River Plate boss Marcelo Gallardo hailed his team's performance as they secured their path to the Copa Libertadores knockout stage, thrashing Colo Colo 4-0 on Thursday.

Agustin Palavecino's goal just before the interval gave Los Millonarios critical momentum for the second half, with goals from Nicolas de la Cruz, David Martinez and Ezequiel Barco eventually putting them six points clear atop Group F with a game left.

Following the weekend's shock elimination to Tigre in the Copa de la Liga Profesional, Gallardo's side ultimately dominated the Chilean league leaders, recording 28 shots to six for a cumulative xG total of 3.39 to 0.87.

The 46-year-old coach believes it was a necessary response from his team on top of what was at stake in the group.

"We played a very good match," Gallardo said. "I think the first half was quite even. Colo Colo are a tough team.

"In the second half we adjusted some things, we were more precise and vertical. The result could have been even better.

"We had to vindicate ourselves after last week's setback and the team did very well, they recovered against a strong rival. There was a great collective response, we achieved the qualification [to the last 16] and we surpassed Colo Colo by far.

"We were in a key game, with our people, to vindicate ourselves with what was the setback last week. I think we did well, the team recovered against a very good opponent."

In Thursday's other results in the Copa Libertadores, Deportivo Cali leapfrogged Corinthians and Boca Juniors to move to top spot in Group E, securing a 3-0 win over Always Ready, while a Hulk brace helped Atletico Mineiro defeat Independiente del Valle 3-1.

Ronald Koeman has been sacked as head coach of Barcelona following a poor start to the club's first season without Lionel Messi in 17 years. 

Financial difficulties saw the six-time Ballon d'Or winner leave for Paris Saint-Germain and, in his absence, Koeman's side have struggled. 

The Dutchman replaced Quique Setien at Camp Nou in August 2020 and led Barca to Copa del Rey success in his first season, although they finished third in LaLiga and suffered a Champions League last-16 exit, as well as losing the Supercopa de Espana final to Athletic Bilbao. 

A shock 1-0 loss at Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday was the final straw and with the club in turmoil, it is imperative that Koeman's successor is chosen with great care. Stats Perform takes a look at the leading contenders who have been linked with the position. 

Xavi

With Koeman dismissed, Barcelona could turn to another club legend in Xavi, hoping the La Masia graduate can succeed where his predecessor failed with an unbalanced squad of ageing regulars and young talent. The former Spain international has presided over Qatari side Al Sadd since his retirement in 2019, leading them to a league title and six domestic cups.

Turning to a young coach who does not have any experience in Europe amid a time of upheaval could be viewed as a huge risk, however. Plus, will Xavi see this as the right time to return? The opportunity to manage Barca is likely to come around again at some stage.

Andrea Pirlo

Another candidate who enjoyed a glittering career as a central midfielder in his playing days, Pirlo replaced Maurizio Sarri at Juventus in August 2020 and won the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italiana, but was sacked at the end of his debut season following a fourth-placed Serie A finish and another disappointing European exit, this time against Porto.

While Pirlo has experience of coaching in a top-five league, his stint in Turin hardly demonstrated the Italian has the credentials at this stage of his career to rescue an ailing Barcelona side.

Roberto Martinez

Martinez has a greater coaching pedigree, although the highest level he has managed at has come on the international stage with Belgium — a job he still holds. The 48-year-old guided the Red Devils to a third-place finish at the 2018 World Cup and took them to number one in the FIFA world rankings, though a major trophy continues to elude them.

At club level, however, he has managed Everton and Wigan Athletic in the Premier League, winning the FA Cup but also suffering relegation with the latter, and also Swansea City below the top tier — rather different jobs to the one that faces the newcomer at Barcelona.

Erik ten Hag

Could Barca turn to another Dutchman to try to turn their on-field fortunes around? Ten Hag has built his reputation at Ajax, having previously worked at Utrecht and Go Ahead Eagles, as well as a stint with Bayern Munich's second string. He has twice won the Eredivisie title, while he appeared set to reach the Champions League final in 2019, only for Tottenham to produce a stunning comeback in Amsterdam.

Barcelona, who know what it is like to be on the wrong end of a second-leg turnaround in Europe, have well-documented financial problems at the moment, potentially raising an issue if they want to try to lure away a coach under contract elsewhere.

Antonio Conte

Conte is out of work, at least meaning Barca would not have to pay any compensation to appoint him. However, that does not mean the Italian comes cheaply, considering he has a hugely impressive resume. The former Juve boss made a quick impact at his previous two jobs, having returned to club duties after a spell in charge of the Azzurri.

He won the Premier League title in his first season at Chelsea, during which they produced an impressive 13-game winning streak, then ended Inter's Scudetto wait last term, leading the Nerazzurri to a first championship since 2010. His San Siro departure amid Inter's financial cutbacks does raise questions over whether he would want to go anywhere near Camp Nou right now, particularly with Manchester United also reportedly interested.

Marcelo Gallardo

A name strongly linked with the post, Gallardo started out his coaching career with Nacional in Uruguay. However, he has been in charge of River Plate — a club he had three stints at during his playing career — since 2014, winning the Copa Libertadores twice among an impressive list of honours at Los Millonarios.

The last Argentinian coach to take the top job at Barca did not last too long: Gerardo Martino had just one season at the helm. Gallardo would have to cut short his River journey to do so, a move he suggested was not likely after revealing he plans to see out a contract that runs until the end of 2021.

Marcelo Gallardo has made clear he plans to see out his contract with River Plate amid links to Barcelona.

Ronald Koeman is the head coach at Camp Nou but his time in charge could be coming to an end, despite Barca being unbeaten in LaLiga so far this season.

Wednesday's 3-0 defeat away to Benfica in the Champions League means the Spanish club have lost back-to-back group games in the competition in the same campaign for the first time in 21 years.

Koeman also has a fractured relationship with Barca president Joan Laporta, leading to speculation the Dutchman is on his way out. Gallardo is one of those seen as a potential candidate to take over, though the former Argentina international responded to the rumour on Friday.

Speaking to the media ahead of the huge game against Boca Juniors on Sunday, Gallardo said: "I am focused on the Superclasico and also everyone knows that my thought and my decision is to fulfill the contract with River.

"I have no reason to be distracted by other things and thoughts of others. I have a contract and a commitment to River.

“I want to continue connected with what it means to be River's coach and it never crossed my mind to leave the club."

Gallardo's deal with his current employers expires at the end of the year. Reports in Spain suggested he had already been contacted by Barcelona, though he refused to confirm or deny such speculation.

"If they contacted me or not, what's the point of revealing it," he added.

"The only thing I can say is that my goal is to end the contract with the club. Then we will see, but my focus is on the game against Boca."

Koeman is set to take charge as Barca visit reigning LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid on Saturday, though the Catalan club do not then play again until October 17 due to the upcoming international window.

As well as Gallardo, Belgium national team boss Roberto Martinez and Barcelona legend Xavi have been rumoured as potential options to become the new head coach, along with Italian duo Antonio Conte and Andrea Pirlo.

Paris Saint-Germain continue to plan for Kylian Mbappe's potential departure. 

The Ligue 1 giants have been linked with several possible replacements. 

Robert Lewandowski is the latest rumoured target.

 

TOP STORY – PSG EYE LEWANDOWSKI AS MBAPPE REPLACEMENT

With seemingly everyone expecting Kylian Mbappe to depart Paris Saint-Germain after the season, the club have been linked with several potential attacking options. 

Robert Lewandowski is the latest, with Le10Sport reporting the Bayern Munich and Poland striker could make a lucrative move to PSG. 

The 33-year-old is under contract with Bayern through 2023, though, and could end up agreeing to a new deal to remain in the Bundesliga. 

 

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid are set to take another run at Manchester United's Edinson Cavani during the January transfer window, says El Nacional. 

Andrea Pirlo and River Plate's Marcelo Gallardo are candidates to replace Ronald Koeman if he is sacked by Barcelona in the coming days, the Express reports. 

PSG are eyeing midfield help, with Inter's Nicolo Barella a possibility, according to Calciomercato, along with N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Franck Kessie.

Liverpool are interested in Bayer Leverkusen winger Moussa Diaby, according to Calciomercato. 

Timo Werner could look to leave Chelsea if he does not receive more playing time the rest of the season, says the Telegraph.

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