Neymar will miss Paris Saint-Germain's trip to former club Barcelona in the Champions League after being ruled out for up to four weeks.

The Ligue 1 club, who head to Camp Nou next Tuesday, confirmed the Brazilian had suffered an adductor injury in the Coupe de France win over Caen on Wednesday.

The estimated recovery time would also put Neymar in doubt for the return leg of the last-16 clash with Barca, which takes place on March 10.

Neymar suffered the injury around the hour mark of the 1-0 win, with the 29-year-old clutching at his groin.

Though team-mate and midweek match-winner Moise Kean told Eurosport afterwards that "all is well", head coach Mauricio Pochettino was less optimistic.

"His left adductor muscle is affected and they will examine him to see what type of injury he has," he said.

"The reality is that we do not know the extent of the injury, tomorrow we will know more."

Sure enough, a PSG statement released on Thursday confirmed a notable setback for Neymar.

suffered a lesion to the left adductor on Wednesday evening," it read.

"After analysis of clinical exams and scans, it is expected that he'll be out for around four weeks depending on the evolution of the injury."

Neymar has often suffered untimely injuries at a similar time in previous seasons during his stint at PSG.

In 2018, Neymar sustained a broken toe in February, meaning he missed almost three months of action, with PSG losing 5-2 on aggregate to eventual Champions League winners Real Madrid in the last 16 in his absence.

An ankle injury then kept him out from January to April in 2019, with PSG going out at the hands of Manchester United, though he was fit to help the Parisians overcome Borussia Dortmund in last season's tournament, prior to the coronavirus-enforced suspension.

PSG went on to lose in the final to Bayern Munich, though Neymar has lifted the trophy before, having scored in a 3-1 win over Juventus in the 2015 showpiece.

Neymar will miss Paris Saint-Germain's trip to former club Barcelona in the Champions League after being ruled out for up to four weeks.

The Ligue 1 club, who head to Camp Nou next Tuesday, confirmed the Brazilian had suffered an adductor injury in the Coupe de France win over Caen on Wednesday.

The estimated recovery time would also put Neymar in doubt for the return leg of the last-16 clash with Barca, which takes place on March 10.

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman does not believe Sevilla's 2-0 Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg win over the Blaugrana was a fair reflection of the match, while he also questioned the officials.

Jules Kounde opened the scoring in the first half with a fine individual effort, before former Barca midfielder Ivan Rakitic wrapped up a potentially significant win in the latter stages.

Lionel Messi did go close several times for the visitors, with Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou keeping him at bay as he made four saves in total – the Moroccan has saved all 18 shots on target he has had to face in this season's Copa.

The two teams renew hostilities at Camp Nou on March 3 for the second half, though Barca have only progressed past Sevilla once in the Copa when losing the first leg to the Andalusians.

Barca shaded the possession (53.6 per cent) and their 13 shots were two more than the hosts, with Koeman left convinced his side had been hard done by.

"It is a result with too much reward for them," Koeman said. "We have seen a Barca playing well, creating a very clear chances.

"We have put a lot of pressure in the second half. I cannot blame the team. There is another game left, we have to try to win and play the final.

"It is difficult at 2-0. We had opportunities to score, but their defence was good, as was their goalkeeper too, but at home this Barca is capable of anything."

Barca were left frustrated by a moment in the second half where Suso was adjudged to have fouled Jordi Alba just outside the box, yet Koeman and his players were convinced the offence occurred inside the box.

The VAR did not appear to intervene, and this left Koeman bemused.

"Mateu Lahoz [the referee] I think was good in general," Koeman said.

"Of course, there was always doubt with the incident of the penalty, because everyone says it was a penalty, so I have to believe them – not only the Barca people [said it should have been a penalty].

"I don't know why the VAR has not intervened."

Sevilla go into the second leg with a significant advantage and know that an away goal will give Barca a mountain to climb, but they are not getting ahead of themselves, aware the most difficult task is yet to come.

"We knew it was going to be very difficult, the team played a great game, we fought to the end and that is worth it, football gives back to you in this way," Rakitic said.

"But we have half the work left to do in Barcelona."

Coach Julen Lopetegui echoed that sentiment, adding: "The team played a great game against a Barcelona that arrived in good form.

"We played well, we defended well and it was a very beautiful game. Now, we have the most complicated and most difficult thing left, which is to play at the Camp Nou. We are aware of the challenge."

Moise Kean has moved to allay fears over Neymar's fitness, insisting "all is well" with his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate ahead of a crunch Champions League tie with Barcelona, though Mauricio Pochettino is uncertain.

Neymar started in PSG's Coupe de France clash with Caen on Wednesday, and supplied the assist for Kean's winner in a 1-0 victory.

However, the Brazil star was taken off on the hour, with the 29-year-old holding his groin area.

PSG face Neymar's former club Barca next week, in the opening leg of their Champions League last-16 encounter, which comes three days after a Ligue 1 meeting with Nice.

However, Kean – who has now scored 12 goals in all competitions this season – claimed that Neymar is fit and well despite the concerns.

"All is well, he is ready," Kean told Eurosport. "Tomorrow, in training, he will recuperate. He will be ready for the match."

Pochettino, however, took a more cautious approach.

"His left adductor muscle is affected and tomorrow they will examine him to see what type of injury he has," Pochettino told reporters.

"The reality is that we do not know the extent of the injury, tomorrow we will know more."

Neymar has often suffered untimely injuries at a similar time in previous seasons during his stint at PSG.

In 2018, Neymar sustained a broken toe in February, meaning he missed almost three months of action, with PSG losing 5-2 on aggregate to eventual Champions League winners Real Madrid in the last 16 in his absence.

An ankle injury then kept him out from January to April in 2019, with PSG going out at the hands of Manchester United, though he was fit to help the Parisians overcome Borussia Dortmund in last season's tournament, prior to the coronavirus-enforced suspension.

Barcelona have it all to do in their Copa del Rey semi-final after Jules Kounde and former Blaugrana midfielder Ivan Rakitic secured Sevilla a 2-0 win in Wednesday's first leg at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

The Copa remains Barca's most realistic chance of silverware this term, and Ronald Koeman's first trophy at the helm, but they will have to do it the hard way after slipping to their first defeat in 90 minutes since December 8, a run of 16 matches across all competitions.

Kounde got the first goal with 25 minute played, the 22-year-old centre-back charging forward to great effect a few moments after going close from just outside the box.

Barca dominated most of the second half with Sevilla seemingly happy to play on the counter, but the visitors could not breach Yassine Bounou's goal and Rakitic finished them off on the break as Julen Lopetegui's side made it seven wins on the bounce.

 

Julen Lopetegui wasn't instantly won over by Jules Kounde following his 2019 arrival at Sevilla from Bordeaux, unlikely as that seems currently.

He had only made four LaLiga starts by the end of October in his first season, and although that was followed by a more prolonged run in the team, a rocky performance against Osasuna in December saw him back on the bench.

As it was, Osasuna weren't able to punish Kounde's struggles on that occasion – the closest they came was hitting the post after his misjudgement of a bouncing ball led to a clear opportunity.

He was withdrawn soon after and only made another two league starts – a defeat at Real Madrid and underwhelming 1-1 home draw with Deportivo Alaves – before the start of February.

Indeed, it arguably wasn't until LaLiga's resumption after the coronavirus lockdown that Kounde truly nailed down a place and found genuine consistency in his performances, but now he is probably the first name on the team sheet.

Sevilla's 'selling club' business model is no secret, and by that logic it is unlikely that Kounde will remain at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan long-term – after all, Manchester City were keen in pre-season.

In years gone by Barcelona would've been not only a likely destination for him such has been their affinity for Sevilla-developed talent, it would have also been a stylistically ideal place for him to play. But ahead of the two teams' Copa del Rey semi-final tie, the archetypal Barca defender appears to be well out of their reach financially.

The 'false right-back'

In 2006, two years before he came Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola wrote a column for El Pais in which he discussed what has become known as the 'Lavolpiana build-up', a defensive setup attributed to Argentinian coach Ricardo La Volpe that essentially demands centre-backs carry the ball forward.

While La Volpe's Mexico side used a back three, the key ball-playing and forward-thinking elements of this system are still evident in the four-man defensive structure at Guardiola's City now – it is also identifiable in Lopetegui's Sevilla.

Kounde is a massive part of that, with the young Frenchman a fine player technically, both on the ball and when distributing.

The attack-minded nature of Sevilla right-back Jesus Navas leaves a lot of space for Kounde to operate in, and he often helps create overloads on the right flank – his positional map shows how he essentially works as a secondary right-back when in possession, while Fernando drops back into central defence to form a back three.

 

The recent 3-0 win over Getafe show this perfectly, with Kounde almost spending as much time in the attacking half as he did his own.

While the 'Lavolpiana build up' is a risky strategy, the right players can ensure it brings greater incisiveness particularly when playing through a press, and Sevilla have clearly adapted well – they are one of just two teams to not concede a goal as a result of a high turnover this term.

At no point this season has Sevilla's ability to play through the press been more prevalent than when remarkably stringing together 37 passes leading up to Luuk de Jong's second goal in the 3-0 Copa win over Valencia last month. Kounde more than played his role in that.

 

The defensive playmaker

This setup suits Kounde down to the ground. It's no wonder City were interested in him before going for Ruben Dias, and by extension he would clearly suit the ethos cultivated at Barcelona.

In 2019-20, Kounde showed glimpses of his undoubted ability but it was his partner Diego Carlos who arguably attracted more acclaim.

But this season, building on his positive development post-lockdown last term, Kounde has stepped things up a notch and seemingly relished that forward-thinking ball-playing role.

That is most notable with respect to how often he has carried the ball – his 331 carries (defined as a movement of five metres or more in possession of the ball) is bettered by only six players in LaLiga this term, three of whom are Frenkie de Jong, Lionel Messi and Luka Modric.

Of those 331 carries, 205 have been progressive, so moving Sevilla up the pitch. This gives him another very high ranking, with Pau Torres (321), De Jong (288), Messi (252) and Raul Albiol (246) the four individuals to boast more.

 

Kounde ranks in the top 10 for several other carry-related metrics – last season he did not. In fact, his 338 carries in 2019-20 is only seven more than he has in 2020-21, which in itself highlights his development.

But his forward runs in possession aren't Kounde's only way of getting on the front foot. His passing is also very positive.

Possessional stats can often be skewed for centre-backs given many of the passes they make are simple short balls to their defensive colleagues, but Kounde is often looking ahead.

His 387 successful forward passes is more than anyone else in LaLiga, while his 486 attempted forward balls is second only to Torres (502), who has played 360 minutes more than Kounde.

The Sevilla talent's 79.6 per cent completion rate from such passes is also better than Torres' 74.5 per cent.

Kounde is a prime example of how centre-backs can be just as satisfying to see in possession as your classic playmakers – in fact, that is essentially what he has developed into, a defensive playmaker of the ilk who wouldn't have looked out of place in the great Barcelona teams of the past 14 years.

While Sevilla and Lopetegui remain the perfect fit for Kounde, it is surely only a matter of time before his €80million release clause no longer appears a daunting figure for certain clubs – though Barca's perilous financial position means they won't be in the hunt.

He's come a long way from that shaky night in Pamplona.

Manchester City will need to take their search for a new striker elsewhere with top transfer target Lautaro Martinez set to snub the Premier League giants.

Pep Guardiola had reportedly lined up the Argentina international as the long-term replacement for club legend Sergio Aguero.

But Martinez is on the brink of a sensational U-turn to remain in Serie A to the delight of coach Antonio Conte and the Milan-based club.


TOP STORY – LAUTARO SET TO REJECT CITY AND STAY WITH INTER

Eurosport reports that City's pursuit of their player at the top of their shopping list has come to an abrupt end with Martinez set to sign a new deal with Inter.

The report suggests the 21-cap international will double his money to stay in Italy, dealing a blow to City after they have monitored his situation closely for a year.

While City continue to prepare an offer for Lionel Messi should he decide to leave Barcelona, they are also set to turn their attentions to Dortmund striker Erling Haaland. 

Mauricio Pochettino urged people not to mistake France Football for Paris Saint-Germain amid continued talk of Lionel Messi moving to the Parc des Princes.

Messi, who attempted to force a switch from Barcelona prior to this season, is due to be out of contract at Camp Nou at the end of the campaign.

He has been frequently linked with PSG and the latest edition of France Football magazine ratcheted up the speculation, as the cover of the magazine featured Messi mocked up wearing a PSG shirt.

That will do little to improve the mood in the Barcelona camp, with head coach Ronald Koeman having previously accused PSG midfielder Angel Di Maria of disrespect.

Koeman's comments followed Messi's Argentina team-mate Di Maria saying there is a "big chance" the six-time Ballon d'Or winner will join PSG.

Pochettino was again asked about Messi prior to PSG's Coupe de France tie at Caen, which takes place on Wednesday.

The PSG head coach told a pre-match media conference: "I think we are talking about a magazine that has nothing to do with Paris Saint-Germain.

"When a player speaks, he might speak with emotion and affection, but there is no type of controversial situation here that we have thought up at the club.

"At no point has there been a lack of perspective. At no point has anything happened that is incorrect.

"I understand that players can talk and say whatever they like and that goes for Barcelona, Real Madrid. They might talk about fellow footballers at other clubs.

"Here we have total respect for every club and every player. We must not confuse what was said in France Football with PSG itself."

Angel Di Maria will miss the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie between Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain.

The Argentina international sustained a thigh injury in PSG's 2-0 Ligue 1 win over Marseille on Sunday.

Head coach Mauricio Pochettino says the 32-year-old will be unavailable for the match at Camp Nou on February 16, as well as the Coupe de France game at Caen on Wednesday and Saturday's league clash at home to Nice.

"As the club said, there'll be further communication within the week concerning Angel but his participation in the match against Barcelona is compromised," Pochettino said on Tuesday of Di Maria.

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid player has been directly involved in 14 goals in all competitions this season, behind only Neymar (16) and Kylian Mbappe (27) within the PSG ranks.

"His absence isn't a reason to change our ideas," Pochettino said. "We'll find the best available solutions. Angel has played a lot and he's an important player for us. But there are other players who can play and enable us to win matches."

Pochettino plans to resist the temptation to rest too many of his star names for the cup match at Stade Michel-d'Ornano despite the importance of the Barca tie.

PSG will certainly be without Marco Verratti (hip), Colin Dagba (thigh), Juan Bernat (knee) and Timothee Pembele (coronavirus protocols), while goalkeeper Keylor Navas is only expected to return to team training the day after the game.

There are also doubts over Mauro Icardi, who is nursing a bruised thigh, and Ander Herrera, who only this week resumed training after a month out with a muscle problem.

However, Pochettino is determined to field a strong enough side to reach the next round rather than simply use it as an opportunity to rotate and experiment with his tactics.

"We're not testing things in other competitions," he said. "We need to perform in all competitions. Against Caen, we'll need to play the best we can in order to win.

"We're going to take the best decisions in order to be competitive against Caen. That's our first objective. I'll analyse today the condition and the fitness of each player. We'll say who is available and take into account the risk of injury.

"We're going to select the best possible team, with players who are at 100 per cent, in every position, in order to win the match."

Ronald Koeman has hit back at Rudi Garcia after the Lyon head coach accused his Barcelona counterpart of being a hypocrite.

Barca boss Koeman last week admitted to being unhappy with "disrespectful" Paris Saint-Germain after a number of their players and staff members discussed transfer links with Lionel Messi.

However, speaking to beIN SPORTS at the weekend, Garcia pointed out that Koeman publicly stated earlier this season that he wants to bring Memphis Depay to Camp Nou once his Lyon contract expires at the end of the season.

"I read that Koeman was a bit offended that PSG talked about Leo Messi before the Champions League match between PSG and Barcelona," Garcia said. 

"He was not shy about talking about Memphis Depay even after the transfer market. It is called the water sprinkler and the sprinkler has been sprinkled."

Koeman, who is preparing his side for Wednesday's Copa del Rey semi-final first leg with Sevilla, responded to Garcia's comments at a news conference on Tuesday.

"The Lyon coach likes to speak to the press a lot. For me he is not an important man," the former Netherlands boss said.

"For me I just have to prepare for the next games and then we will see."

Messi is into the final four months of his Barcelona contract and has been strongly linked with a high-profile switch to PSG at the end of the season.

Speculation over Messi's future rumbles on, as does the discussion over whether the six-time Ballon d'Or winner can be considered the greatest sportsman of all time.

The debate reopened on Sunday after Tom Brady won his seventh NFL championship ring by helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Asked where Messi ranks on the list of the world's all-time great athletes, Koeman said: "It is always difficult because there are different periods to consider.

"But what Messi has done is something incredible - the number of goals and titles with Barca. I did not see the Super Bowl but Messi is the best in the world at what he does.

"It is difficult to compare him with [Johan] Cruyff and Pele, but what I have seen of Messi is something special."

Messi is expected to return to Koeman's starting line-up for the trip to the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, with Barcelona aiming to extend their six-game winning run in all competitions.

Koeman has a tough selection call to make at the other end of the field, however, as Ronald Araujo has joined fellow centre-back Gerard Pique and right-back Sergino Dest on the sidelines.

Frenkie de Jong filled in alongside Clement Lenglet after Araujo limped off in the 3-2 win over Real Betis, but Koeman is still undecided on who will start at the back against Sevilla.


"It is true that if we put Frenkie as a centre-back then we are missing something in the centre of the pitch," he said. 

"If we can choose a recognised centre-back, it is better to play with him there. Without Frenkie in the middle, we lose something."

Oscar Mingueza can potentially shift into the middle, though that leaves a gap at right-back, while Samuel Umtiti is also in the squad but has struggled for fitness.

"Oscar is with us and he has improved a lot," Koeman said. "He has taken the opportunity to be with us. He knows how to play in different positions and has grown thanks to the help of his team-mates. 

"I have no fear of putting a young man into the side. He has taken the opportunity with both hands. You must improve when you have to press. He has room for improvement, but he is doing things very well.

"As for Samuel, physically he is fine at the moment. He's on the squad list and we have the option to play him. If not, we would not name him in the squad. 

"With his history, we are always aware of his physical condition. We are still thinking about his condition but in the many games he has played he has shown his quality."

Barca are in good form but Sevilla are on an even better run, winning each of their last seven matches in all competitions ahead of Wednesday's first leg.

"They have a good team, are very organised and have good individual quality," Koeman said. "That is why they are up there.

"We will have to be good with the ball because they are going to put pressure on us. But if we are at our top level, we can hurt even a team like Sevilla."

Ander Herrera does not believe it is possible for Paris Saint-Germain to add Lionel Messi to an all-star attack that already includes Neymar and Kylian Mbappe due to Financial Fair Play reasons.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi is out of contract with Barcelona at the end of the season and has been strongly linked with French champions PSG and Premier League leaders Manchester City.

PSG already have superstar forwards Neymar and Mbappe on their books, with the Ligue 1 giants in talks over extending both players' lucrative contracts beyond the end of the 2021-22 season.

However, as rumours persist over a possible end-of-season switch to the Parc des Princes for Messi, who saw details of his five-year contract made public last week, Herrera has cast doubt over whether a move is feasible for his side.

"Messi, Neymar and Mbappe together? I don't know how that would work with Financial Fair Play, but I don't think so," he told El Larguero. 

Former Manchester United midfielder Herrera was unwilling to discuss the transfer rumours in any further detail, though, out of respect for Barcelona.

"I'm not going to get into this one," he said. "When everyone at Barca was talking about Neymar, inside and outside the club, we did not like it.

"I'm not going to do something that I don't like being done to me. I have a lot of respect for Barca, Messi, his coach and his team-mates.

"It is not a strategy. Me, I will not speak about him. I respect those who do it, but I put myself in the shoes of the club in which Messi has evolved."

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman last week accused PSG of being "disrespectful" for continuing to discuss Messi in public after Angel Di Maria encouraged talk of a high-profile transfer going through.

Herrera added: "If I were I at Barca, I would not like people talking about Messi. It does not seem to me to be a lack of respect, but I will not do it."

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are still eyeing Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

Unsurprisingly, Messi's future remains a talking point with his contract with the LaLiga giants expiring at the end of the season.

And the two clubs most strongly linked with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner remain interested.

 

TOP STORY – PSG, MAN CITY STILL EYEING MESSI

Paris Saint-Germain are quietly continuing their push to sign Barcelona star Lionel   Messi , according to France Football.

The Ligue 1 giants have angered Barca boss Ronald Koeman as those connected with PSG have regularly discussed Messi.

ESPN says Manchester City are also still tracking Messi, but will wait until March or April before making more of a move.

ROUND-UP

- Out of contract at Real Madrid in 2022, Raphael Varane 's future is unclear. Marca reports the LaLiga giants suspect the defender will not renew and they could sell him for €50million at the end of this season as a result, with PSG and Manchester United interested.

- Madrid are favourites to land Bayern Munich star David Alaba . The Telegraph reports Alaba's wage demands, believed to be around £20m per year, are too high for Chelsea . Alaba is set to leave the Bundesliga giants when his contract expires at the end of the season.

- United 's sights may be elsewhere. The Independent claims RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate is their main centre-back target ahead of 2021-22. Konate has also been linked to Liverpool and Chelsea .

- Arsenal want a young left-back to learn from Kieran Tierney, according to The Athletic.

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti said he is excited about the prospect of playing alongside Lionel Messi at the Ligue 1 champions.

Barcelona superstar Messi is out of contract at season's end and the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been heavily linked with PSG and Premier League giants Manchester City.

As Messi's future dominates headlines, PSG star Verratti discussed his possible arrival in Paris.

"Of course, I would like to play with Messi," Italy international Verratti told Canal+.

"To have him in the squad would be something magnificent, one more thing that football would give to me.

"I would give the ball to Neymar and Messi and stay behind to just [enjoy] watching them a bit."

PSG and Barcelona will meet in the Champions League last 16, with the first leg taking place at Camp Nou on February 16.

It will be a reunion for former Barca star Neymar, who has scored six goals in 11 Ligue 1 matches this season.

Neymar - who left Barca in a world-record €222million deal in 2017 - has scored 13 goals across all competitions.

"We are not stupid, we know that he is the best player and our role is to put him in the best possible condition," Verratti said. 

"He knows that when I have the ball, I'm looking for him. He always makes movements to receive the ball well."

Mauricio Pochettino's PSG are third in Ligue 1 after 24 rounds, three points adrift of leaders Lille following Sunday's 2-0 Classique victory against Marseille.

PSG face Caen in the Coupe de France on Wednesday before welcoming Nice to the French capital in Ligue 1 action on Saturday.

Juventus are not targeting Eden Hazard, while Sergio Ramos looks set to wait for a new Real Madrid deal.

Hazard's future has become a talking point amid his struggles at Madrid since arriving from Chelsea in 2019.

But just where the playmaker could end up remains to be seen.

 

TOP STORY – JUVENTUS NOT INTERESTED IN HAZARD

Juventus are not interested in Real Madrid playmaker Eden Hazard for now, according to CalcioMercato.

Hazard has made just 24 LaLiga appearances for Madrid since arriving ahead of 2019-20 after battling numerous injuries.

Madrid reportedly paid €100million for the Belgium international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sergio Ramos' future at Madrid is also uncertain. The defender is out of contract at the end of the season and is reportedly set to miss another two months after undergoing knee surgery. Marca says Ramos will still be without a contract by the time he returns, most likely in April.

- Changes are also expected at Barcelona at season's end. CalcioMercato reports Milan are interested in midfielder Philippe Coutinho, who has struggled to live up to expectations with the LaLiga giants.

- Barcelona and Arsenal are interested in bringing in Marc Overmars as sports director, according to Mundo Deportivo, with the former Netherlands international set to leave his role as Ajax director of football at season's end.

- After several impressive displays for Leicester City, the Premier League club are rushing to renew Youri Tielemans' contract, which runs until 2023, according to TodoFichajes.

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman praised the game-changing impact of Lionel Messi, who came off the bench to inspire a 3-2 LaLiga victory over Real Betis.

Messi was a shining light for Barcelona after being named among the substitutes, scoring an equaliser before unlocking Betis' defence with a sublime pass on Sunday.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner scored just 136 seconds following his introduction – his fastest goal as a substitute for Barca in LaLiga.

Trincao struck the 87th-minute winner for Barca, who are seven points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid, though the latter have two games in hand.

Koeman saluted superstar captain Messi post-match, telling reporters: "I always talk to the players and I express to them my ideas.

"I spoke to Lionel Messi yesterday about whether he was happy with having a rest and that if we needed him during the game, I was going to bring him on.

"That's what ended up happening. We were losing 1-0 and just a few minutes after coming on to the pitch he completely changed the game.

"He scored the equaliser and then added a lot to our play in the second half."

Messi – tipped to leave Barca amid strong links to Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City – has scored six goals in his past seven LaLiga games playing from the bench.

Koeman's Barcelona have won their past nine games away from home in all competitions – the third best streak ever for the Spanish giants after 13 in 2008-09 under Pep Guardiola and 10 in 2014-15 under Luis Enrique. Barcelona claimed LaLiga, Copa del Rey and the Champions League in those seasons.

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