Former Spain and Barcelona coach Luis Enrique announces death of daughter, aged nine

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Former Barcelona and Spain head coach Luis Enrique has announced the death of his nine-year-old daughter.

Enrique stepped down from his role with the national team in June for personal reasons, but also missed the last three matches of his 11-month tenure.

The 49-year-old revealed on Thursday that his daughter had died following a battle with bone cancer.

“Our daughter Xana has passed away this afternoon at the age of nine, after fighting for five intense months against osteosarcoma,” read a statement on Enrique’s Twitter account.

“Thank you for all of the love received during these months and we appreciate the discretion and understanding.

“Thanks also to the staff at the Sant Joan de Deu and Sant Pau hospitals for their dedication and treatment – doctors, nurses and all volunteers. A special mention for the palliative care team at Sant Joan de Deu.

“We will miss you very much but we will remember you every day of our lives with the hope that in the future we will meet again. You will be the star that guides our family.”

Barcelona, who Enrique guided to Champions League glory in 2015, tweeted: “Our condolences and all our sympathy to Luis Enrique and his family at this very difficult time. RIP Xana.”

Real Madrid, where Enrique spent five years as a player, also conveyed their “deepest condolences” in a short message on social media, while the Spanish football Federation said: “The RFEF mourns the sad loss of little Xana.

“We want to show our condolences to the family and friends.”

Another of Enrique’s former clubs, Roma, said they were “heartbroken” at the news, adding that their thoughts were with the family “at this impossibly sad and difficult time”.

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Barcelona youngsters to be handed another audition against Osasuna as injuries persist

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Carles Perez

Barcelona continue their La Liga defence with what should be a comfortable trip to Pamplona on match-day three.

Last weekend’s 5-2 win over Real Betis witnessed one of the most impressive performances from the Catalans without Lionel Messi in the squad.

The Argentine is likely to miss the tie against Osasuna and the onus will yet again fall on superstar addition Antoine Griezmann, who staged a match-winning performance last Sunday.

Will the next challenge prove to be as straightforward as the previous one? We take a look at the talking points.

Best midfield combination?

Frenkie

The transfer of Frenkie de Jong, promotion of Carles Alena and inclusion of Sergi Roberto in midfield has had Ernesto Valverde spoiled for choice.

From what we have seen in the pre-season games and first two La Liga fixtures, Ivan Rakitic has fallen out of favour as a starter and Sergio Busquets’ stance as an untouchable is also growing weaker.

De Jong and Roberto started both games and staged contrasting performances. Against Athletic Bilbao, the Dutchman played in Busquets’ position and impressed, while Roberto staged a flat performance on the left side of midfield.

In Barcelona’s only win, Roberto started on the right side of midfield and De Jong occupied the left with Busquets reclaiming his spot in the centre. The Spaniard was exceptional on the right, but the former Ajax man struggled to get accustomed to his new position.

Arthur and Arturo Vidal – who sat out from the starting line-up because of lack of match-fitness, reporting late from the Copa America – will also compete for the starter’s spot against Osasuna.

Will Valverde go with the same midfield, will he decide against playing Busquets and De Jong together and will Rakitic reclaim his spot in the line-up? It will be interesting to see what the manager has in mind.

Another opportunity for La Masia stars

Ansu Fati

Ansu Fati

La Masia graduates Carles Perez and Ansu Fati were the talks of the town last week after the youngsters impressed against Betis, ensuring the team did not miss injured Messi, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.

The latter two will sit out for a month, but Messi was tipped to return against Osasuna. However, the recovery has been slower than expected and the Argentine is likely to miss Barcelona’s tie against Osasuna.

Perez and Fati will look to pluck out the positive from this misfortune and enhance their case for regular first-team minutes and possibly a promotion.

The former scored his first goal for Barcelona against Betis and is favourite to grab the third attacker’s spot alongside Griezmann and Rafinha. The lack of options upfront all but promises Fati a few minutes in the second half.

If Messi’s injury helps these youngsters establish themselves and eradicate the reliance on the Argentine, Barcelona can benefit from the scenario.

A tough defence to unlock

The defending champions will take on a newly promoted side that is higher up the table and have not conceded a single goal this season.

Barcelona are still favourites, but Osasuna’s defence standing tall in the two games they have played adds an interesting perspective to the game.

Osasuna defeated Leganes 1-0 before settling for a 0-0 draw against Eibar, who were known for causing trouble against quality sides last season. The defence, led by Aridane Hernandez, could frustrate Barcelona and force the manager to adopt a Plan B if things go south.

Full-backs Nacho Vidal and Pervis Estupinan have been conservative about advancing forward and this could produce very little margin of error for Barcelona to exploit. The visitors will find it hard to get in-between spaces in the final third and face complications in finding the final ball.

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French reports reveal transfer details of deal taking Neymar back to Barcelona

Tom Allnutt 28/08/2019
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Neymar

Neymar trained with his Paris Saint-Germain team-mates on Wednesday as reports in France and Spain indicated a protracted deal to take him back to his old club Barcelona may still be reached before the transfer deadline.

The transfer window closes on Monday, September 2, leaving Barcelona in a race against time to come to an agreement with PSG that would allow the Brazilian to get his desired transfer back to the Camp Nou.

French sports daily L’Equipe reported that, after previous failed attempts, Barcelona had made a new offer of €160 million, paid in two installments, which could convince PSG to finally sell, provided at least one player is thrown in as a makeweight.

According to Le Parisien, Barcelona are willing to pay a slightly lower fee, between €140 and €150 million, while also offering Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic as well as allowing Ousmane Dembele to return to France on loan.

However, the agent of 22-year-old French World Cup-winning winger Dembele insisted his client was not interested in being used as bait in a deal for Neymar.

“Ousmane is 100 percent staying. There is no chance of him leaving. He wants to establish himself at Barca and he will,” Moussa Sissoko told French television station TF1.

Dembele has endured an injury-hit two years at the Camp Nou since being signed by Barcelona for an initial €105 million from Borussia Dortmund immediately after Neymar’s world record €222 million switch to PSG.

In Catalonia, radio station RAC1 has reported that Barcelona have taken out a loan in order to have the funds needed to pay for Neymar’s transfer, having already spent €120 million in the close season to sign Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid.

Wednesday’s reports from both sides of the Pyrenees came after Barcelona director Javier Bordas had raised hopes in Catalonia on Tuesday night as he spoke to reporters after returning from a meeting with PSG counterparts.

“We are continuing negotiations, we are closer to a deal,” he said.

Meanwhile, a move to Real Madrid now seems increasingly unlikely for Neymar, who took part in PSG’s training session ahead of the French champions’ next league game at Metz on Friday.

BeFunky-collage - 2019-08-28T214117.314

The 27-year-old, scorer of 51 goals in 58 appearances in his two years at PSG, has not featured for his current club this season amid the uncertainty surrounding his future.

On Tuesday, the player revealed one of his dreams had come true as he made a cameo appearance in his favourite Netflix show.

Neymar appeared in the crime drama La Casa de Papel (Money Heist) having originally been edited out pending the outcome of his rape case.

Once Brazilian police dropped their investigation last month, Netflix re-released the episodes to include the 27-year-old.

“I was able to fulfil my dream and be part of my favourite series. And now I can share Joao (his character) with you all,” he told his 44 million Twitter followers.

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