Arturo Vidal lacks respect for teammates, says Barcelona sporting director

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Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal “lacked respect” for his teammates by complaining on social media about not playing enough, the club’s sporting director Pep Segura said Thursday.

Chilean international Vidal has started only two games for the Catalan giants since his summer move to the Nou Camp from Bayern Munich.

The former Juventus man is up against Croatia’s Ivan Rakitic and Brazilian trio Philippe Coutinho, Arthur and Rafinha for places in a quality-packed Barca midfield.

He recently took his frustration out by posting messages on his Instagram account featuring angry or frustrated emojis, notably following Barca’s 4-2 Champions League win over Tottenham.

Segura, speaking to the Catalan daily Sport, said: “A professional has to show respect for his team-mates, for the dressing room and for the coach even if the decisions that are taken are not always the ones he expects.”

“Vidal knows he’s made a mistake and that he’s lacked respect for his teammates. I’m sure he will make amends.”

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde, meanwhile, suggested he was not aware of Vidal’s complaints.

“We’re a team,” Valverde said at the weekend.

“I don’t know what the players are putting on social media but no one tells me anything.

“Maybe Arturo is angry because of a domestic accident, what do I know?”

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Real Madrid star Isco returns to training after appendicitis surgery

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Real Madrid star Isco is nearing a full return as he steps up his recovery from appendicitis surgery.

The 26-year-old last played against Espanyol in La Liga on September 22nd and has missed Real’s last four matches – three of which ended in defeat.

Isco trained on his own on Tuesday and will continue to ease back into action, with one eye on selection for Los Blancos next game against Levante on October 20.

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La Liga's new complexion at the top of the table may not last but gap is closing

Andy West 9/10/2018
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Five wins in eight: Sevilla have made a superb start to the campaign.

Well, this makes a nice change.

With eight games of the La Liga season elapsed – more than 20 per cent of the entire campaign – the top of the table has a very different and completely unexpected look.

Sevilla, for starters, are top of the pile, a point ahead of Atletico Madrid and a Barcelona team who have not won in four league games. Then come Real Madrid – scoreless in 410 minutes – level on points with Alaves and Espanyol, and just two ahead of Real Valladolid.

What’s going on? Is this a new world order based on equality and fair competition? Or is it merely a short-term blip, which will be swiftly overcome when the Big Two embark upon their customary long winning runs to pull 20 points clear of everyone else?

At this stage it’s impossible to say with any real confidence whether the problems being encountered by Barca and Madrid are long-term or fleeting, but those of us who would like to see La Liga become a more equally contested title race have reason for optimism.

Although they are only one point ahead of Madrid, it feels that Barca’s problems are less serious than their eternal rivals, if only because they have Lionel Messi and will therefore inevitably keep on totting up wins by his presence alone.

Most of the Catalan club’s dropped points in recent weeks have been down to individual mistakes in defence, with Gerard Pique especially culpable. If he returns to his usual level, results should improve.

But there are other concerns, especially the poor form shown by Luis Suarez in recent weeks (no goals in his last six games) and the squad’s lack of attacking depth if the Uruguayan doesn’t improve. Ousmane Dembele’s ongoing struggles to integrate are also a worry, while Philippe Coutinho is yet to define a clear role for himself between winger and midfielder.

Another reason to believe that Barca will continue to regularly drop points in La Liga is the clear and overwhelming priority they are placing upon the Champions League. It will be difficult to maintain the intensity and desire they showed against Tottenham at Wembley last week on a game-by-game basis in the league, and that factor plus the concerns mentioned above mean it’s unlikely we’ll see Barca reel off a ten-game winning run.

Madrid’s problems are easily identifiable and have been extremely predictable ever since the summer departure of Cristiano Ronaldo: a lack of goalscoring.

You don’t take out a player who scores 50 goals a season and fail to adequately replace him without noticing the difference, and the strange refusal of president Florentino Perez to compensate for Ronaldo’s absence by signing a goal poacher who lives for the penalty area – like Kylian Mbappe, Robert Lewandowski or Sergio Aguero – has left Los Blancos seriously short of firepower.

Real Madrid have lost three and drawn one of their last four matches.

Real Madrid have endured a tough start under Julen Lopetegui.

Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Isco and Marco Asensio are all fine players, and they should all be able chip in with 10 to 15 goals this season. But they are not going to carve out chances for themselves in tight games or show the goalscorer’s instinct to get on the end of crosses from Marcelo or Dani Carvajal and, although the current scoreless run is surely a brief aberration, we can expect to see Julen Lopetegui’s men – if he’s allowed to stay in charge – continue to struggle for goals.

All of this is great news for Atletico Madrid, who have overcome their early teething troubles to move within one point of top spot by picking up ten points from their last four league games without conceding a single goal.

There’s still room for improvement, especially in the wide midfield positions, but Diego Simeone’s men are in a very strong position to mount a major challenge for the title – unless they become sidetracked by the hugely tempting proposition of contesting the Champions League Final in their own stadium in May.

Teams like Alaves, Espanyol and Valladolid will surely fall by the wayside, and Sevilla face an enormous challenge in maintaining their current league form whilst also competing in the Europa League.

So we will probably eventually come back to the same three contenders as always – but the gap between them and the rest will be smaller than usual.

Maestro: Lionel Messi.

Maestro: Barcelona are so reliant on Lionel Messi.

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