Diego Simeone described Koke as an "exemplary captain" after the midfielder made a record-breaking 554th Atletico Madrid appearance in Saturday's 2-0 win at Sevilla.

Koke – who came through Atleti's youth ranks – surpassed fellow Colchoneros great Adelardo Rodriguez in the club's all-time appearance chart in a routine victory at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan.
 
The 30-year-old marked the occasion with an assist, teeing up Marcos Llorente to score a fine opener before Alvaro Morata lobbed Yassine Bounou to score his fourth league goal of the campaign after the break.

Koke has been a key player throughout Simeone's long reign in Madrid, and the Argentine struggled find the words to describe his captain's influence after the win.

"It is difficult, in a short time, to express all the feelings I have for him, first as a person and then as a footballer," Simeone told DAZN.

"He is a guy who gave himself, who never hesitated to commit first to Atletico, with his team-mates, with the coaching staff, and that is very difficult to see. 

"He has been an exemplary captain for many years. It is not easy to maintain that place in a team like Atletico, with so much responsibility. 

"He is very intelligent. I have always appreciated that he knows what has to be said, to whom, where and when. Then as a footballer he has given us a lot of things. 

"He has given us hierarchy, work, strength, being able to generate a commitment as a team through the midfielders. Now I see him in an important role, hopefully I can develop it in the best way."

Meanwhile, Simeone deployed Llorente in an advanced role alongside Morata, and was delighted to see the 27-year-old end a 51-game goal drought by drilling into the bottom-left corner in the first half. 

"I am very happy for Llorente because it is a position that interests me, I like it, where I know he can do very well," Simeone said.

"He has enormous power and also works for the team. He gives us a lot of speed up front."

Llorente said Atleti could have won even more convincingly, but was pleased with their display, adding: "We are happy not only for the three points and the team's victory, but also for the game. 

"At the back we have been strong, we have had enough chances to have a bigger result. But 2-0 here in Seville is a good thing.

Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi has conceded his position is under threat following an "underserved defeat" against Roma.

Jose Mourinho's side came back from behind to increase the pressure upon the Inter boss, whose side sit eight points behind early pacesetters Napoli in the Serie A standings.

The loss brought an end to a streak of seven wins in a row for Inter at San Siro in the league but, despite the result, Inzaghi believes the performance was the finest they have shown this season.

"It is an absolutely undeserved defeat. It was our best game of the season and we come out with a result that burns and hurts," he told DAZN.

"We have to do more – at this moment we're not doing enough. We hit the crossbar, our goalkeeper did not make saves. As a coach, I had a great response from the players. I'm sorry to lose in front of the fans who supported us."

The loss was the second in a row for Inter in Serie A, with Inzaghi's side also losing three of their past four, and he has conceded his position is at threat.

"Am I at risk? Coaches always are, in every game and every week. We need to work more," he added.

"Defeats never bring serenity but tonight, I saw my Inter again, the one that won two trophies. With work, we have to get out of this moment."

Inter have no time to lick their wounds, as they face a tough test in the Champions League against Barcelona on Tuesday – a game in which Inzaghi does not expect injured striker Romelu Lukaku to be available.

"On Lukaku I'm not confident for the Champions League and against Sassuolo," Inzaghi said. "We hope to have him back in a short time because he is working well."

Gabriel Jesus is setting the standard that is driving Arsenal's early-season charge at the top of the Premier League, and he came up trumps in his first north London derby.

Arsenal's win over Tottenham came in Saturday's early game and was followed by plenty of drama later, as Liverpool were held by Brighton and Hove Albion in a rip-roaring match at Anfield featuring a Leandro Trossard hat-trick.

Newcastle United earned a second win of the season, brushing off Fulham at Craven Cottage, while Graham Potter's Chelsea had substitute Conor Gallagher to thank for their late winner at Crystal Palace.

With goals and drama in abundance, here Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the data.

Arsenal 3-1 Tottenham: Ton up for Kane, but it's Partey time for Arsenal after derby win

Harry Kane became the first Premier League player to reach 100 away goals in the competition, but that was scant consolation for Tottenham after this derby defeat.

Arsenal were able to celebrate a third successive home league win over Spurs – the first time that has happened since 2013 – and they are unbeaten at home in this fixture for 12 games now (W8 D4).

It was a win to savour for Arsenal, with Thomas Partey's opening goal rounding off a 21-pass move, going down as the Gunner's sixth goal since December 26, 2019 to have come from a sequence of 20 or more passes. Only Liverpool and Manchester City have had more in that time. 

Jesus restored the Gunners' lead after Kane's penalty brought Spurs level, with Arsenal's close-season signing from City having managed five goals and three assists already in the Premier League. Only Erling Haaland (12) has had more goal involvements in the early weeks of this season.

It fell to Granit Xhaka to put the seal on the win, after Emerson Royal was sent off. The Arsenal midfielder grabbed his second Premier League goal of the season, with this the first campaign where he has managed more than one league strike since he netted four times in the 2018-19 season.

Liverpool 3-3 Brighton and Hove Albion: Trossard heroics stun Reds

Leandro Trossard became just the third opposing player to score a Premier League hat-trick at Anfield, joining former Coventry City winger Peter Ndlovu and ex-Arsenal forward Andrey Arshavin in that curious club. Arshavin famously hit four in a 4-4 draw in April 2009, the highest-scoring Premier League draw at Liverpool's home ground.

Saturday's feat meant Belgium international Trossard became the first Brighton player to score a Premier League hat-trick, and it left Liverpool four points behind the Seagulls after seven games each, with this game quite the baptism for new boss Roberto De Zerbi.

Liverpool have just two wins from seven games, and they were thankful for Roberto Firmino's sharp finishing as he scored twice, taking his tally for the season to five Premier League goals, all coming at Anfield. He scored five across the 2021-22 season, all away from home.

Mohamed Salah remains stuck on two goals in this campaign but he marked his 200th Premier League appearance with a 50th assist when he set up Firmino to trim Brighton's lead to 2-1 in the first half. Salah becomes just the third African player to reach 50 assists in the competition, after Didier Drogba (55) and Riyad Mahrez (51).

 

Crystal Palace 1-2 Chelsea: Gallagher returns to rock Eagles

Conor Gallagher came off the bench to deliver a 90th-minute knockout blow with Chelsea's winner against the side they loaned him to last season.

It meant Crystal Palace's losing run against Chelsea extended to 10 Premier League matches, and also boosted the Blues' record to nine wins in their last 10 away London derbies against all teams.

New Chelsea boss Graham Potter watched on in his first Premier League game since joining from Brighton, and he saw former Barcelona and Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang mark his league debut for the visitors with a first-half equaliser. Aubameyang also scored in his first game for Arsenal (against Everton in February 2018).

Odsonne Edouard's opener in the seventh minute was the earliest goal Chelsea have conceded in a Premier League away game since January 2021, when Wilfred Ndidi scored for Leicester City in the sixth minute.

Fulham 1-4 Newcastle United: Magpies take flight thanks to Almiron's capital double

Miguel Almiron had been Newcastle's home boy of late, with his last seven Premier League goals coming at St James' Park, so Saturday's double at Craven Cottage bucked a trend.

A fine volley followed by a close-range finish from the Paraguayan helped Newcastle to their joint-biggest victory under Eddie Howe in the Premier League (also 3-0 vs Norwich City in April), and a biggest league win in London since beating Fulham 4-0 in May 2019.

Almiron last scored away from home in the Premier League in another 4-1 win for Newcastle – against Howe's Bournemouth in July 2020.

Fulham were hindered by a red card for Nathaniel Chalobah after seven minutes and 26 seconds, the earliest a player has been sent off for the club in the Premier League since Ian Pearce against Palace in October 2004 (sixth minute).

Marcos Llorente and Alvaro Morata scored as Atletico Madrid earned a 2-0 win at Sevilla on Saturday, ratcheting up pressure on home boss Julen Lopetegui. 

Koke claimed an assist for the opening goal, on the day he made a record-breaking 554th Atletico appearance, with Llorente taking the plaudits after placing a neat finish into the bottom-left corner.

Sevilla have won just one league game so far this season, and their lack of confidence was clear as Diego Simeone's men extended their lead through Morata's finish from a one-on-one chance after 57 minutes.

The result lifts Atleti into fifth in LaLiga's early-season standings, while Lopetegui appears to be on borrowed time at Sevilla after overseeing another meek reverse.

Atleti made a bright start as Llorente headed wide following a good run from Saul Niguez, before Morata blasted over the crossbar when presented with a decent opening 19 minutes in.

But Llorente was not to be denied after 29 minutes, collecting a fine pass from Koke before shifting the ball to his right foot and drilling beyond Yassine Bounou.

Llorente then sent a fierce effort into the side netting as Sevilla were pinned back, and Kasper Dolberg's tame header was the sum of the hosts' efforts before they were booed off at the break.

The half-time introductions of Ivan Rakitic and Jesus Navas saw Sevilla enjoy more possession, but they went 2-0 down when Matheus Cunha took advantage of Jose Angel Carmona's error before teeing up Morata for a delicate chipped finish.

Cunha then forced Bounou into action with a low effort as the home crowd again made their displeasure heard, before Angel Correa and Antoine Griezmann both missed from point-blank range as Atleti failed to extend their lead.

What does it mean? Atleti come good against under-fire Sevilla

Atletico came into this contest having lost two of their first six league games this season – their joint-highest tally at that stage of a full campaign under Simeone (W4 D0 L2 in 2015-16).

Los Colchoneros, however, produced an accomplished display to see off their beleaguered hosts, who sit 16th in LaLiga's early standings after a dire start, having finished fourth last term.

Llorente ends long wait

Llorente's well-taken goal saw him bring an end to the longest goal drought of his Atletico career. The midfielder had gone 51 games without a goal ahead of this contest, last finding the net in any competition in May 2021.

He made light of that wait, however, with a sumptuous finish which left Bounou with no chance and set the visitors up for a routine win.

Koke marks landmark outing with assist

Koke overtook fellow Atletico great Adelardo Rodriguez to become the club's record appearance-maker, and he marked the occasion in style by teeing up Llorente's goal.

The 30-year-old, who came through the youth ranks and has won eight major trophies in his distinguished spell with the club, has now recorded two assists this season, and four in his 23 appearances against Sevilla in LaLiga.

What's next?

Both teams are in Champions League action in midweek. Sevilla host Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday, while Atleti go to Club Brugge on Tuesday.

Chris Smalling's header saw Roma come from behind to beat Inter in Serie A for the first time in over five years.

Federico Dimarco gave Inter a first half lead at San Siro, but Paulo Dybala equalised against the side he was heavily rumoured to join before he completed a move to Roma.

Hakan Calhanoglu struck the crossbar with a ferocious free-kick in the second period, before Smalling scored the winning goal to inflict more misery upon Simone Inzaghi's side.

Inter have now lost back-to-back Serie A matches and three of their last four, drifting eight points behind early pacesetters Napoli.

Edin Dzeko saw an early attempt, which would have been his 100th Serie A goal, disallowed for offside but Dimarco broke the deadlock on the half hour mark, teeing Nicolo Barella's threaded pass into the bottom corner to take the lead with an effort Rui Patricio will feel he should have done better with.

The lead lasted less than 10 minutes though, Dybala volleying home Leonardo Spinazzola's cross past Samir Handanovic to secure his fourth Serie A goal of the season.

A timid start to the second period saw few opportunities but Calhanoglu was inches away from pushing Inter ahead again, firing a free kick off the frame of the goal shortly after the hour mark with Patricio stranded.

15 minutes later, the visitors scored their winner as Smalling found space to head Lorenzo Pellegrini's free-kick home with ease – a VAR check showing the defender was not offside and instead the beneficiary of lacklustre marking.

Long-serving Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke set a new record for the most appearances of any player for the Spanish side in Saturday's meeting with Sevilla.

The 30-year-old featured in Atletico colours for the 554th time in all competitions, seeing him overtake fellow Atleti icon Adelardo Rodriguez.

Next on the list of Atleti's all-time appearance makers are Pedro Tomas (483), Enrique Collar (468) and Carlos Aguilera (456).

Koke emerged through Los Rojiblancos' youth ranks and made his first outing for the senior side in a 5-2 loss at Barcelona in September 2009.

He has made 392 appearances in LaLiga, 41 in the Copa del Rey, 84 in the Champions League, 29 in the Europa League, six in the Supercopa de Espana and two in the European Supercup.

Across his 13 years with Atletico, the 67-cap Spain international has won eight major trophies, including LaLiga in 2014 and 2021, while also reaching two Champions League finals.

The 2013-14 season saw Koke make his most appearances for Diego Simeone's side in a single campaign, with 58 in all, with that also his most prolific scoring season as he registered seven goals.

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri has declared a "new season" begins against Bologna following a disappointing start to the campaign.

Allegri's side are without a win in five matches, having lost back-to-back games against Monza in Serie A and Benfica in the Champions League before the international break.

Pressure upon Allegri has risen as a result, with Juventus only able to win two of their nine matches this season.

The hosting of Bologna on Sunday begins a frantic period for Juve, with 12 games to come before the season halts for the World Cup in Qatar, and Allegri experts his players to kickstart the campaign.

"We had started well in the first three games, then [there were] many defeats and bad performances. From tomorrow a new season must begin," he said in Saturday's press conference.

"We are trying to bring Juventus back to winning with work and passion and we hope to be able to do it as soon as possible. We still have time to recover both in the league and in the Champions League."

Juve will be boosted by the return of several players, with Adrien Rabiot, Manuel Locatelli and Alex Sandro among those back in contention, with Allegri set to manage workloads during such a demanding period.

"I have to manage the important players in the best possible way because now we will have many close matches," he added.

"Now, however, let's think about Bologna. In these two weeks we have discussed to understand the problems and find solutions.

"We are recovering important players, Sandro, Rabiot and Locatelli return tomorrow, Juan Cuadrado and Arkadiusz Milik return from disqualification. Only Angel Di Maria remains out, due to suspension, Paul Pogba and Federico Chiesa."

Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed Karim Benzema will start against Osasuna on Sunday and backed the Real Madrid captain to get back to his "spectacular" best.

Benzema has been sidelined for three weeks due to a knee injury but will be in action in the champions' first LaLiga game after the international break at Santiago Bernabeu this weekend.

The France striker has scored four goals in six appearances for Los Blanco this season after an outstanding 2021-22 campaign.

Benzema found the back of the net a staggering 44 times last season as Madrid secured a famous Champions League and LaLiga double. 

Head coach Ancelotti expects the Ballon d'Or favourite to hit those heights again after recovering from an early-season injury setback.

"Benzema is doing very well, he is going to start the game," he said. "He's been with the team all week. His physical condition is good because he was able to recover well and then work well."

When it was put to Ancelotti that Benzema has not looked the same player he was last season, the Italian replied: "Well it's true he didn't score in the last few games – he didn't score because he didn't play.

"There is nothing different with Karim, he's been training very well. Maybe if he didn't have a problem in pre-season, he would not perform this way, but after this injury and time, he didn't play. I'm absolutely sure we are going to see the same Karim Benzema we saw last season, a spectacular player."

Ancelotti revealed midfielder Luka Modric will not face Osasuna and could also miss the Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.

He said: "Modric has a minor injury, not a very serious one. I'm not sure he will make it for Wednesday. He will train on Monday, let's see how he feels. If not fit for Wednesday, he will play next weekend [at Getafe]."

Ancelotti plans to make full use of the options at his disposal with such a hectic schedule to come ahead of the World Cup.

"It's an important moment, with many games in a short time," he said. "League, Champions [League]... We have to think that rotating would be important, because we play every three days. Everyone will give and put in their quality and commitment."

Luis Suarez wants Ronald Koeman to tell him to his face why he showed him the door at Barcelona just over two years ago.

Suarez joined LaLiga rivals Atletico Madrid on a free transfer in September 2020 after being deemed surplus to requirements by Koeman.

The Uruguay striker, now playing for his boyhood club Nacional, scored 198 goals in a trophy-laden six-year spell with Barca.

Suarez hopes Koeman, who was sacked by the Blaugrana in October 2021 after just 14 months as head coach, will explain why he decided to get rid of him.

He told Marca: "Time goes by, and yes, out of politeness and respect, I would greet him.

"If I met him, I hope that Ronald would have the greatness, which he had as a player at the club, to tell me the truth to my face about why I left and that I didn't leave for footballing or technical reasons."

Xavi replaced Koeman and has been given significant backing in the transfer market, bringing in the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha.

Suarez feels Barca legend Xavi has everything in place to be a success.

Asked if Xavi will produce the style of football fans of the Catalan giants expect, he said: "I think so. He is showing it, without being perfect. He is a coach who grew up there and knows what the club and the fans need.

"I see many conditions for him to go far as a coach, and, in addition, they gave him good tools for it, they gave him the players that he needed and wanted. It's up to him to prove it."

Suarez believes Barca have a good blend of youth and experience as they strive to dethrone LaLiga champions and fierce rivals Real Madrid.

Quizzed how he thinks his former club will do, he replied: "Very well. They made good signings and the young players have two more years of experience: Pedri, Gavi, Ansu [Fati], who is coming back, plus the experience of Jordi [Alba], Busi [Sergio Busquets], [Marc-Andre] ter Stegen... It's a team that can compete for everything."

Chelsea have reportedly already conducted a medical for RB Leipzig forward Christopher Nkunku with the aim of signing him at the end of this season.

It has long been thought Nkunku's time at Leipzig was coming to an end, but the Bundesliga club retained his services in the most recent transfer window, potentially setting him up for a 2023 departure.

Nkunku is off to a terrific start to the Bundesliga season, netting four goals from seven games, and while the interest in him is expected to be wide-ranging, Chelsea have used their relationship with Leipzig in an effort to jump to the front of the queue.

TOP STORY – CHELSEA COMPLETE SECRET NKUNKU MEDICAL, PREPARE TO TRIGGER RELEASE CLAUSE

According to Bild, Nkunku has a release clause in his contract set at €60million, and Chelsea are prepared to trigger it at the conclusion of this campaign.

Chelsea and Leipzig have done plenty of business together previously, including sales of Timo Werner in either direction and advanced negotiations around young centre-back Josko Gvardiol. It appears Nkunku was also discussed at length, and the German club were willing to let Chelsea take a closer look at the in-demand attacker ahead of any official bids being made.

With Gvardiol also remaining a potential target for new Chelsea coach Graham Potter – with his price tag set at a huge €90m – this could turn into one of the most expensive package deals ever.

ROUND-UP

– According to the Daily Star, Erling Haaland weighed up a potential move to Liverpool before eventually choosing Manchester City, but he categorically ruled out Manchester United.

– Football Insider is reporting Aston Villa are considering Mauricio Pochettino and Unai Emery for their next manager if Steven Gerrard is fired.

– Football Insider also claims Leicester City's James Maddison is "very keen" on a move to Tottenham after reports they are keeping tabs on the 25-year-old midfielder.

Chelsea will give Christian Pulisic a chance to prove his value before making a decision on his future, per 90min.

– Sport is reporting Juventus are planning a January move for Barcelona left-back Jordi Alba.

Concacaf has conducted the official draw for the 2023 Concacaf U-17 Men’s Championship (CU17C).

The World Cup qualifying competition will take place February 11 - 26, 2023, in Guatemala, and will include the participation of 20 Concacaf Member Associations.

During Thursday’s draw, hosted at the Confederations Headquarters, in Miami, FL, the 16 nations participating in the 2023 CU17C group stage (all ranked 16 or better in the Concacaf Men’s U-17 Ranking) were divided into four groups of four teams each.

 The groups are as follows:

 Group E: Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, Curacao

Group F: USA, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados

Group G: Costa Rica, Jamaica, Cuba, Guadeloupe

Group H: Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador, Suriname

 After group stage play, the top three nations in each group will advance to the knockout stage, joining the four 2022 Concacaf U-17 Men’s Qualifiers (CU17Q) group winners; Bermuda, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Puerto Rico.

 The four-round knockout stage (round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals, and final) will be played in a single-match elimination format and the four semifinalists will qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Peru 2023.

 Matches will be divided across two venues, the Estadio Nacional Doroteo Guamuch Flores in Guatemala City and the Estadio Pensativo in Antigua.

 The competition’s match schedule will be announced at a later date

Bayern Munich proved they can handle the persistent pressure they face, Jamal Musiala said after a 4-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen that boss Julian Nagelsmann described as "satisfying".

The Bundesliga champions snapped a four-match top-flight winless streak with a rampant showcase at Allianz Arena.

Germany international Musiala got on the scoresheet, alongside Leroy Sane, Sadio Mane and Thomas Muller, as the hosts inflicted further misery upon their visitors, led by Gerardo Seoane.

Musiala acknowledged there is seldom an unburdened moment at Bayern, and that it is their resolve when under the microscope that helps them succeed.

"The pressure was on us all," he told DAZN. "We are focused on ourselves. We all want to win and be number one, and we showed that today. The pressure is always there at Bayern. We need to deal with it."

Nagelsmann meanwhile alluded to reports of dressing room unrest in his post-game comments.

"I've always said you can tell, when players leave the dressing room, if they respect the manager," he added.

"You can see in each game that the players are fully into it. That was very satisfying today."

Opposite number Seoane meanwhile was left to question how his Champions League side continue to slip towards the bottom of the Bundesliga table, with a leaky defence causing no shortage of problems.

"It is a question of will," he mused. "We didn't have the necessary aggression. It is a mental process."

A brusquely assured first-half demolition job from Bayern Munich reaffirmed their Bundesliga title defence credentials in a 4-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen.

Goals from Leroy Sane, Jamal Musiala and Sadio Mane all before the interval put the champions firmly in the driving seat for a deserved victory at Allianz Arena on Friday, before Thomas Muller added a fourth close to the end.

After a dismal domestic run saw them go four league games without a win, questions had been asked about Julian Nagelsmann's side and their purported chances of claiming another top-flight crown.

But for now, they have been emphatically silenced, while Gerardo Seoane's side saw their horror-show start to the campaign worsened in painful fashion on the road.

It took Sane just three minutes to split open the visitors, fed off the right wing and able to roll a deflected strike beyond the wrong-footed Lukas Hradecky.

Musiala followed suit just after the quarter-hour mark, playing a one-two with Muller off a long ball before squeezing a shot in, and Sane added a third from the edge of the box six minutes from the break.

Mane saw a second overturned 10 minutes after the interval when VAR deemed Odilon Kossounou to have been fouled, but that call was likely scant consolation for Leverkusen.

Yet Bayern were not done, and when Muller pressed Hradecky late on, a tragicomic slip from the goalkeeper left an open net for the veteran to turn home and round off a comprehensive win.

Jorge Vilda insisted he has no plans to resign as head coach of the Spain women's team after a player rebellion forced him to name a massively under-strength squad on Friday.

The besieged boss left captain Irene Paredes and record scorer Jenni Hermoso out of his group for high-profile friendlies against Sweden and the United States, while 15 others last week wrote to the Spanish federation – the RFEF – to say they were unwilling to play for Vilda.

At the time, the group of players said by email the decision was taken for the sake of their "emotional state".

Vilda spoke at length about the crisis in a press conference, shortly after revealing his weakened squad list for the October 7 game against Sweden, and the USA match, which takes place four days later.

The reasoning behind the players' stance has yet to be crystallised. Vilda may by now have some sense of their concerns, after admitting he was initially "confused", but he would not detail any recent discussions.

His view is that he should be allowed to continue in his role, and when asked if he had at any stage considered quitting, his answer was unequivocal.

"At no time," he said. "Because of the unfairness and because of everything we have created in the past. Because of the energy and strength that I have to continue."

He urged the players who have opposed playing for him to front up, saying: "I would like them to say face to face why they have made that decision and why they disagree."

Vilda declined to speak about Hermoso and Paredes, saying he preferred to discuss the players he had selected. Hermoso came out in support of the rebels on Wednesday, while Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas, who is currently injured, has also backed the disenchanted players' stance.

Defender Paredes and playmaker Putellas are Barcelona players, while striker Hermoso is with Mexican club Pachuca.

Vilda would not say whether he had spoken to the rebel players but said he was always available to talk.

"It is clear that it is a complicated and difficult situation to deal with," he said. "I am suffering more for my family and they are more affected. I think it would be unfair to remove myself from the centre and it would not be the right thing to do."

He appealed for "time and respect" for the players he has summoned, who included teenage Barcelona forward Salma Paralluelo.

Shortly before the squad list was released, Barcelona announced Paralluelo had a thigh problem.

Vilda said: "If that injury is confirmed, everything will go through the official channels of the national team. The club informs our medical services and the doctor tells me."

Ana Alvarez, director of women's football at the RFEF, said last week that Vilda's position was "unquestionable". He has an agreement to remain as coach until 2024, and his team have qualified for next year's World Cup.

Barcelona boss Xavi has played down concerns over the future of captain Sergio Busquets, insisting the Spain international remains "key" to his plans at the club.

A difficult start to the season for the 34-year-old, including a red card against Rayo Vallecano, seems to have stoked further suggestions this campaign could be his last at Camp Nou.

With Barca still likely to need to cut their cloth accordingly amid their financial struggles, the Spain skipper could well be one key man to depart next year.

But the defensive midfielder has publicly downplayed a definitive answer on his future, and speaking ahead of his side's clash with Mallorca, Xavi reiterated that no decisions have yet been made.

"Busquets has said publicly that he hasn't decided anything," he stated. "He will make a decision at the end of the season and for me, he continues to be key."

With domestic and European concerns to field, Barca are set to enter a major period of fixture congestion, with a dozen games crunched into the month-and-a-half stretch ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Several of Xavi's fellow coaches across the continent have voiced their displeasure at the intense calendar, but he is instead focusing on the need to take as many points as they can at home and abroad.

"We have 12 games until the break for the World Cup," he added. "It's a momentous stretch of the season. All games are going to be very important.

"Tomorrow we have to win and show our character. We have to show our strengths."

Barca will move into an enforced break this term thanks to the mid-season winter staging of the World Cup in Qatar, adding another tough dimension to an already gruelling campaign.

With FIFA having mooted plans in recent times to potentially expand the tournament to a biennial staging, Xavi feels there should be no further restructures or moves from its traditional off-season berth.

"FIFA plans to organise the World Cup every two years," he added. "Now we have the World Cup in Qatar during the winter period.

"I think it would be better if the tournament is compiled at a separate time. Then the other time is allocated to the clubs."

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