Philippe Coutinho will go up "another level" after agreeing a permanent transfer from Barcelona to Aston Villa, manager Steven Gerrard has said.

Villa announced on Thursday that Coutinho will complete a £17million (€20m) move at the end of the season, having impressed in his half-season loan spell at the Premier League club.

The Brazil international has created the most chances among Villa players (24) since scoring and assisting on his debut against Manchester United on January 15.

Coutinho has also crafted the most 'big chances' – from which Opta would expect a player to score – in that period (five) to go along with his four goals and three assists.

Villa boss Gerrard expressed his delight at securing Coutinho's signature and suggested the 29-year-old will develop in the knowledge he has the full backing of Villa Park.

Asked why he thought Coutinho made the swap from Barcelona to Birmingham, Gerrard joked with reporters: "Probably my banter and my company to be honest!"

He added: "I was aware a little bit before it was announced, and I think it's fantastic for everyone connected with the club.

"You've seen the reaction from the supporters, it's very positive, they've seen him over the last five or six months play ever so well.

"He's still got loads left in him, in our opinion. To have him here full time and settled, I think he'll come again and go up another level because of that feeling of knowing where he's going to be playing for the next four years.

"I think he is a player that needs to feel wanted, he needs to feel support. Everyone at Villa is playing their part… the owners especially have made him feel really special.

"He feels really happy here, and it's fantastic that he wants to be part of this journey.

"I think you can't underestimate football happiness. In any walk of life, in any job, you've got to get out of bed with a purpose and with a drive and energy to enjoy your role. In football terms, that is to feel support from your team-mates, from your staff, but also from your supporters.

"If you get out of bed every morning and you're playing for an ambitious club where there's a journey and everyone is pushing to move it forward and improve it, and you're a big part of that and you're made to feel welcome and people want to build around you, that's very important in Phil's situation."

Pep Guardiola's departure from Barcelona was influenced by his hostile relationship with then-Real Madrid head coach Jose Mourinho, according to Blaugrana defender Gerard Pique. 

Guardiola won 14 trophies – including three league titles and two Champions Leagues – in a four-year spell at Camp Nou, developing a legendary side featuring academy graduates including Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Pique.

However, Guardiola's final season at the helm saw the Catalan giants finish second to Los Blancos in LaLiga, as Mourinho's side broke the league's points tally record by earning 100 points in 2011-12, also scoring a yet-to-be-matched 121 league goals. The points tally was equalled by Tito Vilanova's Barcelona in the following season.

The two coaches clashed repeatedly after the Portuguese coach arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2010, and Pique believes the rivalry "got too much", contributing to Guardiola's decision to leave.

"We were winning everything at the time and I remember that the first time Mourinho came to Camp Nou he lost 5-0 against us [in November 2010]," Pique told Gary Neville on The Overlap. 

"It was a shock of reality that these guys are going hard, but in the press conferences every time he was… you know his style, I think that for Guardiola at some point it was too much.

"It was more important sometimes what happened off the pitch than on the pitch.

"Guardiola left. Madrid won the league that year and all of a sudden, he decided to leave for so many reasons, but I am sure part of it was because with Mourinho it got too much."

After Guardiola's Manchester City team fell to a stunning 6-5 Champions League semi-final defeat to Real Madrid earlier this month, he is tied with Mourinho as the two bosses with the most semi-final eliminations from the competition (six each), while the duo are also the two managers with the most wins in their first 100 Premier League games (both 73).

Pique claimed Mourinho's confrontational style also affected relationships between Barcelona and Madrid players in the Spain international set-up, despite the team winning three consecutive major tournaments between 2008 and 2012.

"Since he arrived, he knew that on the pitch they were weaker than us," Pique said of Mourinho's time with Madrid. "We had a better team for sure, and even the relationships between players [were better].

"I remember going to the national team, and after those games it was tough because Mourinho goes to the mind of the player and he says, 'These guys hate you', then you believe that.

"I was in the dressing room of the national team and said to [Madrid goalkeeper] Iker Casillas, 'Hey Iker', and the guy did not talk to me. At that time, I did not know, but it was the coach, he really knows how to go into the mind."

Asked whether Guardiola enjoyed the rivalry with Mourinho, Pique added: "I don't think so. I remember the semi-final of the Champions League in the Bernabeu [in 2011], he did an amazing press conference, but it was not about football.

"He enjoys talking about what is happening on the pitch, and here there was a moment where the press was focusing on what was happening outside the pitch."

Gerard Pique was left in tears following Lionel Messi's Barcelona exit, but the centre-back says he can understand why his former colleague joined Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi's 21-year association with Barcelona, 16 of those spent as part of the senior squad, came to an end last August when he signed for PSG as a free agent.

The Argentina international won every trophy available with Barca and departed as the club's all-time record scorer with 672 goals across 778 appearances.

Last year's departure came as a huge shock at the time, with the Catalan giants' financial situation meaning they could not agree fresh term under LaLiga's salary restrictions.

Pique and Messi came through Barca's La Masia academy together and spent 13 seasons as first-team regulars after the defender returned from a spell at Manchester United.

In an interview with former United team-mate Gary Neville, Pique opened up on just how tough he found it seeing his close friend move to another club.

"I cried when Messi left. I cried for him," Pique said on The Overlap podcast. "For the career he had at Barca, it would have been great if he had stayed until the end of his career.

"I can understand why he couldn't renew. The club was suffering a lot economically because of the past president and how he managed the club.

"At the end of the day, these are things that happen in life. Sometimes you make a decision and things don't work out.

"For Barcelona and the fans, Messi was like a god. It would have been great if he stayed."

 

Messi was directly involved in 937 goals for Barcelona, with his most prolific season coming in 2011-12 when scoring 73 goals in all competitions and assisting a further 28.

But while the record seven-time Ballon d'Or winner was very much the poster boy for Barca's trophy-laden period, Pique insists Messi could not have done it alone.

"Lionel Messi is the best player in the history of the game," he said.

"Messi was Barcelona's best player. I've always said that we had Messi to win titles, but we also had to have a good team. A single player cannot win titles."

Carlo Ancelotti has challenged his Real Madrid side to maintain their intensity ahead of the Champions League final with Liverpool on May 28.

Los Blancos, who were crowned LaLiga champions a fortnight ago, condemned Levante to relegation on Thursday following a 6-0 thumping at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Vinicius Junior scored his first hat-trick for the club in his 168th appearance, with Ferland Mendy, Karim Benzema and Rodrygo also finding the back of the net.

Benzema's header saw him move level with Raul as Madrid's second-highest all-time top goalscorer on 323 goals.

The emphatic win followed Sunday's El Derbi defeat to Atletico Madrid, and Ancelotti said he expects his players to give 100 per cent in their remaining two league games before the showdown with Jurgen Klopp's side.

"We are playing well and our self-esteem has grown a lot," he told a media conference.

"We have this challenge of playing in the final after winning the league. We know that there is a lack of time and that we have to have intensity.

"The team are showing very good signs. We work very well in the field. We have done well, with rhythm and intensity. It's what we wanted, high intensity for team dynamics."

Asked what his side's formation will be for the game against Liverpool, Ancelotti revealed he will not deviate from his trusted 4-3-3.

"It will be the 4-3-3," he said. "That sometimes can be a 4-4-2. I think there is no defined system. Sometimes to put pressure on the pivot, as we did against Manchester City, you go from 4-3-3 to 4-4-1-1. 

"The idea does not change much, just a little the way of defending the rival, of putting pressure on him."

Ancelotti has received plaudits from across Europe in recent weeks after masterminding Madrid's dramatic run to the Champions League final, yet the Italian would not be drawn on whether he is the best on the continent.

"It is difficult to answer that," he said. "I don't like to give myself votes, others give them to me. 

"I like to live a happy moment. I hope I can continue like this for a long time. We have a very big goal, we are going to give everything."

Madrid face Cadiz and Real Betis before doing battle with the Reds in Paris at the end of the month.

Karim Benzema moved level with Raul as Real Madrid's second-highest all-time top goalscorer and Vinicius Junior scored a hat-trick as the LaLiga champions relegated Levante with a 6-0 hammering.

Ferland Mendy got Carlo Ancelotti's side, who were crowned champions a fortnight ago, on their way early on, before Benzema joined Madrid icon Raul on 323 goals soon after.

Rodrygo and Vinicius added further goals before the interval, with the latter completing his treble in the second half at the Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday.

While the rout restored Madrid's 12-point advantage over Barcelona at the summit, it condemned Levante drop with two games to play.

Any hopes Levante had of causing an upset were dispelled in the 13th minute when Mendy powered into the penalty area and slotted past Daniel Cardenas.

Federico Valverde then steered a volley against the post, before Benzema doubled his side's advantage with a close-range header from Vinicius' cross after 19 minutes.

Rodrygo slid home Luka Modric's cross to make it three in the 34th minute, while Cardenas twice pushed Valverde drives onto the crossbar as Madrid dominated.

They made it four in the 45th minute, when Vinicius collected Modric's pass and curled past Cardenas from a tight angle.

Cardenas pawed away Modric's whipped effort and Vinicius saw an effort ruled out for offside after the interval. 

The Brazil international was not to be denied in the 68th minute, though, tapping into an empty net after Benzema had rounded Cardenas.

He had his hat-trick seven minutes from full-time courtesy of a cool finish from 10 yards out after breaking through Levante's dispirited backline. 

Philippe Coutinho will complete a permanent £17million (€20m) move to Aston Villa from Barcelona at the end of the season, it has been confirmed.

The Brazil international has enjoyed a resurgent half-season loan spell at Villa Park since January and has signed a contract until June 2026 after being effectively frozen out of starting contention at Camp Nou.

The deal, which will see Barca paid 50 per cent of any future sale of the player, brings to a close an unhappy four-and-a-half year tenure with the Blaugrana, who originally signed him in 2018 from Liverpool for a club record nine-figure sum.

Despite success in La Liga in terms of trophies, winning two titles and two Copa del Reys, the playmaker struggled to slot in with the Catalan outfit and spent the 2019-20 season on loan with Bayern Munich, where he won a Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League treble, although the German giants declined to make the move permanent.

It has been his return to England under former Reds team-mate Steven Gerrard that has arguably seen him hit his best form since leaving Anfield, though.

Coutinho has played more than twice as many minutes with Villa than he did with Barca this season, and has notched four goals in 16 appearances for the Midlands club.

Gerrard said: "This is a brilliant signing for Aston Villa. Phil is a model professional and his impact on the group has been very clear since he joined in January. 

"With the way he conducts himself on and off the pitch, he's also a valuable role model for our younger players who can only benefit from his experience. 

"As we look to build towards next season, it is incredible to work at a club that executes its business so decisively and smoothly." 

Isco's time at Real Madrid may be winding down, but the playmaker at least was able to see the funny side as he wished team-mate Marcelo a happy birthday.

Marcelo turned 34 on Thursday. The left-back joined Madrid in 2006 and has gone on to enjoy five LaLiga titles, two Copa del Rey triumphs and four Champions League crowns.

Isco, meanwhile, swiftly established himself as a key cog in Carlo Ancelotti's system upon joining Madrid from Malaga in 2013. 

However, the 30-year-old has struggled with injuries and was used sparingly by Zinedine Zidane in 2020-21.

Isco's struggles have persisted in Ancelotti's second spell in charge and he has been restricted to just 386 minutes of action this season, across 16 appearances in all competitions.

 

Just three of those have been starts, while Marcelo has played 17 times, totalling 790 minutes.

Isco, though, managed to see the humour in the situation while celebrating Marcelo's birthday.

"Happy birthday legend," a photo of Marcelo and Isco on the latter's Instagram story was captioned. "It was hard for me to find a photo of when we played!"

That being said, it should not have been too difficult for Isco to find a photo of the pair playing together.

Only last month, Marcelo started and Isco came on as a substitute in a victory over Espanyol, one that clinched the title. Both players seem unlikely to be at Madrid to help push for more trophies next season, though.

A relieved Diego Simeone credited the work of his players after Atletico Madrid marked his 400th LaLiga game in charge with a 2-0 win away to Elche on Wednesday.

Atleti also secured Champions League qualification with the victory, opening up a six-point gap to fifth-placed Real Betis via goals from Matheus Cunha and Rodrigo de Paul.

In Simeone's 11 years at the club, Atleti have been able to disrupt the hegemony of Barcelona and Real Madrid, winning LaLiga, the Europa League and the UEFA Super Cup twice, as well the Copa del Rey.

Simeone showed humility after the win, saying the support he has at the club is rare, allowing for such an uncommonly long tenure.

"It's an important moment because if it weren't for all the players who have passed through the club it would be impossible," he said post-match. "I am grateful and lucky because the club has always supported me. The back and forth is there, but I thank all the players that were here over this time and allowed me to have this possibility.

"I'm happy for the players, who had an irregular season. We competed very well in the Champions League and in LaLiga we couldn't maintain regularity.

"The goal has already arrived. Deserved, we worked hard and that makes us return to the Champions League for another year. This is very important for the club."

As noted by Simeone, it has been an irregular season by Atleti's notoriously conservative and defensive standards on the pitch.

The 41 goals the Colchoneros have conceded this term in the league make for the most over a full season since he took over as coach in December 2011.

Tensions have simmered in that respect and it was apparent again at the Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero, with Jan Oblak and Renan Lodi sharing a heated exchange before Cunha's opener.

After Wednesday's win, the 52-year-old conceded the defensive decline has been a difficult trade-off for stronger potency in attack, but had no issue with the Oblak and Lodi argument.

"If there are discussions, it's good because the players are in the game and they're alive," he said. "I like this kind of thing because I feel that the players are in the game.

"I think this the year we've scored the most goals since I've been at the club. Also opponents have scored the most on us.

"That's the balance that it cost us to find. We had Savic and Gimenez out, Reinildo did us a lot of good. He works very seriously and with humility. In front of goal we scored a lot of goals"

Atletico Madrid consolidated their Champions League qualification hopes with a 2-0 win at Elche in Diego Simeone's 400th LaLiga game in charge of the club.

Simeone's side battled to a 1-0 victory over rivals Real Madrid on Sunday, and were soon ahead at Estadio Martinez Valero when Matheus Cunha opened the scoring in the first half.

Rodrigo de Paul added a second after the interval and Elche rarely threatened Jan Oblak's goal in response, failing to have a shot on target all game/until the Xth minute.

It mattered little for the boisterous home crowd as Real Mallorca's stalemate at Sevilla on Wednesday confirmed safety for Elche, while Atletico climbed into third – six points clear of fifth-placed Real Betis with two games to go.

Sime Vrsaljko was forced off with injury after just six minutes before Cunha curled a presentable opportunity over in the opening exchanges.

Elche had scored two of their last three league goals from set-pieces and both Lucas Boye and Pedro Bigas headed narrowly off target from corners, but Atleti struck first.

Cunha opened the scoring after 28 minutes when substitute Renan Lodi latched onto Antonio Griezmann's lofted pass to drill across for the Brazil forward to poke home.

Elche fans were in celebratory mood after the interval as news filtered through of Mallorca's stalemate with Sevilla, while Bigas had to clear off the line as Cunha's deflected strike looped goalward.

A slick passing move resulted in Atletico doubling their lead and sealing victory, with De Paul exchanging a quick one-two with Griezmann, who unselfishly squared for the midfielder to tap-in.

Substitute Luis Suarez was denied his 12th goal of the LaLiga season by the offside flag in stoppage time, as Atleti cruised to victory.

What does it mean? Milestone man Simeone continues Elche dominance

Simeone's side eased to their 10th straight LaLiga victory over Elche, who have not defeated Atletico in all competitions since March 2002.

Victory capped a special day for Simeone, who became just the third manager to coach 400 LaLiga games with a single club, winning 244 of those matches across his 11-year spell in the Spanish capital.

Atletico have all but secured Champions League football for next season, with Betis requiring a remarkable turnaround in the last two games to earn a place in the top four.

 

Lovely Lodi

Lodi was named among the substitutes but was soon introduced following the injury to Vrsaljko, and the substitute offered Simeone a timely reminder of his qualities. 

The Brazil international was at his creative best down the left flank, supplying a game-high three chances in a dominant performance against Elche's right-back Helibelton Palacios.

Goalless Griezmann

Griezmann played a vital role in Atletico's goals, delicately chipping to left wing-back Lodi prior to his assist and teeing up De Paul when one-on-one with Edgar Badia, but the France star's woes in front of goal continued at Elche.

The forward has failed to score in his last 13 league appearances, his longest goal drought in a single season in LaLiga since January 2012 (14 – his longest run without scoring in a single season in the top-flight).

What's next?

Atletico can confirm their top-four spot by defeating fourth-placed Sevilla at home on Sunday, while Elche visit Celta Vigo on the same day.

Barcelona have released Kays Ruiz-Atil just a year after re-signing the teenager from Paris Saint-Germain.

The 19-year-old returned to Barca last May and was expected to challenge for a first-team place this season.

But Ruiz-Atil, who spent six years in Barcelona's La Masia academy prior to joining PSG in 2015, will depart the club having failed to so much as make a matchday squad.

The Catalan giants confirmed his exit on their official website on Wednesday and wished him luck for the future.

France Under-20 international Ruiz-Atil featured seven times for PSG in Ligue 1 last season, with all but one of those outings coming from the substitutes' bench.

Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo has been discharged after spending a night in hospital following a head injury sustained in Tuesday's 3-1 LaLiga win against Celta Vigo.

Araujo suffered a concussion when clashing heads with team-mate Gavi shortly after the hour mark as both players contested for an aerial ball just inside their own half.

Gavi stayed down, whereas Araujo initially appeared to chase after the ball, only to then collapse to the turf.

Both sets of players urged medical staff to come onto the field, and the 23-year-old received around 10 minutes of treatment before leaving the pitch in an ambulance.

Barca head coach Xavi confirmed shortly after the match that Araujo was "conscious and out of danger" but would spend the night being monitored at a nearby hospital.

In a further update on Wednesday, Barca confirmed Araujo has been discharged from hospital and will be further assessed to determined when he can return to action.

The Uruguay international has played 42 times this term, totalling 3,181 minutes on the field – only Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Frenkie de Jong have played more minutes among outfield Barca players.

Erling Haaland is a "great player" who is joining a "great club" in Manchester City, but Carlo Ancelotti suggested he is not overly upset at missing out on the much-coveted striker.

City confirmed on Tuesday they have reached an agreement to sign Haaland, who had been linked with an array of clubs across Europe – Ancelotti's Real Madrid among them.

Haaland's 85 goals in 88 games since joining Dortmund in January 2020 is bettered only by Robert Lewandowski (122) and Kylian Mbappe (89) across Europe's top five leagues.

But Madrid already boast a prolific striker of their own in Karim Benzema, whose 57 direct goal involvements in all competitions is unmatched in the continent's major divisions.

While Ancelotti has made no secret that he is a fan of Haaland, he is happy with his current squad, having already wrapped up his first LaLiga title and reached the Champions League final thanks to their sensational comeback against City last week.

"I don't really like to talk about this," Ancelotti said at a news conference on Wednesday when asked about Haaland's imminent switch to the Premier League leaders.

"He's a great player, City's a great club. But I'm sticking with my squad, which has led me to enjoy another Champions League final."

Madrid set up a showdown with Liverpool in Paris by overcoming City in a remarkable semi-final tie that they trailed 5-3 with a minute of normal time remaining.

Los Blancos followed that up with a 1-0 loss to rivals Atletico Madrid last weekend in a game that saw Ancelotti make seven changes to his starting line-up.

Ancelotti confirmed the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior will each return for Thursday's visit of Levante, who have lost just one of their last four trips to face Madrid in LaLiga.

Despite the title being secured with four games to spare, Ancelotti insists his side are not yet focusing on their upcoming clash with Liverpool at the Stade de France on May 28.

"The time we have spent together since the Atletico match has been looking only at tomorrow's game," he said. 

"It's important we give minutes to those who didn't play against Atletico, and then we have another game on Sunday. We are not preparing for the final.

"Tomorrow is a game that we have to play well to win. The objective is the same: keep a good rhythm, play well with the ball and win the match.

"If you lose competitiveness, you will not do well. They must rest, but also play in order to reach 100 per cent. 

"All this time it has been said that Ancelotti did not rotate and now that he does, nobody is happy. You have to give minutes to players."

Even with Haaland no longer on the market, Madrid are expected to strengthen in attack, with Mbappe their main target.

But Ancelotti was once again unwilling to discuss any potential targets, with Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger another rumoured to be on Madrid's radar. In fact, reports on Tuesday suggested the deal had been done to bring the Germany defender to Santiago Bernabeu on a free transfer.

"After the final there will be time to talk about this. For now, we are just aiming to finish the season well," he said.

"Talking about the future transfer window is not correct, I don't want to. I want to talk about tomorrow's match. It is the day to talk about this, not about alleged new signings."

Sadio Mane has been speculated as a potential Ballon d'Or winner in recent weeks.

And the Liverpool forward is also gathering speculation about his club future.

The 30-year-old helped Senegal win the Africa Cup of Nations in February and has netted 15 goals in Liverpool's Premier League title challenge.

TOP STORY – BARCA TO SWOOP FOR BAYERN TARGET MANE

Barcelona are ready to swoop in to sign Liverpool's Mane amid reported interest from Bayern Munich, Mundo Deportivo claims.

The Senegal international is reportedly interested in a switch and is moving into the final 12 months of his Liverpool contract.

Barcelona have missed out on Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland who will join Manchester City and are determined to land an elite forward this off-season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich's Serge Gnabry is drawing attention from several clubs, with Real Madrid among the clubs interested, according to Fichajes.

- Newcastle United have made contact with Philippe Coutinho about a move, reports Goal. Coutinho is currently on loan with Aston Villa from Barcelona.

- The Guardian claims that West Ham United are plotting an off-season move for Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins. Villa would demand a £50m fee for the forward.

- Manchester United and Newcastle are both interested in signing Napoli's Victor Osimhen, claims Calciomercato. Napoli want 100m euros (£85.5m) for the Nigerian forward.

- Super Deporte claims that Sevilla are interested in a transfer for Arsenal's Nicolas Pepe.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hopes "with all my heart" that Ousmane Dembele will sign a new deal to stay on at Barcelona.

Dembele is into the final few weeks of his contract and has been widely tipped to join another club as a free agent.

The France international was told publicly to leave Barca by the club during the January transfer window after talks over fresh terms broke down.

But after initially being shut out of the side, Dembele has forced his way back in and has been a consistent performer for the Blaugrana over the past four months.

Indeed, after setting up two goals in Tuesday's 3-1 win over Celta Vigo, Dembele has now assisted a LaLiga-high 13 goals this season.

That includes 11 assists alone since the turn of the year, which is two more than former team-mate Lionel Messi as the most across Europe's top five divisions in 2022.

Aubameyang profited from another of those assists against Celta and has called on Dembele, who he also linked up with at Borussia Dortmund, to remain at Camp Nou.

"He is my little brother," Aubameyang told Movistar+. "We have been together for a long time, from the first day he arrived at Dortmund.

"Over time we have built up this sibling relationship. That's why I love him so much.

"He's doing very well now and I am very happy for him. I hope with all my heart that he stays." 

Dembele is one of three French players since 2006-07 to have provided 13 or more assists in a single season across Europe's top five leagues, along with Kylian Mbappe and Christopher Nkunku. 

 

Aubameyang scored twice for Barca after Memphis Depay had earlier opened the scoring, before Iago Aspas' strike seemingly gave Celta a route back into the match.

That was Aspas' 10th goal in 15 LaLiga games against Barcelona, a tally that only Diego Forlan can match against the Catalan giants in the competition this century.

But Jeison Murillo was dismissed for a foul on Depay and Barca saw out the win, albeit one that was overshadowed by a sickening head injury sustained by Ronald Araujo.

Barca have now won three in a row to all but seal second place in LaLiga, though head coach Xavi was left with mixed feelings as his side were not at their best.

"We didn't play a good game, yet we still got the three points," he said. "The feeling is not overly good. We have to understand what each game requires.

"It was hard for us to understand that we had an extra man. We lacked the neatness that we have asked so much for. But we were effective and continue to fight for second."

Barcelona coach Xavi has confirmed Ronald Araujo "is conscious and out of danger" but will spend the night in hospital after leaving the win against Celta Vigo in an ambulance.

Araujo clashed heads with team-mate Gavi shortly after the hour mark in Tuesday's LaLiga match when contesting an aerial ball just inside their own half.

Gavi stayed down, whereas Araujo initially appeared to chase after the ball, only to then collapse to the turf.

Both sets of players urged medical staff to enter the field, and the 23-year-old received around 10 minutes of treatment before being taken to a nearby hospital.

The incident somewhat overshadowed Barca's 3-1 victory, but Xavi provided a positive update on Araujo's condition shortly after full-time.

"We were scared at first," Xavi told Movistar+. "The doctors have told us he is conscious and out of danger. But he will be spending the rest of the night in the hospital.

"Tomorrow, hopefully, he will be back at home. It's just a scare."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's double, after Memphis Depay had earlier opened the scoring, gave Barca a 3-0 lead against Celta.

Celta recovered from three goals down to draw 3-3 in November's reverse fixture, though, and pulled one back through Iago Aspas at Camp Nou.

However, a red card issued to former Barca loanee Jeison Murillo ultimately ended the visitors' hopes of rescuing another unlikely point.

With his goal, Aspas has now scored 10 times in 15 league games against Barcelona – only Diego Forlan has scored as many against them this century in LaLiga.

Aspas was asked about his goal in his post-match interview, but his immediate focus was the well-being of Araujo.

"Firstly, I want to send a message of encouragement to Ronald. I don't know what happened," he said. "He left on a stretcher, but they have told us that now he is better. 

"At first when I saw the incident, he looked a bit stunned. Then I saw him from the side, with his head down and that's why we called the medics.

"In the game, we have had many more chances than Barcelona, but we weren't effective neither in the rival area nor our own."

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