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Barca Suffer First Defeat Under Xavi As Betis Snatch Victory

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Barcelona’s Spanish defender Gerard Pique leaves the pitch at the end of the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and Real Betis at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 4, 2021. LLUIS GENE / AFP

Barcelona suffered their first defeat under Xavi Hernandez on Saturday as a 1-0 loss at home to Real Betis inflicted another blow on their hopes of catching La Liga’s top four.

A surprise defeat at Camp Nou damages Barca’s bid to qualify for next season’s Champions League, four days before they attempt to avoid crashing out in the group stage of the current one. Barca have to win at Bayern Munich on Wednesday to be sure of going through.

This was hardly ideal preparation as a brilliant Betis counter-attack, finished by Juanmi in the 79th minute, consigned Barca to their fourth league defeat of the season and leaves them a daunting seven points behind the Champions League qualification places.

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Betis moved into third to continue their excellent start to the campaign.

Barcelona stay seventh and will be 16 points behind leaders Real Madrid, if Madrid win at Real Sociedad later on Saturday.

Xavi had started with two wins out of two in La Liga but even he admitted the results owed a lot to good fortune, with Espaynol and then Villarreal guilty of squandering several chances.

In between, a goalless draw at home to Benfica in the Champions League exposed Barcelona’s ongoing problems in front of goal and that was evident against Betis, who were relatively untroubled throughout.

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Ousmane Dembele, who come on off the bench, posed the greatest threat while the 19-year-old Abde Ezzalzouli missed a golden opportunity to equalise late on, when the ball was cut back to him eight yards out. The youngster blazed over.

Minutes before, Betis showed far more composure to finish off a slick counter-attack.

Sergio Canales broke free down the right but the move appeared to have lost its momentum when Canales pulled back to Guido Rodriguez on the edge of the area.

Instead, he shifted the ball quickly left to the arriving Juanmi, who took one touch before sliding into the corner.

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Earlier, Sevilla reduced the gap to Real Madrid to five points by beating Villarreal 1-0, with Lucas Ocampos scoring the winner in the first half.

Victory lifts Sevilla into second place, above Atletico Madrid, who play at home to Mallorca later on Saturday.

Villarreal have ambitions to challenge for the top four but they remain 12th after continuing a miserable run of form away from home. They are yet to win an away game in the league this season.

Ocampos gave Sevilla the lead in the 16th minute after Juan Foyth was dispossessed down the right, allowing Marcos Acuna to swing a cross to the back post, where Ocampos’ header trickled in.

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Rafa Mir thought he had added a second goal but was offside and then Sevilla spurned an excellent chance when they had a six against two on the counter-attack but failed to convert.

Villarreal should have made them pay in the second half only for Gerard Moreno to miss a sitter.

Dani Parejo’s chipped ball was played across the box by Pervis Estupinan to the back post where Moreno, three yards out with the net gaping, somehow wafted wide.

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Transfer: Lewandowski agrees three-year deal with Barcelona

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Bayern Munich striker, Robert Lewandowski has agreed a three-year contract with Barcelona.

This claim was made by respected transfer expert, Fabrizio Romano.

According to Romano, this agreement has been in place for months now and the only thing left is for both clubs to strike a deal.

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“Nothing has changed in Robert Lewandowski’s mind. He’s still convinced on Barcelona as next club after personal terms agreed months ago on a three year deal, no negotiations with any other club as of now.

“Barcelona will contact FC Bayern again soon,” Romano tweeted.

Lewandowski has one year left on his current deal with the Bundesliga champions and has publicly declared his desire to leave this summer.

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EPL: Man Utd list conditions for Ronaldo to leave as Chelsea, Bayern wait

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Manchester United will only allow Cristiano Ronaldo leave on their own terms.

This is according to Sky Sports News chief reporter, Kaveh Solhekol.

Although United’s public stance is that Ronaldo is not for sale, they are ready to let the player leave if a deal that suited all parties is agreed.

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“Manchester United’s official position is that Cristiano Ronaldo is not for sale.

“But United would let him leave if a deal could be agreed with another club which suited all parties.

“If Ronaldo was to leave, it would be on United’s terms as well as Ronaldo’s,” Solhekol said.

Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Napoli are all monitoring Ronaldo’s situation at Old Trafford.

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EPL: It’ll be a win-win – Paul Merson tells Ronaldo club to join

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Arsenal legend, Paul Merson has backed Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo to join Premier League giants, Chelsea, this summer.

Merson believes it would be a win-win situation if Ronaldo joins Chelsea from Manchester United.

Ronaldo had already informed Man United that he wanted to leave the club if they found a suitable offer.

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The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has been linked with Chelsea, Bayern Munich, AS Roma and Napoli in the past.

“I think he might be tempted to leave as it goes – the way it is going at the moment,” Merson wrote in his Sky column.

“We are hearing that he wants to play in the Champions League, so I think that might happen.

“I think it will be a win-win situation if he does go [to Chelsea]. I think it needs to get sorted sooner than later – the season’s like four or five weeks away.

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“It’s been clear Man Utd won’t be in the Champions League for a long time. I don’t know why this wasn’t nipped in the bud early doors.

“It’s hard to drag on this long. I’d be a bit disappointed if I was a Man Utd fan.”

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World Cup 2022: They’re united – Tevez names favourite country to win tournament in Qatar

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Former Manchester City and Manchester United striker, Carlos Tevez has backed Argentina to win the World Cup in Qatar this year.

Tevez believes Argentina have a great chance to win the World Cup, adding that Lionel Messi and his Albicelestes teammates are united.

“It would make me very happy if Lionel Messi were to lift the World Cup in Qatar,” Tevez was quoted by Sportskeeda as saying.

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“I see a very united group, they go on vacation together and that is not normal. We have great chances of being able to lift the cup.”

Argentina are in Group C in the 2022 World Cup and will face Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Poland.

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