Barca president Laporta backs under-fire Koeman

Barcelona president Joan Laporta gave coach Ronald Koeman his backing on Saturday, saying the Dutchman deserves time to turn the club’s fortunes around.

Koeman has come under fire after Barca won just one of their last five games in all competitions, including a 3-0 humbling by Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Names such as Xavi Hernandez, Andrea Pirlo and Roberto Martinez have been linked to the job by local media.

Laporta, however, said he backed Koeman after holding clear-the-air talks with the 58-year-old.

“Koeman will continue as the Barca coach,” Laporta told the media ahead of Saturday’s LaLiga clash away to Atletico Madrid.

“We understand that he deserves a bit of margin for many reasons: He’s a Barca fan and legend for fans all over the world. He’ll stay on and deserves a margin of confidence.

“He loves Barca and decided to come here in a really tough time both institutionally and on a sporting front.

“After talking to him, I can see he’s got faith in the team… We spoke and it’s not true that we’ve got a tense relationship – it’s good and honest. I think we both think the same, to turn things around.”

Barca travel to champions Atletico seventh in the table, two points behind Diego Simeone’s side having played one game fewer, but five down on table-toppers and arch-rivals Real Madrid.

One reason behind Laporta’s stance might be the club’s dire financial situation: LaLiga’s Financial Fair Play controls mean the club have a budget of just 98m euros this season, and this week Barca confirmed that they posted a loss of 481m for last season.

‘Nightmare!’ – Koeman pressure builds after new Barca ‘calamity’

Pressure has piled up on Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman after the club made their worst-ever start to a Champions League campaign with a 3-0 defeat at Benfica.

Barcelona were behind after just three minutes in Portugal, when Darwin Nunez scored at the near post.

He then added a penalty with 11 minutes to play, after Rafa Silva’s second-half strike, to match the scoreline by which Barca lost to Bayern Munich in their opening Group E fixture.

To compound Barcelona’s night to forget, Eric Garcia was sent off late on.

The Catalans are already five points behind La Liga leaders Real Madrid domestically and now face an uphill struggle. If they do not qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League, it will be for the first time since 2003/04.

Koeman: No point comparing us with past Barca teams

ROnaldo Koeman
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Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona have lost their first two Champions League games this season

Speaking after the match, Koeman said the players were still behind him but added that he did not know if the board felt the same after the Benfica game.

“As I’ve said just the other day, regarding my future I can’t say anything,” Koeman said. “Because I don’t know what the club is thinking in this respect, and I don’t want to answer any more questions on this because it is not in my hands. We’ll see.

“In the end the culprits [in defeat] are the coaches. But I think in many phases during the game we implemented our plan very well because we were superior to them. From 2-0 we had problems.

“But we had opportunities to score two goals in the game. We were not inferior except in effectiveness in the game.”

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Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman admits his future at the Nou Camp is out of his hands following a 3-0 defeat to Benfica in the Champions League.

Koeman added there was “no point” comparing his Barcelona team to those from the past, and says he has the confidence of the dressing room.

“There’s no point in comparing this with Barcelona teams of years gone by. That’s as clear as water. I can only give you my opinion of my work at the club – I feel backed by my players and their attitude.

“Where you have to win is with the players that we have, by playing our way. To have the ball and create opportunities and this we did. But if you don’t score, you don’t win the game.

Mundo Deportivo: 'Against the ropes' | Marca call it a 'total calamity'
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Mundo Deportivo: ‘Against the ropes’ | Marca call it a ‘total calamity’
AS said Barca were 'sunk', while Sport led with the headline 'This is a nightmare'
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AS said Barca were ‘sunk’, while Sport led with the headline ‘This is a nightmare’

“I understand that you see the final result and I accept it. When you win a game everything is calm and now we have lost a game so the future of the coach in this world [is in doubt] – you have to accept that and if you don’t then it’s better to leave.”

Barcelona president Joan Laporta backed Koeman last week but said the board would not shirk tough decisions if they needed to be made.

Barca’s sorry stats

  • Barcelona have lost their first two matches in a UEFA European campaign for the first time since the 1972-73 UEFA Cup, when they lost both legs to FC Porto and were eliminated.
  • Despite only taking charge of eight Champions League group stage matches as Barcelona manager, only Louis van Gaal (5 in 32 games) has lost more such matches with Barca than Ronald Koeman (3 in 8 games).
  • Barcelona have lost four of their last five Champions League matches (D1), as many as they lost in their previous 39 matches (W25 D10 L4).
  • Only one team has ever reached the Champions League knockout stages after losing their first two group stage matches with a goal difference of -6 or worse, as Barcelona have this season – Lyon in 2007-08, who reached the last 16.

Bayern thrash Dynamo Kiev

Robert Lewandowski scored twice in Bayern's big win over Dynamo Kiev
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Robert Lewandowski scored twice in Bayern’s big win over Dynamo Kiev

Meanwhile, Group E leaders Bayern Munich were a class apart as they hammered Dynamo Kiev 5-0 at the Allianz Arena, with Robert Lewandowski adding two more to his tally for the season. The Poland striker now has already scored 13 goals in nine games this term.

Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting also got on the scoresheet as Bayern cruised to a victory which moves them two points clear at the top of the pool and underlines their status as a major contender for the crown.

English sides playing catch-up

Atalanta moved top of Group F with a 1-0 win over Young Boys, with Matteo Pessina hitting the net for the hosts, who had limited their Swiss visitors to just three shots at goal during the game.

Young Boys are now level with Manchester United, one point behind the Italian side, after Cristiano Ronaldo’s last-gasp heroics grabbed them victory over Villarreal.

Champions League Group F
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Champions League Group F

Chelsea also have ground to make up after their defeat to Group H leaders Juventus.

Also in that group, Zenit St Petersburg – who are now level on three points with Chelsea – racked up a club-record win in the Champions League by smashing four past Malmo, whose cause wasn’t helped by Anel Ahmedhodzic’s 58th-minute red card.

Champions League Group H
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Champions League Group H

In Group G, Salzburg’s Karim Adeyemi became the youngest player to score two penalties in a single Champions League match, as the 19-year-old helped his club to a 2-1 win at home to Lille, who responded via Burak Yilmaz.

And Ivan Rakitic penalty grabbed Sevilla a late equaliser as they drew 1-1 at Wolfsburg in the group’s other game. The Croatian coolly converted after Wolfsburg’s Josuha Guilavogui was sent off with five minutes remaining.

UEFA appeals after suspending Super League legal action

UEFA has appealed to remove a judge in Madrid from its case against clubs still committed to the European Super League after suspending its legal action.

Monday’s suspension saw UEFA comply with the ruling of a court in Madrid which has found that it did not have the power or authority to take action against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus.

The three clubs had argued in court that UEFA’s attempt to punish them for setting up a breakaway league was against European competition law.

But, on Tuesday, the governing body took action to try and remove judge Manuel Ruiz de Lara from the case as well as filing papers with the higher court of appeal in Madrid.

“UEFA has filed a motion for the recusal of the judge presiding over the current proceedings as it believes there are significant irregularities in these proceedings,” a UEFA statement read.

“In line with Spanish law and in the fundamental interests of justice UEFA fully expects the judge in question to immediately stand aside pending the full and proper consideration of this motion.

“Further, UEFA shall also be making a formal appeal to a higher court, the Provincial Court of Madrid (Court of Appeal).”

The proposed breakaway European Super League has collapsed
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The Premier League’s ‘big six’ will no longer need to pay the fines imposed on them for trying to set up the European Super League

Before the appeal was launched, UEFA said it would be contacting the other nine clubs involved in the attempted breakaway to tell them they do not have to pay – for the time being at least – the combined £22m they had agreed to donate to grassroots and community projects for trying to set up the ESL in April.

The nine clubs are Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Atletico Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan.

City supporters display a banner inside Wembley amid the fallout from the European Super League
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The attempted breakaway European Super League sparked mass protests at Premier League clubs

The court in Madrid ruled UEFA was breaking European Union free trade laws by pursuing disciplinary action against the three rebel clubs. Last week the court ordered UEFA to stop its disciplinary proceedings against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus.

In May the case was referred to the European of Justice where UEFA will deny that it acted unlawfully by blocking the creation of the ESL and threatening to punish clubs who were still involved in the breakaway.

UEFA still has the option of taking disciplinary action against the three clubs when legal proceedings are finished. It can also then ask the other nine clubs to pay the agreed £22m.

UEFA dropping legal action against remaining ‘Super League’ clubs

UEFA is dropping legal action against the three remaining clubs who are still committed to the so-called European Super League.

UEFA is informing the Madrid commercial court that it will not pursue legal action against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus.

The three clubs had argued in court that UEFA’s attempt to punish them for setting up a breakaway league was against European competition law.

UEFA will also contact the other nine clubs involved in the attempted breakaway to tell them they will no longer need to pay the fines imposed on them for trying to set up the ESL in April.

City supporters display a banner inside Wembley amid the fallout from the European Super League
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The attempted breakaway European Super League sparked mass protests at Premier League clubs

The nine clubs are Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Atletico Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan.

In May the nine clubs agreed to pay a combined fine of €15m and to have five per cent of their UEFA competitions revenues withheld for one season.

UEFA is dropping its legal action because it respects the Spanish judicial process and it believes that it is not in its interests or the interests of its member associations to drag this out through the courts.

UEFA will continue to do whatever is necessary to stop a breakaway league from ever being formed and it reserves the right to restart legal proceedings if the project, or any similar project, is resurrected.