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."

Luis Suarez says the phone call in which Ronald Koeman told him he was surplus to requirements at Barcelona lasted only 40 seconds.

Koeman wasted little time in deciding to move Suarez on after the Dutchman took the reins at Camp Nou in August last year, with Atletico Madrid the beneficiaries.

It came as a surprise to many, not least of all Suarez himself, with the Uruguay international having enjoyed a prolific six years in Catalonia.

The former Liverpool forward scored 198 goals and provided 97 assists in 283 games, winning LaLiga four times and the Champions League in 2015.

Suarez was on the scoresheet as Atletico ran out 2-0 winners over Barca at the start of this month, piling the pressure on Koeman, who watched on as the player he let go celebrated by pretending to take a phone call – a gesture Suarez insisted was not aimed at his old boss.

Speaking to Gerard Romero on Twitch regarding his departure, Suarez revealed: "The call from Koeman to tell me that [I wasn't in his plans] lasted 40 seconds, it's not the way to say goodbye to a legend.

"First he told me that I wasn't in his plans, and then he told me that if I didn't get my contract sorted out I was going to play against Villarreal.

"He lacked the personality to tell me clearly if he didn't want me or if it was really the club that didn't want me."

 

Suarez left at a time when Lionel Messi was also seeking to move on and he admitted it had been a tough period.

"They were very difficult days because of everything I gave to the club," he added.

"I spoke to Sofia [Suarez's wife] and Leo after the phone call. It was a complicated year due to everything.

"Messi asked to leave and I was being sent away. Both of our families had a very bad time."

Memphis Depay insists he "would never regret" moving to Barcelona despite Los Cules' difficult start to the season.

The Dutch forward moved to Camp Nou from Lyon on a free transfer but never got the chance to link up with Lionel Messi, who left the club amid financial difficulties and joined Paris Saint-Germain.

In the Argentine's absence, Barcelona have underwhelmed, losing both their Champions League group-stage games so far 3-0 to sit bottom of the group and managing just three wins from their first seven LaLiga outings.

Depay, however, is adamant that the privilege of playing for the Catalan giants is more than enough to justify his decision to join, regardless of recent form.

"How could you ask [if I regret the timing of my move to Barcelona]? It's Barcelona. I don't think you understand how big this club is and what it means for a player if you move to a club like this. I would never regret it," Depay said.

The 27-year-old was bullish about the Blaugrana's chances of turning their season around, dismissing the notion that his new side could be written off amid the mounting pressure on head coach Ronald Koeman after their slow start.

"Despite results, I'm really happy at the club," Depay continued. "It's been a difficult time [for the team]. I don't want to talk about that much, but people are acting like the season is already over.

"There are so many games to play. Everything is still open. But as a player, you feel responsible and you take responsibility. You care. Every player takes responsibility at Barca. That's normal for a club like Barcelona.

"We know what the situation is right now. We know it's difficult. [Playing with] young players, a lot of injuries. But I think [it's just a matter of time].

"Everybody is panicking and for a club like Barcelona it's a new situation. They're used to winning everything with beautiful football. This is a new situation, but I am not worried. I'm sure we will turn things around."

Depay has started the campaign well on an individual level, scoring three goals and notching an assist in his seven league appearances, and will be hoping to bolster those numbers when Barcelona host Valencia in their next game on October 17.

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti ruled out the possibility of ever taking charge of LaLiga rivals Barcelona.

Ronald Koeman is under pressure at embattled giants Barca and Madrid great Guti said he would be open to coaching at Camp Nou.

Guti emerged from the youth system of boyhood club Madrid in 1995, going on to captain Los Blancos and win five LaLiga titles and three Champions League crowns among other honours before leaving in 2010.

The 44-year-old former Spain international midfielder returned to coach Madrid's youth team between 2013 and 2018.

But Ancelotti – in his second spell in the Spanish capital – has no plans to coach Barca, despite Guti's revelation.

"With all due respect to a great club like Barcelona, I can't," Ancelotti told reporters ahead of league-leading Madrid's trip to Espanyol on Sunday.

"I can't go against my history; my history says that I have coached Real Madrid, I am the Real Madrid coach.

"I can't go against this. With all due respect for a great club."

Madrid have won 20 of their last 23 games against Espanyol in LaLiga (D2 L1), scoring 61 goals during this time (2.6 per match) and keeping a clean sheet in 17 of them (eight goals conceded overall).

Los Blancos have beaten Espanyol in nine of their 11 visits to the RCDE Stadium in LaLiga (D1 L1) – more than any other visiting side at the ground in the competition.

Madrid have not lost any of their last 18 away matches in LaLiga (W12 D6), and should they avoid defeat to Espanyol, the club will record their longest unbeaten run away from home in the competition's history (19).

Ancelotti has not lost any of his last 17 matches in LaLiga (W14 D3), and could equal his best run as Madrid coach in the competition (18 between October 2013 and March 2014 - W15 D3).

Ronald Koeman is grateful to have been given "clarity" over his Barcelona future after president Joan Laporta confirmed the under-fire head coach will remain in charge of the beleaguered club.

Former Netherlands boss Koeman was widely reported to be on the verge of being sacked by Barca this week, with Saturday's trip to Wanda Metropolitano set to be his final game.

The Dutchman appeared to accept his fate when speaking to reporters at a pre-match news conference on Friday as he hit out at Laporta for failing to inform him face-to-face.

However, Laporta clarified ahead of Barca's clash with Atletico on Saturday – which ended in a 2-0 loss – that Koeman's position was not under threat regardless of the scoreline.

After being given a reprieve, the 58-year-old is already preparing for Barca's next batch of fixtures after the two-week international break.

"The conversation I had [with Laporta] over the phone last night was very good," Koeman said after the defeat to Atleti.

"We also spoke this morning about the squad, the club and other things. At least now there is some clarity in that sense. It's important for the dressing room that there is clarity. 

"But we are Barcelona, and now we have to start winning games. The pressure exists for any coach, particularly at Barcelona. After the break, we have three games we must win.

"We have spoken together and the president has made his decision."

 

Asked if he would have liked Laporta's backing sooner, Koeman said: "I think so, but we must highlight that it has now been said, and it will bring us tranquillity."

Laporta's public support came on the back of a run of one win in five games in all competition, which has now been extended by a further match following defeat to Atleti. 

Luis Suarez teed up Thomas Lemar for the opener and then tucked away the second himself before half-time to condemn his former side to their first league loss since May.

With that clinically taken goal, Suarez has now netted against all 31 of the teams he has faced in LaLiga, scoring 172 goals in total.

Barca had the whole of the second half to respond but managed just two attempts on target, only one of which – a Philippe Coutinho one-on-one – seriously troubled Jan Oblak.

"I'm sad about the result, but we were good in parts of the game," Koeman said. "We also let ourselves down, especially for the first goal.

"We talked before the game about how to defend. They have a lot of depth, but we failed to defend and 1-0 is a complicated scoreline.

"At times we could have done more damage. At two goals down against a team like Atletico, it is very complicated. We had the Coutinho chance, but that's it.

"We could not create much. We have to recognise that creating against Atletico is not easy. You have to play very well as they have a lot of defensive strength.

 

The Catalan giants are ninth in LaLiga after seven matches, five points adrift of leaders Real Madrid, who they face later this month after the visit of Valencia.

"There is a solution to our problems," said Koeman, who has not won any of his three games against Diego Simeone in LaLiga (D1 L2).

"But that solution is not from today to tomorrow. We have to work hard and give time to the youngsters. I also hope we will be able to recover injured players soon."

Luis Suarez insists his goal celebration during Atletico Madrid's victory over Barcelona was not a mockery of former boss Ronald Koeman.

Suarez was on target as reigning LaLiga champions Atletico intensified the pressure on the Barca head coach with a 2-0 win at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Latching on to Thomas Lemar's lofted pass in the 44th minute, the Uruguay forward steadied himself before firing past Marc-Andre ter Stegen for his fourth goal of the season.

Suarez has now found the net against all 31 opponents he has faced in LaLiga, taking his tally in the Spanish top flight to 172 goals.

The 34-year-old did not celebrate immediately after his strike – instead appearing to ask for forgiveness from the supporters of his former side, for whom he scored 198 goals in 283 appearances, as well as providing 97 assists.

However, he subsequently imitated being on the phone in what was perceived to be a jibe at the expense of Koeman, who informed the striker he was not in his plans after taking over the reins at the Camp Nou in August 2020.

But Suarez says the gesture was in fact the representation of an inside family joke.

"I already knew that if I scored, I would apologise – out of respect, affection," he said.

"[The phone signal] was for people who know that I have the same number and that I am still using the phone. 

"It was not for Koeman; I was joking with my children that I would do that."

The 2-0 victory also gave Atletico a third consecutive clean sheet against Barca for the first time in LaLiga history.

More importantly, it moved Diego Simeone's side level on points with leaders Real Madrid, who have a game in hand on their rivals.

"I'm happy for the team's victory, which is what we want," Suarez added.

"The opponent in front of us is special, but my work must be dedicated 100 per cent to Atletico.

"Last year, people suffered for not being able to enjoy the LaLiga title. 

"I know the affection that people have for me and I work hard and strong to keep Atletico at the top."

Gerard Pique accepts Barcelona were second best in their defeat to Atletico Madrid and says his side could have played for three hours and still would not have scored a goal.

The Catalan giants fell to a second straight defeat in all competitions – and their first in LaLiga since May – as they went down 2-0 to a Luis Suarez-inspired Atletico on Saturday.

Barca had two shots on target over the 90 minutes at Wanda Metropolitano, only one of which seriously troubled Jan Oblak as he kept out Philippe Coutinho's attempt.

Memphis Depay, who has had the joint-most shots on target of any player in LaLiga this term (13, level with Real Madrid's Karim Benzema), struggled up top as he fired over from his only effort.

Atletico were clinical at the other end by comparison, scoring from two of their six shots as Suarez set up Thomas Lemar for the opener and calmly tucked in a second before half-time.

Barca have now shipped five goals without response in their past two games, and Pique, who played a full part in the losses to Benfica and Atleti, recognises his side have multiple issues to work on.

"We started well, but they scored two similar goals from very little," he told Movistar. "It is difficult for us. We are suffering and there are several problems.

"People already know the issues. Even a blind man can see what we lack. But we will recover from this.

"It is not something we have experienced before, but the dressing room is good. We're not getting involved in anything else."

 

Pique was referring to the ongoing speculation over head coach Ronald Koeman's future, with the Dutchman's status uncertain after 14 months in charge, although he this week received a public vote of confidence from Joan Laporta.

Barca have won just one of their past six matches in all competitions and are ninth in LaLiga having played seven games, five points adrift of leaders Real Madrid.

Asked if he expects Koeman to leave before his side's next game at home to Valencia in two weeks' time, Pique said: "The players don't get involved in that.

"We just listen to what the coach tells us. There is little we can do. That's down to the president and the coach."

Barcelona lack many things right now: a top level coach, a Champions League wage budget, Lionel Messi, of course. But a nose for narrative? That has never been in question.

Luis Suarez's apologetic celebrations at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday, as Ronald Koeman checked the charge on his mobile phone, represented merely the latest desperate development for those of a Blaugrana persuasion – all too predictable, all too preventable.

For so long Suarez, who made one and scored one for Atletico Madrid in this 2-0 victory, had been in the Barca ranks, an unwitting spectator for a stretch of their spectacular collapse from European football's shining example to its great crisis club.

Barca at least had rather less say in the departure that kickstarted this decline than in Suarez's.

The beginning of the end, it seemed, came on the night of one of their greatest wins, a stunning 6-1 success against Paris Saint-Germain orchestrated by Neymar. In overturning a hefty first-leg deficit but allowing the Brazil superstar to step out from Messi's shadow, Barca's joy emboldened his desire to be the main man in his own team – the other team, to be precise.

Of course, Neymar left, and Barca, rather than rallying from behind, twice in the next two seasons built big European leads of their own – at home to Roma and Liverpool – only to remarkably let both bring about return-leg remontadas.

The Blaugrana, seemingly without a thought for their finances, responded to the Liverpool reverse with their third nine-figure signing in three years, as Antoine Griezmann followed Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele to Camp Nou and followed both in underwhelming.

By the time their next Champions League campaign concluded in typically farcical fashion, all three were on the bench – Griezmann and Dembele for Barca, Coutinho for opponents Bayern Munich. On came Coutinho, still on loan from Barca, to score twice in 15 minutes against his parent club. Since returning to Catalonia, he has scored three times in 1,041 minutes, missing their best chance on Saturday.

 

Bayern's 8-2 win prompted Quique Setien's sacking and Koeman's appointment, which surprisingly then spelled the end for Suarez. "The coach did not count on me," the striker said as he joined Atletico. "I expected it, it had already been said before he told me."

From an eight-goal humiliation, a club of Barca's size should only be able to head in one direction, back on the ascent. But Suarez's departure deepened the damage. An unsettled Messi allowed his contract to run down and, in a manner that only Barca could manage, had to leave even once he changed his mind.

Four years of bad decisions led Barca to this point and Suarez, starting in the Atleti attack, was never likely to be one for sympathy. With neither a coherent plan nor an individual of era-defining talent to fall back on, Koeman's side were ill-equipped to deal with a man he had deemed surplus to requirements.

Twice Atleti pulled the Barca back line apart, Koeman phoning in from the stands due to a touchline ban but mirroring the gesticulations of Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Memphis Depay as the visitors failed to get close to Suarez.

A drop of the shoulder from Joao Felix for the first brought him inside from the left to find his strike partner, whose first-time pass around the corner set Thomas Lemar clear to finish high into the net.

The same trio combined for number two, Lemar playing a patient one-two with Joao Felix down the same left flank and then lofting an inch-perfect pass over last defender Pique for Suarez to control, compose himself and steer past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

"The opponent in front of us is special, but my work must be dedicated 100 per cent to Atletico," Suarez told Movistar afterwards – the Atleti goal never truly troubled as they earned a third straight LaLiga clean sheet against Barca for the first time ever.

 

By full-time, Suarez had been able to remove the wide grin from his face long enough to console his former team-mates, having moments earlier been hopping with glee on the Atleti bench.

He was replaced with 18 minutes remaining but surely would have added to his tally had he stayed on the pitch. Instead, Atleti's final big opportunity fell to Griezmann, back on the bench in a big Barcelona game, this time playing the Coutinho role for the opposition. Rather than ruthlessly finish like either of the ex-Liverpool men when faced with the chance to punish the club he used to call home, Griezmann went for a pass, which he comically misplaced. With a future obligation in his loan switch meaning he will not return to Camp Nou like Coutinho, the France international need not have been so generous.

Despite sharing more than seven years between these two teams, Griezmann has somehow never scored in this fixture – featuring in every edition in that time – and never won LaLiga. Atleti had gone 20 without a win against Barca before last season's meeting, in which Griezmann started for the Catalans.

An underwhelming start to his second Atleti career saw him dropped for this game, setting the stage for Joao Felix to excel, contesting 10 duels, winning four fouls and playing a key role in both goals. Griezmann is an expensive substitute; Barca's €97million salary cap could not even fit him in the first team.

Nor, it seems, can they afford to sack Koeman, out of his depth but determined to stick around. His future, Joan Laporta said, was safe regardless of this result.

Surely only that financial factor will prevent Suarez from seeing off the coach that ended his Barca stay. Scoring against the 31st of 31 LaLiga opponents, the forward gave it a good go, at least.

Luis Suarez scored one and assisted another to earn Atletico Madrid a 2-0 win over Barcelona that heaps even more pressure on Blaugrana boss Ronald Koeman.

The Dutchman's job has been repeatedly called into question following a poor run of form, with the result at Wanda Metropolitano making it one win in Barca's last six games.

Barca could have lifted some of the weight off Koeman's shoulders on Saturday, but Suarez set up Thomas Lemar for the opener and then fired in a second to put Atleti in control at half-time.

That is how the scoreline stayed as Diego Simeone's men inflicted a first league defeat of the season on their opponents to move level on points with Real Madrid at the summit.

 

Koeman was watching from the stands as he serves the second of a two-game touchline ban and saw his side fall behind to a well-worked Atleti goal with 23 minutes played.

Suarez was picked out by Joao Felix and then played a first-time pass into the path of Lemar for the France international to thump past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Former Barca man Suarez curled wide with only Ter Stegen to beat soon after, but he made amends by picking his spot when played in by Lemar at the end of a swift counter.

Philippe Coutinho, having earlier volleyed narrowly wide, wasted a glorious chance to pull one back when failing to get the better of Jan Oblak with an hour on the clock.

Joao Felix and Barca substitute Ansu Fati exchanged shots on target at either end in latter stages but no further goals arrived in the Spanish capital, potentially bringing down the curtain on Koeman's short-lived tenure.

Joan Laporta says under-pressure head coach Ronald Koeman will stay on as head coach regardless of Barcelona's LaLiga result at Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

Koeman was reported to be on the brink of the sack following a 3-0 Champions League defeat at Benfica on Wednesday.

The cash-strapped Blaugrana are bottom of Group E after they were beaten by the same scoreline at home by Bayern Munich and headed into the weekend occupying seventh spot in LaLiga.

Club legend Xavi, Roberto Martinez and Erik ten Hag have been linked with the Barca job, with Koeman coming under increasing scrutiny.

Barca president Laporta revealed Koeman will remain in the role even if his side are beaten by Diego Simeone's champions.

"Koeman will stay on as head coach regardless of the result. He will stay. He deserves a margin of confidence. He loves Barça, he's a reference point. I have spoken to him and I have drawn my conclusions. He took over Barça at a difficult time," Laporta said.

"He may have had moments of discouragement but he has recovered his spirits. After talking to him, I can see that he has confidence in this team, especially as soon as he has the injured players back. From then on, we will have more room for manoeuvre.

"We have not had a cold relationship. It's a good and honest relationship. He's a good person, he thinks the same about me and we’re all trying to turn things around for the better."

 

Koeman stated in a press conference on Friday that he has not spoken to Laporta amid speculation over his future.

"The club hasn't told me anything, really," the former Netherlands boss said at a news conference on Friday previewing his side's clash with Atletico.

"I found out that the president was here this morning but I didn't see him. We were training but I'm still the same. 

"I have ears and eyes and I already know that a lot of things leak. Surely it's true but to me, once again, he has not said anything to me.

"I am not the most important thing, but the team. I am here for the love of the club. I came here during a complicated situation – more complicated than the first day.

"Everyone has their opinion but I am only interested in the players and the Atletico game."

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