Mauricio Pochettino is not concerned by speculation around his Paris Saint-Germain future, having grown used to the repeated reports of his imminent dismissal.

After another season in which PSG failed to win the Champions League, it has been reported the club will move on from both coach Pochettino and sporting director Leonardo.

While a host of coaches have been mooted as potential successors to Pochettino, former Monaco and Lille chief Luis Campos is the favourite to come in as Leonardo's replacement.

As things stand, though, PSG have not removed either man from his position.

And Pochettino claims he is still expecting to lead the team into next season, telling Esport3: "I have one year left on my contract and there are a lot of rumours. Every week I am fired.

"PSG is causing this kind of thing. The club is trying to reinvent itself. The president will soon explain his new project, but I am calm."

The former Tottenham manager is confident he has overcome the noise generated by PSG's Champions League defeat to Real Madrid, having subsequently won Ligue 1.

"PSG are desperate to win the Champions League," he said. "The goal is to win it, and it is normal for 'storms' to be generated, but we reversed it by winning the league, just as [Manchester] City won it in England.

"With the expectations and the dressing room we have, it has been a continuous learning. We were one step away from eliminating Madrid – as were Chelsea, City and Liverpool.

"We won the same [at PSG] as [Carlo] Ancelotti, [Laurent] Blanc and other coaches, but there is a lot of impatience at the club."

Pochettino has been linked with the Barcelona job, now held by Xavi, throughout his coaching career, but he explained why that move could never happen.

"Neither my children nor my wife would have let me," he said, "and I have such strong ties to Espanyol that it would be impossible."

LaLiga club Espanyol have confirmed the appointment of Diego Martinez as their new coach.

Espanyol finished 14th in LaLiga in the 2021-22 season, after gaining promotion back to the Spanish top flight as champions of the second tier.

However, they dismissed Vicente Moreno this month and have now moved for Martinez, who left Granada in May 2021 and has signed a two-year deal.

Martinez spent three seasons at Granada. He led the team back to LaLiga in 2019 before finishing seventh and reaching the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey in the following campaign.

A ninth-placed finish followed in the 2020-21 season, along with a run to the quarter-finals of the Europa League, where they were beaten by Manchester United.

He opted against extending his stay at Granada, however, and the work he had done there was emphasised when the side went on to be relegated this season, finishing 18th.

In total, 41-year-old Martinez won 29 of his 76 LaLiga games in charge of Granada (38.16 per cent), losing 32 and drawing the other 15, with his side averaging 1.34 points per game.

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois could not help but twist the knife after Los Blancos secured their 35th LaLiga title on Saturday.

Following their 4-0 win over Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu, giving them an unassailable lead with four games to spare, Courtois had a response to a claim from Dani Alves.

With Barcelona's recent win over Real Sociedad, and March's 4-0 victory over the newly-crowned champions in mind, Alves had joked that Madrid were fortunate the Blaugrana let them open up such a huge margin.

After clinching the league, Courtois engaged in some tit-for-tat while praising Madrid's maturity and togetherness in seeing the title race through.

"After the Clasico was key," he said. "Some people celebrated as if they had won the title, that they were back.

"But we kept calm to beat Celta in a difficult game, and Getafe, which is always difficult for us.

"This is the work of the whole team," Courtois said. "We all attack and defend."

With Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second leg against Manchester City looming, it will have been a relief to head coach Carlo Ancelotti that Saturday's contest became a relatively routine victory, and the Los Blancos boss was able to stagger the minutes of Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Vinicius Jr.

Courtois noted despite the result that Espanyol did not make it easy on his side.

"We had to finish it off today," Courtois said. "Everything was ready, also for our friends, family, fans.

"We knew we couldn't slip. Espanyol gave us a very tough game at the beginning, but we were calm and after the first goal, everything was easier."

 

Real Madrid captain Marcelo became Los Blancos' most decorated player in history after securing the Spanish title on Saturday.

A first-half brace from Rodrygo coupled with second-half strikes by Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema sealed the top-flight crown for Madrid with a 4-0 win over Espanyol.

Madrid wrapped up LaLiga with four games to spare, their earliest domestic crown since the 1988-89 campaign (also four), while their 35 titles are more than any team in Europe's top five leagues.

Carlo Ancelotti created his own piece of history as he became the first coach to lift top-flight trophies in Europe's top five leagues (Spain, England, Germany, France and Italy).

Brazil international Marcelo also claimed a personal landmark with Madrid's success, the veteran full-back boasting the most trophy wins of any player for the club after his 24th triumph.

Marcelo's cabinet includes four Champions League crowns, four Club World Cups, three European Super Cups, six league titles, two Copa del Rey trophies and five Supercopas de Espana.

"It's the most incredible thing that a player can experience," said Marcelo, who has managed 545 appearances and scored 38 times for Madrid.

"We've won LaLiga as a result of the hard work from the whole team. We have to keep winning. This is the result of hard work, enjoyment, sacrifice... We've managed to win it by combining all the factors.
 
"It's the best thing there is to be able to celebrate with the fans after playing at home. It's the most incredible thing that a player can experience.

"It's a day to celebrate, even though we're aware that we've got an important game coming up, but it's OK to celebrate and remain focused and motivated for Wednesday."

The attention of Madrid will now turn to a Champions League semi-final second leg at home to Manchester City on Wednesday, with Pep Guardiola's side holding a slender 4-3 lead heading to the Spanish capital.

Carlo Ancelotti outlined his desire to win more trophies with Real Madrid after Los Blancos secured the LaLiga title with 4-0 victory over Espanyol.

A first-half Rodrygo double set Ancelotti's men on their way before strikes from Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema finished off the job in style at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

Madrid claimed their 35th Spanish top-flight crown with four games to spare, their earliest title since the 1989-99 campaign.

Ancelotti became the first coach to win each of Europe's top five leagues and the Italian is hungry for further success in the Champions League, with Madrid 4-3 down in the semi-final heading into the second leg at home to Manchester City on Wednesday.

"A lot of emotion, we have met a challenge," he said on the pitch after Madrid sealed the title.

"The season has been spectacular. Lots of consistency. I have to thank the players for their work and their attitude. 

"Today we have to celebrate, not talk. I want to celebrate. It fills me with pride to win in the five major leagues. I can say that I like what I do. It means I've done pretty well. 

"I'm proud. I want to continue winning titles with Real Madrid. See you on Wednesday. I tell the fans on Wednesday we need this atmosphere."

Madrid captain Marcelo also expressed his pride as he dedicated the triumph to the Los Blancos faithful.

"An immense joy," the veteran full-back said. "We have won it as soon as possible and that is everyone's job. Very happy and we need to keep adding. It is the fruit of work, joy, sacrifice and many things. 

"That's why we've won before. Celebrating it with the fans is the best. Before we couldn't but today we can. The party is theirs. 

"It is the greatest joy, celebrating at the home of the best club in the world. Today we have to celebrate. We have an important game ahead, but nothing happens to celebrate well."

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois echoed his skipper Marcelo's sentiments.

"It is incredible to win the league with so many games remaining," the Belgium international said. "We made a great effort this year and we are very happy. 

"We have had a very important consistency in key games, but above all how we got through the difficult games we had after the Clasico [a 4-0 defeat at home to Barcelona]. 

"We beat Celta and Sevilla at their stadium, Getafe here at the Santiago Bernabeu... Many thanks to the fans for everything. Today the atmosphere was great. 

"We really wanted to celebrate it, because two years ago we couldn't celebrate it with the fans due to the pandemic. Go Madrid!"

Real Madrid clinched the LaLiga title in style as Rodrygo scored twice in a 4-0 thrashing of Espanyol.

Los Blancos needed only to avoid defeat to give third-placed Barcelona no chance of producing a remarkable turnaround in the title race.

And they made no mistake against Barca's city rivals on Saturday, Rodrygo doing the damage in the first half with a well-taken brace.

Marco Asensio made it 3-0 and Isco had a goal disallowed before Karim Benzema fittingly had the final say as Madrid claimed a 35th LaLiga title. They will now turn attention to trying to overturn a 4-3 deficit to Manchester City in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final on Wednesday.

Espanyol started brightly with plenty of energy but they were fortunate not to go behind in the 13th minute when Mariano, playing as the central striker in place of the rested Benzema, hit the post with a header from point-blank range.

Mariano headed wide from Luka Modric's pass nine minutes later before the deadlock was broken by Rodrygo, who received Marcelo's cutback and stroked a side-footed effort into the bottom-right corner.

Ten minutes later, Rodrygo doubled their advantage, wrong-footing Diego Lopez with a clever finish after Espanyol lost possession deep in their own half.

Asensio effectively made sure of the points and the title 10 minutes into the second half, when he confidently finished off a rapid counter-attack led by Eduardo Camavinga.

Substitutes Benzema and Isco combined for what looked a fine fourth goal, only for VAR to intervene with Lopez's vision apparently impeded by an offside player.

It mattered not as Madrid regained the title they lost to Atletico Madrid last season, Benzema's 81st-minute effort too strong for Lopez to put the icing on the cake.

 

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti jokingly questioned whether his Paris Saint-Germain counterpart Mauricio Pochettino was telling the truth when the Argentine claimed Kylian Mbappe will "100 per cent" be in Paris next season.

Mbappe is out of contract at the Parc des Princes at the end of the campaign and has been strongly linked with a move to Madrid.

Ancelotti was asked at a media conference on Friday ahead of Los Blancos' LaLiga clash with Espanyol what he made of Pochettino's comments a day prior.

"Pochettino said Mbappe will 100 per cent stay? Sometimes coaches at a press conference cannot tell the whole truth," he said, laughing.

"I think all the Madridistas are thinking about LaLiga and the Champions League right now. Only about that."

Madrid could clinch the title when they host Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday, needing just a point to win what will be the 35th LaLiga triumph in the club's illustrious history.

Ancelotti would not confirm if Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr will play any part, but did say he would not risk any player who needs a rest ahead of next week's Champions League semi-final second leg against Manchester City.

"I think that Benzema and Vinicius can rest, but I am in favour of the fact that if they are well, they have to play," he said. 

"If someone needs rest, I will give it to them, but not because the game is easy. If there is a risk of injury, they rest."

The former PSG and Chelsea boss did admit he will have a selection headache in defence for the game, with none of David Alaba, Eder Militao or Nacho available.

"We have problems in defense. I have to put [Jesus] Vallejo, who has played very little. We have to choose another central defender, which could be Casemiro.

"In midfield I have options, with fresh players like [Eduardo] Camavinga and [Dani] Ceballos. [Marco] Asensio is up there fresh and then let's see if Karim is fresh tomorrow. I have to prevent any tired player from getting injured."

Although Alaba will not be available, Ancelotti did not rule him out of returning for the match against Man City, which the English side lead 4-3 from the first leg.

"Alaba is not going to be here tomorrow. We'll see on Wednesday," he added.

Diego Simeone hailed 10-man Atletico Madrid for displaying their "personality, pride and hard work" in a dramatic 2-1 victory over Espanyol on Sunday.

Substitutes Matheus Cunha and Yannick Carrasco combined in the 52nd minute, with the latter opening the scoring with Atletico's first shot on target at the Wanda Metropolitano.

However, Geoffrey Kondogbia was dismissed for two bookable offences, with Raul de Tomas restoring parity immediately after by squeezing a free-kick under Jan Oblak.

Atletico's grasp on Champions League qualification was seemingly slipping until Carrasco converted a penalty in the 10th minute of stoppage time after De Tomas was adjudged by the VAR to have handled.

Victory moved the reigning LaLiga champions level on points, at least temporarily, with Sevilla and Barcelona and three clear of fifth-placed Real Betis, who were held at Real Sociedad on Friday.

Simeone's side have collected more points than any other LaLiga side this season with goals in the 90th minute or later (10 points), and the Atletico boss was delighted with his team's spirited response.

"With the sending-off comes fatigue, the goal, one less player, 20 minutes to go and the team kept looking, taking risks, with great effort from everyone," he told reporters after the game. 

"You come from the hit four days ago [after being eliminated by Manchester City in the Champions League] after playing a good game, it's not easy and these guys played with personality, pride and hard work.

"We then benefited from that penalty and Carrasco showed his courage to finish it."

Atletico have failed to score in the first half in their last four games in all competitions, having had just one shot on target in those halves, and Simeone acknowledged changes were needed at half-time.

He introduced Antoine Griezmann, Cunha and match-winner Carrasco, changes that offered Atletico the impact Simeone sought after.

"Carrasco scored a very important goal for our league position, we came from a very big effort and a bad game in Mallorca [1-0 defeat]. Today, the first half was a struggle but the second was more dynamic."

Carrasco expressed his delight to Movistar after the game but conceded Atletico have no chance of catching leaders Real Madrid, who could go 15 points clear at the LaLiga summit with victory at Sevilla.

"Very happy, it was a difficult game," he said. "We were winning, then 10 against 11 we have continued to push and very happy with the victory that brings us closer to the goal.

"[The title race] is over, we still have games left in LaLiga and we have to continue. This match is important for us for morale and to continue working."

Yannick Carrasco scored twice, including a stoppage-time penalty, as Atletico Madrid boosted their hopes of Champions League qualification with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Espanyol on Sunday.

Diego Simeone's side succumbed 1-0 to Real Mallorca last weekend and were eliminated in Europe by Manchester City on Wednesday, before struggling again at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Atletico had to wait until the 52nd minute for substitute Carrasco to strike with their first shot on target, before Raul de Tomas levelled with a free-kick following Geoffrey Kondogbia's dismissal.

However, a late handball decision against De Tomas offered Atletico a penalty, which Carrasco converted in the 10th added minute to send Simeone's side level on points, at least briefly, with Sevilla and Barcelona, and three clear of fifth-placed Real Betis.

Atletico had defeated Espanyol in seven of their last nine home league games, but it was Vicente Moreno's visitors who started the brighter.

Leandro Cabrera's header from Darder's corner forced a sharp Jan Oblak stop just seven minutes in, while Joao Felix skewed over on the counter-attack at the other end.

Simeone responded by sending on Antoine Griezmann, Matheus Cunha and Carrasco at half-time and Atletico's fortunes soon changed.

Oblak reacted quickly to deny Darder and that save proved vital a minute later when Cunha and Carrasco combined on a clinical break.

Cunha raced towards the Espanyol goal before laying an inch-perfect pass for Carrasco to cut in and squeeze a right-footed strike under Diego Lopez to open the scoring.

Oblak then thwarted a low De Tomas volley but, after Kondogbia was shown a second yellow for handball, the Espanyol striker's resulting free-kick squirmed under the Atletico goalkeeper.

Carrasco snatched victory after De Tomas was adjudged to have handled an Atleti corner, allowing the home forward to fire into the bottom-left corner from 12 yards.

Barcelona head coach Xavi believes his side were unfortunate to not walk away with all three points despite requiring a last-gasp equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Espanyol on Sunday.

Raul de Tomas fired Vicente Moreno's hosts ahead in the second half after Pedri and Sergi Darder exchanged first-half strikes at the RCDE Stadium.

Luuk de Jong then delivered a last-gasp header to salvage a point as both sides ended with 10 men, after Gerard Pique and Nicolas Melamed were dismissed for two bookable offences following a confrontation between the pair.

Manuel Morlanes also saw red on the touchline for dissent following De Jong's equaliser, which was Barca's 10th headed goal in LaLiga this season – no team has scored more this term, while it is their best tally since the 2016-17 campaign.

While the draw meant Real Betis now have a four-point advantage in third over the Blaugrana, Barca set a LaLiga record as they made it 24 games unbeaten against Espanyol, the most in derby matches in the competition's history.

However, Xavi felt his side deserved more than a draw at their Catalan rivals.

"It was a game to win," Xavi told Movistar after the game. "When we were at our best we were able to make it 2-0. 

"In the end, when the score was 2-1, it seems like you won a point, but analysing it I think it was ours to win. 

"We dominated well and we had more chances. We lost two points. We've been in Espanyol's half the whole game. They've come two or three times and they've been very effective. The other day we were and that pays off."

Real Madrid remain a distant dream for Barca, who are 15 points behind the LaLiga leaders as the Blaugrana look to cling onto the final Champions League qualification spot.

"The league is very difficult and it's a step backwards but you have to keep fighting," he added.

Ousmane Dembele, who seemed set to leave Barca amid a breakdown in contract negotiations, was introduced as a second-half substitute as Xavi chased the game and the Spaniard is pleased to have the winger to call upon.

"Dembele is one more, he can help us, and today he has helped us," Xavi continued. "He has played good minutes. He is one more for the cause."

Barca will look to close the gap on Betis when they are next in league action at Valencia on Sunday.

Luuk de Jong salvaged a point for Barcelona with a last-gasp header as Xavi's side drew 2-2 at Espanyol on Sunday.

Pedri opened the scoring after just two minutes at the RCDE Stadium before Sergi Darder levelled with a first-half strike.

Raul de Tomas edged Espanyol ahead in the second half, but Barca equalised in the dying seconds of stoppage time through De Jong. Both sides finished with 10 men on the pitch after Gerard Pique and Nicolas Melamed received their second cautions for a late clash off the ball.

Manu Morlanes, who made a fleeting substitute appearance before going off injured, was also red-carded on the touchline. The draw meant Barca set a LaLiga record for the most consecutive games unbeaten in a derby rivalry (24) and end the weekend in fourth, four points behind third-placed Real Betis.

Barca went ahead when Pedri converted the first chance of the contest, poking past Diego Lopez from close range after Jordi Alba's excellent delivery from the left.

Espanyol made their visitors pay for not capitalising on early dominance as Darder expertly curled into the top-right corner from the edge of the area after De Tomas' offload.

Gavi thought he had restored the visitors' lead after the interval as he lifted into the roof of the net, but a VAR check found Frenkie de Jong offside in the build-up after a deflection from Pedri.

Vicente Moreno's hosts then took the lead in the 64th minute, with De Tomas sneaking behind Eric Garcia to latch on to Darder's pass and fire into the bottom-left corner.

Luuk de Jong spurned a glorious chance to equalise as he headed over with time running out, before Pique and Melamed squared up off the ball and both received their marching orders.

But De Jong atoned for his miss when he powered home Adama Traore's delivery in the sixth minute of stoppage time, while Morlanes was sent off in the final seconds for dissent on the touchline.

 

Luuk de Jong salvaged a point for Barcelona with a last-gasp header as Xavi's side drew 2-2 at Espanyol on Sunday.

Pedri opened the scoring after just two minutes at the RCDE Stadium before Sergi Darder levelled with a first-half strike.

Raul de Tomas edged Espanyol ahead in the second half, but Barca equalised in the dying seconds of stoppage time through De Jong. Both sides finished with 10 men on the pitch after Gerard Pique and Nicolas Melamed received their second cautions for a late clash off the ball.

Manuel Morlanes, who made a fleeting substitute appearance before going off injured, was also red-carded on the touchline. The draw meant Barca set a LaLiga record for the most consecutive games unbeaten in a derby rivalry (24) and end the weekend in fourth, four points behind third-placed Real Betis.

Xavi believes Sunday's Catalan derby with Espanyol will act as a "litmus test" to determine just how much Barcelona have improved.

Barca produced arguably their finest display yet since Xavi replaced Ronald Koeman three months ago in last week's 4-2 win against Atletico Madrid.

That followed a 1-0 win over Granada, meaning the Blaugrana have won back-to-back LaLiga games for just the second time this season ahead of their trip to Espanyol.

However, not since a run of six between February and April last year have they won three games on the spin in the Spanish top flight.

Barcelona make the short trip to RCDE Stadium back in the top four and now full of confidence on the back of a successful January transfer window.

But Xavi insists his side have not fully turned a corner yet, with wins in successive away games against Espanyol and Valencia the target to keep their momentum going.

"Sunday's match is another final for us," he said at a pre-match news conference. "It's a litmus test and it will be a very difficult game, very intense. They will want revenge.

"We're not ruling out any targets. Being 15 points behind the leaders, with a match in hand, shows how difficult it can be. It is difficult but we do not rule anything out. 

"The next few games will tell. We need several wins in a row and have to be consistent, while hoping those in front of us falter. We're fourth and we want to climb further."

 

Memphis Depay's penalty early in the second half gave Barcelona a 1-0 win over Espanyol in Xavi's first game in charge on November 20.

Barca have now gone 23 LaLiga games without defeat against their city rivals and could record the best unbeaten run by any team in any type of derby in the competition's history.

That is a record they jointly hold with Real Madrid, who also went 23 matches without losing against Atletico Madrid between 2000 and 2013.

The Blaugrana have also not lost any of their past 13 away games against Espanyol in LaLiga (W7 D6), including their 11 matches at RCDE Stadium.

But Xavi is taking nothing for granted against Espanyol, who are winless in four in the league and down in 13th place.

"Things have changed since the last meeting," he said. "Tomorrow we face a tough and intense rival. This is one of the best Espanyol sides in recent years.

"It will be a similar game to the one at Camp Nou, but we've changed since then. We didn't have time to prepare for that game, but now we have.

"We've got to consolidate the very good things we did against Atletico. We're training well but everything depends on the results. We are on the right track."

The impact of Barcelona's teenage sensation Gavi this season has been "marvellous", according to head coach Xavi.

Since making his senior debut against Getafe in August, the 17-year-old midfielder has played 26 appearances for the Blaugrana across all competitions – matching Xavi's tally during his maiden campaign at Camp Nou in 1998-99.

Gavi will surpass that should he appear when Barca make the short trip to Espanyol on Sunday, with the visitors aiming to consolidate their top-four status in LaLiga.

The academy graduate's performances in the middle of the park have also culminated in a senior international call-up, making his Spain debut in the Nations League victory over Italy in October.

And while Xavi insisted there is still room for improvement, he has been delighted with the strides the youngster has taken.

 

"He's very good at recovering possession, taking the ball away from the opponents. He's very competitive and wins the right duels," the head coach said.

"He understands the high press very well; he's excellent at that. He turns very well when we want to play in between the lines.

"But he needs to organise himself, he needs to find the right resources in the right moments – knowing when to attack the space better, when to let the wingers run or when to pass it. These are tactical situations where he needs to improve.

"His production is spectacular. He's an incredible talent. At 17 years of age, to already have such an impact and play with the national side is marvellous."

Gavi has won 100 duels in LaLiga this season – a tally only bettered by Sergio Busquets (129) among Barcelona players.

Meanwhile, Busquets (168) and Frenkie de Jong (87) are the only midfielders to have won more possession more times in the Spanish top-flight this term than Gavi (63).

Lionel Messi predicts "Barcelona will grow with Xavi" because of his knowledge of football and the club. 

Former midfielder Xavi was this month appointed as Barca's head coach following the dismissal of Ronald Koeman. 

A penalty from Memphis Depay gave the Catalan giants a 1-0 victory over Espanyol in his first game at the helm last weekend. 

The Blaugrana had 11 shots in the first half at Camp Nou – the most they have had in the opening 45 minutes of any game this season – but had also faced 12 by the final whistle, the most in a Barca boss' opening LaLiga game in charge since Frank Rijkaard (17) in August 2002. 

A potentially pivotal Champions League clash with Benfica is next up on Tuesday, and Messi believes his former team-mate Xavi has what it takes to get the Catalan giants back on track. 

"Barcelona will grow with Xavi. He is a coach who knows a lot and knows the club perfectly," Messi told Marca. 

Messi will be hoping to get his hands on the Champions League trophy this season, having linked up with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe at Paris Saint-Germain. 

While the Argentina captain acknowledged they are among the favourites for European success, he feels Mauricio Pochettino's team have plenty of work to do to reach the required level. 

"Everyone says that we are the favourites and I will not deny that we are one of the candidates because of our name, but we still need things to be a really strong team," he said. 

PSG will book their place in the Champions League round of 16 if they beat Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

Messi has scored seven goals in as many Champions League appearances against City, who lost the reverse fixture 2-0 back in September.

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