Last season's beaten finalists Paris Saint-Germain are red-hot favourites to advance to the Champions League quarter-finals when Barcelona visit the Parc des Princes for the second leg of their last-16 clash on Wednesday. 

Mauricio Pochettino's side hold a three-goal advantage after Kylian Mbappe's hat-trick helped them seal a stunning 4-1 win over Barca in the first leg last month.

Liverpool are in a strong position to join them in the last eight, with Jurgen Klopp's side taking on RB Leipzig at Anfield after running out 2-0 winners in the reverse fixture. 

The German club, though, might just fancy their chances of causing an upset against the Premier League champions, who have lost six of their last eight matches across all competitions. 

We used Opta numbers to preview the two clashes.

Paris Saint-Germain (4) v (1) Barcelona: Blaugrana out to make history

Barca will have to make history if they are to book the most unlikely of last-eight places, with no side ever having progressed in the competition after losing the first leg at home by a margin of three goals.

The game marks the first Champions League meeting between the sides at the Parc des Princes since February 2017, when the Ligue 1 team recorded a 4-0 victory. 

That remains PSG's biggest margin of victory in a home knockout game in the competition, while it is also Barca's joint-heaviest defeat in a knockout game away from home in the competition (also 0-4 against Liverpool in May 2019 and against Bayern in April 2013).

While the onus is on Barca to score freely, do not be surprised to see the hosts do just that themselves. They have netted at least once in each of their last 22 Champions League games at home (61 goals), in a run that dates back to December 2015. 

Spearheading their attack will be Mbappe, who will become the youngest player to reach 25 goals in the Champions League if he scores (aged 22 years and 80 days), taking the record from Lionel Messi. 

Barca talisman Messi has only ended on the losing side in four of the 75 Champions League games he has scored in. However, half of these have come against PSG – the first-leg defeat and a 3-2 loss at the Parc des Princes in September 2014.

Should Messi and his team-mates slip to defeat it will mark the first time the LaLiga giants have lost three Champions League matches in a row.

Liverpool (2) v (0) RB Leipzig: Reds have the edge over German opposition 

With a two-goal advantage from the first leg, Liverpool will expect to continue their run of never having been eliminated from a Champions League knockout tie after winning away from home in the first leg.

The game will be the 21st time the Reds have hosted German opposition across all European competitions. They are unbeaten in the previous 20 of those (16 wins, four draws), scoring 52 goals and conceding just nine.  

Central to their chances of extending that run will be two players who have enjoyed themselves in the Champions League in recent seasons. 

Since the start of the 2017-18 campaign, Roberto Firmino is one of only three players in double figures for both goals (15) and assists (11) in the competition, along with Messi and Mbappe. 

Mohamed Salah, meanwhile, is Liverpool's top scorer in the competition, netting 23 goals in 40 games for the Reds. If he scores a brace in this game, he will reach 25 goals for an English club in the second-fewest appearances, following Ruud van Nistelrooy for Manchester United (27).

If Leipzig are to have any chance of causing an upset they will need to improve dramatically on their last away clash with an English side, the Bundesliga club suffering their heaviest defeat in European competition against Manchester United at Old Trafford back in October (0-5).

Only four of their 12 wins in the Champions League have been achieved by more than a one-goal margin (33 per cent).

However, the last time they won by two or more goals in the knockout stages of the competition was against Spurs last season (3-0 in the last-16 second leg).

Rivaldo believes Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos would be a good signing for bitter LaLiga rivals Barcelona.

Ramos is out of contract at the end of the season and the superstar defender is yet to agree a new contract with the LaLiga champions.

The 34-year-old Spain skipper has been linked to the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus.

Rivaldo, who won two LaLiga titles among other honours during his time with Barca, backed Ramos for a controversial move to Camp Nou.

"A player has to be professional, and if you have good offers, I don't think it's okay to hear them," former Brazil international Rivaldo told Betfair.

"Of course, Sergio Ramos would be a good signing for Barcelona. It would be historic and it would be controversial because of Sergio Ramos' history with Real Madrid."

Ramos has called Madrid home since joining from Sevilla in 2005, winning five LaLiga trophies, four Champions League titles, as many Club World Cup crowns and three UEFA Super Cup medals among 22 major honours at the Santiago Bernabeu.

There is also speculation over Lionel Messi's future, with the Barca skipper tipped to leave the Catalan powerhouse on a free transfer at season's end.

Messi – a record six-time Ballon d'Or winner – has been heavily linked with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League leaders City.

"If I were [PSG head coach Mauricio] Pochettino, I would tell the owner of PSG that we'd better stay the way we are before bringing in Messi," Rivaldo said. "I like Messi, but [Kylian] Mbappe is at home and there would also be everyone in their team.

"It is difficult to talk about a change from Messi to Mbappe, because football is money and if Messi goes to PSG, he will have many economic benefits. But of course, Messi is already more than 30 years old and in PSG there is already Mbappe with 22 years. It is difficult.

"PSG, I repeat, I think they do not need any signings because they have a great team… but football is also a business."

Pep Guardiola has congratulated Joan Laporta on his election as Barcelona president and believes he will bring the feel-good factor back to Camp Nou.

Laporta was previously Barca president between 2003 and 2010, a spell that included hiring Guardiola to be head coach in 2008, starting an extraordinary run of success.

He has now returned to the role following a landslide election win over rivals Victor Font and Toni Freixa on Sunday.

One of his first points of business will be resolving the future of Lionel Messi, who has been strongly linked with a reunion with Guardiola at Manchester City, as well as Paris Saint-Germain.

Guardiola praised Laporta for his convincing win and believes his impact will be felt promptly.

"All I can say is that it was a lovely journey," said Guardiola when he was asked about Barca's election.

"All three options were there, they did a good job and I congratulate the president to be elected by a big margin. 

"I'm pretty sure his personality will introduce a good mood, a lot of optimism in the club and all the country.

"I wish him all the best for the season and the next seasons."

Guardiola won three LaLiga trophies and two Champions League titles in four seasons in charge of Barcelona, who are presently managed by Ronald Koeman.

Barca, like City, are in the Champions League last 16 but the Catalans face an uphill task to progress as they trail PSG 4-1 on aggregate.

They will play in Paris almost immediately after Guardiola and City - who are looking to bounce back from defeat to Manchester United - have hosted Southampton in the Premier League on Wednesday.

Mauricio Pochettino explained he simply could not risk Neymar as he is "not in a condition to compete" against former club Barcelona on Wednesday.

The world's most expensive footballer suffered an adductor injury playing for Paris Saint-Germain against Caen in the Coupe de France on February 10.

Initial predictions suggested Neymar could return for the Champions League last-16 second leg this week.

PSG won the first match 4-1 at Camp Nou and Neymar has been progressing in training, with Pochettino repeatedly insisting he was on schedule.

But the head coach acknowledged last week he was not guaranteed to be back in the squad for the visit of the Blaugrana.

A medical update from the club on Tuesday subsequently confirmed Neymar would miss out, and Pochettino added in his news conference that an appearance had become unrealistic.

"It is not a decision," he told a news conference. "The fact is the player cannot play. He is not in a condition to compete.

"He made a great effort to get back quickly, but the goal is not just the Champions League.

"It's a difficult time for him but I hope he can come back as soon as possible."

Wednesday's encounter will be the 21st game Neymar has missed this season, playing just 18 times in all competitions.

Since joining PSG in 2017, he has made 25 Champions League appearances - scoring 20 goals and assisting nine - but only six of these outings have come in the knockout stages. Five of the six were in the 2019-20 run to the final.

Although Neymar will be absent again, he at least will not be in the opposition XI as he was just months before moving to Paris, inspiring Barca's epic 6-1 second-leg win to complete a remarkable aggregate comeback in 2016-17.

However, Barca were at home for the second leg on that occasion and no team in the history of the European Cup has advanced after reaching the halfway point of a tie three or more goals behind with the away match still to play.

Pochettino, only appointed at PSG this year, certainly has no concerns about history repeating itself, even if he is guarded against complacency.

"For us, the past goes back to January 3, when we joined the club," he said.

"It's a game we have to go through to reach the next round. That will be our approach from the first minute.

"We have to be consistent for 90 minutes. In football, the most important thing is to be focused.

"We're going to start as if it were 0-0 and we want to win to qualify."

That focus means Pochettino had little interest in entertaining talk on the future of Kylian Mbappe, the hat-trick hero in the first leg.

"This is a situation that the club has been managing for a long time," Pochettino said. "As I have always said, both sides must agree.

"But both the club and the player are focused on meeting the goals that the club set at the start of the season, arriving at the end of the season having achieved or gone close to those goals."

Lionel Messi's history with newly elected Barcelona president Joan Laporta is a good thing for the club but it still may not be enough to convince the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to stay, accepts Ronald Koeman.

Laporta was confirmed as the permanent successor to Josep Maria Bartomeu on Sunday, winning over 50 per cent of the votes in the long-delayed elections.

Bartomeu left the club in October last year after facing the brunt of the criticism in response to Messi's attempted departure, with the player publicly castigating him and accusing him of reneging on promises.

Laporta had long been seen as the favourite for Sunday's election due to holding the post from 2003 to 2010, one of the club's most successful eras and the period that elevated Messi from youth prospect to global superstar.

Resolving Messi's future is now one of Laporta's chief focuses, with the Barca captain previously suggesting he will only look to stay beyond June – when his contract expires – if the club is competitive.

Laporta routinely emphasised his relationship with Messi during his election campaign, adamant he was the only one of the three candidates able to ensure the player would stay, but Koeman knows the decision ultimately rests with the captain.

"I don't know if it's more likely for Messi to continue [at Barca now Laporta is president]," the Barca boss told reporters on Tuesday ahead of the Champions League last-16 second leg with Paris Saint-Germain.

"It's true that Laporta has a past with Leo and other players. That is positive, but I don't know [if that will help] – he has said that he will decide.

"Only Leo knows what he will do. Hopefully, he continues with us. We all want him to stay.

"Laporta won the election by a considerable distance. The members voted and for the club, it is good to have a president like him to work things out and improve things for the future of this club."

Koeman's own future has been a subject of contention connected to the election, with numerous reports suggesting other coaches had been sounded out by the various candidates.

Mikel Arteta and Xavi are the two names to have been linked most prominently with Koeman's job in recent weeks, but the former Netherlands coach insists he has only received positive vibes from his new boss and those who have worked with him before.

"I know Laporta, we've greeted each other several times in the past. I also know [Frank] Rijkaard well, who worked with him here when Laporta was president last time," he said.

"Laporta gives the coaches a lot of confidence and also his players. He is very involved in his role of helping both. In the end, everything depends on the results."

When asked to relay what Laporta said while addressing the team on Monday, Koeman added: "They were normal things. It went well, he said a few words to the players and staff in the dressing room and there were good vibes.

"Now we have to continue on the path we have started on. Tomorrow [against PSG] we have to continue on that."

Ronald Koeman maintains another miraculous comeback against Paris Saint-Germain is not beyond Barcelona's capabilities, especially with Lionel Messi in the side.

Barca head to the Parc des Princes on Wednesday trailing 4-1 from the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Kylian Mbappe scored a hat-trick in PSG's commanding win at Camp Nou last month, leaving Barca requiring a remarkable result in France if they are to go through, with no team having ever progressed from a knockout tie in the competition's history after losing the first leg at home by three goals or more.

The Catalans are also on a miserable run away from home in Europe, having won only once in their past nine such knockout stage matches, failing to score in six of those games.

Barca pulled off an unforgettable comeback against PSG four years ago, recovering from losing the first leg 4-0 in Paris to progress after a sensational 6-1 win at home.

Koeman accepts a repeat of that famous 'remontada' is less likely given PSG are the home side for the second leg on this occasion, and the Barca boss does not believe Mauricio Pochettino's men will be afraid of history repeating itself.

However, even with centre-backs Gerard Pique and Ronald Araujo missing through injury, Koeman will not give up on Messi and Barca producing another match to remember.

"We had a bad result in the reverse fixture. It all depends on how we start the game. We'll try to make life difficult," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"It depends on our effectiveness. They had a lot in the first game. We go out to win on any pitch. We always create a lot of chances. Nothing is impossible.

"The comeback in the Copa del Rey [against Sevilla] has given us confidence, but it's not the same to come back from 2-0 at home as coming back from 4-1 away, and PSG are a very strong team.

"To be able to have any chance, we have to have a complete night and have a huge amount of effectiveness. But we'll try. Hopefully, we can make things tough.

"We have to go out strong and play our game and create chances. If, after the game, we have the feeling we've given our utmost, we'll see what the result is. The worst thing that can happen is to think we haven't tried, or we haven't given everything.

"Of course, if we think we can come back, we need every player at their best level. If Leo is able to play one of his best games, everything is possible.

"He can decide any game in any moment. But it shouldn't only be him at his best level, but the whole team. We need luck, too.

"I don't think PSG are scared of us. I'm sure their coach will prepare them in the best way so they don't think it's an easy game, but there are circumstances that are totally different for a comeback [this time].

"It's always easier playing the second leg at home than away. We need to play our game. I'm sure they have confidence in their new coach."

Midfielder Frenkie de Jong thinks Barca's comeback against Sevilla, when they won 3-0 after extra time at Camp Nou to overturn a 2-0 Copa semi-final deficit, proves the players are united behind their coach.

With Neymar still unavailable due to an adductor injury, De Jong is keeping faith in his side's chances.

"The main objective is always to qualify," he said. "We're going to compete and see how things go.

"We're always united. Recently, we've been getting good results, and we're united as a team – you could see that against Sevilla.

"I don't know if 4-1 was fair, but we played that game badly. We're going to Paris to give a good image of ourselves, to compete.

"Neymar is among the best in the world. The fact he's not available is better for us. If Neymar isn't there, the opposition are less strong."

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar has been ruled out of the Champions League last-16 second leg against Barcelona.

The 29-year-old has been sidelined since suffering an adductor injury against Caen in the Coupe de France on February 10.

Having missed the thumping 4-1 first-leg victory at Camp Nou, Neymar had been hoping to return for the visit of his old club to the French capital, even if he was likely to be a substitute.

However, PSG issued an update on Tuesday to confirm the Brazil international remains out of action as he continues individual recovery work.

Left-back Juan Bernat is also still sidelined due to a knee injury, while striker Moise Kean is isolating after returning a positive coronavirus test last week.

Matthijs de Ligt has put to bed suggestions he could have joined Manchester United in 2019, insisting they were never an option when he signed for Juventus in order to learn from the world's best defenders.

Despite only being 21, De Ligt is already something of a household name in European football, having come through the ranks at Ajax and earned himself a reputation as arguably the best young defender in the world.

His rise was rapid and impressive at Ajax, at the time becoming the youngest player to play a major European final, the club's youngest ever captain and the first recipient of the Golden Boy award – given to the best under-21 player in Europe – to be a defender.

Much of the praise De Ligt was afforded during his early days at Ajax related to his ability on the ball, with many expecting him to join Barcelona such were his technical talents, although United were also said to be in the running.

Therefore, his move to Juve came as something of a surprise initially, but he is adamant United - linked again more recently - have never made an approach and the switch to Turin made sense in the context of his dream to be the world's best defender.

"Honestly, I never heard anything from them [United]," De Ligt told the Telegraph.

"It was like you did at school, like with mathematics. It was a long process. You put the pros and the cons and, in the end, I chose Juventus."

While De Ligt arguably has not quite hit the heights most were expecting yet, with injuries proving disruptive this season, he has been showing clear signs of progress.

Although restricted to just 21 appearances in all competitions this term – partly due to a shoulder problem that kept him sidelined for three months – the Dutchman seems to have improved across the board.

His touches (86.8 from 70.8), attempted passes (76 from 61.1), completed passes (69.6 from 55.7), successful passes in the opposing half (25.1 from 20.2), tackles won (1.2 from 0.6) and interceptions (1.6 from 0.9) are all up significantly on a per-90-minute basis from last term, showing De Ligt is enjoying more influence in his second season.

"If you can do it here, you can do it anywhere," he continued. "I'm where I want to be and where I can learn as much as possible. There are experienced guys – [Giorgio] Chiellini, [Leonardo] Bonucci – but also a goalkeeper like [Gianluigi] Buffon and Cristiano Ronaldo.

"We all have our different characteristics, and I do not try and copy them, but I look at Ronaldo and see what he does, how he stays fit all the time.

"I ask for tips, for advice. What I have also learnt is that I need to do things that are good for me. In the end you find your own rhythm."

Buffon returned to Juve around the same time De Ligt signed, having spent 2018-19 at Paris Saint-Germain, and is still going at the grand age of 43.

He is now just 24 matches behind Alessandro Del Piero's record of 705 appearances for the club, yet despite his longevity and age, De Ligt insists mentally he is as sharp as a player in his prime.

"Well, he could be my father!" De Ligt quipped. "It's funny because when I see him and the way he behaves, I don't think he's twice my age and that's also his strength and why he is still playing. He plays with a head like a 29-year-old."

Barcelona prospect  Ilaix Moriba could be tempted away from the Catalan giants.

Ilaix, 18, made headlines with a goal in his third LaLiga appearance for the Blaugrana on Saturday.

But Barca have limited wage capacity and Ilaix has received "several offers".

 

TOP STORY – SEVERAL OFFERS FOR BARCA TEENAGER

Teenager Moriba has become instant hot property with "several offers" to tempt him away from Barcelona, according to Marca.

The Guinea-born midfielder's agent, whom he shares with Gareth Bale, is in drawn-out discussions with the club, the publication says.

Marca's report does not identify who the potential suitors are, but if Ilaix continues a breakout season, the interest will inevitably grow, giving the player and his representatives more bargaining power.

Manchester United were earlier this week linked with the youngster in Mundo Deportivo.

Paris Saint-Germain will "fight to the death" to win a first-ever Champions League this season, according to head coach Mauricio Pochettino. 

The Ligue 1 champions go into Wednesday's last-16 second leg against Barcelona at the Parc des Princes well placed to reach the quarter-finals after a thumping 4-1 win over Ronald Koeman's side in the reverse fixture last month., 

Indeed, no team in the history of the competition has failed to progress from a knockout tie over two legs after winning the first leg by a margin of three goals away from home. 

They have also scored at least once in each of their last 22 Champions League games at home (61 goals), in a run that dates back to December 2015. The last team to keep a clean sheet away at PSG in the competition was Barca's LaLiga rivals Real Madrid (0-0 in October 2015).

PSG were beaten in last year's final by Bayern Munich – Kingsley Coman scoring the only goal in a slender win for the Bundesliga side – but Pochettino insisted the painful memories of that defeat will not derail them this term. 

"Clearly, it is the ambition of the club to win [the competition]," he told the LFP.  

"There are a lot of other teams who want to win it; it's not that easy. We are aware of our responsibility, and we will fight to the death to achieve it.

"We are unaffected by the past. We came here with a free spirit and without prejudice. These ideas convey only negativity. 

"Staying focused on the past limits your future possibilities. We come with new energy. We think that we have the potential to remain in contention in the Champions League. 

"In football, conviction brings you closer to winning."

Pochettino was in charge of Barca's city rivals Espanyol between 2009 and 2012, although he said that does not provide him with any extra impetus to knock them out of the competition. 

"I am not a fan of Espanyol who goes beyond the limits," he added. "Winning in Barcelona has a special flavor.

"But we want to win for PSG, for our players, for the fans, and finally, for ourselves."

The French giants eased to a 3-0 victory over Brest in the last 32 of the Coupe de France on Saturday to make it 12 wins, one draw and two defeats in Pochettino's first two months in charge after replacing Thomas Tuchel. 

The Argentinian is clearly enjoying his time at the helm of a club he played for between 2001 and 2003 and has cited training as the most stimulating aspect of his job.

"Coming to training every morning, being with the players, the staff, trying to improve, that's what motivates me," he said. "Maybe I even have more motivation to go to the training centre than to be in competition. 

"Within the staff, we believe a lot in the preparation, the building of a state of form. Motivation, concentration, it is built day by day."

A new era begins in earnest for Barcelona, with Joan Laporta's second spell as president confirmed on Sunday following his victory in the election.

Regarded as arguably the most important political event at the club in a generation, much was said to be riding on the collective decision of the socios, or members, who voted.

Laporta, Toni Freixa and Victor Font had spent months outlining their plans in public, with La Masia, the club's crippling debt and the tumult caused by the previous administration among the main focuses.

But outsiders can be forgiven for thinking the election essentially boiled down to which candidate stood the best chance of convincing Lionel Messi to stay.

Laporta's first spell as president, from 2003 to 2010, coincided with Messi's rise from the youth ranks to global star, while he was also in charge when Pep Guardiola was promoted to the top job 2008.

While nostalgia may have played a strong part in Laporta's ascension, 54 per cent of voters feel he is the best man to navigate a challenging period – but what are the most important tasks facing him?

Messi – Should he stay, or should he go?

Laporta stopped short of insisting Messi will definitely stay put under his administration, which was probably wise given he only has a few months left on his contract. Fans would have surely seen through such a promise.

However, what he did throughout his campaign was emphasise his relationship with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, while also pointing out Messi's lack of familiarity with his rivals.

"I am the only one who can ensure his continuity. If I don't win, I'm sure Leo won't continue at Barca," Laporta said at last week's debate. "He was not very happy with Freixa's time [Laporta's rival was an ally of the discredited Josep Maria Bartomeu], when they let him see that he was expendable."

Of course, Messi attempted to force an exit last year, but his refusal to drag the issue through the courts meant Barca managed to keep hold of their prized asset.

Since then he has insisted his future is tied to the competitiveness of Barca. Laporta's discussions with him will be key, but they could be undermined should Ronald Koeman's men collapse in the latter stages of the season.

Make La Masia a force again

For years Barcelona's La Masia academy was the jewel of the club, the inspiration behind many hugely successful teams and the school that developed some of the finest players to play the game.

Even though a significant portion of the current squad have come through the ranks, La Masia's standing isn't quite what it once was and the likes of Messi, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique are all into their thirties.

But Laporta emphasised the importance of the academy during his campaign, adamant he would look to restore it to its former glory, previously saying: "It will be our pillar, the backbone of the club's values."

Nevertheless, with Ansu Fati emerging as a ready-made star and Ilaix Moriba recently establishing himself as one to watch, La Masia's reputation is already receiving a timely boost.

Sell high-earning fringe players

Eric Abidal's spell as sporting director was ill-fated, to say the least. A day after sacking Quique Setien in August, the Frenchman was unceremoniously dismissed as well, with his overseeing of transfers making him a contentious figure long before he was eventually shown the door.

Among his purchases were the likes of Kevin-Prince Boateng, Malcom, Jeison Murillo, Junior Firpo and Antoine Griezmann – it'd be difficult to consider any of those successes.

Granted, not all of his signings have been poor, with Pedri, Clement Lenglet and Frenkie de Jong brought in under his watch, but over the past few years the club has spent a significant amount of money on sub-standard players or underperforming so-called 'superstars'

As such, the Barca squad is bloated in terms of its wage expenditure and many of the back-up players are expected to be put up for sale, easing the financial strain and boosting revenues.

But before Barca can begin outlining transfer plans and a potentially revised recruitment strategy, Laporta needs to do something else…

Establish a new sporting department

Laporta is expected to bring his own people in to manage the club's sporting structure, and Jordi Cruyff – of course, the son of Barca icon Johan – is among the frontrunners for the sporting director post.

Cruyff is still thought to have significant influence and respect inside the club due to his family name, with the former Manchester United player recently affirming to Cadena Ser that he believes his father would have always backed Laporta in an election.

Mateu Alemany, former Valencia general manager, is also widely reported to be on his way in.

Alemany had played a major role Valencia's resurgence during the previous decade but left under something of a cloud in November 2019, with the Frenchman and club owner Peter Lim at odds.

Lim had dismissed popular head coach Marcelino Garcia Toral, of whom Alemany was a staunch backer, and that left the general manager's position looking untenable, particular after local reports claimed he wasn't even consulted about the subsequent appointment of Albert Celades.

Very little has gone right for Valencia since the exits of Marcelino and Alemany – their reputations, however, have remained firmly intact.

Strengthen the squad while managing debt

It's no secret that Barcelona's financial state is a mess – they have amassed €1.2billion in debt and that has unsurprisingly impacted their clout in the transfer market.

One of Laporta's main messages ahead of the election was that Barca needed a board and president with experience in such a tricky time, and that's certainly something he has in abundance.

In his first interview since being elected, Laporta stressed the need to make the club financially stable. He told Catalunya Radio: "The first thing will be to do an audit but first I will greet the workers. The club is in mismanagement and now we will finally be able to make the necessary decisions. We will do an audit and apply our shock plan so that Barca is economically sustainable."

Drastic changes could be on the cards, yet despite the financial state of the club, they will still need to work on improving the squad.

Juggling the two won't be straightforward, particularly when you add Messi's demand for competitiveness into the mix.

Matthijs de Ligt was linked with Manchester United before his move to Juventus in 2019.

United have reportedly renewed their interest in the 21-year-old Dutch defender.

Could he end up in Manchester?

 

TOP STORY – UNITED WANT DE LIGT

Manchester United are set to target Juventus centre-back Matthijs de Ligt, according to TodoFichajes.

United were heavily linked with De Ligt before the Netherlands international swapped Ajax for Serie A champions Juve in 2019.

With United reportedly not advancing in their pursuit of Real Madrid pair Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, the Red Devils are eyeing De Ligt.

United have also been linked with RB Leipzig's Ibrahima Konate, Sevilla defender Jules Kounde and Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato reports Paris Saint-Germain are poised to offer David Alaba a €25million-per year deal in an attempt to prise the Bayern Munich star to the French capital. Out of contract at season's end, Alaba has been tipped to join Madrid. Chelsea, Barcelona and Manchester City have also been linked.

United have been left alone in the fight to sign Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, claims TodoFichajes. Unwilling to match Villa's valuation, City have reportedly exited the race for Grealish. The report also says United could sell Marcus Rashford to fund the move.

- Madrid stars Lucas Vazquez and Isco are wanted by Everton, according to Calciomercato. After prising James Rodriguez from the LaLiga champions, Everton are targeting another two players from the Spanish capital, though Milan and Juve are also keen.

- Diario AS reports Madrid are prioritising a move for in-demand Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland. Chelsea, United, City, Juve, PSG, Barca and Bayern have all been linked but Madrid are reportedly shifting their attention from Kylian Mbappe to Haaland.

Joan Laporta is optimistic superstar captain Lionel Messi will remain at Barcelona after being elected president of the LaLiga giants.

Laporta – who held the post from 2003 to 2010 – won the presential race on Sunday, seeing off competition from Victor Font and Antoni Freixa to return to the position as Josep Maria Bartomeu's successor.

Attention will now turn to six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi amid serious doubts over his future at Camp Nou.

Messi has been tipped to leave on a free transfer at the end of the season, with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League leaders Manchester City the reported frontrunners for the 33-year-old.

After his victory, Laporta delivered a speech and said: "Today marks 20 years since a boy named Leo Messi debuted with Barcelona's Infantil B [U12-13] team.

"Seeing the best player in the world come to vote with his son is an example of what we've said.

"Leo loves Barcelona. That's the reflection of it. The best player in the world loves Barcelona.

"Hopefully that will help him to stay at Barcelona. That's what we want."

Laporta also paid tribute to Barca great Johan Cruyff, adding: "I want to thank all the members for coming out to vote what has been the most important election in the club's history due to [the effects of] the coronavirus pandemic, which has changed our lives.

"I want to thank the members that have supported our campaign. This has been a celebration of democracy and of Barcelona. I also want to pay special thanks to Johan Cruyff, who's no longer with us. I am sure he's helped us.

"Barcelona is a huge family and we will overcome the difficulties together. We will achieve the objectives that we have set out."

Barca are three points adrift of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a game in hand.

Ronald Koeman's Barca will face Athletic Bilbao in next month's Copa del Rey final, while they are looking to overturn a 4-1 deficit against PSG in the Champions League last 16.

Joan Laporta has won the race to become Barcelona's new president, with the 58-year-old seeing off competition from Victor Font and Antoni Freixa.

Laporta, who held the post from 2003 to 2010, was the favourite to come out on top in Sunday's election, and those predictions proved correct.

An exit poll conducted by Catalan television station TV3 projected Laporta to succeed with 58.3 per cent of the vote over Font (31.3) and Freixa (9.3).

The final figures were not too far off – Laporta claiming 54.28 per cent of the vote (30,184 votes). In total, there were 51,983 valid votes.

Lionel Messi and fellow first-team stars Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba were among members to cast their vote to determine the successor to Josep Maria Bartomeu, who stepped down last October, days before a planned vote of no confidence against his board.

Interim president Carlos Tusquets has had a difficult few months, with Messi, who publically criticised Barca's hierarchy under Bartomeu, still yet to decide on his future, while Ronald Koeman's team trail Atletico Madrid in LaLiga and are 4-1 down in their Champions League last-16 tie with Paris Saint-Germain.

The vote was scheduled to take place on January 24, yet a spike in COVID-19 cases in Spain pushed the election back six weeks.

As well as this delay, Barca's concerns have been compounded by official debt levels of over €1billion and a legal investigation that involves Bartomeu, who was provisionally released under charges of unfair administration and corruption of business on March 3.

However, Barca fans will now be hoping Laporta, who oversaw one of the club's most successful periods which saw them win 12 major trophies, including their first treble under Pep Guardiola, can turn the Blaugrana's fortunes around.

Laporta has pledged to focus on "social and human" results, while also promising to restore La Masia – the club's famed academy – as a major contributor to the first team.

He has also claimed to be the best chance Barca have of convincing Messi to sign a contract extension.

While Koeman was only appointed last year, Laporta has reportedly considered offering the Barca post to Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.

Laporta hit the jackpot when he appointed the inexperienced Guardiola, who was assisted by Arteta at Manchester City, in 2008.

With 80 per cent of the vote counted and Laporta's victory becoming clear, opposing candidate Friexa said: "I want to congratulate Laporta for this victory, which does not allow for any discussion. We must now support our President. Such a high turnout legitimises his win."

Xavi was celebrating on Sunday as his Al Sadd team clinched the Qatar Stars League championship, the first league title of a coaching career that many expect will lead him back to Barcelona.

The former Spain and Barca midfielder saw his players secure the trophy with a 3-0 win over Umm Salal that puts them 13 points clear with four rounds of games remaining.

Xavi previously helped Al Sadd land the 2018-19 title in what proved to be the final year of his playing career.

The 41-year-old stepped up to be head coach of the team following that campaign and has led Al Sadd to a string of trophy successes in cup competitions, but he was thrilled to finally land a league title.

"We created a new history for Al Sadd," Xavi said. "I am happy to win the league title for the first time as a coach with Al Sadd, after winning it as a player."

Goals from Baghdad Bounedjah, Yousuf Abdurisag and Rodrigo Tabata secured Sunday's win.

Xavi told the club's website: "I am happy to be in this group of players, officials, technical and medical staff. Our goal is to win all the tournaments we participate in.

"Special thanks to the fans of Al Sadd who supported the team with full force throughout the season and also in the championship match against Umm Salal, and we promise them to continue working to make them happy and win more championships for the club."

Those supporters will hope Xavi's message signals a long-term commitment to the Al Sadd cause, given he has frequently been linked with a return to LaLiga giants Barcelona, the club where he spent his entire career until moving to Qatar at the age of 35.

Such suggestions were revived during the campaign to decide Barcelona's new president; however, the man heading for victory in the vote on Sunday, Joan Laporta, indicated recently that Xavi may not yet have sufficient experience to return to Camp Nou as head coach.

Al Sadd's league title was the 15th in their history and a 75th trophy in total, the club said.

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