Ronald Koeman says he has no intention of stepping down as Barcelona head coach.

Koeman has endured a difficult start to the new season, with Barca ninth in LaLiga and suffering back-to-back Champions League group stage defeats for the first time since 2000-01.

The Catalan side went down 2-1 to Real Madrid on Sunday, Koeman becoming just the second manager to lose all three of his opening El Clasico meetings.

Koeman's car was mobbed by fans as he left Camp Nou following that defeat to Barca's fierce rivals.

However, the former Netherlands boss assured that he remains committed to his role as he prepares to take on Rayo Vallecano, who Barca have won their last 13 LaLiga games against.

"I am older in this, I want to enjoy the atmosphere that there was the other day on the field [for El Clasico]," Koeman told reporters at Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

"I accept the results. I want to enjoy [my time here], if it is eight years, if it is one year and yes if it's three months.

"There are things as a coach that you don't like, but I like being with the players, preparing the games, analysing and having to decide is what I like.

"The other day I loved the game, Not the result because it was a Clasico, but the atmosphere. We made merits for another result, we need a little luck.

"These things are the ones I like, and if a day comes when I don't enjoy it, I'll go and dedicate myself to playing golf five days a week. I understand that it is a delicate situation, but there is a future in this club."

Barca are winless in three LaLiga away games, failing to score in their last two trips. They have not gone three consecutive games on the road without scoring since February 2003.

The Blaugrana, however, have won on their past two visits to newly-promoted top-flight teams without conceding a goal and Koeman appreciates the importance of a reaction on Wednesday.

"There is always a need to win, especially after the defeat the other day," he continued. "The team is able to react well."

Asked whether he was not enjoying his time with Barca and whether a new coach would withstand the pressure he is under, Koeman responded: "It depends, if the results are good or bad and the team you are in.

"[Madrid boss Carlo] Ancelotti encouraged me, he knows perfectly well about the situation because he has been in great teams.

"I don't know, it is important to know the situation, be a former player from here and have character if the wind comes against. I am like that and I want to see how far I can go."

Ronald Koeman says he has no intention of stepping down as Barcelona head coach.

Koeman has endured a difficult start to the new season, with Barca ninth in LaLiga and suffering back-to-back Champions League group stage defeats for the first time since 2000-01.

The Catalan side went down 2-1 to Real Madrid on Sunday, Koeman becoming just the second manager to lose all three of his opening El Clasico meetings.

Koeman's car was mobbed by fans as he left Camp Nou following that defeat to Barca's fierce rivals.

However, the former Netherlands boss assured that he remains committed to his role as he prepares to take on Rayo Vallecano, who Barca have won their last 13 LaLiga games against.

"I am older in this, I want to enjoy the atmosphere that there was the other day on the field [for El Clasico]," Koeman told reporters at Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

"I accept the results. I want to enjoy [my time here], if it is eight years, if it is one year and yes if it's three months.

"There are things as a coach that you don't like, but I like being with the players, preparing the games, analysing and having to decide is what I like.

"The other day I loved the game, Not the result because it was a Clasico, but the atmosphere. We made merits for another result, we need a little luck.

"These things are the ones I like, and if a day comes when I don't enjoy it, I'll go and dedicate myself to playing golf five days a week. I understand that it is a delicate situation, but there is a future in this club."

Barca are winless in three LaLiga away games, failing to score in their last two trips. They have not gone three consecutive games on the road without scoring since February 2003.

The Blaugrana, however, have won on their past two visits to newly-promoted top-flight teams without conceding a goal and Koeman appreciates the importance of a reaction on Wednesday.

"There is always a need to win, especially after the defeat the other day," he continued. "The team is able to react well."

Asked whether he was not enjoying his time with Barca and whether a new coach would withstand the pressure he is under, Koeman responded: "It depends, if the results are good or bad and the team you are in.

"[Madrid boss Carlo] Ancelotti encouraged me, he knows perfectly well about the situation because he has been in great teams.

"I don't know, it is important to know the situation, be a former player from here and have character if the wind comes against. I am like that and I want to see how far I can go."

Ronald Koeman claimed the unsavoury scenes as he left Camp Nou after the defeat against Real Madrid reflect greater social issues.

Barcelona sit ninth in LaLiga after a 2-1 loss to Real Madrid on Sunday, Koeman becoming just the second coach to suffer defeat in his first three Clasico meetings.

The Blaugrana also made it five wins without a LaLiga Clasico victory, their longest winless run against any team in the Spanish top flight since May 2008.

After the game at Camp Nou at the weekend, under-fire Barca boss Koeman had his car mobbed by a crowd of fans as he attempted to depart the stadium.

The Catalan club released a statement to condemn those actions and Koeman suggested the incident reflected wider problems as he prepares to face Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday.

"I don't think there is a solution," Koeman told reporters at Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

"For me, it is more a social problem, it is not a matter of them being Catalans. It is more a matter of education, they have no values. 

"We don't have to pay much attention, and it seems that it was only with me, but it has been with many players, with their families.

"It may be that with me it has been more exaggerated, but even Carles Puyol had to suffer.

"The club knows that this cannot be repeated and has to find another formula. It should not be given more attention, it is a social problem that happens all over the world, not just here."

Koeman, who has seen his side go winless in his three top-flight away trips, then echoed a similar sentiment as he reaffirmed the social issues causing the unnerving scenes.

"I have the images because there were two people in the back [of the car] filming for a documentary, my wife next door," he continued.

Koeman added: "When you go out there are many cameras, many telephones, a lot on TikTok for their followers ... it is a social problem that we have and it is better to put energy in other things."

Gavi has fast become the talk of Spanish football.

The 17-year-old is a regular for Barcelona and now an international for Luis Enrique's Spain.

His exploits have reportedly attracted interest from Europe's elite.

 

TOP STORY – TRIO CHASING GAVI

Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool and Manchester United are interested in Barcelona and Spain sensation Gavi, according to El Nacional.

Gavi has enjoyed a rapid rise at Camp Nou this season, while he earned his first international cap in Spain's Nations League semi-final success against Italy on Wednesday.

PSG, Liverpool and United are eyeing Gavi as Barca try to extend the 17-year-old's contract, claims Mundo Deportivo.

 

ROUND-UP

- ABC claims Liverpool have set their sights on Real Madrid attacker Marco Asensio, who is reportedly unhappy at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Juventus and Inter are eyeing Bayern Munich centre-back Niklas Sule, says Calciomercato. The Germany international, who is out of contract at the end of the season, has also been linked with Chelsea.

- Bundesliga champions Bayern are monitoring PSV winger Cody Gakpo. The 22-year-old is seen as an ideal replacement Kingsley Coman, who is reportedly wanted by the likes of Liverpool and United.

Valencia and Real Betis are battling to sign out-of-favour Inter forward Alexis Sanchez, per Calciomercato. The Chilean forward has also emerged as a target for Rayo Vallecano.

Mauro Icardi could swap PSG for Juve as the Serie A side view the former Inter captain as an alternative to Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. Vlahovic is set to leave Fiorentina amid links with Manchester City, Tottenham, Atletico Madrid, Arsenal and Inter.

Radamel Falcao has completed a move to Rayo Vallecano after Galatasaray agreed to terminate his contract at the start of the month.

The Colombia striker, 35, left Galatasaray having played just 25 minutes across three games in three competitions so far this season.

Falcao scored 20 goals in 43 matches in all for the Turkish giants, having signed as a free agent in 2019.

He now returns to LaLiga with Rayo, who were promoted through the play-offs last season.

Rayo registered their first win of the campaign ahead of the international break, beating Granada 4-0.

And they will now be boosted by the experience of Falcao, whose previous stint in Spain saw him star for Atletico Madrid between 2011 and 2013.

Over two seasons, only Lionel Messi (96) and Cristiano Ronaldo (80) scored more LaLiga goals than Falcao's 52.

He averaged a goal every 112.4 minutes, scoring with 21.1 per cent of his 247 shots and marginally outperforming his expected goals value of 51.4.

Falcao, signed from Porto, went on to play for Monaco, Manchester United and Chelsea, ending his eight-year stay in Europe's top five leagues when he joined Galatasaray.

Between 2011 and 2019, his 122 goals in 212 games ranked 14th across Europe.

LaLiga is arguably harder to call than ever before heading into 2021-22 – Barcelona no longer have Lionel Messi to guide the way and Real Madrid have seen significant upheaval, so surely the smart money is on defending champions Atletico Madrid?

Diego Simeone's men won the title in 2020-21 after watching Barca and Madrid trade success for seven years and look in good shape given they've not lost any major players. But can you really write off the 'big two'?

Well, you shouldn't, according to Stats Perform predictions.

The Stats Perform League Prediction Model, created by Stats Perform AI using Opta data, has analysed the division ahead of the new season to assign percentages to potential outcomes for each club.

The model estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) based on teams' attacking and defensive qualities, which considers four years' worth of results, with weighting based on recency and the quality of opposition. The season is then simulated 10,000 times to calculate the likelihood of each outcome.

Without further ado, let's look at what could occur over the 2021-22 LaLiga season.

 

ANCELOTTI DELIVERS THE GOODS

Carlo Ancelotti's back at the Santiago Bernabeu, and so – it seems – will the Spanish title. The Stats Perform model calculates Madrid have a 42.3 per cent chance of taking the crown back from their local rivals.

In fact, if the model proves accurate, Atletico may not even finish in the top two, as their 18.7 per cent chance is a fair bit smaller than Barca's 30.4 per cent likelihood of winning LaLiga.

However, it's worth pointing out that, because the model is based on historical data points and results, the Barcelona that appears here is one that has had Messi in the team for past 17 years.

It's entirely reasonable to expect Barca to see a significant drop-off given they'll no longer have the greatest player of all time on their books – as such, a 30.4 per cent chance of winning the title might actually be quite generous.

THE BIG FOUR?

The 2020-21 season was the tightest LaLiga title fight in recent memory. Although Atletico were 11 points clear at one point, with five matches left there were just three points separating first from fourth.

In that respect, it was the closest title race LaLiga had ever seen in a 20-team campaign (1987-1995, 1997-present) and the least predictable since 2006-07, when Madrid, Barca and Sevilla could all win the league on the final day of the season.

Sevilla's challenge ultimately faded before that stage in 2020-21 but they've managed to keep Julen Lopetegui, their coach, and their squad is largely unaltered for the time being.

The prediction model makes them fourth favourites for the title (6.8 per cent) and far better placed to take the final Champions League spot (69.4 per cent) for the third year in a row than their likeliest challengers Villarreal (36.2 per cent).

There was a 15-point gap between fourth and fifth last season – this is the closest to a 'big four' Spain has had in years.

 

FOUR TIPPED FOR RELEGATION TUSSLE

Rayo Vallecano, Real Mallorca and Espanyol were the three to come up from the Segunda last season. While most people would ordinarily point to the promoted sides as the most likely to be relegated, the prediction model disagrees.

It gives Mallorca a 30.7 per cent likelihood of going straight back down, and Espanyol are at 17.6 per cent – neither of those are among the bottom three, though Rayo (45.9 per cent) are seen as the second favourites to head back to the second tier.

But it's Elche (57.9 per cent) who are the clear front-runners in this regard, and then it looks agonisingly close for the third and final relegation spot.

According to the predictor, it's likely to be neck-and-neck between Deportivo Alaves (41.1 per cent) and Cadiz (41.9 per cent).

Rayo Vallecano secured a return to LaLiga with a 2-0 victory at Girona to complete a stunning aggregate comeback in the Segunda Division play-off final.

Girona took a 2-1 advantage back to Montilivi on Sunday but it was swiftly all square when Alvaro Garcia dispatched Emiliano Velazquez's througball in the seventh minute.

Andoni Iraola's men led the tie in first-half stoppage time when captain Oscar Trejo snaffled a close-range chance.

Rayo's hopes suffered a blow in the 56th minute when Velazquez was given a second yellow card for a foul on Ramon Terrats but the Madrid club held out to end a two-season absence from the top flight.

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman said his team are trying to win the Copa del Rey as they attempt to overhaul LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid.

Barca came from behind to beat second-tier side Rayo Vallecano 2-1 in Wednesday's last-16 showdown in the Copa del Rey.

Fran Garcia gave Vallecano a 63rd-minute lead before Lionel Messi equalised six minutes later and Frenkie de Jong completed Barca's comeback 10 minutes from time midweek.

It has been a challenging season for Barca amid doubts over Messi's future, the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and a struggle for form as the Spanish giants sit third and 10 points behind Atletico, while they also lost the Supercopa de Espana final.

But Koeman and Barca remain focused on the goal of silverware, with the Catalan club set to face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League round of 16.

"I am very happy," Koeman said post-match after reaching the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey. "From the beginning we played a good game. In the first part we forgave them on several occasions, in the last pass, there were plays in which there could be penalties.

"Yes, we had problems in the first half. In the second one, especially with the score against, I think we've showed our personality, scoring quality goals, we came back in the game. At the end you always suffer with such a tight result with just one goal difference. Overall, the team played very well.

"We know these are complicated games, it does not matter the category of the opponent. They played a great game, they complicated us. But, in the first half we forgave them, we should've scored one or two goals."

"Our goal is to go game by game, try to win every game in order to try to move up in the table," Koeman added. "Cut the gap we have now [in the league], play in the Champions League.

"We want to win the Copa [del Rey]. I think this is the mentality our team has shown in all competitions and try to get the most out of it. It is important, we are Barca, but there are no easy games.

"We know how the Copa games are, it doesn't depend on the category of your opponent. You have to work a lot and play well. The field was not very good to play our game. Despite the state of the field, we played a very good game. Also, the team had the right mentality to overcome this play-off."

Barcelona booked their place in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals as goals from Lionel Messi and Frenkie de Jong sealed a 2-1 win over Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday. 

Ronald Koeman's side had looked set to follow Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in losing to lower-league opposition when Fran Garcia gave Segunda Division side Rayo the lead shortly after the hour-mark. 

As is so often the case, though, Messi pulled Barca level soon after with a close-range finish. 

That set the stage for the impressive De Jong to secure Barca's progression 10 minutes from time.

The first clear sight of goal did not come until the 20th minute, De Jong looping an effort from six yards onto Stole Dimitrievski's crossbar.

The visitors somehow failed to take the lead 10 minutes before the interval when Dimitrievski initially pawed away Trincao's strike before Riqui Puig's follow-up was diverted onto the crossbar by Ivan Martos.

Antoine Griezmann and De Jong had further chances, but Barca were ultimately unable to make their superiority count at the break.

Messi clipped the top of the crossbar with a free-kick three minutes after the restart before the Argentina international blazed over after being played clean through soon after.

Barca were made to rue those misses in the 63rd minute when Fran Garcia turned home from almost on the line after Neto had parried Alvaro Garcia's cross into his path.

Messi restored parity six minutes later, however, sliding in from six yards after being teed up by Griezmann.

De Jong ensured there would be no need for extra time to settle the result, stroking home from a similar position to Messi from Jordi Alba's cross.

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