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Barcelona FC - All the latest News, Player Transfer, Messi, Suarez News from Spain

Barca still searching for top gear

Barcelona may be flying high at the top of La Liga with 11 wins from 13 games, but there is a tangible feeling they need to take an extra step forward under coach Ernesto Valverde to emulate the great sides of recent years.

On Saturday the Catalans host Celta Vigo, against whom they served up some of their most irresistible displays of the past two years, which Valverde needs to replicate to truly win over the Nou Camp faithful.

Barca hammered Celta 6-1 in 2016 and 5-0 last season with glitzy displays from front three Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. But that attacking flair has been somewhat lacking since Brazilian striker Neymar joined Paris St Germain.

Messi may be the Spanish league's top scorer with 12 goals, but Suarez has badly underperformed, struggling for fitness after rushing back from a knee injury in September and forced to play in the wide areas previously patrolled by Neymar.

 

Barcelona had played with a 4-3-3 formation under Luis Enrique but have since switched to Valverde's preferred 4-4-2.

Barca lead the standings by four points after drawing 1-1 at nearest challengers Valencia last Sunday, which cut their advantage over Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid to eight points.

They have more points and goals at this stage of the season than the past three under Enrique but have been reliant on Messi, who has scored more than a third of their league goals, and on some vital saves from goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Valverde has faced questions over his approach, including accusations that Barcelona have become boring, but midfielder Denis Suarez laughed off such criticism.

 

Elsewhere on Saturday, champions Real Madrid visit Athletic Bilbao, reeling from a shock King's Cup defeat to third division Formentera, while Atletico Madrid host Real Sociedad and Valencia travel to Getafe.

Written by Kelvin Agbanyo

Barca through but shock exits in cup

Barcelona reached the Copa del Rey last 16 with a convincing victory over Real Murcia, but there were shock exits for Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad.

Third-tier Lleida recovered from three goals down to beat La Real, while Formentera knocked out Athletic.

La Liga leaders Barcelona, 3-0 up from the first leg, won 5-0 at the Nou Camp with Paco Alcacer scoring the opener.

Gerard Pique added a second, and Aleix Vidal, Denis Suarez and substitute Jose Arnaiz completed the rout.

There was late drama in Bilbao, as Formentera scored a 96th-minute winner to take the tie 2-1 on aggregate.

Alvaro Muniz Cegarra was on target for the Segunda Division B side from the smallest of Spain's Balearic islands.

Meanwhile, Lleida trailed Real Sociedad 1-0 after the first leg and were 2-0 down at half-time in the second after goals from Diego Llorente and Juanmi.

But their remarkable comeback started when Aitor Nunez scored in the 56th minute, with Manu Molina adding a penalty three minutes later.

Bojan Samoukovic netted a third for the minnows three minutes from time to send them through on away goals.

Written by Gideon Sarpong

Barca held to a goalless draw by Olympiakos

Barcelona were held to a 0-0 draw by Olympiakos as they failed to score in a Champions League group stage game for the first time in five years.

Luis Suarez hit the crossbar as Barcelona sought to secure the win that would qualify them for the knock-out stage with two games remaining.

The striker then unselfishly tried to tee up Lionel Messi instead of going for goal himself after an hour.

Barca top Group D by three points after Juventus drew 1-1 with Sporting Lisbon.

Ernesto Valverde, who was making a return to his former club, has guided his Barca side to 10 points from four games.

Only a point is required from their last two games against Juventus and Sporting to guarantee a place in the last 16.

Juventus, who have two wins, a draw and one defeat, are still three points clear of Sporting in third.

Gonzalo Higuaín equalised with 11 minutes remaining after Bruno César had given Sporting a half-time lead.

The late equaliser ensures Juve remain in a strong position to progress through to the knock-out stage.

Written by Gideon Sarpong

Breaking News: How would a Catalan secession affect FC Barcelona?

The political dispute over an independent Catalonia after the Catalan parliament declared independence from Spain has raised questions about the future of Catalonia's biggest football club, FC Barcelona.

The Spanish team joined a countrywide strike early October to protest against "the serious events which took place during the day of the Catalan referendum on independence".

At least 893 civilians and 431 police officers were injured during clashes on October 1, according to regional and national authorities.

As the violence unfolded, FC Barcelona silently played their home fixture in the Catalan capital against Las Palmas behind the closed doors of an empty Camp Nou stadium.

La Liga exit?

More than two million people, or 90 percent of those who cast a ballot, voted "Yes" to Catalonia breaking away from Spain.

After Catalonia's regional government declared independence has left the region's future hanging in the air, FC Barcelona faces the possibility of an exit from La Liga, Spain's national football league.

The team currently sits top of the league rankings and has won 24 La Liga titles. 

The club's president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, has said Barcelona's board will have to consider the option of leaving the national league in the event of Catalonia's split from Spain.

"The situation concerning Barcelona's future in La Liga does not exist so far," he told reporters on Monday. "But, with regards to what can happen in the future, the board of directors will discuss options."

He added: "We will find the best solution. If independence happens, we need to discuss things carefully."

Football analysts say the only way the four-time European champions can remain in the Spanish league following a secession, is if amendments are made to the country's laws.

"The sports law and the regulations will have to be changed in the Spanish parliament for Barcelona to be accepted in the Spanish league," Guillem Balague, Spanish football journalist, told Al Jazeera.

"There is no other way for Barcelona to be part of the league after independence."

Despite speculations of a possible move to the English Premier League (EPL), experts believe the Catalan team's top priority would be to stay in the Spanish league.

Keeping Barcelona in La Liga is also in the interest of the league and the club's archrival, Real Madrid, said Balague.

"In the longer term, La Liga without Barcelona would be conceivably too damaging to both the club and the league," said Al Jazeera's sports correspondent Lee Wellings. 

Other Catalan teams, RCD Espanyol and Girona - both in Spain's first division - also find themselves in a similar boat as Barcelona.

'Jewel in Catalonia's crown'

FC Barcelona, famously called Barca, has expressed support for Catalonia's right to choose, but has stayed clear of openly backing the region's independence.

It is among at least 4,000 signatories of the National Agreement on the Right to Decide and the Referendum Agreement, a group comprising of political parties and civil society organisations in favour of the independence vote.

Pro-independence supporters in Barcelona chant at the 17th-minute mark at all home games to remember the events of the year 1714 when Catalonia lost its autonomy to Spain in War of Succession.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique is among those who has openly voiced his support for an independent Catalonia.

He is regularly jeered and whistled at on field during national league matches outside of Barcelona and while playing for the Spanish national team. 

Al Jazeera's Wellings said Pique "is one of those [in the team] most affected by the current situation".

The team has a large fan base both at home and abroad.

FC Barcelona has almost 25 million followers on Twitter and more than one billion Facebook likes on its official page.

"Barcelona does not have the same fan base throughout Spain as Real Madrid," said Wellings.

"It is the jewel in Catalonia's crown and the popularity outside of the region comes in global recognition. They are one of the world's most successful and popular football clubs, and indeed sports brands."

Aljazeera.com

Written by Gideon Sarpong

Neymar's Barcleona to PSG move revealed at Messi's wedding - Xavi

Neymar broke the news that he was leaving Barcelona for Paris St-Germain at Lionel Messi's wedding, according to his former team-mate Xavi.

The Brazilian moved for a world record fee of 222m euros (£200m) in August, after four seasons at the Catalan club.

Neymar and Xavi, who played together for two years at Barcelona, attended Messi's wedding in July.

Xavi also told the BBC World Service he turned down Manchester United because Barcelona was his "favourite team".

The 37-year-old, a World Cup winner with Spain, spent 17 years at the Nou Camp, before joining Qatari side Al Sadd in 2015, after winning his fourth Champions League trophy and eighth La Liga title with the club.

Xavi revealed he held talks earlier in his career with then Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson's brother Martin, who was a scout for the Premier League club.

He said: "Sometimes we were discussing with Manchester United and Alex Ferguson's brother to try and join me there. But I decided to stay in Barcelona because it's my club.

"I was thinking always in Barcelona, its my favourite team, I feel Barcelona in my heart, it's the best club in the world."

On Neymar's departure, Xavi told the World Football show: "He said to us at Messi's wedding that he wanted to change club.

"I said to him but why? He said 'I am not happy in Barcelona, I prefer to leave, to have a new experience in Europe at PSG and finally he did, it was his decision, we must respect it.

"I think with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, PSG have a great chance to win the Champions League this season."

Written by Gideon Sarpong