Yaya Toure offers to help beleaguered Barca

Yaya Toure has offered his services to Barcelona amid one of the deepest crises in the club’s history.

The ex-Manchester City midfielder, who won the Champions League with Barca under Pep Guardiola in 2010, believes his former club will come through a tumultuous period on and off the pitch.

The 2019 La Liga champions are ninth in the table after winning just three of their opening seven matches, with boss Ronald Koeman under intense pressure to keep his job, amid a backdrop of financial chaos that includes more than £1bn of debt.

Toure offered his help to restore the club’s stature in a series of impassioned statements on Twitter in the wake of Barca’s 2-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid on Sunday.

Yaya Toure
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Toure won the Champions League with Barca under Pep Guardiola in 2010

He said: “My time at Barcelona was one of the best memories of my playing career.

“The club has decided to trust me when I was still a young player, yet to establish myself in the top leagues. I will forever be grateful to the club for what they have done for me.

“It may be a difficult time for the club but my belief for Barcelona is strong. I will always be available for the club should they need me anytime as my heart is forever with the club, the people and the fans.”

The 38-year-old, who retired last year after finishing his playing career in China, is currently an assistant coach of Russian club Akhmat Grozny and is doing his UEFA coaching badges.

Barca have decided to stick with Koeman for now, with president Joan Laporta publicly backing the Dutchman last week despite widespread reports in Spain that he had been searching for a successor, such as Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez.

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Barca president Laporta backs under-fire Koeman

Barcelona president Joan Laporta gave coach Ronald Koeman his backing on Saturday, saying the Dutchman deserves time to turn the club’s fortunes around.

Koeman has come under fire after Barca won just one of their last five games in all competitions, including a 3-0 humbling by Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Names such as Xavi Hernandez, Andrea Pirlo and Roberto Martinez have been linked to the job by local media.

Laporta, however, said he backed Koeman after holding clear-the-air talks with the 58-year-old.

“Koeman will continue as the Barca coach,” Laporta told the media ahead of Saturday’s LaLiga clash away to Atletico Madrid.

“We understand that he deserves a bit of margin for many reasons: He’s a Barca fan and legend for fans all over the world. He’ll stay on and deserves a margin of confidence.

“He loves Barca and decided to come here in a really tough time both institutionally and on a sporting front.

“After talking to him, I can see he’s got faith in the team… We spoke and it’s not true that we’ve got a tense relationship – it’s good and honest. I think we both think the same, to turn things around.”

Barca travel to champions Atletico seventh in the table, two points behind Diego Simeone’s side having played one game fewer, but five down on table-toppers and arch-rivals Real Madrid.

One reason behind Laporta’s stance might be the club’s dire financial situation: LaLiga’s Financial Fair Play controls mean the club have a budget of just 98m euros this season, and this week Barca confirmed that they posted a loss of 481m for last season.

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‘Nightmare!’ – Koeman pressure builds after new Barca ‘calamity’

Pressure has piled up on Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman after the club made their worst-ever start to a Champions League campaign with a 3-0 defeat at Benfica.

Barcelona were behind after just three minutes in Portugal, when Darwin Nunez scored at the near post.

He then added a penalty with 11 minutes to play, after Rafa Silva’s second-half strike, to match the scoreline by which Barca lost to Bayern Munich in their opening Group E fixture.

To compound Barcelona’s night to forget, Eric Garcia was sent off late on.

The Catalans are already five points behind La Liga leaders Real Madrid domestically and now face an uphill struggle. If they do not qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League, it will be for the first time since 2003/04.

Koeman: No point comparing us with past Barca teams

ROnaldo Koeman
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Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona have lost their first two Champions League games this season

Speaking after the match, Koeman said the players were still behind him but added that he did not know if the board felt the same after the Benfica game.

“As I’ve said just the other day, regarding my future I can’t say anything,” Koeman said. “Because I don’t know what the club is thinking in this respect, and I don’t want to answer any more questions on this because it is not in my hands. We’ll see.

“In the end the culprits [in defeat] are the coaches. But I think in many phases during the game we implemented our plan very well because we were superior to them. From 2-0 we had problems.

“But we had opportunities to score two goals in the game. We were not inferior except in effectiveness in the game.”

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Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman admits his future at the Nou Camp is out of his hands following a 3-0 defeat to Benfica in the Champions League.

Koeman added there was “no point” comparing his Barcelona team to those from the past, and says he has the confidence of the dressing room.

“There’s no point in comparing this with Barcelona teams of years gone by. That’s as clear as water. I can only give you my opinion of my work at the club – I feel backed by my players and their attitude.

“Where you have to win is with the players that we have, by playing our way. To have the ball and create opportunities and this we did. But if you don’t score, you don’t win the game.

Mundo Deportivo: 'Against the ropes' | Marca call it a 'total calamity'
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Mundo Deportivo: ‘Against the ropes’ | Marca call it a ‘total calamity’
AS said Barca were 'sunk', while Sport led with the headline 'This is a nightmare'
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AS said Barca were ‘sunk’, while Sport led with the headline ‘This is a nightmare’

“I understand that you see the final result and I accept it. When you win a game everything is calm and now we have lost a game so the future of the coach in this world [is in doubt] – you have to accept that and if you don’t then it’s better to leave.”

Barcelona president Joan Laporta backed Koeman last week but said the board would not shirk tough decisions if they needed to be made.

Barca’s sorry stats

  • Barcelona have lost their first two matches in a UEFA European campaign for the first time since the 1972-73 UEFA Cup, when they lost both legs to FC Porto and were eliminated.
  • Despite only taking charge of eight Champions League group stage matches as Barcelona manager, only Louis van Gaal (5 in 32 games) has lost more such matches with Barca than Ronald Koeman (3 in 8 games).
  • Barcelona have lost four of their last five Champions League matches (D1), as many as they lost in their previous 39 matches (W25 D10 L4).
  • Only one team has ever reached the Champions League knockout stages after losing their first two group stage matches with a goal difference of -6 or worse, as Barcelona have this season – Lyon in 2007-08, who reached the last 16.

Bayern thrash Dynamo Kiev

Robert Lewandowski scored twice in Bayern's big win over Dynamo Kiev
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Robert Lewandowski scored twice in Bayern’s big win over Dynamo Kiev

Meanwhile, Group E leaders Bayern Munich were a class apart as they hammered Dynamo Kiev 5-0 at the Allianz Arena, with Robert Lewandowski adding two more to his tally for the season. The Poland striker now has already scored 13 goals in nine games this term.

Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting also got on the scoresheet as Bayern cruised to a victory which moves them two points clear at the top of the pool and underlines their status as a major contender for the crown.

English sides playing catch-up

Atalanta moved top of Group F with a 1-0 win over Young Boys, with Matteo Pessina hitting the net for the hosts, who had limited their Swiss visitors to just three shots at goal during the game.

Young Boys are now level with Manchester United, one point behind the Italian side, after Cristiano Ronaldo’s last-gasp heroics grabbed them victory over Villarreal.

Champions League Group F
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Champions League Group F

Chelsea also have ground to make up after their defeat to Group H leaders Juventus.

Also in that group, Zenit St Petersburg – who are now level on three points with Chelsea – racked up a club-record win in the Champions League by smashing four past Malmo, whose cause wasn’t helped by Anel Ahmedhodzic’s 58th-minute red card.

Champions League Group H
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Champions League Group H

In Group G, Salzburg’s Karim Adeyemi became the youngest player to score two penalties in a single Champions League match, as the 19-year-old helped his club to a 2-1 win at home to Lille, who responded via Burak Yilmaz.

And Ivan Rakitic penalty grabbed Sevilla a late equaliser as they drew 1-1 at Wolfsburg in the group’s other game. The Croatian coolly converted after Wolfsburg’s Josuha Guilavogui was sent off with five minutes remaining.

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CL round-up: Pressure builds on Koeman as sorry Barca beaten

Pressure has piled up on Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman after the club made their worst-ever start to a Champions League campaign with a 3-0 defeat at Benfica.

Barcelona were behind after just three minutes in Portugal, when Darwin Nunez scored at the near post.

He then added a penalty with 11 minutes to play, after Rafa Silva’s second-half strike, to match the scoreline Bayern Munich beat Barca by in their opening Group E fixture.

To compound Barcelona’s night to forget, Eric Garcia was sent off late on.

The Catalans are already five points behind La Liga leaders Real Madrid domestically and now face an uphill struggle. If they do not qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League, it will be for the first time since 2003/04.

ROnaldo Koeman
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Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona have lost their first two Champions League games this season

Barca’s sorry stats

  • Barcelona have lost their first two matches in a UEFA European campaign for the first time since the 1972-73 UEFA Cup, when they lost both legs to FC Porto and were eliminated.
  • Despite only taking charge of eight Champions League group stage matches as Barcelona manager, only Louis van Gaal (5 in 32 games) has lost more such matches with Barca than Ronald Koeman (3 in 8 games).
  • Barcelona have lost four of their last five Champions League matches (D1), as many as they lost in their previous 39 matches (W25 D10 L4).
  • Only one team has ever reached the Champions League knockout stages after losing their first two group stage matches with a goal difference of -6 or worse, as Barcelona have this season – Lyon in 2007-08, who reached the last 16.

Bayern thrash Dynamo Kiev

Robert Lewandowski scored twice in Bayern's big win over Dynamo Kiev
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Robert Lewandowski scored twice in Bayern’s big win over Dynamo Kiev

Meanwhile, Group E leaders Bayern Munich were a class apart as they hammered Dynamo Kiev 5-0 at the Allianz Arena, with Robert Lewandowski adding two more to his tally for the season. The Poland striker now has already scored 13 goals in nine games this term.

Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting also got on the scoresheet as Bayern cruised to a victory which moves them two points clear at the top of the pool and underlines their status as a major contender for the crown.

English sides playing catch-up

Atalanta moved top of Group F with a 1-0 win over Young Boys, with Matteo Pessina hitting the net for the hosts, who had limited their Swiss visitors to just three shots at goal during the game.

Young Boys are now level with Manchester United, one point behind the Italian side, after Cristiano Ronaldo’s last-gasp heroics grabbed them victory over Villarreal.

Champions League Group F
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Champions League Group F

Chelsea also have ground to make up after their defeat to Group H leaders Juventus.

Also in that group, Zenit St Petersburg – who are now level on three points with Chelsea – racked up a club-record win in the Champions League by smashing four past Malmo, whose cause wasn’t helped by Anel Ahmedhodzic’s 58th-minute red card.

Champions League Group H
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Champions League Group H

In Group G, Salzburg’s Karim Adeyemi became the youngest player to score two penalties in a single Champions League match, as the 19-year-old helped his club to a 2-1 win at home to Lille, who responded via Burak Yilmaz.

And Ivan Rakitic penalty grabbed Sevilla a late equaliser as they drew 1-1 at Wolfsburg in the group’s other game. The Croatian coolly converted after Wolfsburg’s Josuha Guilavogui was sent off with five minutes remaining.

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UEFA appeals after suspending Super League legal action

UEFA has appealed to remove a judge in Madrid from its case against clubs still committed to the European Super League after suspending its legal action.

Monday’s suspension saw UEFA comply with the ruling of a court in Madrid which has found that it did not have the power or authority to take action against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus.

The three clubs had argued in court that UEFA’s attempt to punish them for setting up a breakaway league was against European competition law.

But, on Tuesday, the governing body took action to try and remove judge Manuel Ruiz de Lara from the case as well as filing papers with the higher court of appeal in Madrid.

“UEFA has filed a motion for the recusal of the judge presiding over the current proceedings as it believes there are significant irregularities in these proceedings,” a UEFA statement read.

“In line with Spanish law and in the fundamental interests of justice UEFA fully expects the judge in question to immediately stand aside pending the full and proper consideration of this motion.

“Further, UEFA shall also be making a formal appeal to a higher court, the Provincial Court of Madrid (Court of Appeal).”

The proposed breakaway European Super League has collapsed
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The Premier League’s ‘big six’ will no longer need to pay the fines imposed on them for trying to set up the European Super League

Before the appeal was launched, UEFA said it would be contacting the other nine clubs involved in the attempted breakaway to tell them they do not have to pay – for the time being at least – the combined £22m they had agreed to donate to grassroots and community projects for trying to set up the ESL in April.

The nine clubs are Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Atletico Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan.

City supporters display a banner inside Wembley amid the fallout from the European Super League
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The attempted breakaway European Super League sparked mass protests at Premier League clubs

The court in Madrid ruled UEFA was breaking European Union free trade laws by pursuing disciplinary action against the three rebel clubs. Last week the court ordered UEFA to stop its disciplinary proceedings against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus.

In May the case was referred to the European of Justice where UEFA will deny that it acted unlawfully by blocking the creation of the ESL and threatening to punish clubs who were still involved in the breakaway.

UEFA still has the option of taking disciplinary action against the three clubs when legal proceedings are finished. It can also then ask the other nine clubs to pay the agreed £22m.

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UEFA drops legal action against remaining ‘Super League’ clubs

UEFA has dropped legal action against the three remaining clubs still committed to the so-called European Super League.

Proceedings against Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid have been declared “null and void”, UEFA said.

The three clubs had argued in court UEFA’s attempt to punish them for setting up a breakaway league was against European competition law.

UEFA says it is now “as if the proceedings had never been opened”.

The proposed breakaway European Super League has collapsed
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The Premier League’s ‘big six’ will no longer need to pay the fines imposed on them for trying to set up the European Super League

UEFA will also contact the other nine clubs involved in the attempted breakaway to tell them they will no longer need to pay the fines imposed on them for trying to set up the ESL in April.

The nine clubs are Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Atletico Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan.

City supporters display a banner inside Wembley amid the fallout from the European Super League
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The attempted breakaway European Super League sparked mass protests at Premier League clubs

In May the nine clubs agreed to pay a combined fine of €15m and to have five per cent of their UEFA competitions revenues withheld for one season.

UEFA is dropping its legal action because it respects the Spanish judicial process and it believes it is not in its interests or the interests of its member associations to drag this out through the courts.

UEFA will continue to do whatever is necessary to stop a breakaway league from ever being formed and it reserves the right to restart legal proceedings if the project, or any similar project, is resurrected.

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Euro: Barca beat Levante to ease pressure on Koeman

Goals from Memphis Depay, Luuk de Jong, and Ansu Fati helped ease the pressure on Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman with a 3-0 win over Levante at the Nou Camp.

Having been frustrated by draws with Granada and Cadiz in their last two matches, Barca started the game brightly and went ahead with a sixth-minute penalty from Depay, who was brought down in the box by Nemanja Radoja.

They doubled their advantage shortly afterwards as De Jong latched on to a Sergino Dest through ball before finishing past Aitor Fernandez to score his first goal for the club while on loan from Sevilla.

Levante rarely looked like troubling Koeman’s side and they were indebted to Fernandez, who made a couple of smart stops to keep the scoreline respectable as a dominant Barca pushed on in search of a third.

Barcelona assistant head coach Alfred Schreuder took charge against Levante amid Ronald Koeman's two-match touchline ban
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Barcelona assistant coach Alfred Schreuder took charge against Levante due to Ronald Koeman’s two-match touchline ban
Depay celebrates after scoring a first-half penalty
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Depay celebrates after scoring a first-half penalty

It finally came in the 91st minute as Fati capped his first appearance since a serious knee injury last November with a wonderful strike from distance.

18-year-old Fati, who came on as a second-half substitute for De Jong, said after the win: “I couldn’t have imagined a comeback like this.

“I’m so thankful to the doctors and physios who have been with me throughout all of this, and to the fans who have been unbelievable as well.”

Ronald Koeman
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Koeman has faced criticism for Barcelona’s poor start to the season

Barca’s first victory in their last four in all competitions saw the Catalans climb to fifth in La Liga with 12 points from six matches, five behind league leaders Real Madrid, who have played a game more.

Assistant coach Alfred Schreuder oversaw the win, with Koeman serving the first of his two-game touchline ban in the league after he was sent off for arguing with officials at the end of Barca’s goalless draw at Cadiz in midweek.

Koeman’s team will be looking to improve on their 3-0 humbling at home to Bayern Munich when they travel to the Estadio da Luz to play Benfica on Wednesday in Champions League Group E.

They then face an important test against Atletico Madrid in the league on Saturday October 2.

Serie A: Pedro comes back to haunt Roma

Pedro is all smiles after scoring against Roma
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Pedro is all smiles after scoring against Roma

Lazio ended a four-match winless run by beating AS Roma 3-2 in an exhilarating Rome Derby on Sunday, sending Maurizio Sarris side into the top six in Serie A.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic headed in the opener before Pedro scored against his former club to double Lazio’s lead and become the third player to score for both teams in the capital derby, after netting for Roma in this fixture in May.

Roger Ibanez pulled one back for Jose Mourinho’s side before the break but Felipe Anderson restored a two-goal advantage for Lazio in the second half.

Jordan Veretout converted a controversial penalty to keep alive Romas hopes but veteran goalkeeper Pepe Reina produced two excellent saves to deny the Giallorossi an equaliser.

Lazio climbed to sixth place on 11 points, one point behind fourth-placed Roma.

Jose Mourinho blamed the referee and VAR for the loss. It was the Portuguese’s second loss since taking charge of the Italian side in the summer, and Lazio led from the 10th minute until the final whistle.

However, Mourinho was unhappy about a potential foul in the build-up to Lazio’s second goal and felt Lucas Leiva should have received a second booking after seeing Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini sent off against Udinese on Thursday.

“Italian football has improved a lot,” he said. “But unfortunately, the referee and VAR were not at the right level for this fantastic match.

“On the 2-0 goal it could have been 1-1, the referee and VAR made a mistake. This is too much. The lack of a second yellow for Leiva is also important. It was a similar situation to Pellegrini, he got a red but today there was nothing.

“We were the best team on the pitch. Obviously when you concede three goals, something has gone wrong, but the second and third were counter-attacks.

“We tried, we dominated. We gave everything and put Lazio in difficulty.”

Lorenzo Insigne celebrates scoring for Napoli
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Lorenzo Insigne celebrates scoring for Napoli

Meanwhile, Napoli eased to a 2-0 win at home to Cagliari on Sunday to notch up a sixth consecutive Serie A victory and return to the top of the table, as Victor Osimhen continued his hot streak in front of goal.

Luciano Spalletti’s side are two points clear of AC Milan in first place after enjoying a perfect start to the league campaign, recording four clean sheets in six games.

It is the second time in Napoli’s history that they have started the season with six wins in a row after the 2017-18 campaign, when they finished as runners-up.

Osimhen fired home the opener from six metres after 11 minutes, his sixth goal in his last four appearances in all competitions.

The Nigeria striker then won a penalty in the second half which Lorenzo Insigne converted to double the hosts lead.

Bundesliga: Freiburg mark final game at stadium with win

Freiburg brought the curtain down in style
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Freiburg brought the curtain down in style

Unbeaten Freiburg marked their departure from their Dreisam stadium after 67 years with a 3-0 victory over Augsburg on a nostalgic Sunday in the Bundesliga.

The hosts, who are moving to the bigger Europa Park stadium after playing 360 Bundesliga matches at the Dreisam since winning promotion in 1993, struck three times in a dominant first half to maintain their strong start to the season.

Lukas Kuebler put them in front, Lucas Hoeler doubled the score from close range in the 25th and Vincenzo Grifo scored with a penalty eight minutes later, and has now converted all nine of his Bundesliga spot kicks.

Grifo’s goal was the 999th Bundesliga goal scored at the Dreisam stadium as former coach Volker Finke, who led Freiburg to the Bundesliga in 1993, watched from the stands.

Freiburg coach Christian Streich was in tears at the final whistle after the emotional farewell, and the victory lifted his team, the only unbeaten side left in the league along with leaders Bayern Munich, to fifth place on 12 points.

Bayern are top on 16, with Bayer Leverkusen and VfL Wolfsburg in second and third place respectively on 13. Borussia Dortmund are fourth, ahead of Freiburg on goal difference.

Ligue 1: Lens end unbeaten Marseille run to go second

Lens defender Jonathan Clauss in action
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Lens defender Jonathan Clauss in action

RC Lens moved up to second in Ligue 1 with a 3-2 win at Olympique de Marseille in a thrilling encounter on Sunday.

Wesley Said scored the winner after a Dimitri Payet double had cancelled out first-half goals by Florian Sotoca and Przemyslaw Frankowski to put Lens on 15 points from eight games.

They trail leaders Paris Saint-Germain, who beat Montpellier 2-0 on Saturday, by nine points. Third-placed Marseille have 14 points from seven games after their first defeat of the season.

They have a game in hand, away to Nice after the encounter was abandoned amid serious crowd trouble last month.

Monaco moved up to eighth on 11 points after a 3-1 comeback win at Clermont thanks to goals by Wissam Ben Yedder, Kevin Volland and Sofiane Diop.

Elsewhere, 19-year-old winger Hugo Ekitike dazzled with a double to earn Stade de Reims their first home victory since January as they beat Nantes 3-1.

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Koeman issued with two-match touchline ban

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman on Friday escaped with the minimum two-match ban as punishment for his red card when Barcelona drew 0-0 at Cadiz.

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) disciplinary opted to hand the Dutchman the shortest permitted suspension after his sending off in the final minute for arguing with officials as 10-man Barcelona limped to a goalless draw.

Referee Carlos del Cerro Grande wrote in his report that Koeman was sent off for “protesting to the fourth official in an ostentatious manner, with his arms raised, shouting and leaving the technical area, complaining: ‘hey, the referee has to whistle, the referee has to whistle, dammit, he has to whistle’ even though he had already been warned by the fourth official to stop protesting at the referee’s decisions.”

AP - Barcelona crowd round the referee vs Cadiz
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Barcelona crowd round the referee after Koeman’s compatriot Frenkie de Jong was sent off in the same match

Koeman wanted play stopped because there were two balls on the pitch.

“In this country you get sent off for nothing,” Koeman told the press conference after the match, explaining that “it was for telling the fourth official that there was a second ball on the pitch, that he had to stop the game.”

Koeman is under pressure because Barcelona are already seven points behind La Liga leaders Real Madrid, although they have a game in hand, and have scored just five goals in five league matches.

He will not be able to sit on the bench on Sunday as Barcelona host Levante and on October 2 when Barcelona visit champions Atletico Madrid.

The disciplinary committee also banned midfielder Frenkie de Jong for one match.

The Dutchman was sent off in 65th minute for his second yellow card in four minutes.

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Ten-man Barca held at Cadiz as Koeman sees red

Barcelona’s stumbling form continued as they were held to a disappointing 0-0 La Liga draw at Cadiz on Thursday and ended the game with 10 men after Frenkie de Jong was sent off.

To compound their misery, coach Ronald Koeman was dismissed in the dying seconds for dissent after Sergio Busquets had kicked a second ball that was on the pitch into an opposition player to get the game stopped.

Both sides struggled to create chances in a dull opening period, but the match came alive after the break.

Cadiz striker Alvaro Negredo forced Marc-Andre ter Stegen into a fine stop seconds after the restart, before Barcelona’s Memphis Depay failed to make contact with a Luuk de Jong cross with the goal gaping.

Depay was denied by a smart stop from Jeremias Ledesma as Barca looked to take control of the game, but things went downhill in the 65th minute when midfielder De Jong was shown his second yellow card in four minutes for a lunging tackle.

Koeman’s side were indebted to Ter Stegen as he denied Salvi Sanchez one-on-one and Ruben Sobrino fired the rebound wide with the goal gaping.

Depay missed a golden opportunity to win it for Barca in the fourth minute of stoppage time following a charge upfield by defender Gerard Pique, but dragged his shot wide and the spoils were shared.

The draw left Barca seventh in the standings with nine points from five games, while Cadiz are 14th with six points from six matches.

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Under-pressure Koeman’s plea for patience

Under-pressure Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman pleaded for patience in an unusual press conference on Wednesday, amid mounting doubt over his future at the Nou Camp.

President Joan Laporta and the club’s board are considering Koeman’s position after a disappointing start to the season, including the home defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League followed by last weekend’s draw with Granada.

The next few games will be critical for the Dutchman, as widespread reports in Spain claim Laporta is lining-up Belgium manager Roberto Martinez, and Koeman came out fighting in a news conference in which he read out his statement, took no questions, then left.

He said: “The club is with me in this period of reconstruction. We have to reconstruct the team as a squad without making big investments and this takes time.

“The young talents we have can become world stars in a couple of years. The young players will have opportunities, just as Xavi and (Andres) Iniesta had in their day, but we ask for patience.

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La Liga expert Semra Hunter says Barcelona’s performance in the 1-1 with Granada demonstrated that the club has lost its identity

“Finishing high in the table would be a success on its own and in the Champions League we cannot expect miracles. The defeat against Bayern should be taken with perspective.

“The team should be supported, with words and with actions.”

In reaction, Laporta is quoted in Spain as saying “we found out at the last minute that Koeman intended to make this statement. He has the obligation to attend press conferences and is very free to answer questions or express as he considers”.

Laporta is said to have had a long-term vision for Barca that does not include Koeman as head coach since his election campaign began in 2020. He has previously spoken of his admiration for former Barca midfielder and current manager of Qatar Stars League club Al Sadd Xavi.

Talks over a new contract for Koeman had been held last month but have not progressed for more than three weeks, with his Lionel Messi-less Barcelona currently eighth in La Liga after two wins from their opening four league games.

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