Barcelona must bounce back from their Clasico collapse in a tricky trip to face Real Sociedad on Saturday in La Liga.
Despite dominating most of the game the Catalans were sucker-punched by Jude Bellingham’s stunning double strie last weekend to fall four points behind league leaders Real Madrid.
Barcelona are fourth. Real Sociedad, five points behind in fifth will be determined to cut the gap in San Sebastian.
Real Madrid host Rayo Vallecano on Sunday, while second-place Girona visit Osasuna Saturday, with Atletico Madrid, third, at Las Palmas on Friday.
Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez’s message to his players after the painful Clasico defeat was that the season is far from over.
“The message is that this is long, it’s the 11th game,” said Xavi.
“We are frustrated, upset, but we have to continue.”
The coach noted that last season, champions Barcelona fell to Madrid at home on their way to the title and said his team were still on the right path.
“Last year we lost too, in La Liga there is an eternity to go. We took a step forward in our play, that is what we wanted,” added Xavi.
The painful loss could spark positive change at Barcelona.
Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan called on his team-mates to show more passion going forwards.
“After such a big game and a result that is so unnecessary, I wish for more frustration, more anger and more disappointment,” the former Manchester City man told LaLiga TV.
“We need to make a huge step in that because otherwise Real Madrid or even Girona are going to run away (from us).”
The Catalans are also starting to welcome back their injured stars who missed the Clasico or only played minor roles.
Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha came off the bench against Madrid but did not influence the game.
Jules Kounde and Pedri could return against Real Sociedad, while Frenkie de Jong is less likely to feature, according to Spanish reports.
There are few more difficult teams Barcelona could have faced than Imanol Alguacil’s Real Sociedad, despite a recent good record at the Reale Arena.
The Basque side have impressed in the Champions League, where they top Group D, and have only suffered two defeats in 11 league matches.
Former Barcelona winger Takefusa Kubo is thriving, while Brais Mendez is one of the division’s in-form players.
Barcelona have not lost away to La Real since 2016, a fine run at a ground where they have historically struggled.
A defeat by David Moyes’ Real Sociedad in January 2015 almost brought the Luis Enrique era crashing to an end, months before the Catalans won the treble.
Following the Clasico disappointment, Barcelona must heed Gundogan’s warning and can ill afford further dropped points in the title race.
Former Real Madrid playmaker Isco has found his footing at Betis and is delivering decisive performances on a regular basis. The midfielder, 31, is in excellent shape and a joy to watch and he will be hoping to shine again when Real Mallorca visit on Saturday, as Betis continue to fight for European football next season.
5 – Villarreal have not won in five La Liga games for the first time since March 2021
29 – Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas has had more shots without scoring than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues
450 – Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone, an Argentine, is closing in on the most games coached by a foreigner in Spain. He is 38 matches short of Slovak Ferdinand Daucik’s record of 488 set with a slew of clubs between 1950 and 1971
Sabalenka to play in Brisbane
Aryna Sabalenka will launch preparations for the defence of her Australian Open crown by playing at the Brisbane International, organisers said on Tuesday.
Elena Rybakina – beaten by Sabalenka in the final in Melbourne at the start of this year – will also play at the December 31-January 7 Brisbane event.
Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka was already named in the field as she returns to tennis.
“I’m excited about starting my 2024 Australian season in Brisbane,” world number two Sabalenka said in a statement released by organisers.
“Australia holds a special place in my heart after winning my first Grand Slam there.”
Tournament director Cam Pearson said he was looking forward to welcoming the Belarusian Sabalenka and Moscow-born Kazakh Rybakina, who is fourth in the world.
“We all remember the exciting Australian Open final the girls played at the start of the year,” he told a news conference.
“That has really kicked off what is a pretty exciting rivalry between the two players.”
On the men’s side, fast-rising world number 17 Ben Shelton of the United States will join a draw that also includes three-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray.
Pearson said he would welcome Australian Nick Kyrgios to the tournament if he recovers from injury in time.
“We would love to have him here, he’s a past champion and a fan favourite but he needs to do what’s best for him and his recovery,” he said.
“If that means he’s playing in January, fantastic.”
Kyrgios had knee surgery in January and then aborted comeback plans at Wimbledon after tearing a ligament in his wrist.
Giro fail to reclaim top La Liga spot
Surprise package Girona failed to return to the top of La Liga on Monday after they were held 1-1 at home by Athletic Bilbao.
Winger Viktor Tsygankov put the hosts ahead 10 minutes after half time but Inaki Williams scored 12 minutes later to claim a point for the away side.
Girona trail league leaders Real Madrid on goal difference after dropping points for just the third time this season, while Athletic climbed to fifth spot.
Athletic had the better of the first half and their best chance fell to Gorka Guruzeta but the striker poked his shot straight at Girona goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.
Girona had early chances of their own including an Aleix Garcia volley, which he skied over the crossbar, but did not find the rhythm they have found so often this season.
After the break, the hosts broke the deadlock when Tsygankov rifled home.
Williams, who started on the opposite wing from his brother Nico, equalised from a counter-attacking move that started in Athletic’s own box.
The wide man finished smoothly for his sixth league goal of the season as the Basques went looking for their third straight win.
With 10 minutes left, Inaki Williams came close to finding the winner as he cut in from the left but his shot was parried by Gazzaniga.
Inaki Williams was replaced in the final minute of normal time for youngster Adu Ares, but both sides were forced to settle for a point.
On Sunday, Rodrygo sent Real Madrid top with a double in 3-0 win at Cadiz.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid are four points clear of fourth-placed Barcelona, who drew 1-1 at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
PCB announces Pakistan team management for Australia tour
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) have announced the Team Management for the upcoming Test tour to Australia, which is scheduled to take place from December 2023 to January 2024. They will be playing three Test matches in Australia.
Former England cricketer Adam Hollioake has been hired as the batting coach. Hollioake played four Tests and 35 ODIs for England. The 52-year-old transitioned into coaching, contributing his expertise to the England Lions team. His coaching abilities were further recognized when he was enlisted to join England’s coaching staff for the final two Ashes Tests during the 2021-22 series.
Meanwhile, Simon Grant Helmot will serve as the high performance coach on the tour. Helmot is an Australian cricket coach, who was formerly the coach of the Melbourne Renegades in Big Bash League.
Last week, Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal were announced as fast-bowling and spin bowling coaches, respectively, for the Pakistan team.
Naveed Akram Cheema (Team manager), Mohammad Hafeez (Director – Pakistan men’s cricket team), Adam Hollioake (batting coach), Simon Grant Helmot (high performance coach), Umar Gul (fast bowling coach), Saeed Ajmal (spin bowling coach), Abdul Majeed (fielding coach), Mansoor Rana (assistant team manager), Shahid Aslam (assistant batting coach), Drikus Saaiman (strength and conditioning coach/Trainer), Cliffe Deacon (physiotherapist), Talha Ejaz (team analyst), Lt Col (Rtd) Akhtar Hussain (security manager), Raza Rashid Kitchlew (media manager), Ammar Ahsan (videographer), Dr Sohail Saleem (team doctor) and Malang Ali (team masseur).
The Pakistan cricket team will play their first Test match against Australia in Perth from 14 to 18 December, followed by a Test match in Melbourne, from 26 to 30 December. Sydney will host the last game of the tour from 3 to 7 January, 2024.
The squad is set to depart from Lahore on 30 November.
Pakistan squad for Australia Tests: Shan Masood (captain), Aamir Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Khurram Shahzad, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Noman Ali, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel and Shaheen Shah Afridi.
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