Barcelona will be without Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Arthur and Ousmane Dembele for Saturday's LaLiga derby with Espanyol.

All three players have been left out of the 18-man squad for the clash with Abelardo's side.

Head coach Ernesto Valverde confirmed earlier on Friday that goalkeeper Ter Stegen would be unavailable due to a knee tendon injury that also makes him a doubt for the Supercopa de Espana in Saudi Arabia.

Midfielder Arthur is expected to be out for three weeks with a groin problem, while forward Dembele has not yet recovered from his latest thigh muscle injury.

There is also no room in the squad for defender Jean-Clair Todibo, who has been linked with moves to Milan and Everton this month.

The good news for Barca is that Ansu Fati has been given the all-clear to travel, while Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal - who only trained for the first time since the holidays on Thursday - are included.

Barca head into 2020 with a two-point lead at the top of LaLiga.

Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is expected to miss the derby with Espanyol and the Supercopa de Espana due to a tendon problem.

Head coach Ernesto Valverde said on Friday that the Germany international has been struggling for some time with the knee injury.

Valverde has ruled Ter Stegen out of the LaLiga trip across the city to RCDE Stadium and thinks it will be difficult for him to face Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals of the inaugural revamped Supercopa in Saudi Arabia.

"He's had some tendon problems for a while and at one point we considered he could be out for a little while. That moment is now," said Valverde.

"He won't be available tomorrow and we think it'll be difficult for the Supercopa."

Asked if Ter Stegen needs an operation, Valverde replied: "I don't know. We haven't talked about that. Our idea is that these discomforts go away with time."

Valverde does at least hope to see Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez fit to face Espanyol, the attacking stars and Arturo Vidal having only returned to training after the holidays on Thursday.

"Luis, like Leo and Vidal, came back okay and we'll see how they are [in training]. Based on that, we'll decide for tomorrow," he said.

Arthur, though, is expected to be sidelined for three weeks with a groin injury, something Valverde admits is deeply frustrating.

"It's a setback that he's not here. I won't deny it," he said. "I don't want it to be like last year, when he was limping. We need the player at 100 per cent."

Saturday could see Vidal play for the first time since it emerged the midfielder is taking action against Barca due to €2.4million in outstanding bonus payments.

Valverde sees no reason why the issue could affect Vidal's involvement in the team.

"I know that this has been talked about, but I think it's a difference in criteria, but I don't think it has to have an impact on the sporting side of things," he said.

"He's training well and it will have to be he who settles things with the club.

"In contractual matters, there will always be discrepancies, and this will be resolved internally. Arturo is training normally, and he has the same enthusiasm as ever."

Marc-Andre ter Stegen is a doubt for Barcelona's next LaLiga meeting with Espanyol, while Arthur will not return in time for the Supercopa de Espana.

Goalkeeper Ter Stegen is undergoing treatment on a tendon problem in his right knee and was declared "unavailable" by Barca on Monday, five days before they return to action against their local rivals.

While no time frame for the Germany international's return to action was provided by the club, they did confirm Arthur will be missing for another three weeks.

The midfielder has been out of action since sustaining a groin injury in the 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid on December 1.

Arthur will miss Barca's trip to Saudi Arabia, where they face Atletico in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals on January 9.

He could return for the visit to Mestalla to face Valencia on January 25.

Erling Haaland's decision to join Borussia Dortmund brought an end to one of Europe's most fascinating transfer stories.

Manchester United had been in the frame for his signature but were reportedly put off by a key demand from the striker's representatives.

As often seems to be the case for the Red Devils, Mino Raiola's involvement led to complications.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED PULLED PLUG ON HAALAND BID

According to The Guardian, United abandoned their bid for the highly sought-after Haaland after learning of a request from his agent, Raiola, and father Alf-Inge Haaland.

The pair reportedly asked for a share of any future transfer fee for the 19-year-old, a stipulation the Old Trafford outfit were unwilling to meet despite their firm interest.

Haaland settled on Dortmund after the Bundesliga side activated his Salzburg buyout clause.

He had been linked to RB Leipzig, Juventus and several more top European clubs after emerging as a Champions League star.

 

ROUND-UP

- Haaland's arrival at Dortmund could lead LaLiga side  Atletico Madrid to narrow the transfer focus on Spanish striker Paco Alcacer, according to Marca. The former Barcelona player has struggled to cement a place in BVB's starting XI and represents a cheaper option in terms of wages than Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani, an apparent favourite of Diego Simeone.

- AS, meanwhile, reports on potential movements elsewhere in the Spanish capital. The newspaper claims Real Madrid are preparing to recall Jesus Vallejo from his loan spell at Wolves, with a view to finding him more playing time. That could lead to a short-term switch to Leganes or Eintracht Frankfurt.

- Juventus are close to extending Wojciech Szczesny's contract yet the Serie A champions remain admirers of Milan star Gianluigi Donnarumma and Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen, according to CalcioMercato.

- Tammy Abraham wants a better deal at Stamford Bridge but Chelsea are not yet prepared to accept his demand for parity with Callum Hudson-Odoi's £180,000 per week salary, reports The Athletic.

- Manchester City are set to beat Premier League rivals United, Arsenal and Liverpool to the January signing of Barcelona's teenage left-back Juan Larios, says the Daily Star.

Manuel Neuer insists suggestions of a rift with fellow Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen were blown out of proportion.

Earlier this year, Bayern Munich's first-choice keeper Neuer criticised his Barca counterpart for making "inappropriate" comments over his disappointment at not playing more regularly for Die Mannschaft.

However, Neuer later talked up the qualities of Ter Stegen, who has become one of the best number ones in the world at Camp Nou, and the former Schalke stopper says there was never an issue between the two.

"In principle, far too much was made of it," Neuer told Kicker. "I've never had a problem with Marc. 

"We train for the national team together. We sit together at breakfast, have a normal conversation - as team-mates, not as competitors.

"Each of us tries to show our best performance for the team so that we can be successful. This is important because we play in a team."

On Sunday, Bayern confirmed Hansi Flick would remain in charge at the Allianz Arena until the end of the season having overseen eight wins from 10 matches across all competitions since taking over from Niko Kovac.

Neuer says Flick has earned his chance to lead Bayern.

"He's been doing great so far. He has a great connection to the team, communicates things very clearly," he added. 

"He definitely deserves the chance right now."

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson has been crowned the first ever winner of the Yachine Trophy at 2019 Ballon d'Or ceremony in Paris.

The 27-year-old beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Ederson to be crowned the best keeper in the world.

Alisson played a crucial role in Liverpool's Champions League success and started six times for Brazil in their triumphant Copa America campaign.

He also won the Golden Glove in the Premier League last season with 21 clean sheets as the Reds fell just short of Manchester City in the title race.

Barcelona keeper Ter Stegen finished second in the voting, while Alisson's compatriot Ederson was third.

Kepa Arrizabalaga, Hugo Lloris, Jan Oblak, Samir Handanovic, Manuel Neuer, Andre Onana and Wojciech Szczesny were also in the running for the inaugural award.

Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann has been voted 18th in the final list for the 2019 Ballon d'Or, a fall of 15 places from last year.

Griezmann finished behind only Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo 12 months ago after winning the World Cup with France and impressing for Atletico Madrid at club level.

However, an underwhelming end to his Atletico career and a tough start to life at Barcelona - who he joined in a €120million deal in July - has seen him drop down the list.

It marks the second time the 28-year-old has slipped from third to 18th, having done likewise in 2017.

Griezmann's Barcelona team-mate Marc-Andre ter Stegen finished 24th and Frenkie de Jong, who spent the first half of the year with Champions League semi-finalists Ajax, was voted 11th in the standings.

Three Liverpool players missed out on the top 10, with Georginio Wijnaldum, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino in 26th, 19th and 17th, respectively.

Fellow Premier League side Manchester City were also heavily represented in the 30-11 rankings, as were Dutch champions Ajax following their run to the final four of last season's Champions League.

Lionel Messi and Virgil van Dijk are the frontrunners to win the most prestigious individual accolade in world football during Monday's ceremony.

Ballon d'Or 30-11 list in full:

=28. Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain)

=28. Donny van de Beek (Ajax)

=28. Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid)

=26. Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool)

=26. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

=24. Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)

=24. Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)

23. Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)

22. Son Heung-min (Tottenham)

=20. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)

=20. Dusan Tadic (Ajax)

19. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

18. Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona)

17. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)

16. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

15. Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax)

14. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

13. Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)

12. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)

11. Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)

Barcelona defender Sergi Roberto claimed his side's 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid on Sunday could prove a pivotal moment in the LaLiga title race.

The Catalan club were second best for much of the fixture at the Wanda Metropolitano but Lionel Messi scored a dramatic winner four minutes from time.

It helped Barca leapfrog Real Madrid back to the top of the table – albeit on goal difference – but provided a huge psychological boost.

"We knew that their fans were going to pressure us and it was the case," Roberto told Marca.

"Matches like these are where the league can be decided, and we have had to suffer to win.

"But there is a long way to go, and many teams will pose a threat."

Roberto said he could not choose between Messi and Marc-Andre ter Stegen as Barcelona's man of the match.

Argentina forward Messi scored Barcelona's winner with a stunning curling effort.

However, Barcelona were indebted to Ter Stegen's heroics in goal as he pulled off two incredible saves to deny Mario Hermoso and Alvaro Morata.

"Marc has made two good saves and Messi has decided the game," added the 27-year-old.

"It is a victory for the group. Atletico have pressurised us a lot. They created a couple of very clear chances."

Atletico's Saul Niguez felt Messi was the biggest factor in the Catalan side's victory.

"The one who makes the difference is Leo," Saul said.

"Because he is the one who gets it. Ter Stegen has managed to get a couple of balls, fortunately, although another has been with great quality. For me, the best has been Messi.

"We have played a great game, Barcelona has not had many chances, but when it appears Leo is able to do what he does with terrible ease, that's why he is the best.

"The team has given everything, but what counts is the victory."

Ter Stegen said he was just doing his job when asked about his brilliance between the posts.

The Germany international believes the victory over Atletico will boost Barcelona's confidence for the challenges ahead.

"These matches make us grow as a team and that is what it is about," Ter Stegen added.

"We knew that it is a very difficult game. It is normal that they have made chances, because they have a lot of quality.

"But defensively we have played well and in the end we have scored a goal that helped win an important game."

Lionel Messi scored a scintillating hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Celta Vigo as he dug Barcelona out of a rut almost single-handedly at Camp Nou.

It had been a torrid week for the Blaugrana, who lost 3-1 at Levante before being held to a goalless draw by Slavia Prague, but Messi scored a penalty and two superb free-kicks as his side returned to the top of LaLiga.

The Argentina international delivered much more than just goals on a night when only a win would be acceptable for the Spanish champions, frequently dropping deep and driving an otherwise sleepy Barcelona side into attack.

Messi's goals took his tally to nine in his last seven games in all competitions and drew him level with Cristiano Ronaldo as the player with the most LaLiga hat-tricks, having netted 34, and Sergio Busquets scored his first league goal of the season late in the game.

The defeat was Celta's fifth in a row and newly appointed head coach Oscar Garcia will have his work cut out as he tries to lift them out of the bottom three.

Ernesto Valverde's out-of-sorts side took the lead when Junior Firpo's cross hit Joseph Aidoo's arm as the full-back slid in to block it and Messi nonchalantly rolled a side-footed penalty into the corner of the net, sending Ruben Blanco the wrong way.

But five minutes before the interval, Pape Cheikh sprinted through Barcelona's midfield only to be fouled by Messi 20 yards from goal and Lucas Olaza bent a superb free-kick into the corner of Marc-Andre ter Stegen's net.

Not to be outdone, Messi restored Barcelona's lead with a glorious strike after Fran Beltran fouled Arthur, the club's all-time leading scorer curling a picture-book goal into the top corner from 25 yards.

Ousmane Dembele came off the bench and sent a shot just past the angle of post and crossbar after a jinking solo run early in the second half.

Moments later Messi struck again, stepping up after Frenkie de Jong was fouled and sending a carbon copy of his first-half free-kick looping beyond the diving Blanco to complete his hat-trick.

Pione Sisto tested Ter Stegen from a tight angle as Celta probed for a way back into the game but the hosts continued to dominate and Antoine Griezmann should have put the result beyond doubt when he fired straight at Blanco from close range.

Griezmann trudged off as Valverde sent Luis Suarez on for the last 17 minutes but it was fellow substitute Busquets who stole a slice of Messi's glory when he collected a poor defensive header and drilled a low shot into the net to make sure of the victory five minutes from time.


What does it mean? Valverde can breathe again

Any kind of blip can lead to an unsettled mood around Camp Nou but Valverde's job looks safe again after Messi demonstrated the kind of swagger that is expected at Barcelona.

No stopping Messi's magic

The way Messi scored an unforgettable free-kick just before half-time and then casually repeated the feat three minutes after the break provided a reminder - if it were needed - that he operates on a level above any of his peers.

Griezmann shrinks in the shadow of greatness

One goal in six LaLiga matches is a poor return from Griezmann, who missed a gilt-edged chance and offered very little throughout the game.

What's next?

Barcelona head to Leganes when LaLiga resumes after the international break, while Celta face a trip to Villarreal.

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde insists any problems within the team will be resolved privately following recent comments made by goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

The German goalkeeper criticised his side's performance in last week's 2-1 Champions League win at Slavia Prague and stated improvements had to be made.

Slavia ended the match in Prague on top and Ter Stegen suggested he and his team-mates needed to discuss the below-par display among themselves.

Valverde believes too much importance was given to the final stages of the match, however, and wants any issues to remain internal.

"When matches end, everyone leaves with an opinion of what happened on the field," he said at a news conference on Monday. 

"Matches can be seen in many ways, and if we have to solve something, we will solve it with within the club and not publicly. 

"When the game ends, people's impression is of the final minutes and they don't think about the overall game.

"In the first half of the Slavia game we had two or three chances on goal, they attacked and we did as well. In the second half, they got an early goal and we managed to get the result we wanted in the end. 

"They pressed us and that's it. If it had been a 4-1 win, we would be talking like we had the same result as in Eibar [a 3-0 victory]. This is football and it is normal."

Barcelona have not played since that narrow victory in Prague five days ago due to Saturday's scheduled Clasico with Real Madrid being called off as a result of civil unrest in Catalonia.

The reigning LaLiga champions are back in action on Tuesday with a home match against Real Valladolid, who have already taken points off Madrid and Atletico Madrid this term.

"They have had a good run and against the top teams have got some good results," Valverde said. "Taking into account last year's game [a 1-0 win for Barca] which was complicated, this is a game which we have many hopes for after the break this week.

"They have reinforced their style because they are doing well. I expect them to play like they have in recent matches. They will be solid and hard to overcome."

Samuel Umtiti remains a major doubt for the game due to a knee injury, while youngsters Carles Perez, Ansu Fati and Carles Alena are all pushing for inclusion at Camp Nou.

"Umtiti trained apart from the group [on Sunday], though I think it will be difficult for him to participate," he said. "There may be some other changes as well.

"[Perez and Fati] are with the first team and that is, in principle, the idea we have, even though they are able to play with the B team and might at some point play for them.

"Alena hasn't played as much as I thought, and he possibly deserves more game time because he is giving everything in training. There is a lot of competition in midfield and he can be called at any time so he has to be prepared."

Where will Fabian Ruiz be playing by the end of January?

Napoli will be hoping Fabian remains at Stadio San Paolo.

However, LaLiga giants Real Madrid and Barcelona are determined to bring the former Real Betis midfielder back to Spain.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID SURPASS BARCA IN BATTLE FOR FABIAN

Madrid have moved ahead of Barca in the race for Napoli star Fabian and want to sign the midfielder in January, according to Marca.

Fabian has attracted plenty of interest since swapping Betis for Serie A side Napoli, where the Spaniard has starred since his €30milion arrival in 2018.

Barca have been keeping tabs on the 23-year-old, but rivals Madrid have reportedly jumped to the front of the queue.

 

ROUND-UP

- While Fabian is of interest, Tuttosport says Barca are eyeing Inter star Lautaro Martinez, who has a €111m release clause.

- There is plenty happening at Camp Nou. Mundo Deportivo reports Barca are willing to let Ivan Rakitic and Carles Alena leave in January. Barca are also reportedly not interested in signing a new centre-back as they trust Jean-Clair Todibo or Ronald Araujo, with Marca saying right-back is an area they are looking to strengthen.

- According to Corriere dello Sport, Fiorentina are targeting in-demand Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali. The 19-year-old has been linked to Juventus and Manchester United.

- AS claims Madrid are considering a move for Tottenham's Christian Eriksen in January, before his contract expires at the end of the season.

Hakan Calhanoglu's time at AC Milan could be coming to an end, with Calciomercato reporting the struggling Serie A side may sell the 25-year-old. Calhanoglu has struggled for consistency since joining from Bayer Leverkusen in 2017.

Barca are lining up an approach for PSV sensation Donyell Malen, according to Sport. It comes as AS reports Ernesto Valverde's side are set to hand contract extensions to Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Nelson Semedo.

Manuel Neuer dismissed suggestions of a rift between himself and Germany goalkeeping colleague Marc-Andre ter Stegen and also denied claims he is contemplating retirement next year.

Germany coach Joachim Low's selections between the posts have been a major talking point in recent months, with Neuer seemingly still first-choice despite Ter Stegen's form for Barcelona.

Ter Stegen has emerged as one of the world's most consistent and dependable goalkeepers, while Neuer – who is now 33 – has shown signs of regression.

Barca star Ter Stegen was criticised by Neuer last month for "inappropriate" comments about being disappointed at losing his place in the starting XI, while Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness also took aim at the 27-year-old.

But Neuer insists there is no lack of harmony among Die Mannschaft's goalkeepers.

"I hope you have watched us closely, it's a great relationship with us," Neuer told reporters ahead of Sunday's Euro 2020 qualifier against Estonia.

"[Ter Stegen] played well against Argentina. We have the right team [of goalkeepers], with Bernd Leno and Kevin Trapp as well. There is nothing to report, there was no deep conversation."

Ter Stegen should not expect an easy run at the starting role anytime soon either, as Neuer denied reports he is considering retirement after Euro 2020.

"There's absolutely nothing to announce," he said. "I'm feeling well, I'm feeling fit and I'm performing well. I'm not thinking about ending my career."

Some have tipped Schalke's Alexander Nubel – not Ter Stegen – to eventually take over from Neuer in the Germany goal, and they Bayern man sees that as a possibility.

"He could be," Neuer said when asked if Nubel may be his successor. "He has made good progress. He is a regular goalkeeper for Schalke and played a very good Under-21 European Championship.

"He is currently performing very well. Of course, he needs some experience as well, but the signs for German football are good, even in the goalkeeping department."

Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen insists he has a "good and professional relationship" with Manuel Neuer.

A public spat that drew in the likes of Bayern Munich chairman Uli Hoeness and DFB director Oliver Bierhoff erupted last month, concerning the relative claims of Ter Stegen and Manuel Neuer to being Germany's number one.

Bayern's Neuer, captain for club and country, has long been first choice, although Ter Stegen' performances for Barcelona over the past couple of seasons have been superb.

The younger man expressed frustration over his status within Low's squad, eliciting a response from Neuer before both men – largely unsuccessfully – sought to draw a line under the episode.

Ter Stegen will get a chance to press his claims with a start against Argentina in Dortmund on Tuesday and maintained there is no problem between his rival for the shirt.

"It's an opportunity for everyone and that's true for me as well," Ter Stegen told a pre-match news conference.

"This is a competitive sport. Everyone wants to play and that's the case for every position, not just the goalkeeper.

"There are no discussions, no disputes or any moments where we tell each other, 'Now we absolutely need to talk!'.

"We talk every day and have a good and professional relationship."

"He has an advantage, I have to perform the best way possible, prove myself and make that decision as hard as possible."

Ter Stegen added: "The head coach has made his decision so it’s up to me to perform well for both club and country.

"I will give everything to become the number one. That is my personal goal. But that is not related to other people.

"The big goal overall is a successful tournament [Euro 2020] for the team."

Ter Stegen's Barca colleague Lionel Messi will not be involved for Argentina – not that he minds particularly.

"It would have been great to face him, but perhaps it's not bad that I don't have to face him," added Ter Stegen.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen is as good as Manuel Neuer but the Bayern Munich star deserves to stay as Germany's goalkeeper, says Christian Ziege.

Barcelona goalkeeper Ter Stegen and Neuer were embroiled in a spat last month after the former said it was a "massive blow" not to feature against Netherlands or Northern Ireland, two games his more experienced team-mate started.

The Bayern captain accused Ter Stegen of being unhelpful by expressing his frustrations publicly, while club president Uli Hoeness threatened to withdraw his team's players from Germany duty before backtracking on his comments.

For Ziege, though, it is clear Neuer should keep the gloves although the number two deserves more opportunities to show what he can do for Germany.

"Manuel Neuer is the goalkeeper who is number one with us," former Germany international Ziege told Omnisport. "He proves that in a great way.

"There's no question that if Manuel Neuer can't play, Marc-Andre Ter Stegen is an incredible goalkeeper, just as good. 

"Everything he said he won't have said because he felt like it. But with certainty, because something was promised to him that was not kept.

"Ter Stegen proved what a team-mate and team player he is. That he didn't say a single word about Manuel Neuer being in goal despite eight or nine months of injury without a game in front of the tournament [World Cup]. He didn't say anything. Didn't complain.

"Of course he would have liked to play, but he didn't say anything. And now he said once and gave free rein to his emotional life that he is not satisfied with it. Which I think is quite normal. He didn't attack anyone. What became of it, I did not understand at all.

"And again, there are no two opinions. Manuel Neuer is a top goalkeeper and there is no need to question him. Nevertheless, you can handle it in such a way that the other goalkeeper, who is world class, also gets his play time. There are enough possibilities for that."

While Ziege backed Low's decision to stick with Neuer as his regular goalkeeper, he feels the Germany coach was too hasty to drop Mats Hummels, Thomas Muller and Jerome Boateng from the national squad.

"I think the decisive thing is that if you make changes – the changes have to be at least as good as before or even better which would be ideal," Ziege added. "Now we come to the problem because this is not the case.

"We have good players, but right now no players who are better. And you see this now – Mats Hummels is an extraordinary centre-back, Jerome Boateng as well. And Muller is someone who can always play for the national team as long as he is fit and having fun even if he doesn’t start.

"They did it the same way with [Lukas] Podolski. Muller is good enough to play for half an hour and I think it would be okay for him to do this for some years. Therefore I have the impression that a few players in the squad right now are bit over-rated.

"Regarding Hummels I have already said it I think that if you make changes then the players have to be as good as before at least. Niklas Sule is a very, very good centre-back but from my point of view I think he is not yet able to lead and stabilise this team.

"It would help him a lot to have someone next to him with a lot of experience, so that he is not the only one in the spotlight and everyone tells him, 'You are the one to do this'. He is not there yet, from my point of view."

Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele scored memorable goals for Barcelona as Ernesto Valverde's decision to drop Antoine Griezmann was vindicated in a 4-0 victory over Sevilla.

While their €120million signing among the substitutes, Suarez's acrobatic overhead kick got the LaLiga champions off the mark, Arturo Vidal polished off a sublime passing move with the second and Dembele scored a solo effort to all but end the contest.

Lionel Messi wrapped up the win with a curling second-half free-kick and the synergy between Barcelona's front three, which has not always clicked with Griezmann involved, will not have been lost on Valverde.

The match ended in unsavoury fashion for the Catalans, though, who saw debutant Ronald Araujo and Dembele sent off shortly before injury time.

Luuk de Jong received good service from Lucas Ocampos in the early stages but he fluffed three chances put Sevilla ahead before Suarez broke the deadlock with a moment of magic 27 minutes in.

The Uruguay marksman watched Nelson Semedo's cross loop through the air and met it with an overhead kick into the bottom corner of the net before goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik could react.

The goal settled the hosts and five minutes later a move that incorporated 25 passes and all 11 Barcelona players culminated in Arthur's weighted ball, which allowed Vidal to slide in and glance a shot past Vaclik.

Dembele made it 3-0 inside eight first-half minutes when his slaloming run tore through Sevilla's defence, the 22-year-old opening his body and side-footing in at the far post.

The second half started just like the first, with De Jong squandering a great chance to score when he drilled a shot against the post from just inside the Barca box.

The hosts were soon back on top and Messi twice surged through Sevilla's midfield before putting the finishing touches on a fine win with a dipping, curling free-kick 12 minutes from time.

Valverde sent on Araujo for his debut, which turned sour when he was judged to have fouled Javier Hernandez as the Sevilla forward went through on goal and was shown a red card along with Dembele, who was sent off for his protests.

 

What does it mean? Barca go second

After Atletico Madrid were held to a goalless draw at Real Valladolid, Barcelona took full advantage and claimed a result that moved them up to second place in the table, two points behind leaders Real Madrid.

Frenkie says 'Relax!'

A run of mixed results in August and September left Valverde under pressure but his players looked calm and assured here, none more so than Frenkie de Jong, who looks every inch the composed midfield lynchpin to succeed Sergio Busquets – a second-half substitute here.

No luck for Luuk

While Barca's De Jong barely put a foot wrong his Sevilla namesake had a torrid evening, the centre-forward missing four clear chances to give the visitors a foothold in the game.

What's next?

Barcelona will hope to extend their winning run to five matches in all competitions by beating Eibar away from home on October 19, while Sevilla aim to get back on course as they entertain Levante a day later.

Page 1 of 2
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.