Luis Suarez Admits to ‘Weeks’ of Pain Following Liverpool Defeat in Champions League Semi Final

?Luis Suarez has admitted Barcelona’s historic defeat to Liverpool in the Champions League last season hurt for ‘weeks’, with the 32-year-old enduring a torrid time in the aftermath of the match against his former club.

Leading 3-0 from the first leg of their semi final tie, progression to the final looked all-but assured until a stunning 4-0 humbling at Anfield left the eventual winners with one of the most dramatic comeback victories in the competition’s history.

Speaking to Fox Sports in Argentina, ?Suarez confessed the defeat was bitterly disappointing to him and his ?Blaugrana teammates, with the simple matter of leaving his house even becoming a difficult task as the subsequent scars took their time to heal.


“It was days, weeks, that we who loved to take the kids to school, football, activities, we suffered …I did not want to leave from home after losing,” he said, as relayed by the ?Mirror.

“It was very complicated. I really had a bad time, like most of my team-mates. We had already learned the previous year that we could have such a 3-0 result in our favour, but football has that.”

The former ?Liverpool striker then revealed how he had warned his fellow Barca stars of the task they were about to face, fully aware of the atmosphere the ?Premier League side can create at such a historic stadium, and breaking his silence about the pain he ‘suffered’ in the ensuing aftermath.

“We knew how Anfield was going to be and how tight the stadium was, I told the teammates and everything,” he added. “It is not necessary to take away merits from Liverpool , which pushed the fans. In five minutes they had two situations, at 15 minutes they already won and that enters you, it generates a nervousness.

Luis Suarez

“Then you see that a teammate loses the ball, another loses two more balls, and that leads you to an awkward situation until in the second half it goes out as it came out. The Champions League has that, if you go out 30 seconds relaxed, they pass you by. At the group, institutional level and as a human being this kind of defeat is suffered.”

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Barcelona: Recent Transfer Windows Prove Recruitment Strategy Is Failing in Catalonia

?Barcelona have sold more than two-thirds of their signings over the last four transfer windows, with over €400m of new players no longer part of the squad in Catalonia.

Excluding the most recent transfer window, Barcelona have signed 22 players since the end of the 2014/15 season, splashing €679.35m on new signings.

But as journalist Eduardo Fdez-Abascal points out on social media, only seven (Jean-Clair Todibo not included in tweet) signings from the last four years are still at the club, highlighting that the club have perhaps been reckless in the market since 2015.

Out of their signings, only Samuel Umtiti (€25m), Nélson Semedo (€35.7m), Ousmane Dembélé (€125m), Arturo Vidal (€18m), Arthur (€31m), Jean-Clair Todibo (€1m) and Clément Lenglet (€35.9m) are still part of Ernesto Valverde’s first-team squad.

Big money arrivals like Philippe Coutinho, Malcom, Andre Gomes and Arda Turan all failed to live up to expectations at Camp Nou and have since been moved on, as well as a dozen other stars who struggled to establish themselves at Barça.

Although Barcelona have been able to make a profit from the majority of the signings who are no longer at the club, it’s their inability to find players who freshen up the squad each season which could be a cause for concern.

The make up of Barça’s first-team is still largely the same as what it has been for a number of years and that’s a large reason why many have tipped them to miss out on winning the title this season.


They’ve picked up just four points from the opening three games so far this season, while Real Madrid’s stumbling form has helped cement Atlético Madrid’s place among the favourites for La Liga.

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6 Things You May Have Missed From Around Europe This Weekend

?VAR is all anyone wants to talk about in the Premier League these days and the new technology was at its brilliant best over the weekend.

As for those on the continent, they’ve already had a season with VAR in place and have grown used to the nonsensical refereeing decisions it causes. The Europeans have far more interesting things to discuss, with some more weird and wonderful stories unfolding this week.

Gareth Bale

Here’s a look at six of the best, though Gareth Bale’s combination of a brace and red card for ?Real Madrid only gets an honourable mention.


1. A Little to the Left

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?Serie A has a new record following Sunday’s thrilling Rome derby. The game finished 1-1, but there could have been many more goals as the sides struck the woodwork on six different occasions between them.

It took just three minutes for the first near-miss, Lucas Leiva walloping the Roma post with a dipping volley. Giallorossi youngster Nicolo Zaniolo was next to go close, with teammate Aleksandar Kolarov finally finding the net soon after.

The men in sky blue must have been wondering what they needed to do to score when Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa were both denied in the opening minutes of the second half. 

Imagine the sense of justice Lazio fans would have felt when Zaniolo was again left frustrated by the woodwork. Now imagine their unbridled joy when Luis Alberto rifled home a low drive just before the hour. Ok, now imagine their disbelief and fury when a swept shot from Marco Parolo kissed the top of the bar in the dying embers of the encounter.


2. Superstars or Stoke Rejects?

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Paris Saint-Germain have some okay options up front. There’s the virtuoso wonderkid Kylian Mbappe, merciless hitman Edinson Cavani and – for now – Neymar. And who’s fourth choice? Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.

Yes, the guy who couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo at ?Stoke City is playing for one of the most alluring clubs in Europe. In fact, he’s not just playing, he’s scoring some spectacular goals, too.

The striker netted a week ago versus Toulouse and was at it again in the absence of the aforementioned trio, guiding home a deft flick away to Metz as Les Parisiens recorded a comfortable 2-0 win. 

Maybe next they should sign Saido Berahino.


3. He’s Not Even Old Enough to Drive

Anssumane Fati

When I was 16, I spent most of my time taking random Norwegian teams to the ?Champions League final on FIFA. At that same tender age, Ansu Fati is making up for the absence of the great Lionel Messi.

Brought on at half-time with ?Barcelona trailing 1-0 at Osasuna, the teenager could only have dreamed of how the next fifteen minutes would go. 

He leapt highest to guide a beautiful header into the corner, causing a swing in momentum that resulted in La Blaugrana taking the lead through fellow sub Arthur.

Let’s just pretend it ended there and the Catalans didn’t collapse in the closing stages, yeah? That would be the stuff dreams are made of. Nevertheless, Fati can now call himself the youngest ?La Liga scorer in Barca history.


4. Is That Jonathan Woodgate?

Matthijs de Ligt

Mathijs de Ligt was all the rage in 2018/19. Powerful, inspirational, a superb ball-player; the kid had everything.

It took just one game with ?Juventus to destroy his reputation. Ok, that’s a bit over the top, but the colossal Dutchman was absolutely dire as the Bianconeri edged a modern classic 4-3 at home to ?Napoli.

The champions forked out £67.5m to prise him from Ajax over the off-season and were rewarded with a diabolical display on debut. 

All three of the visitors’ scores came as a result of De Ligt’s thoughtless play, the centre back leaving his men unmarked as Carlo Ancelotti’s men clawed back a three-goal deficit. 


5. It’s Been 53 Years in the Making

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Union Berlin. They are what football is all about. 

Participating in their first ever ?Bundesliga campaign, the team from the capital have been a delight to watch with their fearless, attacking brand of football.

Their supporters are the definition of die-hard, with many donating blood to raise funds during a financial crisis when the club were still in the fourth tier in 2004. Now, they’re watching their darling players shred ?Borussia Dortmund and collect a maiden First Division triumph.

The atmosphere is electric and the men on the field feed off it. So few clubs are quite as lovable as Union and – arguably – none are as loved by their fans. Now, they have the 3-1 scalp of Dortmund to treasure.


6. At Ease, Sargent

Josh Sargent

Werder Bremen 3-2 Augsburg, on the face of it, looks like a pretty good contest and decent entertainment. However, the real story from this one was Josh Sargent’s magical goal in the 21st minute.

The Werder striker stretched out a leg to bring a long ball under his control, the USA international proceeding to juggle it before clipping a nimble flick over the onrushing goalkeeper.

Time stood still as Sargent waited for the ball to drop. Such a wondrous build-up simply had to be finished off and finish it off is what he did, volleying into a gaping net. Take a bow, son.


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Rafinha Signs New Barcelona Contract & Joins Celta Vigo on Season-Long Loan

?Barcelona have confirmed Rafinha has joined Celta Vigo on a season-long loan shortly after signing a new contract to keep him at the club until 2021.

The Brazilian featured in all three of Barcelona’s opening La Liga fixtures but has been deemed surplus to requirements this season by La Blaugrana.


?Barca confirmed the news in a statement on their ?club website which reads: “FC Barcelona and Rafinha have agreed on the renewal of the player’s contract through to the end of the 2020/21 season.

“Additionally, Barça and Celta Vigo have come to an agreement whereas Rafinha will play at Celta on loan for the 2019/20 season. Celta thus take on Rafinha’s salary plus potential add-ons of up to €1.5m.

“FC Barcelona would like to publicly express its gratitude to Rafinha for his commitment and dedication, and wishes him the best of luck and continued success.”

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Rafinha previously featured for Celta Vigo during the 2013/14 season, where he made 33 appearances in a largely successful loan spell.

Since then, the 26-year-old has also spent time out on loan in Italy with Inter, before returning to the first team set-up at Barca last summer.

Celta also released a statement on their ?website to announce the news which reads: “Rafinha grew up in Vigo, ‘played’ in Balaidos as a child and always showed great affection and a strong bond with RC Celta, with which he played several tournaments in lower categories. 


“It is in the memory of the fans his great performance in the 2013/2014 campaign, when he wore the light blue shirt under the orders of Luis Enrique.

“Now he returns to complete a great template, to which he will contribute his enormous quality, versatility, commitment and enthusiasm. Rafinha will be presented at the Abanca Balaído stadium in the coming days.”

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FIFA Puskas Award: Ranking the 3 Goals Shortlisted in 2019

?The 2019 FIFA Puskas Award has been cut from 10 contenders to just three, with Lionel Messi, Juan Quintero and Daniel Zsori the three players in with a chance of receiving the prestigious accolade for the ‘most beautiful’ goal of last season.

The real winner won’t be announced until 23 September at the 2019 FIFA gala in Milan, but these are the three nominated goals ranked by 90min…


3. Juan Quintero (River Plate)

Everyone loves a free-kick goal. The further out, the better. And if it’s in the top corner as well, even better. Juan Quintero’s Puskas-nominated strike for River Plate against Racing Club in Argentina ticks those boxes and then some.

It took a great deal of audacity and confidence to score from the position out wide that he struck the ball, as most players would have opted for an easier cross instead. Quintero thought differently, perfectly catching the goalkeeper off guard.


2. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Lionel Messi, who is nominated for a ninth time since 2009 but has not yet won the award, scored his latest Puskas entry in a La Liga clash between Barcelona and Real Betis, starting and finishing the move that ended with a delicious and measured chip into the far corner.

The Argentine struck the ball with such finesse that you find yourself close to drooling watching the clip. Time even stands still as the ball just floats over a helpless goalkeeper into the far corner. Power is great, but precision is usually far more majestic.


1. Daniel Zsori (Debrecen)

‘Improvisation’ is the word you would use to describe Daniel Zsori’s overhead kick for Hungarian side Debrecen against domestic rivals Ferencvaros. In short, it was the only way he could possibly have scored in that moment when closely marked by two defenders.

Zsori’s quick thinking turned a poor cross that most players wouldn’t have been able to do anything with into a world class goal. Above anything else, football is at its purest when the unexpected happens and someone can do something truly magical in the moment.


An online fan vote was responsible for cutting the original shortlist from 10 down to three, but a panel of FIFA Legends will now choose the overall winner.

Aside from the Puskas Award, FIFA have also announced the final shortlists for the rest of the 2019 awards, including Best Men’s Player and Best Women’s Player.


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Ernesto Valverde Hits Out at Media Speculation After Benching Ivan Rakitic (Again) for Osasuna Loss

?Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde was irked by suggestions Ivan Rakitic is close to an exit after the midfielder was left on the bench for a third consecutive game.

A late penalty from Roberto Torres denied La Blaugrana victory over Osasuna on Saturday, with Rakitic an unused substitute as his side’s stuttering start to 2019/20 continued. The Croatian has been linked with a transfer away from Catalunya for much of the summer, though the transfer window is due to close on 2nd September for most leagues in Europe.

Ivan Rakitic

Rakitic has been an integral figure at ?Barça since arriving from Sevilla for a fee of £18m in 2014. He has made a total of 269 appearances for the club, playing in over 50 matches in each of his five campaigns at the Nou Camp.

Speaking after his men ?drew 2-2 at Estadio El Sadar, Valverde was asked whether the 31-year-old’s exclusion from the starting lineup meant he would soon be departing, with the Spaniard replying (as quoted by ?Sport): “What do you want me to say?

Last year he was playing and Nelson [Semedo] was on the bench. The other day he played well and we stuck with the same team, with Sergi Roberto in midfield. We have a lot to choose from. It’s a great question, but it could be about anyone.”

The Blaugrana boss also took the time to praise 16-year-old goalscorer Ansu Fati, who grabbed the leveller in Pamploma having been brought on at half-time.

Anssumane Fati

Discussing the winger’s eye-catching performance, Valverde stated: “We thought we lacked a spark [before we made the substitution]. 

“He’s a young player and there are a lot of good things about him: dribbling, confidence, he forces the opposition back. He came on when we were losing, at a tough ground, and he responded well.”

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Neymar Agrees to Stay at Paris Saint-Germain After Barcelona Fail to Agree Deal to Sign Forward

?Neymar’s dream return to the Camp Nou appears to be dead, as talks between Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona have broken down, putting an end to any opportunity of a move away from France for the Brazilian star. 

The ex-Barcelona forward has seemingly accepted that he must remain in Paris for the foreseeable future, despite the 27-year-old had previously admitted that he had no desire to stay in Paris for the coming season

Neymar Jr

The Neymar transfer saga has rumbled on all summer, but it finally appears to have reached its end, as ?Bryan Swanson published a tweet stating that the two clubs have failed to reach an agreement.

He also claims that the PSG forward ‘intends to fulfil remainder of PSG contract & commitments’. 

Barcelona have shown plenty of interest in completing a deal for Neymar this summer, and following injuries to ?Ousmane Dembele and ?Luis Suarez, the Brazilian looked destined to make a dramatic return to Catalunya this summer. 

His public fall-out with PSG’s hierarchy has been well-documented, and sporting director Leonardo had agreed that ?Neymar’s future may rest away from the Parc des Princes – but only at the right price. 

With a deal unlikely to be completed for the superstar, he looks set to stay with les Parisiens and must fall in line with the rest of his teammates. 

The French side have suffered a number of injuries at the beginning of this campaign, and Neymar’s inclusion in the side will certainly provide some relief to supporters. 

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Twitter Reacts as Barcelona Concede Late Equaliser Against Osasuna

?Barcelona failed to beat La Liga new boys Osasuna as Roberto Torres scored a late penalty to secure a 2-2 draw for the hosts.

It took just seven minutes for the Blaugrana defence to cave in, Torres volleying home at the far post. Cue ridicule on social media…

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Fortunately, some took a moment to praise what was a sumptuous finish from Osasuna’s number ten…

The Barça faithful were unsurprisingly concerned by the poor start. A couple of them were even ready to welcome old flame Neymar back to Catalonia…

Of course, not every Blaugrana fan is keen to reunite with the Brazilian…

As the break drew near and the champions continued to trail, some of their supporters began to turn on the players and coaching staff

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With established squad members struggling to get Barcelona back into the contest in Pamplona, a chance presented itself for teenage starlet Ansu Fati to be the hero. Not everyone was excited to see him come on, though…

After being brought on at half-time, the young winger proved his doubters wrong as he got on the end of a Carles Perez cross to equalise…

All those angry voices became very quiet less than a quarter of an hour after Fati’s first Barça goal, with fellow substitute Arthur completing the turnaround…

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Aaaaaaaannndd then all those angry voices got louder once more.

Gerard Pique’s blatant handball saw Osasuna awarded a penalty in the closing stages, that man Torres stepping up to level the scores…

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It definitely doesn’t reflect well on head coach Ernesto Valverde, though his loyalists made a point of defending the 55-year-old…

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However, that didn’t stop his critics coming out in force…

So, a very underwhelming performance from Barcelona to go along with their very underwhelming title defence. They will hope for better at home to Valencia in a fortnight.

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Osasuna 2-2 Barcelona: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Late Penalty Sees Barça Blow it in Pamplona

?Barcelona let a late lead slip as they were held to a 2-2 draw at Estadio El Sadar by newly-promoted Osasuna.

The hosts broke the deadlock after less than seven minutes as wideman Brendan Thomas beat Clement Lenglet before clipping a ball across to the unmarked Roberto Torres, the striker rifling his volley past a helpless Marc-Andre ter Stegen.


Ernesto Valverde’s men proceeded to dominate possession and dictate play from deep, yet they rarely threatened as Osasuna made it to half-time with their lead still intact. Arguably, Los Rojillos looked likeliest to grab the game’s second goal, offering an aerial threat at corners.

Lionel Messi’s calf injury has seen him miss ?La Blaugrana’s first three matches of the 2019/20 ?La Liga season, the team once again looking lost for ideas without their talismanic captain in Pamplona.

As senior players struggled to break down a resolute Osasuna backline, 16-year-old substitute Ansu Fati picked up the gauntlet for Barcelona. Having been brought on at the break, the winger made an instant impact as he guided Carles Perez’s cross into the corner of the net.

Anssumane Fati,Gerard Pique,Jordi Alba

The comeback was completed less than a quarter of an hour later as Arthur – who had also been brought on at the break – whipped a wonderful effort out of the reach of Ruben in the Osasuna goal.

Barcelona should have wrapped up the win from that position, but they instead had to settle for a point when Gerard Pique blocked a shot with his hand, Torres grabbing a brace by converting the resultant spot-kick.


Barcelona

Key Talking Point

Without Messi in the team, Barça look very beatable. The Argentine is expected to return after next week’s international break, but his teammates have been exposed in his absence.

It’s never a good sign when a club is hugely dependent on one player, even when that man happens to be a five-time Ballon d’Or winner. Were the 32-year-old’s injury struggles to continue into the autumn, an early ?Champions League exit would not be too surprising.

Ernesto Valverde

Valverde’s side have been drawn in a group with ?InterSlavia Prague and ?Borussia Dortmund, with both the Italians and Germans more than capable of hurting the ?La Liga giants. 

Before that, however, the Catalans simply must get their domestic campaign back on track or risk having to play catch up with ?Real Madrid and their city rivals ?Atletico. Failure to do so would leave their manager staring down the barrel.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: ter Stegen (6); Semedo (5), Pique (6), Lenglet (4), Alba (5); Busquets (7), Roberto (5), De Jong (6); Perez (7), Rafinha (5), Griezmann (5).

Substitutes: Fati (7*), Arthur (7), Vidal (5).


STAR MAN – Ansu Fati

The visitors were dire, particularly in the opening half of the encounter. It was looking like they would need something special to avoid another damaging defeat and something special was duly delivered.

Anssumane Fati

Tasked with changing the course of the match, Fati did precisely that with a clinical header. Had Pique not handled late on, his would have been a game-winning performance, instead of just one that spared Barça a second loss in three fixtures.

He and Arthur changed the course of the contest, the pair adding purpose to a lethargic Barcelona lineup. However, the teen just about edges the Brazilian for his impressive display of maturity and confidence at such a tender age. 

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Osasuna

Player Ratings

Starting XI: Ruben (7); Vidal (6), Hernandez (6), D. Garcia (8), Estupinan (7); Torres (8*), Oier (6), Merida (7), R. Garcia (6); Avila (5), Brandon (7).

Substitutes: Villar (6), Ibanez (7), Moncayola (5).

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Looking Ahead

After the international break, Barcelona resume their La Liga campaign at home to Valencia on Saturday 14 September. Los Ches are also competing in this season’s Champions League having secured fourth place in the league last term.

Osasuna play the following day away to Real Valladolid, who finished just two places above the relegation zone in 2018/19.

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Gerard Pique Sends Virgil van Dijk Warning About Ballon d’Or Chances

?Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has warned Virgil van Dijk that it will be incredibly tough for the Liverpool man to win the Ballon d’Or, despite calls from many for Van Dijk to win the award.

The Dutchman was ?named the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year off the back of Liverpool’s run to Champions League glory, and is one of the leading candidates for the Ballon d’Or this year, alongside the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.


The last defender to win the award was ?Real Madrid’s Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 and, speaking to ?The Express, ?Pique insisted that it will be a huge challenge for Van Dijk to add his name to the list of former winners.

He said: “I always said that for me, if you have to vote for the best player of them all, you have to vote for ?Lionel MessiFor the last ten years he has been by far the best player in the world, but it is fair enough that Van Dijk has done a great season and he should be there fighting for it.

“It is not easy. This game is made for strikers. When they score they are the stars and when they don’t score, normally nothing happens.

“For keepers and defenders, it is more difficult. When you do a good job it is difficult for people to recognise you but when you make a mistake you are everywhere. Normally strikers will win it.”

Messi and ?Ronaldo have dominated the Ballon d’Or in recent years. One of the pair won the award each year between 2008 and 2017, but Real midfielder ?Luka Modric finally ended their stranglehold on the award last year.

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This time around, Van Dijk is expected to be a serious contender, alongside the likes of ?Mohamed Salah, ?Sadio Mane, ?Raheem Sterling and ?Kylian Mbappe – all of whom will be battling Messi and Ronaldo for the ultimate individual prize.

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