Jasper Cillessen’s Barcelona Nightmare Could End This Summer as Club Confirm Possible Departure

?Barcelona are keeping calm about their goalkeeping situation heading into next season despite Jasper Cillessen’s considerable unrest as backup, and have conceded they would allow him to leave the Camp Nou for the right fee.

Cillessen has been at Barca since joining from Ajax for £11.7m in 2016, but has managed just 28 appearances since that transfer, struggling to attain minutes thanks to the imperious form of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

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However, according to ?Marca, La Blaugrana are both aware and understanding of the Dutch number one’s frustration at being confined to the bench during what should be his peak years and are willing to let him leave this summer for the right fee. 

The 29-year-old’s frustrations were bolstered in January when he was denied an exit, but it is now understood that he would be allowed to depart for a fee in the region of €45- €50m, significantly lower than his €60m release clause. 

However, with Cillessen’s current contract not set to expire until June 2021, they do not yet have to worry about him forcing through a move if that figure is not reached. 

Even so, they are keeping calm about the situation and, while they possess no plausible replacement as it stands, ?La Blaugrana have already identified a number of possible candidates. 


Alex Remiro of Athletic Bilbao has been a keeper the club have coveted in the past, and last October Bilbao confirmed the 24-year-old had asked to leave this summer after missing out on the number one spot at the club following Kepa Arrizabalaga’s exit. 

?Arsenal have been one side continuously linked with Cillessen, as they are in need of a new goalkeeper this summer ahead of Petr Cech’s upcoming retirement, however the Dutch number one will undoubtedly want to move to a club who will guarantee him the starting spot.

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Malta vs Spain Preview: Where to Watch, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News

?Malta host Spain at the Ta’ Qali National Stadium on Tuesday as both sides look to continue their strong starts in Group F of the Euro 2020 qualifiers.

Ray Farrugia’s Malta side earned a 2-1 victory over Faroe Islands last time out, whilst Spain claimed victory by the same scoreline over Norway, giving Luis Enrique’s side the perfect start to their qualifying campaign.

With both sides set to play their final game of the current international break, each will be keen to conclude the period on a high and strengthen their positions in Group F after both enjoyed positive opening games.

Here is 90min’s preview of Tuesday’s European qualifying clash.


Where to Watch

When Is Kick Off?? ?Tuesday 26 March
?What Time Is Kick Off? ?19:45 (BST)
?Where Is it Played? ?Ta’ Qali National Stadium
?TV Channel/Live Stream? ?Sky Sports Football
?Referee? ?TBC

Team News

Malta will be without Andre Agius due to suspension after the defender was sent off during the 2-1 win over Faroe Islands on Saturday. 

Spain have no fresh injury concerns following their 2-1 victory over Norway on Saturday, though ?Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez was called up by Luis Enrique to replace Fabian Ruiz ahead of the opening clash, with the ?Napoli star suffering from illness.

Enrique made a number of bold selections ahead of the latest round of international fixtures, with star names such as Koke, Thiago and Isco among those left out of the squad altogether.


Predicted Lineups

Malta? Bonello; Borg, Caruana, Zerafa, Mbong; Muscat, Guillaumier, Fenech; Corbalan, Nwoko, Mifsud?
?Spain ?De Gea; Roberto, Ramos, Martinez, Alba; Ceballos, Busquets, Saul; Rodrigo, Morata, Asensio

Head to Head Record

The two sides have met seven ?times previously and, unsurprisingly, Spain have won on every occasion.

The last encounter between the two came in February 1997, when Spain won 4-0 and goals from Pep Guardiola, Pizzi and an Alfonzo brace secured a comfortable victory for La Roja.

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September 1963 saw the first meeting between the two nations in the Mediterranean Games. Spain beat Malta emphatically on that occasion, as a Ramon Moreno Grosso hat-trick inspired an 8-0 win for the Spaniards.


Recent Form

Malta have responded well to a crushing 5-0 defeat to Kosovo in the Nations League in November, as Ray Farrugia’s side earned a 1-1 draw against Faroe Islands in their last outing in the competition, before claiming a 2-1 victory when the sides met again on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Spain have also had to bounce back from a disappointing defeat in the final game of their Nations League campaign in November, when they were beaten 2-1 by World Cup finalists Croatia.


Spain also suffered defeat to England in the Nations League, but have since responded with a 1-0 victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina? in November and a 2-1 success over Norway on Saturday in Enrique’s side’s first outing of 2019 to open their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

Here is a look at how each team has fared in their last five matches:
?

Malta? Spain?
?Malta 2-1 Faroe Islands
(23/03/19) 
?Spain 2-1 Norway
(23/03/19)
?Malta 1-1 Faroe Islands
(20/11/18)
?Spain 1-0 Bosnia and Herzegovina
(18/11/18)
?Malta 0-5 Kosovo
(17/11/18)
?Croatia 3-2 Spain
(15/11/18)
?Azerbaijan 1-1 Malta
(14/10/18)
?Spain 2-3 England
(15/10/18)
?Kosovo 3-1 Malta
(11/10/18)
?Wales 1-4 Spain
(11/10/18)

Prediction

Spain may not be at their free-flowing best under Luis Enrique quite yet, having required a penalty from ?Sergio Ramos to see them over the line with victory against Norway last time out, but La Roja are still a side bursting with quality all over the pitch.

The likes of Inigo Martinez, Dani Ceballos and Marco Asensio have added a freshness to the side alongside more seasoned campaigners such as Ramos and Sergio Busquets, and Enriques’ side appears both flexible and well-balanced.

Sergio Ramos

Emphatic dominance may no longer be the way of their game as was the case during the previous golden era, star-studded with Xavi, Iniesta and co, ?but Spain have found a revised means of winning with efficiency under Enrique and they should have too much quality for Malta.

Prediction: Malta 0-4 Spain

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Carles Alena Refuses to Accept Barcelona Teammate Lionel Messi’s 5th Place Ballon d’Or Finish

?Barcelona midfielder Carles Alena has refused to accept Lionel Messi coming fifth in the votes for the Ballon d’Or in 2018, while also believing the club’s academy system is still ‘bearing fruit’.

Alena, 21, has enjoyed a breakout season for Ernesto Valverde’s side, making 17 appearances in all competitions and scoring once, while his performances have seen him earn a place in Spain’s latest Under-21 squad for the latest round of international fixtures, resulting in his first cap.

Carles Alena

The midfielder has also had a better view than most of what’s been yet another glorious season for ?Messi, who is the top scorer in both ?La Liga (29) and the Champions League (eight), as well as topping the Spanish league for assists (12), and Alena believes the Argentinian’s fifth-place finish in the 2018 Ballon d’Or voting, that was won by Luka Modric, was unjust.

Speaking to ?Marca, he said: “My words have run out for Messi and I’ve only worked closely with him for a year. 

“He has left me without adjectives. He’s No.1, there are no comparisons. They’ve all finished. 

There are no more Ballon d’Ors, nor is he the fifth best in the world. People think it’s a joke but it’s reality. 


“He’s the best and he has been for 12 years. He’s broken all the records. There are great players, but there won’t be any more like him. All that’s left to know is how many more years he’ll be at this level.”

Alena also discussed ?Barcelona’s academy system, La Masia, and quashed any talk that it has faltered in recent seasons, insisting that graduates such as Andreas Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Messi during a similar time is ‘unique’.

He added: “Work always bears fruit. People say the essence has been lost, but they’re always rushing youth players to succeed. People have the generation of Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Messi in their minds but that was unique and we have to be aware that it will never be repeated. 

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“You have to give opportunities to the young payers and then they’ll know the level required. It’s the best team in the world. I’m happy to move through all of these stages and to be fulfilling a dream.”

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Barcelona & Juventus Set to Scout Matthijs de Ligt During Netherlands Clash Against Germany

?Barcelona and Juventus are set to scout Ajax starlet Matthijs de Ligt once more when the Netherlands take on Germany on Sunday.

The rival nations go head-to-head in a European qualifier at the Johan Cruijff ArenA in one of the standout fixtures of this international break, though club affairs continue to run throughout the events.

One topic that continues to rumble on is the future destination for Matthijs de Ligt, who will once again have the opportunity to showcase his abilities as one of the most exciting young defenders in Europe on Sunday. According to Spanish outlet ?AS, ?Barcelona will be among those keeping a watchful eye on his progress.

It’s reported that former Barcelona defender and current director of football Eric Abidal will be in attendance at the international clash to cast an eye on one of Barca’s primary transfer targets in the hope of meeting with Ajax director Marc Overmars to discuss a potential deal for De Ligt.

The 19-year-old is set to start at the heart of defence once more alongside ?Liverpool superstar Virgil van Dijk, in a partnership which is as good as any in world football.


Even if Abidal is unable to meet with Overmars to hold official talks, it is suggested that the Barca chief is keen to use the opportunity to take another first-hand look at De Ligt once more ahead of a likely move in the summer.

However, Barcelona will not be alone in sending representatives to watch the talented 19-year-old in Amsterdam. ?Juventus will also send Fabio Paratici to keep an eye on De Ligt’s involvement, with the Serie A side set to provide Barcelona’s main competition for the defender’s signature.

?Real Madrid delegates may also be in attendance, as Los Blancos consider potential replacements for Raphael Varane should he depart the Bernabeu. It’s thought that Overmars and Ajax would welcome interest from multiple European giants, as a potential bidding war would drive up De Ligt’s price tag.


Meanwhile, Barcelona will also get another opportunity to watch Frenkie de Jong in action on Sunday, with the midfielder having already sealed a deal to move to Camp Nou at the end of the season.

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Frenkie de Jong Joined Barcelona Over PSG Following Offer From Nike to Subsidise Wages

?Frenkie de Jong’s decision to join Barcelona in February is said to have been influenced by Nike’s offer to subsidise the young midfielder’s wages.

Barcelona pipped the likes of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain to the 21-year-old’s signature earlier this year, agreeing a €75m deal that will see him join the Blaugrana at the end of the season.

Frenkie De Jong

According to ?ESPN, PSG were initially in pole position to land the Netherlands international, but an intervention from Nike tipped the balance back into the hands of ?Barcelona.

Nike sponsor both Barcelona and De Jong and ESPN sources are claiming that the company invested a ‘very important amount of money’ in wages in the belief that the youngster’s achievements during his time at Barcelona will see the return exceed the investment. Nike did not, however, contribute to his transfer fee.

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For marketing purposes, Nike also requested that De Jong uses his first name on the back of his Barcelona shirt, although he said to have been unsure over whether to agree to the request.

Barcelona and Nike have been working together since 1998 and signed a deal in 2016 that will continue their partnership until 2028. The Catalan giants receive €105m per year from the deal, plus a bonus that can reach up to €160m if certain incentives are met.

As for De Jong, he has previously claimed that the move was solely inspired by his love for Barca from a young age.

“I always dreamed of Barca as a kid. I just wanted to play for Barca,” he said, as per ?Goal. “I liked the players, I liked the style. I think Barca is a bit of my dream club.”

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Barcelona President Travelling to Netherlands to Negotiate Deal for Ajax Defender Matthijs de Ligt

?Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is set to travel out to the Netherlands to negotiate a potential deal for Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt.

After an impressive few seasons with Ajax, De Ligt is one of the most sought after defenders in world football, with the likes of Barcelona, Juventus and PSG all said to be interested in snapping him up this summer.

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Following on from ?recent reports that claimed ?Barcelona have already submitted a 60m offer for the 19-year-old, Spanish radio network ?Onda Cero is now reporting that Bartomeu is set to travel out to the Netherlands in the coming days.

Bartomeu is in the country to discuss plans for a possible new European Super League, but he’ll use the trip as an excuse to meet with representatives from Ajax in order to negotiate a deal for De Ligt.

Matthijs de Ligt

The report from Onda Cero goes on to claim that, if a deal is to be agreed, then it would most likely be in the region of €65m to €75m.

Bartomeu has openly discussed the fact that Barcelona are interested in snapping up De Ligt, previously stating that the club will always be looking to sign any player with the same level of quality.

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“His name is on the table,” Bartomeu said in an interview with SER Catalunya via ?Marca. “Where there is such talent away from Barcelona, we’re always looking at them.

“It’s a topic that will be discussed in our sports planning which begins in March, with [Frenkie] De Jong we felt we had to move quickly because there were many clubs that wanted him.”

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Bayern Munich Set to Rival Barcelona in Race to Sign Luka Jovic as Die Roten Prepare Opening Bid

?Bayern Munich are set to make an opening bid to steal a march in the race to sign Eintracht Frankfurt striker Luka Jovic – though Barcelona are also keen on the Serbian.

The Bundesliga champions have bounced back from a poor start to the season under Niko Kovac and have regained control of the title race once more ahead of Borussia Dortmund, though the Bavarians disappointingly crashed out of the Champions League to Liverpool.


?Bayern have continued to be dependent on the goals of star striker Robert Lewandowski and, with the Pole set to turn 31 next season, Kovac’s side are set to launch a move for Luka Jovic as his long-term successor, according to ?Mundo Deportivo.

It is believed that the Bavarians are set to launch the biggest transfer campaign in the club’s history this summer, with ?Atletico Madrid defender Lucas Hernandez and Ajax sensation Matthijs de Ligt also targets, whilst a deal has already been sealed for Stuttgart star Benjamin Pavard.

Jovic is said to be among Bayern’s top targets, with an opening bid for the striker apparently imminent.

Luka Jovic

The 21-year-old recently opened the scoring in Serbia’s 1-1 draw with Germany on Wednesday, and Bayern’s opening offer is set to complete a week which has seen the striker’s stock in Europe continue to rise. The Serbian has scored 15 goals in 24 Bundesliga outings this term.

It is a potential blow to ?Barcelona, who are said to be Bayern’s main competitors in the race to sign Jovic this summer.


The Catalan giants are widely said to be on the lookout for a long-term replacement for ?Luis Suarez and, although the player is said to favour a move to Catalonia, Barca are yet to make a concrete move for Jovic, and Bayern could seize the initiative in making the first move.

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Barcelona to Give Philippe Coutinho ‘One Month’ to Improve Before Deciding on Potential Summer Sale

?Barcelona are set to give Philippe Coutinho one month to prove himself to the club, before deciding whether they will choose to sell him in the summer or not.

The Brazilian has struggled greatly since making his £142m move from Liverpool in January 2018. His poor form has cost him a place in the starting lineup, with Coutinho seeing just one minute of action in Sunday’s 4-1 win over Real Betis, prompting talk of an imminent departure from the Camp Nou.


?Barcelona are set to face ?Manchester United in the ?Champions League quarter-finals and, according to ?Sport, club officials will meet following the conclusion of that tie on 16 April to discuss Coutinho’s future.

The group have previously met to analyse his form, and that will likely dominate the discussion next month, but it is expected that they could consider selling Coutinho next summer if they feel his form does not merit a regular first-team place.

Ousmane Dembele,Philippe Coutinho

?Ousmane Dembele has continued to blossom for Barcelona, keeping the former ?Liverpool winger on the bench. However, Dembele has been sidelined by a muscle injury in recent weeks, and it is expected that Coutinho will be given plenty of chances to impress as Barcelona face a hectic month.

When Dembele has not been available, manager Ernesto Valverde has regularly utilised a 4-4-2 formation and has deemed Coutinho to be poorly suited to such a style. Barcelona do not want the 26-year-old to remain on the bench, but they appreciate that his form simply has not merited inclusion in the starting lineup in recent weeks.

Philippe Coutinho

They remain confident that he can rediscover his best form at the Camp Nou, but plenty of European giants are circling to involve themselves if Coutinho does become available for transfer. 

The likes of ?Chelsea, ?Manchester United and even Liverpool have been linked with a move for the former ?Premier League star, and Barcelona may find themselves unable to reject a sizeable offer – no less than €100m – for a player who is not a regular part of the lineup.

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Spain vs Norway: Luis Enrique’s Best Available La Roja Lineup

Spain get their EURO 2020 qualification campaign underway on Saturday night, when they welcome Norway to Valencia. 

La Roja are looking to reach the European Championship for the seventh consecutive occasion, as well as retaining the trophy they won just seven years ago in 2012. 

Here’s a look at Luis Enrique’s best available Spain lineup to face Norway on Saturday.  

1. Goalkeeper and Defenders

Sergio Ramos

David de Gea (GK) – De Gea will start in goal for Enrique on Saturday, as he earns his 39th cap. The Manchester United goalkeeper has been key for his club this season, playing every minute of every Premier League game while keeping seven clean sheets.

Sergi Roberto (RB) – Roberto is likely to make up Spain’s back four on Saturday, as he is set to earn only his sixth cap. The 27-year-old has made 31 appearances for Barcelona this season, as they sit ten points clear at the top of La Liga.

Sergio Ramos (CB) – Captain Ramos will remain at the heart of Spain’s defence, 14 years after making his debut. The Real Madrid defender has scored 17 goals and earned an impressive 161 caps, more goals and caps than anyone else in the squad. 

Iñigo Martinez (CB) – After Ramos’ long term centre-back partner Gerard Pique retired last year, Martinez has replaced him in defence. The Athletic Bilbao has already earned eight caps, originally making his Spain debut back in 2013 in a friendly against Ecuador.

Jordi Alba (LB) – Alba is likely to get the nod at left back, after turning 30 on Thursday. The Barcelona full back has earned 67 caps for La Roja, and is the third highest scorer in the current Spain squad with eight goals.

2. Midfielders

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Saúl Ñíguez (CM) – After Napoli’s Fabian Ruiz had to pull out of the squad through injury, Ñíguez should get his chance for the visit of Norway. The Atletico Madrid midfielder featured in all four of Spain’s Nations League games, with 15 international caps to his name.

Sergio Busquets (CM) – The everpresent Busquets is another name who is almost guaranteed to feature at the Mestalla. Now 30, the Barcelona star remains one of the most experienced players in Enrique’s squad, with a remarkable 111 caps to his name.

Dani Ceballos (CM) – Ceballos should make up Spain’s midfield trio on Saturday, as he looks set to earn his sixth cap. The Real Madrid youngster has done well to find game time at the Santiago Bernabeu, having made 32 appearances across the season.

3. Forwards

Rodrigo

Rodrigo (RW) – Rodrigo will make up Spain’s attacking trio in their opening EURO 2020 qualifier, as he earns his 16th cap. The Valencia forward is also in fine form this season, with 11 goals and seven assists this season.

Álvaro Morata (ST) – Morata should start up front for Spain on Saturday, having regained his form since leaving Chelsea for his boyhood club Atletico. The Atleti striker has an outstanding international scoring record, with 13 goals in 27 appearances for the national team.

Marco Asensio (LW) – Enrique looks set to give Asensio a chance in Valencia, having regularly featured for La Roja last year. The 23-year-old has registered 22 appearances for Real Madrid this season, but hasn’t scored a league goal since September.

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Jadon Sancho or Philippe Coutinho: Who Should Man Utd Sign This Summer & Why

Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho are reportedly high among Manchester United’s list of transfer targets for this summer. With either transfer expected to cost in the region of £100m, it is safe to assume that, despite United’s extreme wealth, they would still only be able to afford one or the other. The question is: who should they choose?

Assuming that Sancho and Coutinho have equal availability, in that the same fee and the same wages would be enough to secure their services, the deciding factors come down to their skillsets, the positions they play, and how likely they are to improve. 

Philippe Coutinho


In his second season in professional football, and at only 18 years of age, Sancho has marked himself as one of the brightest talents in the world. 

Following a measly £8m move from ?Manchester City in the summer of 2017 – where he considered his first team prospects limited – the Englishman has proven his credentials in one of the best leagues in Europe. Sancho has contributed to 20 Bundesliga goals in only 19 starts, equalling none other than ?Lionel Messi as the joint top assist giver in Europe’s top five leagues. 

While such efficiency in the final third at such a young age is impressive in itself, Sancho stands out for more than his end product. His 2.1 key passes per game places him within the top 10 in the Bundesliga, while his 3.2 dribbles per game establishes him as by far the most prolific in the league in regards to taking the ball past an opponent. While not as explosive as ?Kylian Mbappe, for example, Sancho’s deft feints and sharp changes of direction are unique, as is his ability to pick out the right pass in crowded areas, or on the counter-attack. 

Sancho’s impressive start to his career, however, remains a small sample size. His stats in the Champions League drop markedly from his Bundesliga form, perhaps indicative that he has some improvements to make before he can affect games at the highest level; at least regularly. 

On the other hand, Coutinho, barring an underwhelming league campaign this season at ?Barcelona, has proven over multiple seasons that he is of extremely high quality. In the 5,366 minutes he played for ?Liverpool in the league since the start of the 2015/16 season, he directly contributed to 46 goals – a goal or assist every 117 minutes, which is extremely productive for a midfielder – particularly one who does not take penalties.

The Brazilian continued this level of form in his first six months with the Catalan giants, as well as in the Champions League this season. This season he has been less impactful, although potentially disrupted by irregular starts and his deployment in midfield, where he was expected to replace the iconic Andres Iniesta. Dictating the play like the Spaniard is not Coutinho’s strength, and instead he flourishes higher up the pitch, which ?Manchester United will know first-hand from his performances in the Premier League. 

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Specifically to suit Manchester United, however, Sancho may just have the edge. Capable of playing on the right-wing, Sancho signing would allow ?Romelu Lukaku or ?Marcus Rashford to play up front alongside Rashford or ?Anthony Martial on the left side, a balanced forward line which allows United’s best players to play in their best positions. 

Coutinho, meanwhile, would possibly disrupt this level of stability. A partnership of himself and ?Paul Pogba, even with a sitting midfielder behind them, would be too attack-minded, with both preferring to be the furthest forward of the midfield trio. Moreover, Coutinho on the left of the front three shifts Rashford or Martial to an unfavoured right-wing position, and still the playmaker would look to drop deeper, occupying the same zones as Pogba. 

It must also be considered that Sancho is eight years Coutinho’s junior, a longer-term investment with the scope to improve massively. While Coutinho is likely to be in his prime already, and so would only be able to give Man United a few years at his best, Sancho is far from his peak.

Jadon Malik Sancho

Therefore, despite Coutinho being more proven at the top level – and over a long period of time – Sancho’s ability at such a young age, his capability to play on the right wing, and his scope to further improve, make him the best signing possible for a Manchester United seeking to rise to the challenge of their rivals Manchester City and Liverpool. 

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