Barcelona 4 Sevilla 2: Messi injured but champions go top

Lionel Messi was substituted with an arm injury that makes him a doubt for next weekend’s Clasico but the Barcelona captain inspired a 4-2 home win against Sevilla to send his side top of LaLiga.

Philippe Coutinho scored from Messi’s pass in the second minute to get Barca off to a flying start at Camp Nou on Saturday and the Argentina superstar soon doubled the lead.

But Messi had to be substituted having hurt his right arm in an awkward fall and he could miss Wednesday’s Champions League game against Inter, as well as next Sunday’s showdown with rivals Real Madrid.

Luis Suarez’s second-half penalty and a late strike from Ivan Rakitic secured the points despite consolations from Pablo Sarabia and Luis Muriel, Ernesto Valverde’s men moving into first place in the table, with Sevilla third after their four-game winning streak ended.


Despite being on a run of one win in five in all competitions, Barca led inside two minutes with Coutinho bending home a sensational first-time strike to complete a wonderful team move involving Messi and Suarez.

Guilherme Arana struck the post but Messi scored a typically brilliant second for his side in the 12th minute, running on to a superb Suarez pass and cutting inside off the right flank to find the bottom-left corner from 20 yards to record his 25th goal against Sevilla.

Messi, though, was then replaced by Ousmane Dembele after landing heavily on his right arm, Barca’s treatment team initially patching him up but finding he could not continue.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen twice produced remarkable double saves, then Suarez sealed victory when he sent Tomas Vaclik the wrong way from the penalty spot after he was felled by the goalkeeper.

Sarabia’s 79th-minute reply took a vital deflection off former Sevilla defender Clement Lenglet to ruin Ter Stegen’s clean sheet, the Germany goalkeeper then making a second double save.

Rakitic added a late fourth with a controlled volley against his old club but Sevilla still had the final say, Muriel bending home a fine finish in added time.

Despite a welcome win, Barcelona will be concerned about Messi’s injury ahead of next weekend’s Clasico.


What does it mean: Messi major concern

Getting back to winning ways will be a huge relief for Valverde, but Messi’s injury gives him another headache. Barca are arguably more reliant on their talisman than ever before and if he is out for any serious length of time, their title aspirations will be severely dented.

Ter Stegen heroics save Barca

A wonderful double save from Ter Stegen was a vital moment for Barca, who then quickly extended their lead from the penalty spot after Suarez was felled. The first save from Andre Silva’s header was brilliant but blocking the rebound from Franco Vazquez was arguably even better. Incredibly, Ter Stegen made another amazing double save in the closing stages to keep out Muriel and Sarabia.

Ben Yedder toothless for visitors

Behind Messi and level with team-mate Sarabia, Wissam Ben Yedder was among LaLiga’s top scorers this term with nine in all competitions, but the striker had little involvement. Sevilla – now winless in 16 games at Camp Nou – were on the back foot from the off, however, blunting his impact.

What’s next?

European action for both sides this week with Barca hosting Inter in the Champions League on Wednesday and Sevilla welcoming Akhisarspor in the Europa League a day later. On Sunday it’s Huesca at home for Sevilla, while Barca will hope Messi is fit to face Madrid in the Clasico.

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How have Brazil changed since the World Cup?

A new captain, changing faces and shape-shifting tactical set-ups – Tite and the Selecao are deep in a period of transition ahead of Copa America 2019


GOAL ANALYSIS – Raisa Simplicio & Rupert Fryer


Following World Cup 2018, Brazil coach Tite and his technical staff are leading a process of renewal in the Selecao. Their work has been broken down into three stages: the short, medium and long term.

The short term utilised the six Brasil Global Tour dates from September to November, the first big test of which arrived this week with the Superclasico against Argentina in Jeddah.

Neymar refused to lose Miranda takes the Superclasico

Posted by Brasil Global Tour on Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The 1-0 victory over their old rivals made it four straight victories, but it is the performances rather than the results of those matches that are most important to the coach.

Tite has taken the opportunity to introduce a number of new faces, handing out nine debuts since the World Cup (Neto, Felipe, Eder Militao, Andreas Pereira, Arthur, Lucas Paqueta, Richarlison, Everton and Pablo), while retaining the core of the World Cup squad. The intention is to find an ideal blend of youth and experience.


A FIXED CAPTAIN


Neymar Brasil Argentina 16 10 2018

The big news ahead of the Selecao’s first post-World Cup test was the appointment of a new captain. After two years of rotating the armband around the squad, Tite announced that Neymar was being anointed the responsibility on a permanent basis. Tite made a point of explaining his decision, insisting that his no.10 was the technical leader of the team who will guide them into World Cup 2022. 

There were some reservations following intense criticism of Neymar’s temperament in Russia, but it is clear to see that the 26-year-old has learned from the experience and is growing. Some of the criticism appeared to miss the point; this was not a reward from Tite, but rather a tool to ensure the player remains entirely focused and accepts his responsibility on the pitch.


ARTHUR’S EMERGENCE


Arthur Brazil El Salvador Friendly 11092018

The most prominent of all the new arrivals is Barcelona midfielder Arthur. The former Gremio man charmed the coaching staff and started against Argentina, a match in which Tite played what he believes is his best team. The match served as a something of a ‘simulation’ for next year’s Copa America, a tournament Tite is under huge pressure to win.

If the tournament started today, Arthur would be in the first-team. Despite having just over a year of senior football under his belt, Arthur has shown the strength, athleticism, tactical nous and technical quality to set the rhythm in the Brazil midfield, seemingly relegating Manchester Untied’s Fred back to the bench.


STRONG CORE


Philippe Coutinho Neymar Brazil 2018 World Cup

While Brazil are going through a major renovation, the Selecao remains standing on a solid foundation of five key players. In goal, Alisson has been consistently excellent and is yet to let his country down, though Ederson is pushing him hard. Marquinhos is the one member of the back-four whose place is assured, while Casemiro at the base of the midfield remains possibly his side’s most important player in terms of the team’s overall functionality.

In midfield, Coutinho – whether wide right or in central midfield – is immovable and so too is Neymar. Arthur is on the verge of making it six, but elsewhere places are very much up for grabs. Both full-back positions are being keenly contested and as many as half of the positions in midfield and attack are yet to be claimed.


STRIKING COMPETITION


Richarlison Brasil Argentina Amistoso Superclássico das Américas 16102018

One of the biggest changes for Brazil post-World Cup has been in the centre-forward position. For two years, Gabriel Jesus was immovable from the no.9 position. However, after failing to score in Russia, Tite has had a rethink. Jesus was left out of the squad completely last month but returned last week and found the net against Saudi Arabia.

Roberto Firmino, for so long his understudy, is now pushing for a start. Moreover, Everton forward Richarlison has entered the race after starring against El Salvador last month with two goals. The Argentina match saw Firmino and Jesus start a Brazil match together for the very first time, but they seemed to lack an understanding and the attack certainly lacked cohesion overall. Tite, then, has plenty to ponder up front ahead of next month’s Brasil Global Tour.


NEW FORMATIONS


GFX 1a mudança Tite Arábia Saudita

This week, for the match against Argentina, Tite took the extremely rare decision not to confirm his starting XI on the eve of the game, explaining that he was yet to devise his tactical plan for the contest. The 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 that had been omnipresent since his appointment has changed following their disappointment in Russia.

Against Saudi Arabia, he used three different formations and against Argentina went out with two centre-forwards, though Jesus did play from the right. The theory was that Firmino would drop and the likes of Neymar and Jesus would exploit the space. However, in practice it proved problematic, and will undoubtedly require more work on the training ground.

Regardless, Tite and his staff are working hard on varying Brazil’s shape and finding a system that can get his best attackers onto the field while retaining the ‘balance’ he believes is so important.

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Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Coutinho, and Brazil’s top goalscorers under Tite

The trio continue to fire the Selecao victory as they compete to lead the charts under the current boss

Following their World Cup 2018 disappointment, five-time world champions Brazil are back on the Brasil Global Tour this month as they begin a new cycle ahead of Copa America 2019 and Qater 2022.

A host of new players have been introduced to the post-Russia squads, but a number of Tite’s tried and trusted stars remain to lead a new generation, particularly in front of goal.

Neymar found the net just twice at the World Cup, but has been a consistent goalscorer since Tite took the reins in June 2016. The PSG star still leads the scoring charts under the current coach, with an impressive haul of 14 goals.

Gabriel Jesus answered Brazil’s prayers two years ago when he finally ended their long search for a traditional no.9. He had a disappointing World Cup, personally, but has wasted no time getting back on the scoresheet following his recall in October. 

The Man City striker has 11 under Tite after coolly slotting home the opener in a 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia.

Jesus, though, is now in competition with Roberto Firmino for a starting role. Last term saw the Liverpool striker enjoy a career-best season in front of goal for his club, and he has four goals for Tite.

Philippe Coutinho had a long wait to establish himself in international football but has flourished under Tite, becoming a first-team regular and one of Brazil’s most important players. He has scored 9 of his 13 Brazil goals for this coach.

With Paulinho’s international career now seeming to have drawn to a close, however, Tite will be keen to find someone to replace the goalscoring threat from midfield that they have lost.

BRAZIL’S TOP SCORERS UNDER TITE

JOGADORES

GOLS MARCADOS
Neymar 14 goals
Gabriel Jesus 11 goals
Philippe Coutinho 9 goals
Paulinho 8 goals
Roberto Firmino 4 goals
Richarlison, Renato Augusto, Diego Souza, Willian, Marcelo, Thiago Silva & Miranda 2 goals
Alex Sandro, Filipe Luis, Marquinhos & Taison 1 goal

 

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Coutinho gone, no Fekir: How Liverpool’s title hopes could fall apart without a goalscoring midfielder

Joint-top of the Premier League heading into the second international break of the campaign, on paper Liverpool’s season is progressing just as their fans would have hoped.

There is, however, a potential cloud on the horizon and, unthinkably really given last season’s heroics, it concerns a relative lack of cohesion from the Reds’ front three.

Last season Mohamed Salah (32), Roberto Firmino (15) and Sadio Mane (10) accounted for 68% of Liverpool’s league goals, as well as adding a barely credible 30 between them in the Champions League (more goals than 74 of the other 76 Champions League campaigns by English clubs).

Such productivity is not only unlikely to be sustainable, but points to the fact that Liverpool do not have a midfield stocked with reliable goalscorers who can chip in when the forwards are labouring.

Jamie Carragher added heft to the debate recently, suggesting that Liverpool are yet to replace Philippe Coutinho.

“We need a bit more quality in midfield, I think. That’s all. Maybe he’ll revisit that in January,” he told This is Anfield.

“I just look at that midfield and I think we’re missing that Coutinho type of player. We went in for [Nabil] Fekir, so we’re obviously looking for someone like that.

“We’re trying to compete with City, and I look and they’ve got De Bruyne and Silva in there. I don’t think we’ve got that sort of player.”


Liverpool midfield/forward stats (2017-18 Premier League)


Player Name Goals Scored Assists
Mohamed Salah 32 10
Roberto Firmino 15 7
Sadio Mane 10 7
     
Philippe Coutinho 7 6
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 3 7
Emre Can 3 4
Daniel Sturridge 2 1
Georginio Wijnaldum 1 2
Jordan Henderson 1 1
Dominic Solanke 1 1
Danny Ings 1 0
James Milner 0 3

And when you look down a list of Liverpool’s top goalscorers in the Premier League last season, after the industrial hauls of the celebrated front three, the next highest scorer was Coutinho himself with seven, even though he started the season in mid-September and played his final match for the club in December.

It’s not that 10-goal-a-season midfielders are common (Liverpool have had only four such players in the Premier League era: Steven Gerrard four times, Steve McManaman in 1997-98, plus Maxi Rodriguez and the transformative Dirk Kuyt in 2010-11), it’s just that having one could be the factor that tilts the title towards Anfield rather than the Etihad Stadium or Stamford Bridge.

Think of the great title-winning sides of the last 30 years and a steady supply of goals from midfield is a key ingredient – from the 45 scored by Chelsea in 2009-10 (34 of them from Frank Lampard and the lesser-celebrated Florent Malouda) to the 42 from Manchester United in 1993-94 when Ryan Giggs, Andrei Kanchelskis, Lee Sharpe, Roy Keane and Paul Ince all contributed at least five goals each.

Marc Overmars offered 12 for Arsenal in 1997-98, Robert Pires 14 in 2003-04, Manchester City’s eventual hunting down of Liverpool in 2013-14 would not have happened without Yaya Toure’s 20 goals, while Riyad Mahrez’s 17 for Leicester in 2015-16 was only seven fewer than Jamie Vardy’s famous total.

Yaya Toure Manchester City 2013-14

Even among Liverpool’s long-past league wins you can find John Barnes scoring 22 in 1989-90, along with 11 from Steve Nicol and Steve McMahon. Two years earlier Barnes had scored 15 in his first league campaign with the Reds, with the trio of McMahon, Ray Houghton and Craig Johnston adding 19 between them.

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There is an exception to the rule, however, with the most notable example in the Premier League era being Blackburn in 1994-95, where Kenny Dalglish guided his side to the title with a midfield contribution of less than 20 goals – the only team to achieve that feat.

Of course, that Rovers side were understandably reliant on Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, who scored 49 between them, 61% of their total, and were one of the first set of forwards to have their own acronym.

So from the SAS to MSN and BBC and whatever you want to call Liverpool’s trio; it’s all well and good having a blue-chip frontline, but sometimes you really do need your pals behind to help out.

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Liverpool haven’t replaced Coutinho and need to find a De Bruyne or Silva – Carragher

Liverpool need to be in the market for a Kevin De Bruyne or David Silva, says Jamie Carragher, with the Reds considered to be in need of a “bit more quality in midfield”.

Jurgen Klopp did add in that area of the field over the summer, with Fabinho and Naby Keita drafted in from Monaco and RB Leipzig respectively.

There had, however, been departures from Anfield, with Philippe Coutinho leaving for Barcelona and Emre Can linking up with Juventus.

Carragher believes creativity is still missing in a key department , with Liverpool needing to look to Premier League rivals for inspiration when it comes to the next transfer window.

“We need a bit more quality in midfield, I think. That’s all. Maybe he’ll revisit that in January,” the former Reds defender told This is Anfield .

“I just look at that midfield and I think we’re missing that Coutinho type of player. Obviously, we went in for [Nabil] Fekir, so we’re obviously looking for someone like that.

“We’re trying to compete with City, and I look and they’ve got De Bruyne and Silva in there. I don’t think we’ve got that sort of player.

“We’ve got different types of players and we don’t play the same as them. But, now and again at Anfield, you’re going to need someone to open up teams and do something a little bit clever.

“That’s my only worry with this squad, but besides that, I think this could be Liverpool’s greatest squad for the last 30 years.”

Liverpool spent big in the last window , with Alisson and Xherdan Shaqiri also brought onto their books.

They did, however, have disposal funds following the £145 million ($192m) sale of Coutinho and Carragher doubts that they will invest so heavily again in January or over the summer of 2019.

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He added: “I mean there’s no doubt we’ve spent big in the last 12 months. But my argument to that is we had to sell our best player to spend big. Manchester United didn’t have to sell anyone to buy Pogba, you know.

“City didn’t have to sell anyone to buy Kyle Walker. We could only spend that much money because we sold Coutinho for an astronomical fee really.

“So, I don’t expect Liverpool to be spending that type of money going forward, every single season, on two or three players.”

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‘I want to beat Argentina whether Messi is playing or not’ – Coutinho can’t wait for South American derby

Philippe Coutinho avoids discussing international football with Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi but is determined to inspire a Brazil victory over Argentina next week.

Messi has not been included in either of interim coach Lionel Scaloni’s two Argentina squads following the country’s World Cup campaign that ended at the last-16 stage, leading to questions about his future with the Albiceleste.

It is not a subject Coutinho has any inside knowledge on, given that he and the five-time Ballon d’Or winner try to refrain from talking about their respective nations while on club duty.

Although Messi will not be playing when the two countries renew their rivalry in Saudi Arabia on October 16, it is a match the former Liverpool midfielder is looking forward to.

Coutinho said: “Messi and I don’t speak much about our national teams.

“Despite him not playing, the game will be massive – it’s one of the biggest rivalries in international football.

“I want to beat Argentina whether Messi is playing or not. What is most important for me is to play well and win the game.”

Coutinho played down the impact of Barca’s recent indifferent form on his readiness to perform well for Brazil.

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Following an impressive 4-2 Champions League win over Tottenham at Wembley, Ernesto Valverde’s side saw their winless run in La Liga extended to four games with a 1-1 draw at Valencia.

“It doesn’t affect me that Barcelona haven’t started well,” Coutinho said. “Barcelona are among the top positions in LaLiga and in the Champions League.

“It’s true that it’s not normal being winless for four games in a row. However, this is the beginning of a long season, where a lot of things can happen.”

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Fantasy Football: Hat-trick heroes headline our Goal Champions League Team of the Week

This was the week of forwards in the Champions League. Three players scored hat-tricks during the latest round of play, with each propelling his side to a much-needed win. Paulo Dybala stepped up when needed as Juventus had to play without Ronaldo, Edn Dzeko broke his six-match drought in front of goal helping Roma pick up their first win of the tournament, and Neymar helped PSG get back on track after their opening loss to Liverpool.

Below you can find the eight other players that put in big performances for their clubs and your Fantasy sides this week!

Goal-Fantasy-Football-registertowin

GK: Roman Bürki – Dortmund – 1 Game, 5 Saves, 1 Clean Sheet = 9 Points

DEF: Leonardo Bonucci – Juventus – 1 Game, 1 Assist, 1 Clean Sheet = 10 Points

Bonucci’s performance against Young Boys was impressive and earned him a second consecutive spot in our Champions League Team of the Week. He didn’t just luck into his assist either, as he completed a team-high 83 passes on the day. Given their tendency to keep clean sheets and Manchester United’s struggles in front goal, Bonucci is someone you can feel confident in playing every week.

DEF: Aleksandar Kolarov – Roma – 1 Game, 1 Assist, 1 Clean Sheet = 10 Points

DEF: Alex Telles – FC Porto – 1 Game, 1 Assist, 1 Clean Sheet = 10 Points

Alex Telles Porto

MID: Cengiz Under – Roma – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 2 Assists = 14 Points

Under was inches away from scoring the goal of the round but will have to just settle for his goal and two assists. The Turkish international isn’t known for his finishing, but the assists may well be here to stay as he leads the club in that category in both Serie A and the Champions League. It’s hard to imagine not owning at least one Roma player for the next round as they will get another opportunity to pile on the goals against Plzen.

MID: Marco Reus – Dortmund – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist = 11 Points

MID: Erik Lamela – Tottenham – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist = 11 Points

The Tottenham man is in remarkable form right now, having scored or assisted in every appearance he’s made for the club this season. Lamela is now tied as the third highest point earning midfielder in the Goal game and, assuming his injury isn’t too bad, he could have even more luck against Group B minnows PSV.

Erik Lamela Tottenham

MID: Philippe Coutinho – Barcelona – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist = 11 Points

FOR: Neymar – PSG – 1 Game, 3 Goals = 17 Points

There’s been a lot of controversy and debate surrounding Neymar after the World Cup, but he certainly showed the goods on Wednesday. The Brazilian led all players in shots on target and touches in the box this round, as well as obviously bulging the net three times. We will see how PSG fare when they inevitably make it to the knockout stages but, for now, Neymar is a must own and a solid captain option every week.

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FOR: Paulo Dybala – Juventus – 1 Game, 3 Goals = 17 Points

FOR: Edin Dzeko – Roma – 1 Game, 3 Goals = 17 Points

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Messi is the best ever – Coutinho hails Barcelona star

Lionel Messi’s masterclass in the 4-2 Champions League win at Tottenham prompted Barcelona team-mate Philippe Coutinho to describe him as the “best ever”.

Coutinho gave Barca a second-minute lead at Wembley on Wednesday but it was Messi’s brace in the second half that ensured Ernesto Valverde’s men ended a run of three games without a win.

Messi was also involved in Barca’s opener before taking his Champions League tally to 64 goals from 65 appearances in the group stage, while Jordi Alba recorded a trio of assists.

Former Barca striker Gary Lineker described Messi as the best player in history on social media and Coutinho was quick to agree with that assessment after scoring his first Champions League goal for the club.

“Messi is the best ever,” Coutinho said to beIN SPORTS.

“He always does new things on the field, I’m glad he scored two goals.

“All Champions League matches are like that. We have to be at 100 per cent. Today we deserved the victory.”

Tottenham defender Kieran Trippier accepted Barca earned their victory but said his team, without star men Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Jan Vertonghen due to injury, can be satisfied with a second-half fightback that saw goals from Harry Kane and Erik Lamela.

“These are the games you want to be involved in, that you dream of playing in,” Trippier said to BT Sport.

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“[Messi] was unbelievable. When he’s in that form he’s magic to watch.

“Barcelona were the better team on the night but we’ll take plenty of positives out of it.

“We’ve got another game around the corner, so we’ll recover and see where we went wrong.”

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Tottenham 2 Barcelona 4: Rakitic rocket helps Valverde’s men bounce back

Ivan Rakitic scored a wonderful volley and Lionel Messi struck twice to inspire Barcelona to a thrilling 4-2 win at Tottenham in the Champions League.

Philippe Coutinho took only 92 seconds to give Barca the lead at Wembley on Wednesday, with Rakitic’s unstoppable 25-yarder doubling the Catalan side’s first-half advantage.

Harry Kane’s 10th Champions League goal gave Spurs hope and, although Messi soon put Barca 3-1 up, Erik Lamela struck to set up a grandstand finish.

Ernesto Valverde’s men had failed to win their last three games and looked nervy in the closing stages, but Messi capitalised on poor defending in the last minute to ensure his team join Inter on maximum points after two games in Group B.

Hugo Lloris was playing for the first time since August after recovering from a thigh injury but the Tottenham captain’s mistake contributed to Barca’s second-minute opener.

Messi produced a gorgeous ball to send Jordi Alba scampering clear down the left channel and, with Lloris having raced out and left his goal unmarked, the left-back squared for Coutinho to tuck away his first Barca goal in the Champions League.

The visitors, returning to Wembley for the first time since lifting the Champions League there in 2011, extended their lead in stunning fashion soon after Kane had Spurs’ first shot.

Coutinho performed a minor miracle to keep the ball in play on the byline with Rakitic launching himself into a sensational 20-yard volley that clipped the post on its way into Lloris’ net.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a great save to keep out a Son Heung-min cross that sharply deflected off Gerard Pique, who was making his 100th Champions League appearance, and Messi hit the post twice in five minutes after the restart before Kane gave Spurs a lifeline.

A long throw from Lloris set up a counter, with Lamela feeding Kane to turn Nelson Semedo and bend a fine finish into Ter Stegen’s bottom-left corner.

Messi would not miss again, though, sending Alba clear down the left with a trademark curling pass and timing his run into the box perfectly to slot a first-time finish past Lloris to restore Barca’s two-goal lead four minutes later.

Lamela’s deflected strike wrongfooted Ter Stegen and ensured a fantastic finale but, with Spurs committing men forward, Alba seized on a loose pass to set up Messi to sweep home his second.


What does it mean: Crisis over for Valverde

Valverde said after Barca lost at Leganes last month that every defeat is an “earthquake” for the club, with talk of crisis intensifying after he rested Messi and saw his side held by Athletic Bilbao at the weekend. Spurs put up a better fight after the interval, but Barcelona’s second win in eight away Champions League games is a positive sign the LaLiga giants are getting back on track.

Arthur lives up to Xavi and Iniesta comparisons

Being dubbed a cross between Xavi and Andres Iniesta must be a huge weight on Arthur’s shoulders, but the Brazilian midfielder is living up to that lofty billing. Arthur plays like he knows he belongs on this stage. He is just 22 and it is frightening to think how good the former Gremio man could become.

Another rare Lloris error costs Spurs

The return of World Cup winner Lloris should have given Spurs a boost, especially as Mauricio Pochettino was without Dele Alli, Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen, among others. But Lloris made a calamitous misjudgement in only the second minute to give Barca a lead they were never likely to give up. Previously reliable, Lloris errors are now far too regular.

What’s next?

Spurs host Cardiff City in the Premier League on Saturday, while Barca are at Valencia in LaLiga the following day. Matchday three of the Champions League sees a blockbuster between Group B leaders Barca and Inter at Camp Nou, with Spurs travelling to PSV.

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