LaLiga has announced the agreement of an investment deal between private equity fund CVC Capital Partners and Spanish top-flight clubs.

Barcelona, Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao and another unnamed club were among the teams to oppose the deal, which is worth €2.1billion and went ahead after 37 of the 42 combined clubs in Spain's Primera and Segunda divisions voted in favour - with 32 the minimum number of votes required for the deal to go through.

The agreement involves LaLiga giving up a percentage of the revenue it generates from TV rights for the next 50 years, while Spanish clubs are provided with an immediate financial boost.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas receives a seven-year contract with the joint venture, leading to criticism regarding a potential conflict of interest.

"We are facing a new milestone in the history of LaLiga and the clubs," Tebas said after the assembly on Friday that ratified LaLiga's deal with CVC. 

"We are proud to have reached this agreement with CVC, a project that will allow us to continue the transformation towards a global digital entertainment company, strengthening the competition and transforming the experience of the fans. 

"Despite all the obstacles that we have encountered along the way, we have carried out this project, which will be a before and after for LaLiga clubs, which will be able to improve their infrastructures, develop their brand internationally and take giant steps to continue strengthening sport and football around the world."

The Royal Spanish Football Federation, along with Barca, Madrid, Athletic and the unnamed club, remain opposed to the deal and may now pursue further legal action.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta previously described the deal as like "mortgaging the club's rights over the next half-century".

Barcelona's financial issues mean they need to get crafty in January transfer window.

The Catalans lost Lionel Messi during the off-season and have struggled this term.

Barca were bundled out of the Champions League this week but will be keen to rescue their season.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA PLOT RASHFORD SWOOP

Barcelona are planning to swoop for Manchester United's Marcus Rashford, according to El Nacional.

The stumbling block may be United's asking price for Rashford, but the Blaugrana believe they can prise him away based on opportunity.

Rashford has been in and out of United's starting line-up and Barca plan to offer him the chance to lead their attack.

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims Georginio Wijnaldum could leave Paris Saint-Germain for Inter in January as part of a swap deal involving Marcelo Brozovic. The Croatia midfielder is out of contract at the end of this season.

Joao Felix could join Manchester City from Atletico Madrid, with his agent Jorge Mendes trying to engineer the switch, Calciomercato says.

Liverpool have an eye on Leeds United's Raphinha and West Ham's Jarrod Bowen ahead of the January transfer window, according to the Liverpool Echo.

Chelsea are considering a move for Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro, reports El Nacional.

- Brazilian giants Palmeiras want to sign Real Madrid full-back Marcelo, reports Mundo Deportivo. The former Brazil international's contract with Los Blancos expires at the end of this season.

Ajax and Juventus have their eyes on Bayern Munich teenager Kenan Yildiz, according to Fanatik.

Julian Nagelsmann believes Bayern Munich would have won by an even greater margin had they not taken their foot of the pedal in Wednesday's comprehensive Champions League win over Barcelona.

Bayern outclassed and overpowered Barca 3-0 midweek, a result that eliminated the embattled LaLiga giants from the Champions League.

Thomas Muller, Leroy Sane and Jamal Musiala were on target for Group E winners Bayern, who progressed to the knockout phase with a 100 per cent record.

Bayern led 2-0 at half-time thanks to Muller and Sane before Musiala netted a third just past the hour-mark at Allianz Arena.

With 22 goals scored and just three conceded, Bayern's goal difference of plus-19 during the group stages has only been bettered once before in Champions League history – Paris Saint-Germain in 2017-18 (+21 - F25 A4).

Afterwards, Bayern head coach Nagelsmann felt Barca were fortunate not to have conceded more in Munich.

"We played against an opponent who, of course, has a very big name and actually had to win today," Nagelsmann told DAZN.

"We have never really let it unfold properly. In the second half we clearly defended deeper and let them have the ball a little more, but I believe that if we put it on properly, then we could have scored significantly more goals than three."

Along with Liverpool and Ajax, Bayern became the third side this season to win all six Champions League group-stage matches.

This is the first campaign to see more than one team manage this in the same season, whilst the German outfit are just the second team ever to do so on more than one occasion (also in 2019-20), alongside Real Madrid (2011-12 and 2014-15).

Asked if Bayern are favourites to win the Champions League, Nagelsmann replied: "It's always a huge topic for the journalists: 'Who is the favourite?' You can write a lot about it. In the end, it's a fact that in the knockout stage there are more factors.

"Sometimes the daily performance is decisive or some lucky moments. You don't have time to bring something back in order if you made some mistakes before. Of course, all teams that reach the knockout stage are some kind of favourites and can win this title. We as well. We did very well in the group stage. It's well deserved and also today our focus was really good and we reached the next round.

"It's our own requirement to be one of the favourites, of course. We would like to win the Champions League and some of us would like to win it again. We need to show the same performances in the knockout stage and keep the same level. I believe that my team can do this. But in the end it's only about doing it. Now we wait for our opponent and then we will prepare for that, but there's still some time."

Barca – amid a financial crisis – were consigned to the Europa League/UEFA Cup for the first time since 2003-04 following their Bayern defeat.

It is the fourth time Barcelona have been eliminated in the Champions League group stage after 1997-98, 1998-99 and 2000-01, and the second time that they have fallen to the secondary European competition from the Champions League group stage following 2000-2001 (then, to play the UEFA Cup after finishing third behind Milan and Leeds United).

Barca's tally of two goals after their six group-stage matches is their lowest recorded total in the Champions League, whilst only in 1997-98 (14) did they concede more goals at this stage than the nine they have shipped this season.

"I think that the club can bounce back," Nagelsmann said of Barca. "It's still one of the biggest clubs. Today we deserved the victory and in both games we showed really good performances and our wins were well deserved.

"I think Barcelona are a club with a lot of expertise and good guys. Not only Xavi, but also guys in the back who will make intelligent decisions for this club. I already said in the news conference before the game that it's not easy to deal with more than €1billion in debt in the daily business. It's about extremely tough decisions that need to be taken. This can take a while.

"If I think that this would happen to us, then I am sure it would take a while until we could bounce back and be successful again. I wish them all the best and I hope the club will be soon the glorious Barcelona again that we all know."

Barcelona president Joan Laporta called for unity after the embattled club were dumped out of the Champions League.

Barca were consigned to the Europa League/UEFA Cup for the first time since 2003-04 on Wednesday, outclassed 3-0 by Group E winners Bayern Munich at Allianz Arena.

Xavi's Barca needed to win or hope Benfica failed to beat Dynamo Kiev elsewhere in the final round of group fixtures in order to avoid elimination, but the struggling LaLiga giants were no match for Bayern, who were led by goals from Thomas Muller, Leroy Sane and Jamal Musiala.

It is the fourth time Barcelona have been eliminated in the Champions League group stage after 1997-98, 1998-99 and 2000-01, and the second time that they have fallen to the secondary European competition from the Champions League group stage following 2000-2001 (then, to play the UEFA Cup after finishing third behind Milan and Leeds United).

Barca are also seventh in LaLiga, 16 points off the pace as Laporta addressed the club's plight.

"We are sad about this result, but we have to move on. It is time to work hard and try to reverse this situation," Laporta told TV3.

"We have not been able to go down to the locker room to lift the players. We will speak with the coaching staff on the plane.

"We did what we could and now we have to try to overcome this situation.

"I make a call to all the Barcelona fans, today more than ever we have to row all together in the same direction to try to overcome this situation altogether."

Barca's tally of two goals after their six group-stage matches is their lowest recorded total in the Champions League, whilst only in 1997-98 (14) did they concede more goals at this stage than the nine they have shipped this season.

Xavi became second Barcelona head coach to fail to win in his first two Champions League games (D1 L1), after Louis Van Gaal in 1997 (D1 L1).

Barca boss Xavi added in a news conference: "This must be a turning point. I have told the players, today a new stage has to begin for Barca, revealing ourselves to this situation.

"We cannot accept this situation because Barcelona does not deserve to be where we are today. I tell the Barcelona fans that we will work hard because I feel this club, I love this club and we will work hard. We will leave our skin to [help] Barca recover and put them where they deserve, and that is not in the Europa League.

"But we have to face it, it is a hard reality but it is what there is. It is the reality and we have to face it and rebel and this has to serve as a turning point to improve."

Thomas Muller said Barcelona "cannot compete at maximum intensity in top-level football" after Bayern Munich eliminated the embattled Blaugrana from the Champions League.

Barca were consigned to the Europa League/UEFA Cup for the first time since 2003-04 after being outclassed 3-0 by Bayern in Munich on Wednesday.

Thomas Muller, Leroy Sane and Jamal Musiala were on target for Group E winners Bayern, who progressed to the knockout phase with a 100 per cent record.

Barca needed to win or hope Benfica failed to beat Dynamo Kiev elsewhere in the final round of group fixtures in order to avoid elimination, but Xavi's side were no match for Bayern.

It is the fourth time Barcelona have been eliminated in the Champions League group stage after 1997-98, 1998-99 and 2000-01, and the second time that they have fallen to the secondary European competition from the Champions League group stage following 2000-2001 (then, to play the UEFA Cup after finishing third behind Milan and Leeds United).

Afterwards, Bayern star Muller discussed Barca's plight, with the LaLiga outfit also seventh domestically and 16 points off the pace.

"Barca cannot cope with our intensity," Muller told DAZN post-match.

"Technically, they have it all, great players on a technical and tactical level.

"But they cannot compete at maximum intensity in top-level football."

Muller has scored eight goals in seven appearances against Barcelona in the Champions League – his most against a single opponent in the competition – his tally of eight goals is the most of any player against Barca in the history of the European Cup/Champions League.

The 32-year-old is also the first German player to reach 50 Champions League goals in the history of the competition following his 34th-minute opener.

"They just seem to fly in against Barca. It was another typical [Muller] goal, but I'll take it," Muller said.

"Fifty goals [in the Champions League] is good but I still have a lot of football ahead of me."

Xavi was left angry and frustrated following Barcelona's elimination from the Champions League on Wednesday.

Barca's exit was confirmed after a comprehensive 3-0 defeat by runaway Group E winners Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.

It means the Blaugrana will not appear in the knockout stages of the competition for the first time since the 2003-04 season, with Benfica's win over Dynamo Kiev sending them through as runners-up to Bayern.

Indeed, Barca only scored two goals in six matches and registered just seven points; their second-lowest total during a single group stage in the competition's history.

Nevertheless, Barca's continental adventure continues in February as they drop into the Europa League.

They would secure a return to the Champions League by going on to lift the trophy, which Xavi insists is a must for the club given their current scenario.

"I'm angry. This is the reality and it p***** me off," he told reporters.

"We have to tackle it face on. There's nothing else for it. A new era starts today. We start from zero.

"Barca's objective is the Champions League, not the Europa League. 

"But our reality now is the Europa League, and we have to win it."

Though their fate was sealed on Wednesday, defender Ronald Araujo accepts the damage was done in Barca's previous group games.

Disappointed by the plight of the Catalan giants, the Uruguay international knows he and his team-mates must strive to ensure that better times are around the corner.

"It's a damning result and they had chances to make it worse," Araujo said.

"Ultimately, we didn't fail to qualify because of this game, but because of what we did in the other games. 

"It's true that, right now, we're not among the best teams in Europe. If we were, we'd have qualified. 

"We have to keep on working and hope that good things will come for us soon."

Barcelona have been eliminated from the Champions League following a 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.

Xavi's side drop into the Europa League and will not appear in the knockout stages of Europe's premier club competition for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

Already assured of top spot in Group E, first-half goals from Thomas Muller and Leroy Sane put Bayern well on the way to progressing with a 100 per cent record.

Jamal Musiala ensured that Julian Nagelsmann's side did just that when he sealed the victory just after the hour mark in another routine victory for the hosts in this fixture.

To avoid elimination, Barca needed to win or hope that Benfica failed to beat Dynamo Kiev elsewhere in the final round of group fixtures.

Jordi Alba tested Manuel Neuer from distance, while Ousmane Dembele swept a shot over from Memphis Depay's square ball.

But Barca fell behind in the 34th minute; Robert Lewandowski cleverly twisting and turning before crossing for Muller, whose looping header crossed the line before Ronald Araujo could volley clear.

Bayern doubled their lead just before the break with Sane's powerful 30-yard strike completely perplexing Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Sane squandered a golden opportunity for his second goal shortly after the restart when somehow failing to turn the ball home from inside the six-yard box after Kingsley Coman cushioned Alphonso Davies' cross into his path.

Bayern's third goal did arrive in the 62nd minute as Musiala sealed the deal by slotting home following a strong run and cross by Davies.

Barcelona tackle Bayern Munich on Wednesday in a crucial Champions League game, knowing they probably have to win in the Allianz Arena to qualify for the knockout stages.

The Germans are already safely through as winners of Group E, but Barca will crash out at the group stage if they fail to win and Benfica beat Dynamo Kiev in Portugal.

One player who made a notable cameo when Barca and Bayern played one another in the quarter-finals of the Champions League two seasons ago was Philippe Coutinho, whose star has fallen so far since a record move to the Camp Nou in 2018 that he may not even feature in the vital clash.

Stats Perform has taken a look at what happened to the £142million man.


Get back... injuries

It was the day before the start of the 2017-18 season, and Liverpool's campaign already felt like it had been thrown into chaos.

Jurgen Klopp was getting ready for a trip to Watford when news broke that his star man Philippe Coutinho had handed in a transfer request, supposedly after the Reds had rejected a £90million bid from Barcelona.

Liverpool ended up drawing 3-3 at Vicarage Road with new man Mohamed Salah scoring his first goal for the club in a game in which Coutinho did not feature, insisting that he had a sore back.

The Brazilian was ultimately forced to stay until the January transfer window when he eventually sealed his dream move to the Camp Nou for a deal that, with add-ons, would amount to around £142million, a record for the Catalan club.

To his credit, Coutinho got his head down after the disappointment of being denied a move in the summer of 2017, playing 20 more games for Liverpool in the first half of the campaign, scoring 12 goals and registering eight assists.

His numbers were up there with the rest of what remains to this day Liverpool's main front three of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, but back then he was part of what was briefly known as 'The Fab Four'. His minutes-per-goal record (one every 125.67 minutes) was second only to Salah (94.68) among those with one than one appearance, while he created more chances than anyone else (56).

He did miss a few more games closer to the January transfer window through more apparent back issues, but scored one final screamer at Anfield against Swansea City in his last game for the club, coincidentally the same team he had scored his first Reds goal against in February 2013 after arriving from Inter Milan for just £8.5million.

In his five years on Merseyside, Coutinho won the hearts of the Kop with his skill, his effort and increasingly, his end product, bagging 54 goals and 43 assists in 201 games for the club.

However, it seemed his heart lay elsewhere, finally securing a move to Barcelona in January 2018.

Philippe Cout-Iniesta?

There was pressure on his shoulders immediately, arriving just a few months after the departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain, with much of the money Barca received being spent on prising Coutinho from Anfield.

There was also talk that he was ultimately being tasked with replacing Andres Iniesta, who was to leave Barca at the end of the 2017-18 season, with taking over from such a club legend a formidable task for anyone.

Coutinho did not start too badly in his first five months, scoring 10, assisting six and creating 33 chances in 22 appearances as Barca lifted the Spanish title and Copa del Rey.

However, his first full season did not quite go according to plan, with Coutinho managing 11 goals and five assists in 54 appearances, actually scoring fewer than he had done in his final half-season at Liverpool. He created 59 chances, compared (admittedly cruelly) to the great Lionel Messi's 141 in fewer games across that 2018-19 campaign.

Barca boss Ernesto Valverde did not seem to know what he wanted from Coutinho, sometimes playing him in Iniesta's old position in midfield, sometimes playing him in Neymar's old position out wide on the left. Coutinho was criticised by some for appearing to not be suited to either, despite the fact he fulfilled both well enough in the Premier League.

To rub salt in the wounds, Coutinho would return to Anfield that season as part of a Barca side that capitulated in the Champions League semi-final, throwing away their 3-0 advantage from the first leg to crash out of the competition, with the Brazilian's old Liverpool team-mates going on to lift the trophy in Madrid a few weeks later.

Bavarian adventure

Despite progress not running smoothly for Coutinho, it was still a surprise for many to see Barca agree to loan him to Bayern Munich the following season. Antoine Griezmann had been signed from Atletico Madrid, which would have limited Coutinho's Camp Nou game time, so the hope was either that he would rediscover peak form in Germany, or at least do well enough that Barca could make some of their money back with a future transfer.

He showed marginally more of his former self, scoring 11 and assisting nine in 38 appearances, albeit only 22 games from the start, while creating 50 chances, and 11 big chances. But it was difficult to stand out much in a team that included Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski.

Never one to miss out on ironic Champions League moments, Coutinho came off the bench to score the final two goals of an 8-2 thrashing of his parent club in the quarter-finals.

He ended that season with a Champions League winner's medal, as well as winning the Bundesliga title and DFB-Pokal in an impressive treble, but Bayern decided against signing Coutinho permanently.

One last shot

Under Ronald Koeman, Coutinho was determined to finally make a success of his career back at Barcelona, and showed glimpses in the 14 games he managed in the 2020-21 season before injury struck as he suffered a torn meniscus, ending his campaign before the new year.

It seemed one of the transfer market's worst kept secrets that Barca were open to selling Coutinho at the end of that season, among several other players, as financial woes mounted at the club, but there were understandably no takers given his form and injury issues.

Both parties were left with no choice but to try again this season, and while he has been given chances, they have been sporadic, with just five starts and nine substitute appearances so far, registering two goals. Coutinho has yet to provide an assist, and he has only created two chances.

Xavi is now in the hot seat at the Camp Nou, pledging to return a struggling team to the "Barca way", and he opened the door for Coutinho to perhaps have one last shot of establishing himself.

"Coutinho is someone who can play in various positions, and he can be important for the team," Xavi told reporters ahead of his first match in charge against Espanyol.

"He needs to re-find himself and recover his confidence. If he does, he will help us a lot. He has an innate talent. It depends on him. He will get chances because he's a player I like personally. It's more psychological than anything because he has talent."

Anyone who watched Coutinho regularly at Liverpool will know there is a world-class player in there somewhere. Klopp was able to get a tremendous tune out of him despite not necessarily playing in a style that suits him, and with the player not even wanting to be there in the last few months.

Xavi is right, though. When Coutinho is given opportunities, it will depend on him.

He will just be hoping those opportunities don't come in the Europa League.

Barcelona head to Bayern Munich on the final matchday desperately needing a positive result to secure their spot in the Champions League knockout stages.

Benfica, who face Dynamo Kiev in Group E's other clash, hold the head-to-head edge over Xavi's new side as Barca travel to Germany knowing they likely need a win to make it through to the next round.

Manchester United and Chelsea are already through their respective groups, while Juventus host Malmo with the Bianconeri's place in the last-16 sealed before the final matchday as well.

As Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo edge towards more records, Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta data heading into the games taking place on Wednesday.

Bayern Munich v Barcelona: Blaugrana face thankless task to qualify

Bayern have won their last three Champions League meetings with Barca, which is already the longest run against the Blaugrana in European history by any side.

Julian Nagelsmann's team, who have averaged five goals per home game in this season's competition, have cruised through to the next round, while Barca could fall to their second-worst performance in terms of points if they fail to avoid defeat.

The visitors will have to deal with Lewandowski, who is the top scorer in the group stage with nine goals and the Poland forward could become the only player in history to net 10-plus times in the group stage on multiple occasions. Ronaldo (11 in 2015-16) and Lionel Messi (10 in 2016-17) are the only other players to have achieved this once.

Zenit v Chelsea: Blues edge towards more defensive milestones

Chelsea could become just the second English team, after Manchester United in 2003-04 and 2010-11 to win four consecutive games in the competition while keeping a clean sheet on each occasion.

Indeed, with a clean sheet the Blues and Thomas Tuchel could become the fastest team and manager combination to reach 10 shutouts in the competition, having already recorded nine in just 12 games since the German's appointment.

The defending champions have also had 14 different scorers, excluding own goals, the most of any team in the Champions League since Tuchel's Blues bow in Europe.

Manchester United v Young Boys: Ronaldo looks to repeat history

Ronaldo has scored in all five of his Champions League appearances since returning to United (six goals), while Bruno Fernandes boasts the most assists in the competition so far this term (five).

Portugal captain Ronaldo will be looking to repeat the feat of scoring in all six group stage games in a single campaign, having previously done so for Real Madrid in 2017-18 – the only previous instance of this in the competition’s history.

Worryingly for Young Boys, who never kept a clean sheet in 11 attempts in the competition, the Swiss side have lost their last six away games between 1986 and 2021, last tasting European Cup/Champions League victory in August 1960.

Juventus v Malmo: Bianconeri aim to match record home dominance

Juve have won each of their last five Champions League home matches, only registering more consecutive such victories in a run of six between December 2016 and 2017.

While the Bianconeri did suffer their heaviest defeat in the history of the competition against Chelsea, Juve have a perfect record against Malmo in their opening three games – only Barca have ever won their opening four games against a specific opponent in the competitions.

Meanwhile, Malmo have only managed one win in their last eight against Italian opponents in the European Cup/Champions League, with their lone triumph against Inter in September 1989.

 

Other fixtures:

Atalanta v Villarreal:

21 - There have been 21 goals scored in Atalanta’s five games against Spanish opponents in the Champions League (11 goals for, 10 against), at an average of 4.2 per game. Only one of these five games have seen a team manage to keep a clean sheet, with Real Madrid doing so in a 1-0 victory back in February.

1 - Villarreal have won just one of their eight visits to Italian opponents in major European competition (D3 L4), though it came in their most recent such outing, defeating Roma 1-0 in the Europa League in 2016-17.

Benfica v Dynamo Kiev:

4 - Since losing their first ever meeting with Dynamo Kiev in European competition (0-1 in November 1991), Benfica are unbeaten in four games against the Ukrainian side (W3 D1), with all four coming in the European Cup/Champions League.

60 – Dynamo Kiev have lost 60 per cent of their away matches in the competition, only Olympiakos (75) and Galatasaray (71) have lost a larger percentage out of teams to have played at least 50 such games.

Red Bull Salzburg v Sevilla:

5 – Red Bull Salzburg are winless in their last five fixtures against Spanish opposition in the Champions League and have only won one of their last 11 meetings against such sides.

3 – Sevilla's Ivan Rakitic has managed three goal involvements in his side's five goals in the competition, despite only starting two games – only for Barca in 2015-16 did he record more (four).

Wolfsburg v Lille:

5 - Wolfsburg have gone unbeaten in their last five games against French opponents in European competition (W2 D3) after previously going eight games without recording a victory against French teams across all competitions (D3 L5).

8 – Lille have claimed eight points from their opening five games and could equal, or improve on, their best ever return in a group stage in the competition - nine points in 2006-07, where they qualified with a second-place finish.

Xavi remains convinced qualification for the Champions League knockout phase is realistic for Barcelona despite their pivotal matchday six game being a trip to the mighty Bayern Munich.

Barca go to Munich second in Group E with seven points, just two more than a Benfica side that will expect to beat Dynamo Kiev.

If Benfica are victorious, only a win will take Barca through to the last 16, and that will not be a simple task – Bayern have won all five of their Champions League games this term and boast an excellent record at home.

Die Roten have lost just twice at the Allianz Arena all year, with Eintracht Frankfurt claiming a 2-1 victory just over two months ago and Paris Saint-Germain winning 3-2 back in April.

Bayern are already on the longest run of successive victories by any team against Barcelona in the history of the Champions League/European Cup (three wins), a sequence that included the 8-2 in August 2020 and a comprehensive 3-0 success earlier this season.

The odds will be stacked against a Barca side who suffered their first defeat of Xavi's tenure at the weekend, but the former midfielder is looking to instil some belief.

"We will try," he told reporters. "He who tries and rows to the end does not fail, and I do not believe in the word failure.

"We depend on ourselves and it will be difficult, but at the moment we have the idea of going there to win the game, dominate and create chances. If tomorrow it [Barca are knocked out] happens, we will talk about it.

"I see them train and I think we are ready to compete. It's not the best scenario [the lack of spectators allowed] but we are very much looking forward to it.

"I hope the latest defeat doesn't affect us. We depend on ourselves and we will try with our weapons.

"After the game we will see. I don't see it as such a miracle. It is a game and we can beat any opponent."

Xavi was hired amid a huge rebuild job at Barca, with the club still reeling from Lionel Messi's departure, which was forced by a crippling financial situation.

Barca's debts have reached €1.4billion this year and their LaLiga salary cap was reduced by €280m, meaning cheaper signings and utilising young players have been necessities.

But Xavi believes the charm of football is in the possibility to win any match.

"We work so that Barca is not inferior to any team in Europe. We have a lot of work ahead of us," he continued.

"You have to be patient because this [process] is not overnight – lately, Bayern have been better than Barca, but football always offers you a chance for revenge."

Julian Nagelsmann claims Jude Bellingham tarnished Bayern Munich's Klassiker win over Borussia Dortmund with his costly outburst against the match referee.

Bellingham was unhappy after Dortmund were denied two spot-kicks in Saturday's action-packed Bundesliga clash prior to Mats Hummels being penalised for handball.

Robert Lewandowski converted the resulting penalty to earn Bayern a 3-2 win, leading Dortmund teenager Bellingham to question the integrity of referee Felix Zwayer in his post-game interview.

The England international appeared to allude to a six-month ban handed to Zwayer following a 2005 match-fixing scandal, which centred around fellow official Robert Hoyzer.

Hoyzer was found to have fixed 2. Bundesliga matches in 2004-05. One of those involved Zwayer operating as an assistant, with the allegation he took a €300 bribe. Zwayer strenuously denied any such wrongdoing in the course of that investigation.

Bellingham's comments are reportedly being examined by police, while the German Football Association (DFB) has fined the youngster €40,000.

As the fallout continues from Bayern's win, which moved them four points clear at the summit, Nagelsmann gave his view on the refereeing decisions and Bellingham's remarks.

"Those comments tarnished the game a bit," Bayern head coach Nagelsmann said at a news conference ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash with Barcelona.

"I can understand the discussions. But the incident involving Marco Reus couldn't have resulted in a penalty because there was an offside.

"I wouldn't have complained about the penalty for us if it hadn't been given. I can understand from Dortmund's point of view."

Bayern now switch focus to the visit of Barca to the Allianz Arena, with the game to be held behind closed doors due to rising coronavirus cases in Bavaria.

The German giants have won each of their last three meetings with Barcelona, which is the longest run of wins by a team against Barca in their European Cup and Champions League history.

 

Nagelsmann's side are already assured of top spot in Group E, while the visitors may need to win if they are to progress, depending on how Benfica get on against Dynamo Kiev.

Despite Barcelona enduring a trying time on and off the field in recent times, Nagelsmann insists it is only a matter of time before the LaLiga heavyweights turn things around.

"I think they are still an extremely attractive club for players and fans," Nagelsmann said. "The financial figures are known. If that hovers over you, you will be a little inhibited.

"In a successful era you may become lazy and need too long for decisions. Then you seldom think about what happens when things go bad.

"The spitting out of talent has been a bit lacking, but that will only come again. Obviously they are making ends meet and still have a good squad.

"For me, Frenkie de Jong is one of the best midfielders in the world. They still have world-class players. They are under pressure in the table and have to win. They will give everything to make this a good game."

Bayern have won all five of their group matches, scoring a combined 19 goals and conceding three.

At home, they have scored five goals in each of their two Champions League games so far this term and have netted at least twice in each of their last 11 home matches in the competition.

The Bavarians will remain without Leon Goretzka on Wednesday due to injury, despite the midfielder returning to training, while Serge Gnabry is out with an adductor issue.

Despite having little to play for on the face of it, Nagelsmann intends to name a strong side to face Barca.

"We'll play our best available team," he said. "Benfica don't have to worry! We are going for six wins from six and that is a worthwhile goal."

Robert Lewandowski has questioned whether winner Lionel Messi was sincere with his praise towards him after beating the Bayern Munich striker to the 2021 Ballon d'Or award.

Messi claimed the coveted accolade for a record-extending seventh time last week, with Lewandowski finishing second as he settled for the inaugural Striker of the Year award.

Lewandowski was somewhat unfortunate to miss out to Messi, having scored 53 times in 42 games for Bayern between the start of 2021 and the award being handed out.

That was the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues across all competitions, with Messi – who won the Copa America with Argentina – joint-fifth on the list with 32 goals.

Poland international Lewandowski averaged a goal every 67 minutes over the same period. Among those with 10 goals or more, club-mate Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was the next-most regular scorer, netting every 84 minutes.

Lewandowski would also have been favourite to win the award last year had it not been scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In his acceptance speech when collecting the award, Messi said Lewandowski deserved a Ballon d'Or of his own for his exploits in 2020.

"Last year, everyone was in agreement to say that [Lewandowski was] the big winner," Messi said. "Hopefully [France Football] give you the Ballon d'Or 2020."

However, Lewandowski appeared unmoved by those comments from Messi and admitted to feeling upset about once again missing out on football's top individual honour.

"I felt sadness," he told Polish channel Kanal Sportowy. "I can't deny it. I can't say I was happy – on the contrary, I have a feeling of sadness. 

"To be so close, to compete with Messi, of course I respect how he plays and what he has achieved. The mere fact that I was able to compete with him shows me the level that I was able to reach.

"I'm not that enthusiastic about getting the 2020 award. I would like [Messi's statement] to be a sincere and courteous statement from a great player and not just empty words."

This week sees the end of the group stages for this season's Champions League with honour, ambition and, yes, prize money on the line.

Two Spanish giants are being made to sweat on matchday six as Atletico Madrid need a win and a favour to stay in the competition, while Barcelona quite probably need to beat Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena to avoid dropping into the Europa League.

Atalanta and Villarreal will battle it out for second place in Group F, while Real Madrid and Inter face off at the Santiago Bernabeu to determine who will win Group D.

Group G will perhaps be the most dramatic, with all four participants in with a chance of finishing first or second, but what exactly does each team need from their final group game? Stats Perform has the answers for you here...

 

Group A

Manchester City have already secured top spot after beating Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 on matchday five, with the French side definitely finishing second, sitting four points behind City and four points ahead of both RB Leipzig and Club Brugge.

Leipzig, who sacked coach Jesse Marsch over the weekend, host City and need to match or better Club Brugge's result to clinch third place and a Europe League spot.

The Belgians must get something from their trip to Paris and hope that they achieve a better result than Leipzig.

 

Group B

Liverpool have had first place sewn up since they beat Atletico Madrid at Anfield on matchday four and now sit 10 points ahead of second place in what had been labelled a 'group of death' when the draw took place.

It's all to play for otherwise, though, with Porto second. A win for them at home to Atletico will confirm their passage to the knockout stage. A draw will also be fine as long as Milan do not beat Liverpool at San Siro.

Milan need to win against the Reds and hope the other game is a draw, while the Spanish champions have to beat Porto and hope that the Italians fail to beat Liverpool.

 

Group C

The most straightforward group of all as every position has already been confirmed, with Ajax top, Sporting CP joining them in the knockout stage as runners-up, while Borussia Dortmund will go into the Europa League and Besiktas are out.

 

Group D

Real Madrid and Inter have both qualified, with Carlo Ancelotti's men only needing to avoid defeat to the Italians at the Santiago Bernabeu to top the group. Inter need to beat Madrid to overtake them.

Sheriff will go into the Europa League having already been confirmed in third place above Shakhtar Donetsk.

 

Group E

Bayern Munich have won the group and Dynamo Kyiv will finish bottom, but the battle for second and third is going to the wire.

Barcelona have a two-point advantage in second place, but travel to Bayern, while Benfica host Dynamo, with the Portuguese side boasting the superior head-to-head record over the Catalans.

A win in Germany sees Xavi's men safely through, but should they draw or lose, they will be reliant on Benfica failing to win as well.

 

Group F

Manchester United sealed top spot with their 2-0 win at Villarreal on matchday five.

The Yellow Submarine are a point ahead of Atalanta in second, so only need to avoid defeat in Italy, while Gian Piero Gasperini's side must win to take the other qualification place.

Young Boys can still claim a Europa League spot if they beat United at Old Trafford and Atalanta lose.

 

Group G

The tightest of groups where it all comes down to the final round.

Lille sit top on eight points, and a win at Wolfsburg will secure that spot, while a draw will still see them qualify as they have a superior head-to-head with Sevilla.

Salzburg will go through if they avoid defeat at home to Sevilla, winning the group if they win and Lille do not.

Sevilla have to win in Austria to go through. They will at least secure third and a place in the Europa League if they lose and Wolfsburg also fail to beat Lille.

Wolfsburg actually cannot finish third but can finish first or second with a win against Lille.

 

Group H

Chelsea and Juventus have both qualified from the group, and Thomas Tuchel's side will secure top spot with a win at Zenit. Juventus must better Chelsea's result when they host Malmo.

Zenit have already confirmed their place in the Europa League, while Malmo are out.

Ralf Rangnick has been tasked with restoring the fortunes of struggling Premier League giants Manchester United.

His previous work at RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga has sparked speculation regarding possible transfers.

That has led to talk regarding Amadou Haidara.

 

TOP STORY – HAIDARA WANTED AT OLD TRAFFORD

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick wants to make RB Leipzig midfielder Amadou Haidara his first signing, according to The Sun.

Rangnick has been appointed until the end of the season and talk of January incomings have already emerged.

The German brought Haidara to Leipzig during his time at the Bundesliga club and he is believed to be interested in reuniting with the 23-year-old star.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Old Trafford and El Nacional reports United want Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, having rebuffed a proposal for Philippe Coutinho.

- Portuguese journalist Pedro Almeida claims Jose Mourinho's job as Roma head coach is in danger following another defeat, this time 3-0 to former club Inter in Serie A on Saturday. Mourinho has cut a frustrated figure amid just three wins in nine league games. Mourinho has also been linked with Everton as pressure mounts on Rafael Benitez.

Chelsea and Arsenal are both interested in Paris Saint-Germain forward Mauro Icardi, says Ekrem Konur. The Argentina international has been linked with Barca, Newcastle United, Tottenham and Juventus.

- According to The Sun, Ligue 1 giants PSG are lining up a bid for Wolves' left-back star Rayan Ait-Nouri.

- Widespread reports claim Leipzig are seriously considering the sacking of head coach Jesse Marsch, who only replaced Julian Nagelsmann at the start of the season. Leipzig have lost three consecutive Bundesliga games for the first time in their history.

Xavi believes Barcelona's supporters will be "proud" of their team despite a disappointing 1-0 defeat at home to Real Betis on Saturday.

After LaLiga wins over Espanyol and Villarreal and a Champions League draw against Benfica, the result marked Xavi's first defeat in charge of the Blaugrana since he took over from Ronald Koeman.

Barca's tally of 23 goals in LaLiga this term is their lowest at this stage since the 2003-04 campaign when they scored 19, while their points total of 23 is their lowest since the same season (20).

Xavi refused to be too downbeat, though, and believed his side deserved more from the game, which was ultimately won by Juanmi's breakaway goal with 11 minutes remaining.

"It is a shame because we did not deserve to lose," he told a media conference. "We did not have the luck we had against Villarreal today.

"We cannot allow a goal like the one we have conceded but it is a shame to have lost because we deserved to win.

"I think the fans will be proud of the team. We played a very good second half and Betis' goal came when we were at our best.

"Sometimes you have to know how to make tactical fouls and prevent the opponent playing and we did not do that.

"Their goal bothers me a lot because a situation like this cannot happen to us.

"I have told the players that this is football and that I am proud of them. They have given everything and if anyone deserved to win the game it was Barca."

Barca's attention now turns to a crucial Champions League clash against Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

The Catalan giants are second in Group E, just two points ahead of Benfica, and they know the only way of guaranteeing their progression to the knockout stages is victory at the Allianz Arena.

"On Wednesday we will have to compete like animals in Munich because we are at risk of not making into the last 16," he said.

"But we depend on ourselves. It's easy; if we win we're in the round of 16 and if Benfica don’t win we're through.

"We'll go with everything and play like we did in the second half today. We will see how far that takes us."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.