Jurgen Klopp Admits Barcelona Have ‘Highest Quality Team’ & Insists Liverpool Are 100% Focused

?Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has admitted that Barcelona will prove to be a huge challenge in their Champions League semi-final, but insists his side are ready for the fight.

The two sides will meet on Wednesday at Camp Nou, before returning for the second leg at Anfield the following week, as they seek to book their place in the Champions League final.

?Speaking ahead of the game, Klopp insisted he is well aware of the threat of ?Barcelona, but ?Liverpool are desperate to come out on top.

He said: “It’s not only about [Lionel] ?Messi. They have the highest quality team. They are already champions. Messi said before the season he wants to bring back this cup and that sounds like a threat to all of us! But we want to go to the final as well.”

With the Reds now sitting second in the ?Premier League title, Klopp was asked whether the Champions League is Liverpool’s best chance of winning silverware this season.

He jokingly responded: “I don’t know. We still have to play Barcelona!

“It would be a massive mistake if you play Barcelona with 15% of your mind on ?Newcastle. A result here gives us a good chance of doing the job at home. The better we are, the more emotional the atmosphere will be. We will see who is able to use the home advantage more.”

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Finally, Klopp offered an update on the fitness of ?Roberto Firmino, who missed the side’s last league game with a muscle injury. 

“Bobby is here, he trained today and then tomorrow I will make a decision,” Klopp revealed.

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Ajax Coach Ronald De Boer Advises Matthijs De Ligt to Consider Premier League Move

?Ajax Under-19 coach Ronald De Boer has advised star centre back Matthijs De Ligt to consider moving to the Premier League this summer, if he is to leave the Dutch side.

The teenage defender has a host of top European clubs chasing his signature following an excellent campaign where, as captain, he has led the team to a place in the Champions League semi-finals, as well as first position in the Eredivisie.

De Ligt’s performances for Ajax and Holland have been so impressive that De Boer insists he has the pick of any side he wants should he decide to move on, adding that he has all the attributes to be a success in England.

Matthijs de Ligt

As reported by the Liverpool Echo, De Boer told talkSport: “He can easily come to the Premier League and play for every team in the world.

If he goes to an attacking team or a defending team he can play in every team because he is so good. He is so strong. So determined to be a winner. Unbelievable.

“For me, BarcelonaMan City, Liverpool. Liverpool wants the ball, Paris Saint-Germain. Those are teams I would give him advice to go there. All the other teams, including Tottenham, are great teams to play for.”

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If the 19-year-old does decide to move to the Premier League he would have no shortage of options with Chelsea and Spurs in the market for a centre half, while Liverpool are keen to pair him with his international teammate, Virgil van Dijk, at the heart of their back four.

Manchester United are also desperate for a new defender having not kept a clean sheet for 13 games, with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reportedly keen on signing younger players, like De Ligt, this summer.

Any fee for the Netherlandsinternational is sure to top the €75m which Barcelona have already agreed to pay for his teammate, Frenkie de Jong, this summer, with De Ligt expected to go for closer to €85m.

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Frenkie de Jong Reveals He Doesn’t Expect to Start at Barcelona Next Year After Leaving Ajax

?Barcelona-bound midfielder Frenkie de Jong does not expect to be in the club’s starting XI next season following a £65m switch from Ajax.

The 21-year-old’s transfer to Catalonia this summer has already been agreed, with a potential meeting between his current employers and Barça to come if the pair both win their respective Champions League semi final ties. De Jong has been a key force in driving the Dutch outfit’s surge towards European glory, though he feels that may not be enough to warrant a starting spot in Ernesto Valverde’s team.

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Speaking on ?Ajax’s podcast about his upcoming move to the Nou Camp, de Jong stated: “I don’t expect to be a starter at ?BarcelonaI’m going to miss everything about Ajax.

I’ve enjoyed every moment here; it’s a wonderful club that has a great vision for youngsters. I’m very sad to leave, but also happy to join Barcelona.”

De Godenzonen face ?Tottenham Hotspur in the first leg of their last four match-up on Tuesday night, before welcoming the Lillywhites to the Johan Cruijff ArenA eight days later.

The Netherlands interntaional has been outstanding for his club all season, putting in superb performances in the earlier rounds of the ?Champions League as Ajax stunned both ?Real Madrid and ?Juventus.

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His future teammates have been in celebratory mood this week after clinching their eighth ?La Liga title in 11 years thanks to a Lionel Messi-inspired 1-0 victory over Levante.

Valverde’s men now have the trebles firmly in their sights. They play a jubilant ?Liverpool side in a heavyweight European semi over the next two weeks, before contesting the Copa del Rey final with Valencia in late May.

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Ivan Rakitic Claims He’s Committed to Barcelona Amidst Speculation Surrounding His Future

Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic has commented on his future at Barcelona amidst growing speculation surrounding a possible exit from Camp Nou in the summer.

The international star has been at the heart of the Blaugrana’s midfield this season – having appeared in 32 games – and is not in a rush to leave the Spanish club any time soon.

As ?Barcelona clinched their 26th league title ?against Levante on the weekend, ?Rakitic enjoyed another 90 minutes and said he’s hopeful of more to come next season as the 2018/19 campaign draws close to an end.


As quoted by Marca, the 31-year old responded to suggestions of an exit by demonstrating his love for the club, stating: “I don’t want to be anywhere else.

“I hope the club, the president, the coach and the fans see this the same way I do.”

The Croatian has appeared in the league 167 times for Barcelona since his arrival in 2014, and is certainly a player who has been drawing the attention of many a club in need of an experienced midfielder.

Ivan Rakitic

In spite of the speculation however, the midfielder is hoping the club want him to stay a part of the squad for the near future and allow him to see out the remaining years on his contract. 

He added: “I hope they tell me that I’ll stay here for another three years.

“I’d like to be able to point to the three more years on my contract and to say I’ll be here three more years.

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“Anything can happen in football, but I am very calm about it all.” 

As Barcelona prepare to take on ?Liverpool in the ?Champions League on Wednesday night, Rakitic will be looking to further build on what has been an excellent season for the club, which could culminate in a treble.

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Matthijs De Ligt Guarded Over Ajax Future as He Names His Three Favourite Centre Backs

?Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt remained tight-lipped over where he could end up this summer, while naming three of his favourite centre backs in the world.

The young defender has been the subject of great speculation in recent months, with reports linking him with a potential move to either Barcelona, Real Madrid and Liverpool amongst others.

When posed the question over who his top three defenders in the world were in a Q&A session with his followers on Instagram, De Ligt appeared to play it safe with his answer.

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He said (as quoted by ?Goal): “I can name three defenders who are very good. I think ?Sergio Ramos is a very good defender. ?Gerard Pique as well, and of course my compatriot Virgil van Dijk.”

With Ajax embarking on an extraordinary run to the Champions League semi-finals, the 19-year-old insisted that he had yet to make a decision on his long-term future.

He added: “I haven’t made a decision yet so I don’t know (if I will stay). I am only focused on the last games of the season for now. We still have a lot to play for so let’s finish this season in a good way.”

With Barcelona already having secured the signing of teammate Frenkie de Jong for a fee in the region of £65m, De Ligt admitted that he does not expect to command the same money as his Dutch compatriot.

He revealed: “Will I be more expensive than Frenkie? I don’t think so, no. Normally teams spend more money on midfield players than defenders. I really don’t know. It’s up to Ajax, it’s not something that I decide. We shall see.

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Barcelona Must Go Back to Basics to Return to Their Brilliant Best Despite La Liga Triumph

?Barcelona sealed back-to-back La Liga titles on Saturday, with a 1-0 win over Levante steering the Catalans on course to retaining their crown with three games to spare.

However, there is also much to suggest that they are still not at their optimum level by the club’s own lofty standards.


With a nine-point cushion between Valverde’s side and second-placed ?Atletico Madrid in the La Liga table, and with three games still to play, Barca have retained their title with about as much comfort as could be expected of them.

However, last season the Catalans finished top with 14 points separating them from Diego Simeone’s side in second, though with a current tally of 83 points and three games still to play, they can still come close to matching last season’s total of 93.

Perhaps more tellingly, Barca have scored 86 goals and conceded 32 in ?La Liga this season, compared to their 99 scored and 29 conceded in the last term. It is conceivable that the Catalans could still match last season’s scoring exploits, however based on the evidence of Saturday’s 1-0 win over Levante, that appears unlikely.

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Valverde opted to leave ?Lionel Messi on the bench for Saturday’s clash at Camp Nou, but the Blaugrana inevitably required the introduction of their Argentine talisman to turn home the goal which sealed the three points.

In a match in which both Messi and fellow all-conquering stalwart Sergio Busquets were left out of the starting XI, it was telling that Barca could not produce their emphatic best to retain their title with greater aplomb.

Instead, it was the likes of Philippe Coutinho, ?Ousmane Dembele and Arturo Vidal who were tasked with sealing the deal from the start, and the expensively-assembled back-up brigade struggled to deliver.


Over the course of the season, it has generally been the ‘old guard’ at the wheel of Barca’s title success, with the likes of Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and ?Luis Suarez, as well as Busquets and Messi, who have been at the heart of the Blaugrana’s best football.

It is perhaps unsurprising that those more experienced and well-versed in Barcelona’s style and traditions are the ones leading the way once more this season, but it is more disappointing that the recent influx of high-expense additions have struggled to do likewise.

Coutinho and Dembele in particular arrived at Camp Nou with much expected of the attacking duo, but as yet they have failed to justify their £142m and £135m transfer fees respectively.

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During Pep Guardiola’s golden era of success in Catalonia, it was inconceivable that the club would hinge their contingency plans on such eye-watering investments.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s £57m move to Camp Nou in 2009 was largely the exception. After one season in which the Swede failed to make the grade, Guardiola parted ways with his superstar signing and returned to basics.

The signing of David Villa did not come cheap, as the Spaniard cost €40m to sign from Valencia, but he was made to fit around the star core which was fronted by Messi, and which was a product of Barca’s own La Masia academy.


Other significant signings such as Cesc Fabregas and ?Alexis Sanchez came and went at reasonable expense, each failing to displace the homegrown spine of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Pedro, as Barca maintained success through their own means.

The arrivals of Fabregas and such others were more for decorative purpose in those times, adding further power to an already star-studded squad, but the imports were more a reflection of Barca’s ability to attract Europe’s top talent than a necessity in their bid for progression.

Now, with Xavi, Iniesta and co long out of the picture, Barca have found that there is finally a need for contingency and new blood to maintain their style and methods for success, and that has been the problem.

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Aside from the high-expense struggles of Coutinho and Dembele, the recent signings of Malcom, Arturo Vidal, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Jeison Murillo have all smacked of a club running out of ideas and lacking direction in the transfer market.

Unsurprisingly, none of Barca’s more recent attempts to pad out their squad with greater depth have had any telling impact at Camp Nou. That latest cluster of signings were questionable for a club of such stature from the outset, and none of them have justified the club’s business.

Ernesto Valverde does not have ?Barcelona in his DNA as much as Guardiola did. The 55-year-old had a brief two-year spell at Camp Nou during a playing career in which he was essentially a journeyman of Spanish football, and his coaching philosophy does not reflect that of a Barca man through-and-through.


The Catalans’ boss opts more for pragmatism and flexibility in his coaching approach, and that does not particularly suit a club with such deeply-ingrained ideals and uncompromising philosophy.

Though they remain one of the best footballing sides on the continent, Barca’s current side tends to lack the expert execution of the ‘tiki-taka’ style which had made them so formidable under Guardiola.

Lionel Messi

Signings of players such as those recently acquired largely reflects the shift away from traditions at the Camp Nou, and Valverde must return to those basics of the club’s long-standing success if he is to squeeze the very best out of his side and make Barcelona truly dominant again.

The likes of Vidal, Boateng and Murillo must be moved on in the summer to pave the way for the club’s latest crop of prodigies. Home-grown players such as Carles Alena, Riqui Puig, Moussa Wague and Jean-Clair Todibo are ready and waiting to make their mark at the club.


Just like Messi, Xavi and Iniesta before them, they are the future and true identity of Barcelona, and must be given their chance to restore Barcelona to their brilliant best.

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Barcelona’s 2018/19 La Liga Triumph Encapsulates La Blaugrana’s and Lionel Messi’s Brilliance

?Barcelona secured their second consecutive La Liga title with three games to spare on Saturday evening as Lionel Messi scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Levante.

It was the culmination of a truly dominant domestic campaign for La Blaugrana, where they have widened the gap between themselves and the rest of the chasing pack in Spain, and, unsurprisingly, it was spearheaded by the indescribably absurd talent that is Lionel Messi.

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It was fitting that it was to be ?Messi who secured the title as, at times this season, he’s cut a positively isolated figure, whose insatiable desire to win has been at the centre of ?Barcelona’s repeated success.

Messi’s natural talent has been eulogised a million times over in the past, but this season has seen the Argentinean take on increased accountability for his side’s fortunes after the departure of former club captain Andres Iniesta last summer.

The diminutive Argentinean is set to to finish the season as the top scorer in ?La Liga with a scarcely-believable 34 goals to his name and he’s also in line to top the assist charts after setting up 15 goals for his teammates.


The confirmation of the league title means that he has now won ten separate La Liga trophies, making him the most decorated player in Barcelona’s long and illustrious history in the competition, overtaking nine-time winner Iniesta.

While Messi has been undoubtedly superb, it would be disrespectful to suggest that the rest of Barcelona’s squad have been slacking this season.

The wave of summer signings that joined the club last season have slotted into the Barca squad seamlessly and have increased the strength in depth in depth to no end. In turn, Ernesto Valerde has been able to constantly tinker with his starting XI to effectively compete in all competitions without ever compromising their surge to the league title.


The standout summer signing, Clement Lenglet, has been the shining example of this as he has been able to make the continued absence of World Cup winner Samuel Umtiti seem practically inconsequential – something no one predicted would be possible.

And that’s also not forgetting the man between the sticks behind him. Marc-Andre ter Stegen may not have the best defensive record in the league, but he has certainly enjoyed his best season since joining the club in 2014.

He’s come up big on a number of occasions, making crucial saves at vital moments to ensure that Barca came away with victories when they otherwise may have dropped needless points. His performances have been so impressive that a case could even be made to suggest that he is now the world’s most complete goalkeeper.

But, as has been proven countless times in the past, talent can only get you so far. Grit, determination and the desire to upset the odds are always essential for a title-winning squad.

So far this season Barcelona have earned 21 points from losing positions, the highest total in the league, haven’t been defeated by any of their rivals at the sharp end of the table and have maintained their dominance over Real Madrid – highlighted by their 5-1 win over their bitter rivals in October.

It’s certainly been a remarkable season, but there is still plenty to play for. Barca are the only side to have ever secured a continental treble on more than once occasion and they could achieve that same feat once again if they are able to prevail in the Copa del Rey and Champions League.

They are set to face off against Valencia in the final of the Copa del Rey at the end of May, while they have the tricky task of overcoming high-flying Liverpool in the semi finals of the Champions League.

They’ll no doubt be confident of finishing the season with two more trophies under their belt and, if their league form is anything to go by, then they should have no troubles doing so.

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Ernesto Valverde Reacts to Barcelona’s 8th La Liga Title in 11 Years Following Levante Win

?Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has stated that he always planned to bring match-winner Lionel Messi on during the club’s 1-0 triumph over Levante on Saturday evening.

The Catalans claimed their eighth La Liga title in 11 years courtesy of the victory, nine points now separating them from second-placed Atletico Madrid. Messi was brought on for Philippe Coutinho at half-time with the scores level, breaking the deadlock shortly after the hour with an ice-cool side-footed finish into the far corner.

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It appeared that the Argentine forward would be rested this weekend, with ?La Blaugrana welcoming ?Liverpool to the Nou Camp on Wednesday night for the first leg of their ?Champions League semi-final clash.

However, Valverde has insisted that Messi’s introduction was decided before the ?La Liga fixture with Levante had begun. Asked whether his hand was forced regarding the 31-year-old’s appearance off the bench, the coach declared (as quoted by the ?Evening Standard): “No. That was planned.

I was clear that he was going to play, but we have a game on Wednesday [against the Reds]. You have to be active, score goals from different areas and he gave us the title.”

Valverde could not hide his joy at the addition of yet more silverware to the Barcelona trophy cabinet, the Spaniard exulting in his team’s impressive achievement. He continued: “Winning the title by a distance and having games left, with the competitors we have, are difficult things to achieve.

We have done it two years in a row and to see the fans enjoying themselves like that is amazing. We want to celebrate,” he said, evidently relieved after a tense ending to the match. “It was nerves more than anything.

“They had a couple of chances, but the one that hit the post [in the last minute] was incredible. We couldn’t finish it off, they believed in themselves and we got a bit nervous in the end. But luckily, we were able to see it through.”

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Barcelona 1-0 Levante: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Barça Are Crowned Champions of Spain Again

?Barcelona claimed their eighth La Liga title in 11 years, as Lionel Messi came off the bench to sink visitors Levante in a slightly stressful 1-0 victory at Camp Nou on Saturday evening.

La Blaugrana dominated possession and territory for the entirety of the contest, yet looked toothless as they let their opponents off on countless occasions. However, their Argentine superstar was introduced at half-time and finally broke the deadlock, sweeping a shot into the far corner just after the hour mark ?to guarantee top spot with three games to spare.


?Barça were guilty of wastefulness in the first period, squandering a whole host of presentable opportunities after incisive build-up play. Philippe Coutinho could have had a hat-trick inside 30 minutes, but was continuously denied by the outstanding Aitor Fernandez in the Levante goal. 

The former ?Liverpool playmaker watched the goalkeeper parry a couple of skidding efforts behind, before missing a gilt-edge chance as his free header from 10 yards out went straight down Fernandez’s throat.

Despite his frustrations, Coutinho looked to be in a determined mood and rattled the crossbar with a marvellous free-kick. However, he was replaced by Messi at the break, the substitution proving to be decisive for the newly-crowned ?La Liga champions.

Philippe Coutinho

Ivan Rakitic was unlucky to see a delicious long-range arrow drift just wide, though Barça were not to be denied. Soon after the Croat issued that warning, the crowd were brought to their feet as their talisman struck a crucial blow.

The home side were fortunate to remain in front, however, Las Granotas almost snatching an unexpected equaliser. They were afforded several chances to level matters, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen first thwarted Borja Mayoral when the striker was played through on goal, before stopping a couple of point-blank headers.

The German international was powerless to stop Enis Bardhi’s precise side-footed in the dying embers of the match, but was relieved to see it bounce back off the upright and into his grateful arms. 

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Check out our breakdown of the game below.


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Key Talking Point

For all their masterful interplay and ability to carve out opportunities, Ernesto Valverde’s men were lacking a clinical edge. 

Luis Suarez was one of a handful of players who disappointed on Saturday night. He doesn’t appear to have the necessary fitness levels as he drifted through the game. If this victory proved anything, it is that the Catalans rely heavily upon Messi.

Lionel Messi

He was the difference, slotting home to secure Barcelona’s spot on the Spanish throne. But, can they really win against Liverpool in midweek if they continue to struggle in front of goal. 

The Reds are rampant at the moment, meaning the La Liga club will need to bring their usual accuracy to overcome them. Fail to do that and they may have to settle for just domestic silverware this campaign.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: ter Stegen (7); Semedo (6), Pique (6), Lenglet (5), Alba (6); Rakitic (5), Vidal (7), Arthur (7); Dembele (8*), Coutinho (6), Suarez (5).

Substitutes: Messi (7), Busquets (5), Roberto (6).

STAR MAN – Ousmane Dembele 

Dembele was a constant danger, always keeping the Levante defenders on the back foot with his direct dribbling and intelligent runs off the ball. He linked wonderfully well with Nelson Semedo down the right flank in the opening half, getting in behind the opposition defence on a number of occasions.

The Frenchman thrilled the crowd with his fearless, incessant drives forward, whilst his teammates should have made more of his superb deliveries into the box. Dembele’s role changed when he switched to the opposite side, the winger drifting inside and feeding deft throughballs on to others in red and blue.

Messi may have been the goalscorer, but it was the ex-?Borussia Dortmund wide man who dominated proceedings. Many of those around him put in underwhelming performances, but Dembele can be mightily proud of his night’s work.







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Player Ratings

Starting XI: Fernandez (8); Coke (7), Vezo (5), Rober (7), Luna (6); Campana (5), Vuckevic (7), Jason (5), Rochina (6), Simon (4); Mayoral (6).

Substitutes: Marti (6), Bardhi (7), Morales (5).


Looking Ahead

The Catalans play the first leg of their ?Champions League semi-final tie with the Reds on Wednesday, welcoming Jurgen Klopp’s buoyant side to the Nou Camp. They follow that up with a league fixture away to relegation-threatened Celta Vigo, with Valverde likely to rest players given the team’s European commitments.

Las Granotas have a home game against Rayo Vallecano next Saturday before making the trip to the Estadi Montilivi the following week to take on Girona.

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Barcelona Clinch Back-to-Back La Liga Titles With Win Over Levante

?Barcelona officially sealed another La Liga title at Camp Nou on Saturday night, with Lionel Messi scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over Levante.

After Atletico Madrid beat Real Valladolid earlier in the day, Barça knew that a home win was required to mathematically secure consecutive league crowns, ahead of their Champions League semi-final with Liverpool on Wednesday.

After leaving ?Messi out of the starting lineup in anticipation of the midweek clash, Ernesto Valverde was forced to call on the five-time Ballon d’Or winner in the second half.

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Messi took 16 minutes to get his 34th league goal of the campaign, cutting back inside the area to take two defenders out of the game, before slotting past Aitor Fernandez to put Barcelona on course for their 26th La Liga title.

Fittingly, the goal also means Messi has now scored more goals (24) as a substitute in ?La Liga than any other player in the 21st century.

Barcelona now on 83 points, with three games to play, have lost only twice this season, last tasting defeat in a 4-3 thriller against Real Betis back in November.

Despite rotating to keep key players fresh for the Champions League, Barça have also won eight of their last ten in the league.



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In a first for Spanish football, Barcelona were presented with the trophy on the pitch after the game. Historically, the ceremony has taken place at the start of the following season much to many supporters’ annoyance.

Unsurprisingly, Messi – who celebrated his tenth La Liga title on the Camp Nou turf with his young children – has taken the lion’s share of the plaudits this season and is a shoo-in for the Pichichi (Spain’s award for the top scorer).

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Serial winners Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba have also impressed this season for Valverde’s side.

With league business sealed, Barça can now fully focus on winning the ?Champions League for the first time since 2015. The first leg of the semi-final on Wednesday is followed by a trip to Anfield on Tuesday 7 May.

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