Barcelona have condemned the actions of fans who mobbed under-fire head coach Ronald Koeman's car as he left Camp Nou following a 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the first Clasico of the season.

Goals from David Alaba and Lucas Vazquez put Madrid into the lead and Sergio Aguero's stoppage-time strike proved merely a consolation as Barca slipped to a fourth consecutive Clasico defeat – the last three coming under Koeman.

The Dutchman is only the second Barca manager in history to lose his first three LaLiga games against Real Madrid, with Patrick O'Connell having suffered the same fate between 1935 and 1940.

With Barca ninth in LaLiga and third in their Champions League group, pressure is growing on Koeman as fans grow restless with the team's poor performances.

That unrest spilled over in the aftermath of Sunday's loss against Los Blancos, with a crowd of fans mobbing Koeman's car as he left the stadium.

Barca released a statement to deplore those actions and vowed to increase security in order to prevent a repeat.

"FC Barcelona publicly condemns the violent and disdainful acts that our manager experienced when leaving the Camp Nou," the statement read. 

"The club will take security and disciplinary measures so that such unfortunate events do not happen again."

Barcelona travel to face seventh-placed Rayo Vallecano on October 27 and will hope to bounce back from their demoralising defeat with a victory.

Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets believes his side deserved more after losing 2-1 to Real Madrid in the first Clasico of the season 2-1 on Sunday.

David Alaba and Lucas Vazquez gave Madrid a 2-0 lead before Sergio Aguero grabbed a late consolation for Barca deep into added time.

The defeat was Barca's fourth consecutive Clasico defeat across all competitions - their longest losing run in the fixture since seven losses in a row between April 1962 and February 1965.

Busquets, 33, felt that the Blaugrana should not have ended up on the losing side, but were undone by conceding the first goal.

"They got it right in the first part and we didn't," Busquets said to Barca TV post-match. "We knew they were going to let us have the ball but they had speed with Rodrigo and Vinicius.

"In a team with these characteristics, when you lose the ball it is difficult to recover. And they have scored a goal in a kick, not in a play. That changes the game completely. I don't think we deserved to lose, but that's football.

"When there are games of these characteristics, the one who scores first has the advantage. In the second half, we had possession and control, but we had not made clear chances."

Busquets refused to blame the referee for the result and insisted that Barca remain positive despite being five points behind the top three.

"Yes, I have seen [the controversial incidents], but it does not matter," Busquets continued. "The referee has been good in general lines and I am not going to respond to the controversies.

"A small gap [in the table] is opening but I think we are growing little by little. Now we are going to recover Ousmane who will give us things in attack. We have to continue."

Barca head coach Ronald Koeman - who has now lost five games against Real Madrid (three) and Atletico Madrid (two), as many as in the previous nine seasons in the competition - agreed with his veteran midfielder, insisting that his men played well but that going behind allowed their opponents to play on the break.

"It is always difficult to understand a result like this because we made merits to have another result, especially in the first half," Koeman said. 

"It depended on a very clear chance to have 1-0 and instead, they scored 0-1, then it was complicated because they defended the result and we knew that is very dangerous.

"The crowd was phenomenal until the last second, we tried but we didn't get the result we wanted. We were good in the first half. We had a lot of ball possession."

Real Madrid returned to the summit of LaLiga as David Alaba's stunner and Lucas Vazquez's late tap in saw Carlo Ancelotti's team beat Barcelona 2-1 in the season's first Clasico.

Sergino Dest squandered a golden chance for Barca at Camp Nou and Madrid made their hosts pay when Clasico debutant Alaba arrowed in a brilliant shot.

Karim Benzema should have added to Madrid's lead in the second half, though Vazquez was on hand to nudge in at the end of a stoppage-time counter.

That proved to be crucial, with Sergio Aguero's maiden Barca goal in the 97th minute not enough to inspire a comeback as Barca failed to win a fifth straight LaLiga Clasico, their longest winless run against any team in the competition since May 2008.

Barca seemed all set to take the lead after breaking clear from a Marc-Andre ter Stegen pass, yet with only Thibaut Courtois to beat, Sergino Dest lashed a close-range effort way over the bar.

Where one defender failed, another one made no such mistake. After getting Madrid on the counter by dispossessing Memphis Depay, Alaba continued his run to latch onto Rodrygo's pass and thump a wonderful finish into the top-right corner.

 

Alaba made a telling contribution at the other end before half-time, blocking Ansu Fati's goal-bound attempt after Gerard Pique had headed just wide.

Benzema snatched at a volley just after the hour, before he failed to turn home Vinicius' cross from close range, albeit the offside flag spared his blushes.

Pique and substitute Aguero both flapped at a cut-back in injury time and Madrid grabbed a second goal from the resulting counter when Vazquez tucked in on the rebound from Marco Asensio's shot.

Aguero, another Clasico debutant, gave Barca a glimmer of hope with a close-range strike, though the final whistle blew a minute later.

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman acknowledged the importance of Sunday's showdown with Real Madrid but insisted he does not feel under any additional pressure to win the match.

Barca head into the first Clasico of the season on the back of victories over Valencia and Dynamo Kiev in LaLiga and the Champions League respectively.

It is the first time this season the Catalans have won successive games and has eased the pressure on Koeman, who has the public backing of president Joan Laporta.

But Koeman's side are paying for a slow start to the campaign as they are down in seventh, two points behind Madrid and five off leaders Real Sociedad with a game in hand.

The Dutchman is no stranger to arguably the most famous fixture in football, having enjoyed a hugely successful stint at Barca as a player, and is aware of the magnitude of Sunday's clash.

"I'm not under any more pressure. Being a Barca coach, I know the importance of what is ahead," he said at Saturday's pre-match news conference.

"I have lost and won Clasicos as a player. It is my first as a coach with an audience, which makes it different. I'm hopeful of winning the game.

"Winning is important as it would help us continue to build confidence with all the changes we made and the youngsters that are emerging.

"We work together to improve on the field. I don't feel like this is an exam for us, but it is a Clasico and we have to prove ourselves."

 

Laporta said ahead of the 2-0 loss to Atletico Madrid on October 2 that Koeman deserved time to turn things around in what is just his second season at Camp Nou.

Asked if he still feels the support of his president, Koeman said: "I don't have to be told every day that I will continue in the job.

"I feel supported but I know everything depends on results. It's not about a single game, though this is an important week ahead of us and we must be prepared.

Barca have not won any of their last four LaLiga games against Madrid and have lost the last three Clasicos in all competitions – not since 1965 have they lost more in a row.

The Catalans could find themselves five points behind Madrid with a defeat, though a victory would see them overtake their bitter rivals.

"We enter the game in a good mood thanks to two victories," Koeman said. "There is a lot of enthusiasm to play and show our fans we want to win.

"A win in a Clasico can make a lot of difference between the good or bad. We know it's one of the most important games, but there is a long season still ahead.

"We can show we are on the right track, making a positive result very important. We have to play without fear and show our desire to win from the start."

While results have improved for Barca, Madrid have collected just one point from their last two league matches and risk losing successive LaLiga games for the first time since 2018-19.

"I'm a Barca coach, so it is difficult to answer, but I don't see a clear favourite," Koeman said when asked if there is anything to separate the two heavyweights.

"There is a difference in terms of experience, but we also have some experienced players in our squad, while they have some young players, so we are more or less the same.

"There are areas in which they are better than us and others in which we are better than them. We are playing at home and can have no fear. We want to show we're a good team."

Koeman confirmed Jordi Alba is available for selection despite sustaining a knock against Dynamo Kiev, but Pedri, Ronald Araujo, Martin Braithwaite and Ousmane Dembele are not part of the squad.

Xavi has once again expressed his desire to coach Barcelona as the former midfielder revealed returning to his former club is his "goal and dream".

Barca great Xavi has managed Qatari side Al-Sadd since retiring in 2019 – leading them to five domestic cups and a league title – but has regularly admitted that he wants the top job with the Catalan giants.

The 41-year-old was linked to the role in August 2020 before Ronald Koeman's appointment and the Dutchman has seen his position come under scrutiny following a mixed start to the new term.

Barca currently sit seventh in LaLiga and suffered back-to-back Champions League group stage defeats for the first time since 2000-01, leading Xavi to once again be linked to Koeman's job.

While Koeman's position has seemingly improved ahead of Sunday's crucial Clasico against Real Madrid, a fixture Barca have not won in four LaLiga meetings, Xavi reaffirmed his desire to return to his former club in future.

"My ideal is to coach Barcelona," Xavi told 20 Minutes. "I have never hidden it, it is my goal and my dream.

"I don't know if it will happen or not, if they will need me or not, but at the moment I am happy to be in Al-Sadd and very proud of it.

"Obviously, it is the beginning of my career. I am beginning. It is my third year at Al-Sadd as a coach and I am gaining experience.

"If any offer comes in, it will be evaluated and then we will try to decide, but at the moment I am very happy here."

 

Xavi appeared 715 times for Barca across all competitions - scoring 79 times and assisting 130 goals between 1998 and 2015 - with only Lionel Messi playing more games (766).

And Al-Sadd's head coach - who moved to the Qatari outfit in 2015 and later signed a contract extension as coach until May 2023 - has been pleased with his work, both managerially and his former playing days.

"During my time at Barcelona and with the national team, I always tried to do my bit to help and improve other players, and this is something that I am now enjoying a lot in my new career as a coach," he continued.

"I already did it as a captain, but now as a coach, and I am happy to see the evolution of the local players and to know that I am doing my bit."

Ronald Koeman says Ansu Fati still has plenty of room for improvement and does not expect the youngster to achieve the "impossible" by completely filling Lionel Messi's void.

The 18-year-old has committed his long-term future to Barca by agreeing terms on a new contract, which Los Cules announced on Wednesday.

Fati inherited Messi's number 10 shirt following the latter's shock switch to Paris Saint-Germain and is considered Barca's big hope now the club's all-time leading scorer is no longer around.

But he was guilty of missing a great opportunity in Wednesday's Champions League clash with Dynamo Kiev, which Barca only won 1-0 despite controlling the contest.

The Spain international has scored 15 goals in 48 games for Barca in total, a tally that is bettered only by Luis Suarez (21), Antoine Griezmann (35) and Messi (69) – none of whom are still at the club – since his debut 26 months ago.

Still regaining fitness after nearly a year on the sidelines with a knee injury, Koeman does not want supporters to get carried away when it comes to Fati's development.

"Ansu's chance today shows he still lacks things. He needs to improve," Koeman said at his post-match news conference.

"That is entirely normal. He will only turn 19 at the end of the month. He cannot be expected to solve all our problems, or what Leo Messi left behind. It's impossible.

"You have to help each other go step by step. We cannot expect miracles, especially when he has been out injured for a long time and is still only 18."

Barca had 11 shots against Dynamo but only found the target from three of those, with Gerard Pique scoring what proved to be the winner with 36 minutes played.

As well as becoming Barca's oldest Champions League goalscorer at 34 years and 260 days, Pique is now also the joint-leading goalscorer among defenders in the competition's history, level with Roberto Carlos (16 each).

Koeman felt his side should have won by a more comfortable margin against accommodating opponents Kiev, who failed to muster a single attempt on target at Camp Nou.

"I'm happy with the performance, but not because of our effectiveness," he said. "In a game when we were so superior and created opportunities, we should have scored more.

"If they don't have opportunities, you can't ask for more from the attackers, but they did. The normal outcome today would have been 3-0 or 4-0.

"I understand that people leave upset, because I am too. We have achieved the result we wanted, but with the opportunities we have created, we have to score more."

Barcelona's victory was their first in the Champions League in six attempts since December 2020, a run that includes back-to-back 3-0 losses to Bayern Munich and Benfica to begin their 2021-22 campaign.

The LaLiga club are now back in contention for a top-two finish in Group E at the midway point, but full-back Jordi Alba – who set up Pique's winner – accepts his side were made to work harder for the points than they perhaps needed to.

"In the first half we had chances to score more than once," he told Movistar. "In the second half we weren't so good under pressure and we suffered a bit.

"They did not create opportunities but we were still not in a good place. We have to improve on the second-half display."

In a worrying update ahead of Sunday's Clasico clash with Real Madrid, Alba confirmed he sustained an injury during the Kiev match despite playing the full 90 minutes.

"It's my toe. We'll have to wait and see what it is," he said. "But now we look forward to the Clasico. We have won our last two games and the fans have responded to that, helping us grow. 

"We are expecting a tough game against Madrid, but we hope to bring more joy to the fans."

Barcelona are close to tying Ansu Fati down to a new long-term contract, head coach Ronald Koeman has confirmed.

The Catalans are said to have been focused on handing out bumper deals to their most promising talents after losing Lionel Messi in pre-season, with a rebuild well under way.

Media speculation in recent days suggested their hopes of renewing Fati's deal had hit a stumbling block, with his agent Jorge Mendes apparently unwilling for a €1billion release clause to be inserted into his contract.

Such a clause proved no obstacle to securing Pedri's future and quickly the news reports were turned on their heads, with Mundo Deportivo claiming on Tuesday that a deal has been struck with Fati and Mendes "in principle".

Fati has broken a host of records since his emergence as a 16-year-old in 2019, including becoming Barcelona's youngest ever LaLiga goalscorer, and has looked sharp since returning from a serious knee injury.

He has already scored twice in just 94 minutes of LaLiga action this term, with Koeman easing him back.

Wearing Messi's former number 10 jersey, he looks set to lead Barca for at least the next five years.

"It's true that they are close [to an agreement]," Koeman told reporters ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash with Dynamo Kiev.

"It's very important news. He's a young player with a lot of quality. He's one of those who should shape the future of this club."

Fati's previous deal was technically due to expire next year, though Barca did have the option to unilaterally extend the agreement until 2024, much like the case with Pedri prior to the signing of his new contract.

Pedri signed on until 2026 and Fati is rumoured to be in line for a similarly lengthy extension.

Ronald Koeman says Ansu Fati's "quality is undeniable" after his stellar performance in Barcelona's 3-1 LaLiga win over Valencia at Camp Nou on Sunday. 

Fati, whose return from a long-term knee injury had been limited to substitute appearances before the international break, marked his first start since November 7 with a superb equaliser after Jose Gaya had given Los Che an early lead. 

Teenager Fati then won the penalty that saw Memphis Depay put Barca ahead before the break, while Philippe Coutinho added a late third to ease the pressure on Koeman after back-to-back defeats in the Champions League and LaLiga before the international break. 

Fati, who recently inherited Lionel Messi's iconic number 10 shirt, was withdrawn in the 59th minute, with Koeman insisting it is important his reintegration into the first team is not rushed. 

"He has to improve physically little by little, but his quality is undeniable," the Dutchman told Movistar. "Today he has already played an hour and he has more and more competition rhythm. Hopefully he can play many more years at this club.

"We have a plan with him. Today he played from the beginning for the first time. Little by little he will be better and it will be more important; he is a different player from the rest."

Sergio Aguero, who joined on a free transfer in the off-season after leaving Premier League champions Manchester City, was introduced from the substitutes' bench late on for his debut, and Koeman said they will be taking a similarly cautious approach with the Argentina international. 

"It is important for the team to recover the injured attackers," he added. "Ansu and Aguero are different players, with special qualities. Aguero also has experience. I hope he follows a path similar to Ansu's. It is not a question of quality, but of being in good physical condition."

 

Coutinho's late third was his first goal since November 29 last year, and the Brazil international opened up on a difficult period in this career.

"It was a cry of rage [his celebration] because I needed to score to gain confidence," he explained. "No one else knows how much I have suffered. I have the same desire or even more with everything I've been through. It is a scar that makes me stronger. 

"I have more desire to succeed and be the best Coutinho. We know that the situation is not the way we want it, but we are the only ones capable of lifting it. The team is involved and today we have shown it against Valencia. We have given 100 per cent, but if we have to give 150 per cent, we will give it."

Barca host Dynamo Kiev in Champions League Group E on Wednesday before a mouth-watering Clasico against Real Madrid at Camp Nou on Sunday. 

Ansu Fati and Memphis Depay helped ease the pressure on Ronald Koeman as Barcelona sealed a 3-1 win over Valencia at Camp Nou on Sunday.

The Catalan giants had won just three of their opening seven LaLiga games before the visit of Los Che and more disappointment looked a real possibility when Jose Gaya powered Jose Bordalas’ side ahead early on.

Fati, whose return from a long-term knee injury had been limited to substitute appearances before the international break, marked his first start since November 7 with a superb equaliser, while Depay put them in front from the penalty spot before the interval. 

Substitute Philippe Coutinho gave the scoreline a healthier look five minutes from full-time as Barca, who handed former Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero a late debut from the bench, sealed an important win.

It took just five minutes for Valencia to take the lead, Gaya lashing a superb half-volley into Marc-Andre ter Stegen's bottom-right corner from 30 yards.

Barca responded well, though, and drew level eight minutes later when Fati whipped past Jasper Cillessen from just outside the penalty area after a one-two with Depay.

The Dutchman then put the hosts ahead four minutes before the interval, thumping home from the penalty spot after Gaya had brought down Fati inside the area.

Cillessen got down well at his near post to keep out Fati's effort shortly after the restart, while at the other end Carlos Soler saw an effort crash back off Ter Stegen's right-hand post.

Ter Stegen had to be alert to keep out Goncalo Guedes' powerful strike shortly before the hour mark as Valencia threatened to restore parity. 

Maxi Gomez almost drew Valencia level with a long-range free-kick that flashed past Ter Stegen's upright inside the final 10 minutes, yet it was Coutinho who had the final say, the Brazil international sliding in his first goal of the season from close range.

Sergio Aguero and Ansu Fati have been included in Barcelona's 23-man squad for Sunday's crucial LaLiga clash with Valencia at Camp Nou.

Manchester City great Aguero has yet to feature in a competitive game for Barca since joining at the end of May, due to a troublesome calf issue.

Fati is being eased back into the first team after a long-term knee injury absence, with the teenage forward having featured three times as a substitute since making a return from a near year-long lay-off.

Both players are in contention to play a part against Valencia as Barca attempt to kickstart their LaLiga campaign on the back of a 2-0 loss to Atletico Madrid two weeks ago.

Aguero's inclusion and the return of Fati will be considered a major boost for coach Ronald Koeman, whose side are down in ninth place after seven matches.

Barca's shot conversion rate of 13.6 per cent in LaLiga this term is their lowest in a single campaign since 2007-08 (13.5 per cent).

Asked on Saturday about Aguero's chances of playing his first competitive minutes at club level since the Champions League final, Koeman said: "He's improved a lot lately.

"He played 20, 25 minutes in Wednesday's [practice] game and it is going well. But he lacks the rhythm of the games and a certain physique.

"He will get that with games. His quality is not questioned; he can give a lot to this team. Especially up front."

 

Fati has scored 14 goals in 46 appearances for Barca since making his senior debut in August 2019, but he has just 57 minutes of playing time under his belt this term and was not included in Spain's most recent squad.

Koeman will not take any unnecessary risks over the youngster's fitness, with games against Dynamo Kiev and Real Madrid to follow in the coming week, in the Champions League and LaLiga respectively.

"Every day he is doing better because he has been away for a long time," Koeman said at Saturday's pre-match news conference.

"You have to think with Ansu that there are three games this week and he cannot play the entire three games. We must decide what is best for him and the team."

Elsewhere, Barca are without the injured Ronald Araujo, Pedri, Martin Braithwaite and Ousmane Dembele.

The Catalan giants have just lost one of their last 10 LaLiga games against Los Che (W5 D4) – a 2-0 reverse in January 2020 under Quique Setien.

Dani Alves has revealed he wants to return to Barcelona, claiming his experience can make him a perfect foil for the talented youngsters emerging at Camp Nou.

The Brazilian right-back hopes to push for a place at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar but is without a club after leaving Sao Paulo in September.

He would love to make the leap back into LaLiga, in what would be a startling move for a 38-year-old who left Barcelona five years ago.

Now it remains to be seen whether head coach Ronald Koeman thinks there is a place in his squad for the six-time LaLiga winner.

"I always said that I left because I saw that things were not the way I thought they should be," he told Spanish newspaper Sport.

With Joan Laporta back for a new stint as president, Alves believes Barcelona can move in the right direction.

"If left saying that when Barca needed me and wanted me, I would be at their disposal regardless of where I was," he said. "The affection, love and respect that I have for this club is too much. If Barca think they need me, they just have to call. I still think that I can contribute anywhere, but more at Barca because of the number of youngsters they have now.

"In every place I have been, I have always thought that the perfect mix is ​experience with youth. There will come a time when youth will mature and the older ones will leave. It is a natural cycle, but in football mistakes have been made and this process has accelerated. Processes cannot be sped up. The mix is ​​essential."

Alves played for Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain after leaving Barcelona, winning league titles with both, before returning to Brazilian club football.

A three-time Champions League winner with Barcelona, he joined in 2008 from Sevilla and left eight years later. In 247 LaLiga games for Barcelona, he helped the team to 95 clean sheets, had 78 goal involvements (64 assists, 14 goals) and created 377 chances. The latter total across the eight-year period was beaten by only five players, two of whom were Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Alves said there was a subconscious "thorn" in his mind regarding the World Cup, and the fact he did not go to the 2018 tournament due to a knee injury. Winning a gold medal with Brazil at the Tokyo Olympic Games was rated by Alves as his greatest achievement in the game.

"Many times you stop playing not because of the physical element but because you have been mentally destroyed. And this is one of the things that I have the strongest: I decide when I start and I decide when I finish. And along the way you have to live it intensely, which is what I do," he said. "I know that if I am going to compete in a team, that is what will take me to the World Cup."

He scotched any thought of him lacking the physical wherewithal to compete at the highest level.

"There came a time in Sao Paulo that we played every other day," Alves said. "I am reaping what I have sown all my life, which is respect for the profession, discipline and care that one has to have ... it is what allowed me to compete in the Olympic Games with boys of 18 or 20 years old and have a good performance.

"I don't believe myself to be better than anyone, but I trust my work, my dedication and my preparation to face all my challenges. This is the basis of my entire career."

Ronald Koeman had Sergio Aguero and Ansu Fati on his mind ahead of Sunday's clash with Valencia as the under-pressure Barcelona boss seeks the wins he admits his team urgently need.

Former Manchester City striker Aguero – the Premier League champions' record scorer – has yet to play a competitive game for Barcelona since joining in the close season, due to a calf injury.

The Argentinian was in Koeman's thoughts, however, ahead of the clash with Valencia at Camp Nou, while Fati appears ready to make his first start of the season.

It remains to be seen whether that comes on Sunday or in the Champions League game with Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday, or even in the Clasico against Real Madrid next weekend.

Three home games in eight days for Barcelona could go a long way to determining whether Koeman has a future at Camp Nou, with a Champions League defeat to Benfica and a LaLiga loss to Atletico Madrid before the international break having ramped up pressure on the Dutchman's position.

Assessing Aguero, Koeman said on Saturday: "He has improved a lot lately. He played 20, 25 minutes in Wednesday's [practice] game and it is going well.

"But he lacks the rhythm of the games and a certain physique. He will get that with games. There is a possibility that he will be on the squad list. His quality is not questioned, he can give a lot to this team. Especially up front."

Barcelona have taken 12 points from their opening seven games in LaLiga, meaning they have ground to make up already on the likes of Real Madrid, Atletico and Real Sociedad, who each stood on 17 points from eight games coming into this weekend, albeit Koeman's men have a game in hand.

Teenage forward Fati is being eased back into the first team after his long-term knee injury absence, with Koeman determined not to rush the young Spain international, while at the same time aware his qualities could be hugely helpful to this Barcelona team.

The shot conversion rate by Barcelona in LaLiga so far this season is 13.6 per cent, their lowest in a single campaign in the top flight since 2007-08 (13.5 per cent).

 

"Every day he is doing better because he has been away for a long time," Koeman said of Fati. "You have to think with Ansu that there are three games this week and he cannot play the entire three games. We must decide what is best for him and the team."

Koeman was backed by president Joan Laporta before the Atletico game, but he needs results and knows it.

"I always try to be calm, which isn't easy," Koeman said. "The important thing is to put your energy where you have an influence. Winning games and points is what counts."

The former Ajax and Everton boss will hope Barcelona's reasonably strong recent record against Valencia can continue. They have just lost one of their past 10 LaLiga games against Valencia (W5 D4), a 2-0 setback in January 2020 under Quique Setien.

A flurry of goals would seem likely, given the recent history of this fixture. Valencia are the away team with the most goals at Camp Nou in LaLiga since 2013-14, netting a remarkable 14 goals in eight games and scoring at least twice in six of those.

Koeman would presumably take a win by any means, whether a scrappy 1-0 or a dramatic and high-scoring affair. A defeat is almost unthinkable, given it would be a third straight loss for the Blaugrana.

Asked about his position and the pressures that come with it, Koeman said: "I am used to it. Don't worry, in a big club there are always things with the coach. Last year they also talked about the coach.

"The president has defended me and supported me. Things are fine as they are, in spite of the fact that every coach has to win games to continue."

Louis van Gaal defended Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman and midfielder Frenkie de Jong by claiming foreigners are always blamed for the club's problems.

It appeared Koeman was on the brink of being sacked prior to Barca's 2-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid on October 2 and a 3-0 Champions League loss to Benfica suggested his fate was certain.

However, president Joan Laporta opted to stand by the former Everton boss as he acknowledged the difficulty of managing injury problems and the loss of Lionel Messi amid the club's financial crisis.

Midfielder De Jong moved to defend his side in recent days, insisting the team's issues were "exaggerated a lot" and that their season was far from a write-off.

Netherlands boss Van Gaal delivered two LaLiga titles, a Copa del Rey and the UEFA Super Cup in his first spell as Barca coach, but he endured a difficult relationship with players and supporters at Camp Nou.

Speaking ahead of the Oranje's World Cup qualifier with Gibraltar, Van Gaal said he was not surprised to see his compatriots being criticised.

 "If everything is going smoothly, and you have great contributions that Frenkie has made in the past two years, then there is nothing to worry about," he told reporters.

"But when things go bad, people at Barcelona always look at the foreigners. And in this case, the coach is also a foreigner and a Dutchman.

"I have experienced that, too. History repeats itself. But I think Frenkie handles it very well, and Ronald, and Luuk de Jong and Memphis [Depay], too. I don't think that's the biggest problem.

"At the moment, they are trying to do everything they can. I've never had a striker like Memphis who runs so much, comes so deep and gets on the ball so much. That's commendable."

The Netherlands' 1-0 win over Latvia put them two points clear of Norway in their World Cup qualifying group.

Victory over Gibraltar, who have lost all seven of their games in Group G, would put Van Gaal's men in a strong position to qualify for Qatar 2022.

Xavi did nothing to quash rumours that he could replace Ronald Koeman at embattled LaLiga giants Barcelona, saying he is "open to anything". 

Xavi was among the favourites for the Barca job before Koeman was hired as head coach in August 2020 and has been the name on everyone's lips as the Catalans have struggled this season. 

Barca great Xavi has presided over Qatari side Al-Sadd since his retirement in 2019, leading them to a league title and five domestic cups, but a return to the Camp Nou would be difficult to resist. 

Ahead of Sunday's Nations League final between Spain and France, Xavi left the door open for a return. 

"Any offer will be evaluated and then a decision will be made," Xavi told TVE. "I don't know where my future will take me, but I'm open to anything."

The 41-year-old made 505 appearances for Barca as a player from 1998 through 2015.

Xavi, who moved to Al-Sadd in 2015 before signing a contract extension as coach through 2023 in May, held the record for most Barca appearances before it was broken by Lionel Messi last season.

Others mentioned as potential replacements for Koeman include Belgium boss Roberto Martinez, River Plate head coach Marcelo Gallardo, former Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo and Ajax's Erik ten Hag. 

Koeman remains in the job, and Barca president Joan Laporta affirmed his support for the embattled former Blaugrana star on Friday.

"We have every confidence in him, he's our coach, and he deserves some leeway as he believes in the team and hasn't been able to call on the entire squad yet," Laporta told RAC1. 

Barcelona are ninth in LaLiga, five points adrift of leaders Real Madrid with a game in hand. 

Barcelona are proud to have Ronald Koeman as head coach and must trust him as they once did Frank Rijkaard, says president Joan Laporta.

Ex-Netherlands boss Koeman appeared to be on the brink of being sacked by Barca when widespread reports ahead of the match with Atletico Madrid on Saturday suggested it would be his last at the helm.

But Laporta came out to insist Koeman would be staying with the club regardless of the result, which proved to be the case despite the Catalans suffering a disappointing 2-0 away defeat in LaLiga.

That left them ninth in the table, while they are bottom of Champions League Group E after woeful defeats to Bayern Munich and Benfica.

Koeman said he was grateful to have been given "clarity" over his future after a meeting with Laporta, with the president citing the backing he had once given Rijkaard, who went on to secure Champions League glory in 2006.

Laporta explained he recognises the difficulties Koeman has had after the departure of talisman Lionel Messi, financial chaos at the club and a long injury list.

"The decision is that Koeman continues," he said to RAC1.

"Everyone, including him, is discouraged at the moment - things have happened that we did not want. 

"But he wants Barca to do well. He has a valid contract and he has to be respected. I am happy with the decision."

 

Laporta continued: "As president I have evaluated everything, I have listened to people I trust and I have come to the conclusion that I must trust and support him as I did with Rijkaard. 

"He is a cule like us, he loves Barça and he is a legend of this club.

"Indeed, has decided to come to us during a moment of sporting and institutional crisis. 

"I wanted to know if he trusted the team and he responded positively and forcefully. He said he needed time to recover the injured players and I saw a person determined to continue."

 

A host of other coaches have been connected with the Barca job, with Koeman's contract due to expire in 2022. Club great Xavi is persistently linked to the role.

Laporta added: "People can think what they want. 

"With Xavi I speak frequently because we are friends. Also with Pep [Guardiola]. I like to know what they think because they know more than me.

"But the coach we have is Koeman. We are proud to have him as a coach."

Page 1 of 15
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.