Girona’s hopes of reducing the deficit to LaLiga leaders Real Madrid were dashed by a 3-2 defeat to Athletic Bilbao at the San Mames Stadium.

The surprise early-season pace-setters had only themselves to blame after two defensive blunders handed the home side the chance to stretch their unbeaten league run to four games.

The visitors, who remain six points behind Real Madrid, got off to a nightmare start when a rash cross-field ball by Aleix Garcia fell to Alejandro Berenguer, whose cool strike gave Bilbao the lead with just over two minutes on the clock.

Girona hit back to level when Viktor Tsygankov turned the ball home from close range four minutes after the interval, but moments later Berenguer grabbed his second after a mistake from Miguel Gutierrez on the right flank.

Inaki Williams made up for a series of missed early opportunities when he fired home from the centre of the box on the hour mark to move the home side to the brink of victory.

But Girona showed some of the fight that has served them so well this season as they reduced the deficit to 3-2 on 75 minutes when Eric Garcia met a cross into the box.

And the visitors came agonisingly close to pulling level five minutes into injury time when Savio failed with his initial effort only for the ball to fall to team-mate Jhon Solis, whose shot on the rebound was brilliantly blocked on the line by Bilbao defender Daniel Vivian.

 

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Alejandro Berenguer slammed home a first-half penalty as Athletic Bilbao claimed a 1-0 first-leg lead over Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey semi-final.

Berenguer scored the winner from 12 yards in the 25th minute after Benat Prados was brought down inside the box.

Atletico banged on the door in the second half to avoid taking a defeat into the return leg and missed chances through Antoine Griezmann, Samuel Lino and Alvaro Morata.

The hosts thought they had a last-minute penalty but a VAR offside call denied them.

Bilbao were awarded a spot-kick after Reinildo Mandava clattered into Prados in the area and Berenguer dispatched into the bottom corner, sending Jan Oblak the wrong way.

Atletico struggled to make an impression for much of the first period and had a first sniff of an equaliser five minutes later when the ball fell for Lino outside the area but he curled over the crossbar.

There was a slight moment of panic in the 35th minute as goalkeeper Julen Agirrezabala attempted to keep the ball in play but had his pocket picked by Memphis Depay on the byline, but his shot on goal was heroically blocked by Aitor Paredes.

Atletico ended the half the more dangerous of the two sides and Griezmann was next to come close when his first-time effort flew just wide of the near post.

Bilbao had a glorious chance to double their advantage after the break as Unai Gomez’s effort was parried by Oblak into the path of Asier Villalibre but he could only divert the rebound into the side-netting.

Chances began to fall at either end and this time Lino decided to let rip from the left edge but he curled just wide of the post.

Atletico’s eagerness to not take a loss away to Bilbao became a lot more evident as they began to commit players up the pitch, with Griezmann next to come close when his effort from six yards was blocked behind by Agirrezabala again.

Atletico spurned another golden chance to equalise when Morata failed to divert a dangerous whipped cross on target.

Agirrezabala was beaten for the first time in the match when Angel Correa smashed past him inside the box but Bilbao defender Inigo Lekue was waiting behind the keeper to clear the ball off the line and keep the clean sheet intact.

Atletico thought they were given a last-gasp chance to equalise when referee Alejandro Hernandez pointed to the spot after Dani Vivian tripped Morata inside the box but the VAR adjudged the striker to be offside in the build-up.

Madrid had yet another chance in stoppage time but Morata could only glance a header from close range wide.

Athletic Bilbao’s Williams brothers both scored in extra-time as Barcelona endured more Copa del Rey misery at the San Mames in a 4-2 humbling in their quarter-final.

Inaki came off the bench to put the hosts ahead right at the end of the first additional period before Nico, eight years his junior at 21, applied the finishing touch with the last kick of the game.

The Catalans’ previous two visits in the competition in 2020 and 2022 both ended in defeat and when Inaki Williams reacted brilliantly to a huge stroke of luck by converting his own shot which rebounded off a post, history repeated itself.

It was no less than they deserved after stunning Barca by taking the lead after just 36 seconds through Gorka Guruzeta.

The visitors turned things around with goals from Robert Lewandowski and Lamine Yamal in a six-minute spell midway through the first half but they never looked comfortable and Oihan Sanchet’s equaliser – from a sublime Nico Williams cross – just after the interval paved the way for former Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde’s side to win the game over 120 minutes.

This was the 46th Copa match between the two teams, who have won the trophy a combined 54 times, and it turned into an occasion befitting that history as Bilbao delivered some payback for the four defeats by Barca in the six finals they have reached since their last Copa triumph in 1984.

Guruzeta’s goal – the third time this season Barcelona have conceded in the first minute – was a scrappy affair with Sancet’s knockdown headed back by the diving Malcom Adu Ares for Sancet to help it on to his team-mate to fire home.

Guruzeta’s volley on the run went marginally wide before, after losing left-back Alejandro Balde to a hamstring injury, the visitors struck back with Lewandowski’s 13th of the season.

Pedri tried to get on the end of Ferran Torres’ left-wing cross and the loose ball fell to defender Yuri Berchiche, who hammered a clearance against Lewandowski who pounced to equalise.

When Yamal cut in from the right on his left foot to drill a low shot inside the far post Barcelona appeared to be in control but just four minutes after half-time Nico Williams’ deep cross to the far post was headed down and in by Sancet.

Yamal could have twice restored the visitors’ lead; first he was sent clear by Lewandowski but although he dinked it past goalkeeper Julen Agirrezabala his shot went wide.

Four minutes from time he blazed wide after robbing Aitor Paredes 35 yards out as he received a pass from his goalkeeper and with Lewandowski now subbed off Bilbao sensed their chance.

In the final minute of the first half of extra-time Inaki Williams fired against the far post but a lucky rebound behind the goalkeeper gave him a second chance and he stabbed home.

He then inadvertently provided his brother with an assist when his miscontrol saw Nico Williams score arguably the best goal of the night, a curling effort with the outside of his right foot.

Barcelona boss Xavi has urged his side to remain “focused” ahead of their Copa del Rey quarter-final clash against Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.

The sides have history in the competition after Barca beat Athletic 4-0 in the 2021 final, but they were knocked out by Athletic the following year in the last 16.

Barca reached this stage of the competition after overcoming a scare from Unionistas in the last 16, where they came from behind to beat the third-tier team 3-1.

They now face a tough task against Ernesto Valverde’s Athletic side, who beat Alaves 2-0 to secure their spot in the last eight.

https://twitter.com/Athletic_en/status/1749453223318945996v

Athletic are in great form this season, sitting just three points behind Barcelona in the LaLiga table, and have won six of their last seven games in all competitions, with the only blip being a 1-0 loss to Valencia on Saturday.

“(The game is) very important and we have to go into the game completely focused,” Xavi told a pre-match press conference.

“Athletic are an aggressive side and they will pressure us a lot.

“They have a great coach and international players who are in excellent form such as Nico Williams, (Oihan) Sancet and (Inigo Ruiz) De Galarreta.

“Also, they have a stadium and fans that make a lot of noise and gets behind them. It will be a tough game and we will have to compete.”

Barcelona have been handed a boost, with Joao Cancelo returning to the squad following his recovery from a knee injury, while Andreas Christensen is also back after missing the Real Betis victory on Sunday with a foot problem.

Xavi also praised the contribution of youth players from La Masia in recent games and Sunday’s clash against Betis saw spots in the starting line-up handed to then-16-year-old duo Lamine Yamal and Pau Cubarsi.

He added: “We have a lot of confidence in them and they are showing great character. It’s a production line of players who can establish themselves in the first team.”

Teenager Marc Guiu made a dream debut off the bench to score a late winner as Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 to move up to third in the LaLiga table.

After Joao Felix had hit the crossbar early on, Barca – still without the injured Robert Lewandowski – looked to have been left frustrated by a string of fine saves by Athletic goalkeeper Unai Simon.

But moments after being sent on by Xavi for his first senior appearance, the 17-year-old Guiu raced down the left channel to dispatch a composed finish and close Barca to within a point of leaders Real Madrid ahead of El Clasico next weekend.

Ahead of kick-off in Montjuic, both clubs paid tribute to former England and Manchester United midfielder Sir Bobby Charlton, who died on Saturday aged 86.

Athletic made a bright start, as Inaki Williams tested Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen from the edge of the box.

Barca almost took an early lead in the 10th minute when Ferran Torres cut into the penalty area and picked out Joao Felix, who swept his shot onto the top of the crossbar.

Athletic keeper Simon saved from Fermin Lopez after a surging run from left-back Alexandro Balde before – at the other end – Germany stopper Ter Stegen tipped a rising shot from Inaki Williams over the crossbar.

The visitors were forced into a change in the 26th minute when left-back Yuri Berchiche went off injured and was replaced by Inigo Lekue.

Joao Felix then saw his claims for a penalty waved away before Barca again had Ter Stegen to thank for keeping the scores level.

Athletic, managed by former Barca boss Ernesto Valverde, broke down the left through some quick passing from the Williams brothers.

Inaki Williams then fired in a low, angled drive which was pushed away by Ter Stegen before Inigo Martinez, facing his former club after joining Barca in the summer, then made a saving block from the follow-up shot by Nico Williams.

Ter Stegen was forced into action again in first-half stoppage-time when he made smart save with his feet to deny Nico Williams, who had again cut in on the angle from the left.

Athletic threatened again early in the second half, and again it was the Williams brothers who linked up before Inaki Williams fired the ball into the side netting.

As the hour mark approached, Simon made a fine double save to first deny Joao Felix and then Lopez from the follow-up after good work from former Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan.

Barca continued to press, but were again frustrated by another great stop by Simon, this time getting down to push behind a shot from Joao Cancelo, who had cut in from the right.

The breakthrough finally came with 10 minutes to go when substitute Guiu, who had only just been sent on for a LaLiga debut, raced onto a pass from Joao Felix down the left channel.

The 17-year-old took a touch in the penalty area before coolly dispatching his effort past Simon, who got an arm to the ball but could not keep it out.

Simon tipped a late header from Joao Felix over the crossbar as Barca closed out a hard-earned win.

Xavi has urged Barcelona to “recover our ideology” before beginning a critical week of their season.

Barcelona have three home games in the space of six days, starting against Athletic Bilbao in LaLiga on Sunday.

Shakhtar Donetsk provide Champions League opposition on Wednesday and Real Madrid make the trip to the Nou Camp next Saturday for the first El Clasico of the season.

As LaLiga returns following the international break, leaders Real held a three-point advantage over Barcelona.

“At the start of the season, we’ve had some great moments of playing well,” said Xavi, whose side have dropped points in two of their last three league games with 2-2 draws against Mallorca and Granada.

“We must recover our ideology and get the three points by playing well.

“We are in a situation with a lot of absentees, but it won’t be an excuse for the game and to be able to play well.”

Alejandro Balde and Lamine Yamal have both been declared fit for the Bilbao clash.

But Frenkie de Jong, Jules Kounde, Pedri, Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski and Sergi Roberto remain unavailable.

Lewandowski, Barca’s top scorer with six this season, is closing in on a return after ankle trouble and Xavi said the Poland forward “has a very good feeling” of returning against Real Madrid.

Xavi said: “He’s a great leader and always goes forward, he wants to be there and he’s hurting less and less every day.

“He has a very good feeling. He always pulls himself forward.

“But there is a lot of variety (in attack) and people with confidence in front of goal. That is great. Last year, we depended a lot on Lewandowski.”

On the potential return of other individuals, Xavi added: “The player’s feelings will tell when he will arrive. We won’t force anyone.

“Feelings are the key and they will mark the return of all of them.”

Bilbao began the weekend in fifth place, four points behind Barcelona after beating Almeria 3-0 before the international break.

The Basques side are managed by Ernesto Valverde, who won two LaLa titles and a Copa Del Rey during his time in charge of Barcelona between May 2017 and January 2020.

Xavi said: “Athletic are very strong physically and technically gifted. Valverde is a great coach and likes to press high.

“I’m expecting a difficult opponent, we have some injuries but that’s no excuse and we need our fans.

“We’re three points behind the leaders. But we have to keep working hard, to keep fighting, and to keep improving, because there is a long way to go in LaLiga.”

Osasuna sealed European qualification for the first time in over a decade-and-a-half, as Real Valladolid were relegated on a gripping final day of the season in LaLiga.

With champions Barcelona, as well as Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad having wrapped up Champions League football, the continental spaces were mostly settled before Sunday.

But a Europa Conference League berth was still at stake, with Osasuna, Athletic Bilbao, Girona and Rayo Vallecano all in contention.

Ultimately, Jagoba Arrasate's Osasuna took the spoils with a 2-1 win over Girona, as Ernesto Valverde's Athletic finished two points adrift following a 1-1 draw at Real Madrid.

A solitary point for Los Blancos was enough for them to secure second ahead of rivals Atleti, who conceded a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Villarreal.

At the other end of the table, it was Valladolid who finished Sunday where they started in the relegation zone, joining Espanyol and Elche in dropping to the second tier.

Their goalless draw with Getafe was not enough as Cadiz, Valencia and Almeria also played out stalemates to secure survival, the latter needing a late equaliser to do so.

Celta Vigo, meanwhile, jumped from 17th to 13th with an impressive 2-1 win over Barcelona, making them the only relegation-threatened side to claim three points on Sunday.

Karim Benzema marked his Real Madrid farewell with a goal in a 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao, as Los Blancos clung onto second place on the final day of the LaLiga season.

The veteran forward – who is expected to head to Saudi Arabia after announcing his departure on Sunday – converted a penalty as Madrid fought back to clinch a point at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Athletic had been denied an early opener when Thibaut Courtois kept out Mikel Vesga's spot-kick, but Ernesto Valverde's visitors struck first through Oihan Sancet after half-time.

Benzema's equaliser however cost them a spot in the Europa Conference League, with Carlo Ancelotti's men clinging onto second following Atleti's 2-2 draw with Villarreal elsewhere.

Athletic had the chance to go ahead from the spot when Toni Kroos handled Inaki Williams' header 10 minutes in, but Courtois sprung to his right to push Vesga's tame kick away.

Unai Simon subsequently tipped Vinicius Junior's drive wide as Madrid's threat grew, and the Athletic goalkeeper remained alert to prevent Rodrygo from rounding him as an open first half ended goalless.

Athletic saw another bright start rewarded in the second half though with Ander Herrera dispossessing Dani Ceballos to tee up Sancet, who squeezed his shot beyond Courtois at the second attempt.

Madrid reaped a penalty of their own however after Yuri Berchiche caught Eder Militao in the face, and Benzema made no mistake from the spot, before he was substituted to a standing ovation.

Los Blancos were unable to find a winner without their talisman however, with Rodrygo missing a glaring chance, but their point nevertheless preserved second to end the season.

There is "no better pairing" than Marcelo Bielsa and Uruguay, so says Ander Herrera.

Former Argentina, Athletic Bilbao and Leeds United boss Bielsa agreed to become Uruguay coach earlier this week.

The enigmatic Argentine, who was interviewed by Everton but reportedly turned the Premier League club down in January, was sacked by Leeds last year.

Bielsa is still a legend in the eyes of many Leeds fans, but is now back in work on the international scene, having taken charge of Uruguay, whose former coach Diego Alonso resigned following a group-stage exit from the World Cup in Qatar.

Ex-Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Herrera, who is now back at Athletic Bilbao, came through under Bielsa during the latter's stint in the Basque country between 2011 and 2013.

And he thinks that the combination of Bielsa and Uruguay is perfect.

Herrera told Stats Perform: "He is a coach that will be capable of getting the best from the players and as we say in Spain, he strikes a chord on his speeches.

"He connects with this sentimental aspect that the Uruguayan footballer already has for his country and national team.

"I couldn't find a better pairing than Uruguay and Marcelo for this moment of the Uruguayan national team."

Herrera loved working under Bielsa, though knows not every player will feel the same.

"He has demonstrated that he is a great coach in clubs and national teams, but I think that is true that the intensity that Marcelo [Bielsa] has, not all the players in a club can absorb it, let's say," Herrera added.

"But in my case yes, I did it with pleasure, I live for football, but you have to understand and respect the ones that take this as a profession.

"So maybe for a national team he can be ideal."

Bielsa is famous for the level of detail he goes into, not only when assessing his opponents, but also his own players.

"He doesn't do anything for nothing as we say, so if Marcelo has chosen Uruguay's project he must have studied deeply," Herrera explained.

"I am convinced that he must have watched the under-15 and the under-16 teams, all the players who could be selected and might be of help for the coming qualifying process for the next World Cup and Copa America.

"I think that with the character of Uruguayan footballers, it is a job that will fit like a hand in a glove for him."

Herrera, who sees similarities between the Basque attitude and that of Uruguayans, also had words of advice for younger players set to be coached by Bielsa.

"I would advise them to have their ears very open, try to be like a sponge because they will remember this period the rest of their lives," he said.

"For football lovers, addicts, who understand this profession as a way of life, the experience [with Bielsa] will be useful for them for the rest of their career.

"No doubt that sometimes there will be tough days, there will be days when they will really end up feeling exhausted.

"He [Bielsa] will go into detail, I am sure of this. To each of the Uruguayan players that he will call up he must have seen them 100 times, I am more than convinced."

Chelsea seem to have resigned themselves to making a major loss on Romelu Lukaku, who has only netted five times on loan at Inter this term.

According to a Football Insider report, the Blues are ready to move him on in at the end of the season, with Inter unlikely to try to extend his stay in Milan.

Chelsea spent £97.5milion to bring Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge in August 2021, but they are unlikely to get anywhere near that now.

TOP STORY – GERMAN CHAMPIONS LINE UP SHOCK LUKAKU MOVE

Bayern Munich are lining up a shock move for Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku to bolster their attacking options, claims Fichajes.

The report claims Bayern boss Julian Nagelsmann is an admirer of the Belgium striker, who he believes is one of the world's best forwards if injury free.

Bayern will not commence negotiations with Chelsea until the end of the season. The German champions had been linked with Harry Kane as they look for someone to replace Robert Lewandowski, who left for Barcelona last year.

Calciomercato reports that Chelsea may try to land a deal with Roma with a swap deal involving Tammy Abraham.

 

ROUND-UP

– 90min claims Manchester City have reignited their interest in signing 19-year-old Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Florian Wirtz following a long-term knee injury which forced him to miss the 2022 World Cup. Fabrizio Romano claims Real Madrid will compete for the German's services too.

Tottenham are interested in Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson, reports ESPN. Henderson is currently on loan at Nottingham Forest from United, who could use Spurs' interest as leverage in a deal for Harry Kane, per the report

– Leeds United forward Wilfried Gnonto is drawing interest from Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, according to Gazzetta dello Sport, while 90min claims Juventus and Napoli are among a list of Italian clubs tracking him too.

– Fabrizio Romano claims Barcelona on the cusp of agreeing to a deal with Athletic Bilbao centre-back Inigo Martinez to join the Blaugrana on a free transfer in the off-season.

– Paris Saint-Germain are prepared to let Portuguese midfielder Renato Sanches exit amid interest from Milan along with Premier League clubs Aston Villa, Liverpool, Newcastle United, Tottenham and Wolves, reports 90min.

– Football London reports Arsenal are ready to ramp up their interest in Real Sociedad midfielder Martin Zubimendi with a bid to come in the coming months, although he has a €60m release clause in his contract.

Xavi declared Barcelona's slender 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao as a "golden victory" after they survived a late onslaught to restore their nine-point lead ahead of next weekend's Clasico.

Raphinha's first-half goal at San Mames ultimately proved decisive, but that was just the tip of the iceberg as Barca were forced to withstand intense late pressure.

Earlier, Raul Garcia had hit the post for the hosts, and Athletic's late barrage began with Alex Berenguer striking the woodwork.

Athletic thought they salvaged a dramatic draw when Inaki Williams surged clear and smashed home, but the goal was then disallowed after a VAR check, with Iker Muniain deemed to have handled in the build-up.

Nico Williams then somehow failed to properly connect with the ball when seemingly destined to convert a tap-in; the follow-up by Yuri Berchiche was cleared off the line; and Gorka Guruzeta's volley from that rebound was crucially blocked in front of goal by Andreas Christensen.

It was a valuable win with Barca set to face second-placed Real Madrid at Camp Nou on Sunday.

"The same thing has happened to us again," Xavi told reporters. "We have been at a good level for 75 minutes, although we have to attack better.

"It was a difficult game. In San Mames you end up suffering, and that's what happened. It's a golden victory for us and we take three very important points.

"We maintained the nine-point lead, and we go into the Clasico with confidence.

"But we have to get better offensively. We had two or three clear chances in the second half: from Ansu [Fati]; from [Alejandro] Balde, who didn't choose well; from [Robert] Lewandowski with a header.

"We have to improve in that aspect, be calmer and more patient and play more in the attacking half. Defensive solidity must also be valued, but it's true that we have to improve in the attack."

Barca were greeted with a particularly vociferous reception at San Mames in light of the Negreira scandal.

Last month, broadcaster SER Catalunya alleged Barca had paid €1.6million to the company of Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira – the former vice-president of Spain's Technical Committee of Referees (CTA) – between 2016 and 2018.

Newspaper El Pais claimed Negreira's company – DASNIL 95 SL – produced written reports and DVD assessments of referees prior to games.

On Friday, however, Barca – who have denied any wrongdoing – were charged with corruption over alleged payments to Negreira, who is also facing charges along with the club's former presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell.

It also emerged on Friday that prosecutors allege Barca paid €7.3m to companies owned by Negreira between 2001 and 2018.

Athletic fans jeered Barca and chanted for them to be demoted to the Segunda, and the reception left Xavi taken aback.

"I am surprised by the hostile atmosphere of San Mames and it saddens me," he said. "Judging prematurely [before a trial] is not good for society.

"Everyone is free. I respect opinions. But we are being judged prematurely, and it saddens me.

"I have nothing more to add. We haven't talked about it in the locker room.

"Those things are for the club [to deal with]. We focus on playing football, we're professionals."

A late VAR reprieve ensured Barcelona clung on to a slender 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao as Raphinha continued his impressive form to restore the Blaugrana's nine-point lead at the summit.

Barca looked to have been pegged back by a dramatic Inaki Williams equaliser, but it was disallowed for handball and Xavi's side just about held on in the face of intense pressure.

The visitors had to weather a storm in the first half as well, making the most of their survival on the stroke of half-time when the in-form Raphinha struck.

Williams' disallowed goal was then followed by more late chances for Athletic, but the hosts' efforts amounted to nothing as Barca got one over former coach Ernesto Valverde.

Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League last-16 exit has prompted speculation about a squad overhaul.

Neymar's future in the French capital is in doubt, while pressure has ramped up on head coach Christophe Galtier.

PSG will be an interesting watch during the next transfer window as they show their hand on their future direction.


TOP STORY – PSG PLOT MOVES FOR SILVA AND DEMBELE

Paris Saint-Germain are plotting off-season moves to sign Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva and Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele , according to Diario Sport.

The Parisiens are monitoring Dembele's status at the Blaugrana with only one year left on his contract, with a €50million release clause.

Barcelona have been linked with Silva but may struggle to facilitate that deal given €65m asking price, with PSG better placed to table that figure.

The report claims PSG's move for Dembele hinges on Neymar and whether he stays in Paris.

  
ROUND-UP

– AS reports Real Madrid are still angling to sign PSG's Kylian Mbappe after a long courtship. The report claims Los Blancos want to sign him as a free agent when his contract expires in 2024 and have prioritised him over Man City's Erling Haaland .

Tottenham are ready to launch a move to sign Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford on a cut-price deal, according to The Sun. The report claims Pickford has a clause in his new Everton deal, signed last month, if they are relegated although the Toffees are understood to want around £35m.

PSG are planning a bid for Villarreal defender Pau Torres in the next transfer window, reports The Mirror. Manchester United opted against signing him last year.

Barcelona 's top priority in the off-season is to sign Athletic Bilbao defender Inigo Martinez , according to Sport.

– Calciomercato claims Milan have cooled their interest in Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita as his wage demands are beyond what they can offer.

Bayern Munich continue to monitor the status of Juventus forward Dusan Vlahovic , reports Calciomercato.

Xavi hopes to stay at Barcelona for "many years" but insists his main focus is on winning trophies, rather than extending his contract at Camp Nou.

The Blaugrana are on track for a treble this season. Nine points clear at the LaLiga summit, Xavi has already secured Supercopa de Espana glory, while Barca are also 1-0 to the good in their two-legged Copa del Rey semi-final tie with Real Madrid.

The former midfielder has one year remaining on his existing contract, although club president Joan Laporta revealed negotiations over a new deal were ongoing.

Xavi is hopeful those talks are successful and he can enjoy a lengthy reign at Barca, similar to that of Alex Ferguson, who won 13 Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues during his 27-year tenure with Manchester United.

But that is not the 43-year-old's primary objective.

Speaking at his press conference ahead of Barcelona's trip to Athletic Bilbao, he told reporters: "It's difficult to be Ferguson in Barcelona. I love to be here. I suffer many days, but I am thankful to the president.

"He's really happy. It's great to have his support. He is a loyal man and hopefully I will stay here many years. But it will depend on all our results. Now is not the moment to talk about my contract.

"Of course, we are talking about this situation. We've been talking about a contract extension, but we need to be calm and focus on winning trophies.

"I still have one more year. We are close to winning trophies, and that's the most important thing – not my contract, we need to win trophies."

Barca will be eager to maintain their momentum ahead of next week's blockbuster showdown with title rivals Real Madrid at Camp Nou, and Xavi has urged his players to retain their concentration levels.

"We are just focused on tomorrow's game to keep the advantage of nine points," he added. "With Real Madrid, that is crucial. Then, we will have the following week to focus on El Clasico.

"We need to keep this good advantage before the visit of Real Madrid, but [Athletic is] going to be a really tough game for sure.

"We are now in the most important part of the season. We need to play well, compete and win those games. These two weeks before the international break are crucial."

Ez Abde fired home a brilliant 47th-minute winner as Osasuna took a 1-0 first-leg lead over Athletic Bilbao in their Copa del Rey semi-final on Wednesday.

Osasuna were beaten in the 2004-05 final by Real Betis, but they boosted their chances of reaching the tournament's showpiece match for a second time with a home victory at Estadio El Sadar.

The first half was a scrappy affair, distinctly lacking in attacking quality as both teams struggled to put their stamp on the match.

But moments into the second half, a swift Osasuna counter ended with Abde charging into the box before unleashing a powerful drive into the bottom right corner.

Athletic's search for an equaliser never really got going, as they ended the match with only two shots on target and an xG (expected goals) of just 0.41.

Their best opportunity fell at the feet of substitute Gorka Guruzeta in the dying seconds, but his tame effort was comfortably saved by Sergio Herrera, and Athletic will have much work to do in the reverse leg at San Mames on April 4 if they are to keep their hopes of winning a 24th Copa del Rey alive.

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