beat away another Casemiro effort after Madrid had penalty shouts waved away following a shirt pull on Raphael Varane, who had earlier squared up to Jordi Alba.

Thibaut Courtois went untested until the half-hour mark, when he palmed away a teasing Alba cross and the covering Sergio Ramos cleared Lionel Messi's rebound from in front of goal.

Alba had a golden chance to snatch the lead before half-time but could only side-foot wide of the right-hand post following a sublime lofted pass from Messi.

The second half proved more of an end-to-end affair, Bale rippling the side-netting and then seeing celebrations cut short when his tap-in was disallowed after a VAR review for an offside against Ferland Mendy.

A frustrated Messi made a mess of a chance just inside the box, failing to connect cleanly with the ball to sum up a clash surprisingly short on attacking quality.

 

What does it mean? LaLiga leaders deadlocked in title battle

Barca and Madrid are now on 36 points each at the top of the table, five clear of third-place Sevilla, with just one game left in 2019.

There was little to split them in a cagey encounter and the title race certainly looks likely to remain a tense one in the new year.

Lenglet a leading light

In a match where defences triumphed, Clement Lenglet was probably the best on the pitch, keeping Karim Benzema away from Ter Stegen's goal and building play well from the back.

An off-day at last for Messi

The Clasico's record goalscorer swiped at thin air with his only half-chance of the game and was otherwise unable to get Barca firing in attack, with Madrid keeping him firmly in check.

What's next?

In the final round of league games before the mid-season break, Barca host Deportivo Alaves on Saturday and Madrid welcome Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Clement Lenglet says Antoine Griezmann is happy at Barcelona and is confident his team-mate will become a Camp Nou success.

Griezmann has failed to find his best form in Catalonia since joining Barca from Atletico Madrid in a €120million transfer during the close season.

The 28-year-old has been used predominantly in a wide role and has four goals in 15 matches in all competitions, failing to find the net in his past five outings.

However, Lenglet - also a colleague at international level with France - believes Griezmann is still learning to adapt to a new style of play following five seasons under Diego Simeone at Atleti.

"It's not simple to fit in at a club like Barcelona," Lenglet told a news conference on Tuesday. "Some players are already there and have a history together.

"Like in the French national team, there is a very specific way of playing - how we're positioned is different than what Antoine knew at Atletico, where he was starting from far back.

"You need time to adapt to feel better on the pitch and play as well as possible. 

"At Barcelona, we're trying to recover the ball as high as possible on the pitch with a lot of efforts on 20 to 30 metre runs. With Atletico, it was a bit different, they were falling back, and it was 50 to 60 metre runs. So you have to learn that, you need time. 

"Physically it's different, and mentally as well, you need to prepare. Antoine is working on that every day during training, and it's going to be better and better during games, I'm sure of it."

Asked if Griezmann performs differently for his country, speaking ahead of Euro 2020 qualifiers against Moldova and Albania, Lenglet added: "'Different' is a big word, but when he's with the national team, he's having a lot of fun.

"He's been there for a long time, he played a few big tournaments with the team, and he won a really beautiful one. Of course, he knows this place very well, he's very happy to be here, he has a strong history with the team. 

"But he's also very happy to be at Barcelona, even if you're saying otherwise. He's smiling every day and likes to be happy on and off the pitch."

Griezmann admitted last month he had found it "difficult" connecting with Barca superstar Lionel Messi as neither of them are naturally big talkers.

Messi later played down suggestions of any issues, and Lenglet has praised the Argentina superstar for the way he helps new players to adapt at Camp Nou.

"[Messi] is very clam, very relaxed, very normal," he said. "When you arrive at Barcelona, you're careful about what you're doing but it's not Leo who's coming over to tell you off when you make a mistake. 

"He's very simple, he lets you play. This is how it went with Antoine and I. Step by step, you talk to him. 

"He gets along very well with Luis [Suarez] but he's very open with the others, so you can talk about many things, not only football. He's a simple man and he helps us every day."

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde does not see Lionel Messi's recall to the Argentina national team as a setback to the LaLiga giants.

Messi was banned and fined $50,000 by CONMEBOL in August for accusing the governing body of corruption in the wake of Argentina's Copa America semi-final defeat to hosts Brazil.

The Barca talisman has missed Argentina's past four matches – all friendlies – as a result, but he was named in their latest squad on Thursday for upcoming matches against Brazil and Uruguay.

Those games will be played this month in Saudi Arabia and Israel, respectively.

Messi has suffered with injury problems this term, leading to some suggesting his return to the Argentina set-up could be a negative development for Barcelona.

Although Valverde's tone seemed to a suggest a hint of frustration, he refused to outright call Messi's call-up a problem.

"Look, we know that if Messi is active, there's a good chance he gets called up to the national team," Valverde told reporters on Friday.

"He hasn't been [in the Argentina squad] because of suspension, but now that's over it's normal for him to be back for Argentina.

"It's something we accept, he accepts. I don't think it's a setback as such."

Defender Samuel Umtiti has endured a wretched time with injuries over the past 18 months, playing just 15 LaLiga matches since the start of last season.

His solitary outing this term against Eibar last month was followed by another knee injury, though Valverde hinted he could potentially feature at Levante on Saturday.

"Let's see how he does in training today [Friday]," Valverde said. "He's had fitness issues hanging over from last year, that's why he's not playing regularly.

"Hopefully we can get this sorted once and for all so he can play more regularly, but the other thing is competition for places. Lenglet is playing very well.

"He [Lenglet] is an absolutely reliable player, very professional in what he does. He's really settling into his position.

"Shortly after arriving last season, he covered extremely well for Samuel and the French team is also aware of how well he is playing."

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