Barcelona's injury problems have deepened as midfielder Pedri and left-back Jordi Alba have been ruled out with muscular injuries sustained in the 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich.

Alba was taken off in the 74th minute of Tuesday's Champions League contest with a hamstring issue, while Pedri played a full part on his return to action following a three-week rest.

Barca announced on their official website on Wednesday that Pedri is suffering with a thigh problem and has joined Alba in the treatment room ahead of Monday's LaLiga clash with Granada.

No timeline has been given for both players' return to action.

"The first team player Pedri has a quadriceps muscle injury in his left thigh," Barca revealed. "The player is unavailable for selection and his recovery will dictate his return.

"Tests carried out on Wednesday morning on the first team player Jordi Alba show that he has a hamstring injury in his right thigh. 

"The player is unavailable for selection and his recovery will dictate his return."

Barca's injury issues are piling up ahead of a busy spell of five games in a fortnight, including a huge clash with LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid early next month.

Martin Braithwaite is expected to miss the rest of 2021 after undergoing knee surgery, while fellow attackers Sergio Aguero, Ousmane Dembele and Ansu Fati are also out of action.

According to Spanish outlet Marca, Barca boss Ronald Koeman feels the club's medical department are partly to blame for the growing list of absentees.

The loss of Alba will leave a big void to be filled in the troublesome area of left-back, with academy product Alejandro Balde coming on for his senior debut in the heavy defeat to Bayern.

Pedri has also been a regular under Koeman over the past 13 months, making 55 appearances in all competitions since the start of last season – only Youssef En-Nesyri (57) and Manu Trigueros (59) have been used more often among LaLiga clubs.

Jordi Alba leapt to the defence of Spain coach Luis Enrique after La Roja suffered their first World Cup qualifying defeat since 1993 at the hands of Sweden on Thursday.

In what was their first game since losing to Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 semi-finals, Spain were in Stockholm hoping to go top of Group B on the road to Qatar 2022.

It was initially going well too, as Carlos Soler opened his account less than four minutes into his international debut as he turned in an Alba delivery.

But the Valencia midfielder made an error almost straight after the restart and Alexander Isak netted from 20 yards, meaning Spain's lead lasted just 63 seconds.

Viktor Claesson got the winner for Sweden in the second half, producing a cleverly disguised finish after inventive play by Dejan Kulusevski, with Spain's late pressure coming to nothing.

In the end, Spain – who had 75 per cent of the ball – finished with an expected goals value of 2.2 to Sweden's 0.6, highlighting the lack of decisiveness shown by La Roja in front of goal compared to their hosts.

Alba does not believe a major re-think is required for Luis Enrique, though he accepts Spain now have to be faultless if they are to usurp Sweden atop Group B given they are now two points adrift having played a game more than Janne Andersson's men.

"As in all matches, when you win or lose, you have to improve," he told Teledeporte. "The ideas of ​​the coach have been very good since he arrived and the players are taking to it perfectly. We have to improve as in all games, but we are doing a good job.

"It's clear we still have a lot to do. We have no margin for error. Today we have lost and there are still difficult games to be won.

"We have done things well, they have had their chances, they have put them in and we must continue to improve and do the job that the coach asks of us.

"We didn't deserve to lose. We had a very good first half, it's just a shame that after our goal they scored their goal in the next play.

"In the second half they waited for their strengths [counterattacks] and they did very well. We have no margin for error, we must win every game; we had that idea from the beginning, but now more than ever."

Luis Enrique echoed his left-back's sentiments and stressed Spain did not play poorly in general, though he rued a lack of success in midfield duels as well as Sweden's success in transition, with the pace and ability of Kulusevski and Isak routinely threatening the defence.

"It was not a bad game, there was ambition, good positioning, we have created many chances but we have lost many duels in midfield," he added.

"And with the transitions they have done us a lot of damage. We have lost many duels and they have generated more transitions than in the last ten games."

Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba have followed Gerard Pique in taking pay cuts to allow Barcelona to register Sergio Aguero and reduce financial concerns.

Lionel Messi could not be signed to a new deal because of spiralling costs at the Catalan club and, with no signs of improvement, Barca risked not being able to register new signings Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Aguero.

However, after Pique agreed to a salary reduction and deferral of payments, Ronald Koeman's side confirmed they were able to register Depay, Garcia and Rey Manaj.

Alba and Busquets have now, too, agreed to alterations to the terms of their contracts.

Both players will collect reduced wages for this season and deferred payments for the rest of their deals, with also Sergi Roberto reported to be negotiating changes to his terms.

The agreements with Busquets and Alba mean cash-strapped Barca can now register Aguero, who is expected to be out injured until the middle of October, while avoiding complications with financial fair play regulations.

Left-back Alba created the second most chances at the club last term in LaLiga (53), while Busquets led the way for tackles and interceptions while also completing the second most passes.

Jordi Alba accused people of spreading misinformation regarding his willingness to take a pay cut at Barcelona, insisting he will join Gerard Pique in reducing his salary to help the club's dire financial situation.

After a tumultuous week that saw Lionel Messi complete his stunning switch to Paris Saint-Germain, Barca launched their LaLiga campaign with a 4-2 win over Real Sociedad in which Pique opened the scoring on Sunday.

The former Spain defender headed home a free-kick from new signing Memphis Depay, who was only playing because Pique agreed a substantial salary reduction that allowed Barcelona to register the Netherlands forward within their league-enforced salary limit.

Speaking after the match, where Martin Braithwaite scored two goals and laid on the game-clinching goal for Sergi Roberto, Pique confirmed fellow club captains Alba, Roberto and Sergio Busquets would also bring down their pay.

"My commitment to Barca has always been total, I've been here all my life, 10 years in the first team and eight in the youth categories," Alba told reporters after the game to address suggestions in some quarters he had not been as forthcoming as Pique in Barcelona's time of need.

"I can speak for myself and for the president [Joan Laporta]. We are all going in the same direction. As Gery has said, the commitment has always been the same. Now it will be our turn [to take pay cuts] and there should be no doubt about us.

"What hurts me is that lies are told, I think I've shown how I feel about Barca. The club has given me a lot and we have to be grateful. What hurts me is the lies.

"I think I have to give face, I will give everything as I have always done on the pitch. Things can turn out better or worse, but no one can doubt the commitment.

"My commitment has always been to help the club, just like the rest of the captains."

Alba also reflected on the departure of Messi, with whom he shared a close bond on and off the field.

However, he insisted it had not been within the capabilities of himself and the other club captains to make it financially viable for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to remain at Camp Nou.

"Leo, apart from being the best in history, was the player I understood the best, so imagine the efforts I would have made for him," the left-back said.

"Leo is an issue separate from the captains, it is a matter of the club

"What I cannot bear is lies and things being leaked so that my character is doubted. I am the first to admit it if I am wrong, but I can't stand the lies."

Gerard Pique says cash-strapped Barcelona's captaincy group are "proud" to take a pay cut after he scored in a 4-2 LaLiga victory over Real Sociedad.

Barca revealed on the eve of the club's opening game of the campaign that Pique had taken a "substantial" reduction in his wages in order for Depay, Eric Garcia and Rey Manaj to be registered.

Pique's gesture ensured the Catalan giants, who were unable to keep Lionel Messi due to their financial troubles, are within the salary cap.

Fellow skippers Sergio Busquets, Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba are also prepared to take a pay cut.

Depay started to repay Pique by setting up the opening goal on his debut and Martin Braithwaite struck twice, with Sergi Roberto completing the scoring after late goals from Julen Lobete and Mikel Oyarzabal gave La Real hope of salvaging an undeserved point at Camp Nou.

Pique criticised the way the club has been run following Messi's departure, but the Spain centre-back was determined to do everything in his powers to ease their problems.

He told LaLiga TV: "I was born here, I was brought up here. I've lived all my life pretty much in Barcelona and I've been a player for Barcelona for a long, long time.

"It was a gesture [to reduce his wages], I think it was the gesture that was required. I'm in contact with the other captains as well. I think they're going to make a very similar step very shortly. I wanted to be the first to get it done.

"We're a family here. All the captains have the same intentions to help the team. It's a decision that we've taken and we're proud of the decision we've taken. There's plenty of desire to keep performing and keep playing well

"I think sometimes people talk a lot and don't understand the situation properly. Right from the end of last season I've been in touch with Sergi Roberto, with Jordi Alba, with Sergio Busquets and it's something that has to be agreed with the club.

"The club needed someone to do this so we could register the players in time for the first game. I was the one that did it but the other players are prepared to do it.

"Sometimes the information that comes out isn't 100 per cent clear. It's not complete. But the club have asked players to make a sacrifice and players are going to do that. All the players have wanted to help the club."

Some Barca fans chanted Messi's name in the 10th minute, although some were not impressed with that gesture.

Pique is confident Ronald Koeman's side can have a season to remember without their leading all-time goalscorer, who joined Paris Saint-Germain after his contract expired.

"We knew the supporters would react the way they've reacted," said Pique. "I'm not going to talk to you about what Lionel Messi means to this club, we all know that. The most important player in the history of this club and the most important player in the history of football.

"But everything changes, nothing stays the same for ever. We have to keep going and I think we've got real quality. I'm convinced we're going to compete for everything this season

"We'll miss Leo, of course we will, but the team has shown in this game that we're all together, we've got goals in the side and despite the fact we were a little bit looser in the second half they didn't create too many chances throughout the game. I think we're going to enjoy ourselves this season."

Is one of football's biggest transfer sagas coming to an end?

Manchester United wanted Jadon Sancho at the start of 2020-21 but a deal with Borussia Dortmund did not materialise.

However, Premier League giants United appear to be closing in on the England international ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

 

TOP STORY – SANCHO SET FOR OLD TRAFFORD

Jadon Sancho will join Manchester United from Borussia Dortmund, according to Fabrizio Romano.

United have long been interested in Sancho, who had previously attracted attention from Liverpool and Chelsea.

But Romano says an agreement is "really close", with "final details expected to be completed in the next few days".

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport Bild reports Real Madrid are scouting RB Leipzig and Spain star Dani Olmo during Euro 2020. Madrid continue to be linked with Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, however, Cadena Ser claims Los Blancos have ruled out an off-season move due to their financial situation.

United are confident of signing Raphael Varane from Madrid but the France defender's salary expectations are a stumbling block, says The Independent. It comes as ESPN reports Anthony Martial and Donny van de Beek could be sold as part of a revamp of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's squad.

- According to Foot Mercato, former Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has made PSG his priority. The veteran has also been linked with United, Manchester City and Chelsea.

Tottenham are interested in Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde as they edge closer to appointing former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo, says Romano and Gianluca Di Marzio. Kounde is one of the most sought-after defenders in Europe, linked with Chelsea, United and Madrid.

- Mundo Deportivo reports Barca are eyeing Valencia captain Jose Gaya and Chelsea's Marcos Alonso if Inter target Jordi Alba leaves and Junior Firpo joins Milan.

Lazio head coach Maurizio Sarri wants to reunite with Arthur in Rome and could send Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to Juventus, per Il Bianconero.

- Alfredo Pedulla claims PSG are leading the race to sign Lazio star Joaquin Correa. Arsenal and Tottenham are also eyeing the forward.

With the group stage of Euro 2020 now over, we can get down to the important business: arguing over who have been the best players until now.

The first three matchdays produced some enthralling spectacles, a handful of shocks and one or two rather forgettable encounters of which there is no need to speak any more.

We have seen some rather obvious star turns, such as a certain Portugal striker equalling the record for international goals in men's football, while other standout performers have flown a little more under the radar.

Here, using Opta data for added insight, Stats Perform presents the Euro 2020 team of the group stage. Please do read on for a few explanations before starting on those angry comments...

 

 

GK: DANNY WARD

Wales battled their way into the knockout rounds after finishing second in Group A, ahead of Switzerland on goal difference. Much of that is down to Danny Ward's form.

The Leicester City man saved 86.7 of the shots on target he faced, the best record among keepers to make at least five saves.

 

LCB: DALEY BLIND

The Netherlands surprised a few people with three convincing wins in Group C, with Daley Blind's calm yet authoritative presence at the heart of their performances.

Blind completed 221 passes in the group stage, more than any other Oranje player, with more than half of those (115) coming in opposition territory.

 

CB: ANDREAS CHRISTENSEN

Quite rightly celebrated for that thunderbolt of a goal in Denmark's key victory over Russia, Andreas Christensen's all-round displays make him worthy of inclusion here.

The Chelsea defender won 79.2 of his duels in the first three rounds, a tally bettered only by Oleksandr Karavaev (80 per cent) and Thomas Vermaelen (90 per cent) among those to contest at least 10.

 

RCB: LEONARDO BONUCCI

Italy's 1.3 expected goals against was the lowest figure of any side in the group phase, underlining the imperious nature of their form not just at these finals but in the whole of their 11-game winning run in which they have not let in a single goal.

Leonardo Bonucci has been the rock at the back, particularly with Giorgio Chiellini battling injury. He has won possession 11 times, the most of any Azzurri defender, and has yet to be beaten by a dribble.

 

LWB: JORDI ALBA

Jordi Alba was Spain's standout performer until the rest of the team somewhat caught up on matchday three as they turned on the style to thrash Slovakia 5-0.

The Barcelona left-back completed 247 passes, the most of any defender after Aymeric Laporte (259), while leading the way for possession won (30 times).

 

CM: GEORGINIO WIJNALDUM

With three goals in three games, Georginio Wijnaldum surpassed the great Marco van Basten on the all-time Netherlands scoring charts to reach 25 for his country.

Enjoying a more advanced role at these finals, Paris Saint-Germain fans are being given a glimpse of what the midfielder could provide for them next season.

 

CM: PIERRE-EMILE HOJBJERG

Alongside Kevin De Bruyne, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is one of only two midfielders to create nine goalscoring chances during the group stage.

The Tottenham man set up two Denmark's goals in the 4-1 hammering of Russia to move to three assists at these finals, a tally matched only by Switzerland's Steven Zuber.

 

CM: MANUEL LOCATELLI

His two goals against Switzerland were the highlight of his group-stage displays and made Manuel Locatelli just the third Italy player to score twice in a single European Championship match.

The Sassuolo star was rested against Wales, but the quality of his performances in the first two games prompted rumours that Juventus have redoubled their efforts to sign him.

 

RWB: DENZEL DUMFRIES

Full-back Denzel Dumfries became an unlikely goalscoring hero for Frank de Boer, becoming just the second Netherlands player to score in his first two European Championship games (the first was Ruud van Nistelrooy).

Denmark wing-back Joakim Maehle was the only nominal defender with more touches in the opposition box (20) during the group stage than Dumfries (17).

 

CF: ROMELU LUKAKU

Continuing his spectacular Inter form at these finals, Romelu Lukaku scored three times in Belgium's group games from a total of just four shots on target.

He would probably be the favourite for the Golden Boot were it not for the form of the only man to outscore him in Serie A last season...

 

CF: CRISTIANO RONALDO

With five goals in three games, Cristiano Ronaldo became the leading goalscorer at the World Cup and European Championship combined (21).

The Portugal captain needs just one more to surpass Ali Daei as the top-scoring international men's footballer of all time.

Is Lionel Messi's future close to being resolved?

Messi is out of contract at Barcelona and the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been linked with a move away.

But, if reports are to be believed, the superstar is on the verge of extending his Barca contract.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI SET TO RENEW AT CAMP NOU

Lionel Messi will renew his contract with Barcelona until 2023, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Messi is out of contract at Camp Nou and the superstar captain has been linked with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

But Messi is poised to re-sign, with an official deal reportedly only a matter of time.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United are edging closer to signing long-time transfer target and Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, reports Bild.

- Diario AS claims Real Madrid are set to rival Arsenal for Real Sociedad star Alexander Isak. The Sweden international appeals as a more affordable option compared to Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and PSG forward Kylian Mbappe.

- Inter star Achraf Hakimi is expected to join PSG, says Romano. Personal terms have reportedly been agreed until 2026. He has also been linked with Chelsea.

- Premier League champions City are willing to wait a year to sign a striker if they are unable to prise Harry Kane from Tottenham, according to ESPN. Kane has been linked with City, United, Chelsea, Madrid and Barca amid reports he wants to leave Spurs. With Tottenham unwilling to sell Kane, City are prepared to wait in the transfer market as they also eye Haaland.

- Mundo Deportivo claims Inter want to sign Barca full-back Jordi Alba, with the Serie A holders willing to offer three players – Milan Skriniar, Lautaro Martinez and Marcelo Brozovic.

- Maurizio Sarri's Lazio are close to signing Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira, reports Sky Sport Italia.

West Ham have made a bid to sign Fiorentina defender Nikola Milenkovic, says Sky Sport Italia. The Serbia international has previously been linked with Tottenham, United and Milan.

Jordi Alba felt Spain deserved to beat Poland and remains confident they will qualify for the round of 16 after a 1-1 Euro 2020 draw at La Cartuja Stadium.

Alvaro Morata put La Roja in front from close range in the first half to end a run of four international games without a goal, silencing his critics after he was whistled off during the goalless draw with Sweden.

Spain were unable to secure their first win of the tournament, though, as Robert Lewandowski's second-half header kept Poland's qualification hopes alive.

Gerard Moreno struck the post with a penalty just after Lewandowski levelled and Morata wasted a great chance to spare his blushes when he put the rebound wide.

Spain are third heading into a must-win final Group E clash with Slovakia at the same venue on Wednesday and stand-in captain Alba says they will get the job done, despite an unconvincing start to the tournament.

"I believe we will turn this around, get some wins and we are doing a good job of things at the moment," said the Barcelona left-back.

"I think there is no doubting our intensity, I really think in terms of intensity and determination, you can't question that.

"Of course there are plenty of things to improve, that's the same for all teams but I think the coaching staff and players are doing a fantastic job. We are very ambitious, of course we are annoyed with the result but if we continue working hard I'm sure the results will come.

"On Wednesday, we have another final and we'll continue trying all we have to win and get through to the next round."

Alba said Spain were not surprised by Poland's performance, particularly with the lethal Lewandowski leading the line.

He added: "They are quality players, who play with a great deal of intensity. Lewandowski is the best striker in the world.

"We knew the potential they had. We had chances but they had two great chances and scored one goal. They are a good national team, but I thought we deserved to get the win."

Jordi Alba is adamant Ronald Koeman deserves at least another season at Barcelona after president Joan Laporta confirmed the Dutchman will be in charge for 2021-22.

Koeman was appointed last August as Quique Setien's successor following a crushing end to 2019-20, which saw Barca demolished 8-2 in the Champions League, the first time they had conceded so many goals in one game since 1946.

After a shaky start to 2020-21, Koeman eventually got Barca looking capable of challenging for the league title as he got the best out of Lionel Messi, who scored 30 league goals to win an eighth Pichichi trophy of his career.

While Barca did go on to win the Copa del Rey, their challenge to Atletico Madrid wilted in the final weeks of the season and they ultimately finished third.

Their tally of 79 points was their lowest total since 2007-08, when they managed 67. Indeed, the last coach to earn 76 or fewer points in his first 38 games with the club was Frank Rijkaard in 2003-04 (72).

With Atletico winning the title and Real Madrid doing so the previous year, it meant Barca have failed to win LaLiga in two successive seasons for the first time since 2008.

Perhaps it was unsurprising to see Koeman's future come under so much scrutiny, but after several weeks of uncertainty – what Laporta called a "reflection period" – the club eventually opted to keep Koeman, which was the right decision in the eyes of Alba.

Speaking to Radio Marca, Alba said: "Ronald has done a great job since he arrived.

"We had been improving throughout the season and he deserved to continue at the club."

The left-back, who is currently away preparing for Euro 2020 with Spain, also saluted Barca's early dealings in the transfer market, with Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia – a national team colleague of Alba – arriving on free transfers from Manchester City.

"The arrivals of Aguero and Eric Garcia seem very good to me," he added. "We already knew Kun [Aguero] in football terms and they [those in the team who know him] have spoken very well of him to me from a human perspective.

"And Eric is a humble boy who wants to learn, and it is good that people from La Masia come back. In the Spain squad we have already seen his quality."

Erling Haaland is the name on everyone's lips this off-season.

Haaland enjoyed a stunning campaign for Borussia Dortmund, earning admirers from Europe's elite.

As speculation mounts over his future, Dortmund are determined to keep the Norwegian.

 

TOP STORY – DORTMUND NAME HAALAND PRICE

Borussia Dortmund are demanding €200million (£172m) for star striker Erling Haaland, according to AS.

Haaland has been linked with Real MadridManchester CityBarcelona, Paris Saint-GermainManchester UnitedJuventusLiverpoolChelsea and Bayern Munich.

Dortmund previously quoted €180m (£154m) but BVB have reportedly increased their demands as they try to retain the Norway forward for at least another season.

 

ROUND-UP

- LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid are targeting Inter star Lautaro Martinez, according to AS. With Diego Simeone poised to extend his contract, the head coach is eyeing a move for Martinez, who has previously been linked with Barca.

Barca could sell Samuel UmtitiSergi Roberto and Junior Firpo to reduce their wage bill, says Mundo Deportivo. Jordi Alba could also depart for the right price as Ronald Koeman's men look to sign Lyon captain Memphis Depay.

- Fabrizio Romano reports PSG have agreed a deal to sign Georginio Wijnaldum, who had been tipped to join Barca with his Liverpool contract set to expire. As Wijnaldum looks destined for Paris, Marca claims Barca are now interested in City veteran FernandinhoPSG are also in talks with Inter to sign Achraf Hakimi.

- Staying at Camp Nou, Sport claims Barca are looking to sign City trio Aymeric LaporteGabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan, having already brought Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia in on free transfers from the Premier League champions.

- Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma will decide his future in the coming days, according to Romano. The soon-to-be free agent has been linked with JuventusBarca and PSG.

Atletico are hoping to lure Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin to Madrid, according to Marca. It comes as United reportedly try to prise Kieran Trippier from Los Colchoneros.

Ronald Koeman had an eye-catching statement about the importance of Lionel Messi to Barcelona as he was quizzed on both his own future and that of his captain.

Barca can no longer win LaLiga following Sunday's results, with Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid both victorious elsewhere as the Blaugrana lost 2-1 at home to Celta Vigo.

Atleti's triumph meant Barca would not have been able to finish this season as champions regardless of their result against Celta, though Koeman's side could not deliver anyway.

Although they led through Lionel Messi in the first half, Santi Mina netted before the break and then late on to seal a fine victory for the Galicians.

It was a familiar sinking feeling against Celta, who have now beaten Barca five times since the start of the 2014-15 season – tied with Madrid for the most in that time.

However, this campaign has been particularly disappointing at Camp Nou, with a seventh loss the Blaugrana's most in a league season since nine in 2007-08. That was also the last time Barca had fewer than their current 76 points after 37 games (64).

Questions about Koeman's job security are to be expected then, but he responded on Sunday: "I'm not going to answer that."

Of greater concern to Barca fans, though, will be a decision on Messi's next move, with the legendary number 10 out of contract for the second consecutive close-season.

His header against Celta made this the 300th different LaLiga game he has scored in – Madrid great Raul is a distant second on 186 – while he tallied 30 league goals for the ninth time in 12 campaigns.

Since the turn of the year, no player in Europe's 'top five' leagues has been involved in more than Messi's 31 goals (23 goals, eight assists) and Barca are of course keen to keep their captain.

Asked if Messi was appearing at Camp Nou for the last time, Koeman said: "Hopefully not.

"He is still the best in the world and has also shown today that it is impossible to play without him.

"He has scored 30 goals in LaLiga and has given us many points in LaLiga. It's a question for Leo. For my part and the club, let's hope he stays with us.

"Because if Leo's not here, we have a doubt who's going to score the goals."

Left-back Jordi Alba was offered the same question and replied: "Let's hope not, although it's a decision [Messi] has to make."

Alba appeared to excuse Koeman, meanwhile, as he reflected on a tough run-in for Barca, who have won only one of their past five matches.

"We haven't won four games," he said. "It's a shame. We players are to blame. We have to give a good image in Eibar [in the final game], give it our all."

The coach added: "The problem wasn't today. We had the opportunity against Granada [another 2-1 defeat] and today we have lost in a similar way. That's how we feel.

"It has to be accepted because, in the end, the champion will just be the champion. And we won't have done enough."

Pedri and Bryan Gil are among four players to have been called up to the Spain squad for the first time for March's World Cup qualifiers.

Barcelona midfielder Pedri and winger Gil, on loan at Eibar from Sevilla, have been rewarded for their performances in breakthrough seasons in LaLiga.

Head coach Luis Enrique has also called up Brighton and Hove Albion goalkeeper Robert Sanchez and Sporting CP defender Pedro Porro for the first time.

There is a return for Barca left-back Jordi Alba, who last played for La Roja in September 2019 in a Euro 2020 qualifying win over Romania.

Leeds United's Diego Llorente and Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara are also back in the 24-man squad.

Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has been left out, along with Tottenham left-back Sergio Reguilon and Wolves winger Adama Traore.

Villarreal defender Pau Torres, Jesus Navas of Sevilla and Real Sociedad's Mikel Merino are omitted along with Barca duo Sergi Roberto and Ansu Fati, who are recovering from injury.

Spain face Greece in Granada on March 25 before taking on Georgia in Tbilisi three days later. They then host Kosovo in Seville on March 31.

Spain squad:

David de Gea (Manchester United), Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao), Robert Sanchez (Brighton and Hove Albion); Pedro Porro (Sporting CP), Eric Garcia (Manchester City), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Diego Llorente (Leeds United), Inigo Martinez (Athletic Bilbao), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Jose Gaya (Valencia); Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Rodrigo (Manchester City), Thiago Alcantara (Liverpool), Pedri (Barcelona), Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid), Sergio Canales (Real Betis), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Fabian Ruiz (Napoli); Gerard Moreno (Villarreal), Ferran Torres (Manchester City), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad), Alvaro Morata (Juventus), Bryan Gil (Eibar), Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig).

Ronald Koeman believes the combination between Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba for Barcelona is almost unstoppable.

Messi set up Alba's opener and Ilaix Moriba's sealer as Barca recorded a 2-0 LaLiga win at Osasuna on Saturday.

Of Alba's past 16 goals for Barca in all competitions, Messi has assisted eight.

Koeman, whose side closed to within two points of leaders Atletico Madrid, said the duo's connection was almost impossible to stop.

"You can see in every game our opponents are trying to cover that, trying to block Messi's pass to play the ball in behind to Jordi Alba," the Barcelona coach told a news conference.

"So, at many points of a game that pass between them isn't possible. But I don't think you can stop these two players and that connection that's there between Messi and Jordi Alba because it's something brilliant.

"There are always moments in a game where that pass does appear and those two are calm enough on the ball to pick it out and they can pick it out very easily and they really do it at the right time.

"You can't really stop it because it's just natural instinct."

Atletico have played two fewer games than Barca, with Diego Simeone's side facing Real Madrid in a derby clash on Sunday.

Lionel Messi provided two assists as goals from Jordi Alba and Ilaix Moriba saw off Osasuna 2-0 to propel Barcelona to within two points of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid.

With Atleti going head-to-head with Real Madrid on Sunday, Barca took the chance to apply pressure to their title rivals by claiming an eighth successive away win in LaLiga.

Messi played an integral role, teeing up Alba to break the deadlock with a sublime pass – eight of the full-back's last 16 club goals have been assisted by Barca's number 10.

His second assist was more subtle, with a gentle lay off setting the stage for Ilaix to thump in his maiden Barca goal, and Koeman can now tune into the Madrid derby with his team in a strong position.

 

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