Saudi Arabia fans outraged at Fahad Al Muwallad and Salem Al Dawsari La Liga exclusions

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Fahad Al Muwallad in training for Levante (Twitter/@LevanteUD).

The Saudi Arabian football experiment in La Liga has got off to a tricky start, enraged fans swamping club’s Twitter accounts with fury after their beloved players missed out on an opening selection.

After the loanees only landed in Spain in recent days, World Cup 2018-qualifying hero Fahad Al Muwallad did not make Levante’s game against Real Madrid and winger Salem Al Dawsari was not in the 18-man squad for Villarreal’s trip to Real Betis.

These decisions led to hundreds of furious tweets and a mass unfollowing of the team’s social media accounts.

Here, we collate some of the best reactions:

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Ronaldo hungry for goals as Real Madrid look to extend unbeaten run against Levante

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Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brace last time out against Valencia.

Real Madrid travel to Valencia-based Levante on Saturday looking to make it three La Liga wins in succession.

Despite being 19 points behind leaders Barcelona in the table, it is another opportunity for resurgent Los Blancos to build momentum ahead of the upcoming Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain.

Here, we take a look at the key facts ahead of the clash.

– Levante are winless in their last ten games against Real Madrid in La Liga (D1 L9), conceding an average of 3.1 goals per game.

– At Ciutat de Valencia, Levante have only won once against Real Madrid in La Liga (D1 L9), 1-0 in September 2011.

– Levante have been defeated by Real Madrid in La Liga more times (19) than against any other team.

– The Valencian team are winless in their last nine league games (D4 L5), failing to score in six of them.

– Real Madrid have won back to back league games for the first time since October 2017 (four in a row).

– No La Liga team has drawn more games nil-nil than Levante in La Liga this season (4).

– Since November 5th 2017, a Levante player hasn’t score at Ciutat Valencia in La Liga (Ünal against Girona). The goal against Athletic was an own-goal scored by Laporte.

– Ivi has only scored against two opponents in his La Liga career, one coming against Real Madrid in his only appearance against them.

Cristiano Ronaldo has had a hand in 18 goals in his 12 league games against Levante in La Liga (11 goals and seven assists).

– Lopez Muñiz is winless in his five games as a manager in La Liga against Real Madrid (D2 L3).

Stats provided by Opta.

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Three things learned as Samuel Umtiti impresses for Barcelona in Copa del Rey win

Andy West 2/02/2018
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Barcelona ran out 1-0 winners on the night over Valencia.

A Luis Suarez goal in the 67th minute gave Barcelona a slender 1-0 victory over Valencia in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final played at the Camp Nou.

Here are the three things learned from the clash.

ALL TO PLAY FOR?

This is an outcome both teams can be pretty happy with: Barcelona earned themselves a narrow advantage and kept a clean sheet, while Valencia avoided the kind of drubbing which would have rendered the second leg irrelevant.

So will there be everything to play for when the tie reconvenes at Mestalla next week? Of course, with just a one-goal disadvantage to overturn Valencia still have a perfectly realistic chance of advancing to the final. But the fact that Barca held them scoreless in this opening leg is a major advantage with the knowledge that just one away goal will need Valencia needing to score three.

It’s hard to envisage Lionel Messi and co failing to score if they are given space to exploit while Valencia chase the game, so Marcelino’s team will ideally need an early goal in the second leg to allow them to play sensibly for the rest of the game.

They will, however, certainly need to show more attacking intent than they did at Camp Nou, where home goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen marked a rare outing by being forced into just one save all night. And although the tie isn’t over, Barca are very much in control.

Barce are very much in control despite the slender margin of victory.

Barce are very much in control despite the slender margin of victory.

BARCA’S GOALS DRYING UP?

Although Barca will be happy enough with the outcome, they should also be somewhat frustrated that they only had one goal to show for all their possession and pressure – especially as visiting keeper Jaume Domenech wasn’t really forced to make many saves.

It was the second consecutive game that Barca have struggled to break down a visiting team defending deep and with discipline, following Sunday’s hard-fought victory over lowly Alaves which required a rather scrambled strike from Luis Suarez and a set-piece special from Messi.

The addition of Philippe Coutinho midway through the second half added plenty of nice footwork and ball trickery in midfield, and the former Liverpool man also showed some signs of a burgeoning understanding with Messi, but in the big European games that lie ahead over the next few weeks Barca will need to show more precision and creativity around the edge of the box to realise their dreams of another treble.

Barca had only one goal to show for all their possession.

Barca had only one goal to show for all their possession.

UMTITI BOSSES IT

The nature of the a cautious and relatively chanceless game was illustrated by the fact that the player whose name was chanted longest and loudest by the Camp Nou faithful was not Lionel Messi or Luis Suarez, but central defender Samuel Umtiti.

The Frenchman, who recently returned to action after six weeks out with a thigh injury, was absolutely immense, treating Valencia forwards Luciano Vietto and Rodrigo with the kind of disdain you might expect to be shown towards 12-year-old schoolboys.

The ease with which Umtiti won the ball and started yet another phase of possession was at times comical, giving the impression that nothing and nobody would ever be able to get past him. At the age of just 24 the former Lyon defender looks set to remain a lynchpin of the Barca team for several years to come, and on current form it’s hard to believe there are many better central defenders anywhere in the world.

The Frenchman was absolutely immense once again.

The Frenchman was absolutely immense once again.

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