Barcelona News: Ernesto Valverde not to blame for Copa del Rey loss – Bartomeu

Saturday’s reverse has only heightened the pressure on the Blaugrana coach, who nevertheless insists he can turn things around

Barcelona‘s Copa del Rey final defeat to Valencia on Saturday was not the fault of under-pressure coach Ernesto Valverde, according to the club’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

A 2-1 defeat at Real Betis’ Benito Villamarin in Seville left Barca feeling as though the 2018-19 season has been something of an underachievement despite retaining their LaLiga crown.

Just a few weeks ago, after beating Liverpool 3-0 in the Champions League semi-final first leg, Barca looked entirely capable of winning the treble.

But they were humiliatingly beaten 4-0 by Liverpool in the return leg and Saturday’s loss robbed them of a domestic double, with Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo Moreno putting the game beyond Barca despite Lionel Messi pulling one back.

Valverde’s suitability has been called into question by many supporters since the humbling Liverpool loss, but Bartomeu backed the head coach.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Bartomeu said: “We have always said that Ernesto has a contract for next season.

“I do not think he’s the culprit. We had many opportunities, but they did not find the net. But count the goals and Valencia scored one more than us.

“It is not a season of excellence, but [nor is it one] of failure. We have reached the final of the Copa, the semi-finals of Champions League.

“In the end, we lost two games, but we are out of the Champions League and we are Copa runners-up.”

Speaking after the game, Valverde underlined that he was happy to keep fighting at Camp Nou.

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“Coaches are always willing to turn things around,” he told reporters. 

 “If I were given the choice between falling in the final or in the quarters or last 16 I prefer in the final. It’s hard to face a elimination, I feel good even though we all want to win.

“I’m fine, what we the coaches want when you lose is to have another chance, we want to get up the next day, I know losing is hard and the coach has responsibility.”

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Karl-Heinz Rummenigge: Replacing Niko Kovac ‘has never been the subject of discussion’ for Bayern

The Bavarians won the DFB-Pokal on Saturday, and the club’s hierarchy has reiterated its stance on their head coach’s position

Niko Kovac will be staying on as Bayern Munich coach, club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has confirmed.

Kovac guided Bayern to their first DFB-Pokal title since 2016 on Saturday, as a double from Robert Lewandowski and a sublime Kingsley Coman strike saw off RB Leipzig 3-0.

Rummenigge insisted on Friday that Kovac’s future was not in doubt, regardless of whether or not Bayern succeeded in Berlin, and he has now reaffirmed that stance.

“Of course, Niko remains coach, that has never been the subject of discussion,” Rummenigge told Fox Sports

“We have never questioned that. It is about winning prizes, that counts at Bayern Munich. And the coach plays a central role in this.

“For us, it has never been in doubt whether he would continue as the coach. The team was formidable today.”

With the victory, Kovac has become the first coach to win back-to-back DFB-Pokal titles, following Eintracht Frankfurt‘s win over Bayern in the 2017-18 final.

“I’m obviously very happy,” he told a news conference. “Leipzig made it very difficult for us and didn’t give us much space.

“But as time went on we found it easier. I would like to congratulate Manuel Neuer, especially, for his sensational performance.” 

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Neuer was also pleased with his performance and the showing of the team, who he said “earned” the double with another strong showing.  

“I was highly motivated and ready in training I would have liked to play sooner, it was a precision landing,” he told ARD . “One could not have written a better script.” 

He continued to Sky Sports : “It was important for the team that I was there in the situations and it was very important for all of us to finish the season in such a way that we were double winners In the cup, many talked about a 50-50 game and we did a great job and just earned it. ” 

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Transfer news: Jadon Sancho is not on the market – Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke

The German club’s boss has guaranteed that their young English star will not be leaving the club this summer

Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke has made it clear that the club have no plans to sell young English star Jadon Sancho. 

The attacker has been linked with a host of moves, with the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and even Barcelona reportedly interested in his services. 

But Dortmund are not willing to let him leave this summer, with Watzke offering a guarantee that the 19-year-old will be playing at the Signal Iduna Park​ again next season. 

“It can be assumed that Jadon will not play more than ten years at BVB,” Watzke told Bild, “but we have clear agreements about the present.

“Jadon is not on the market and plays next season guaranteed at Borussia Dortmund.”

Dortmund have been active in the transfer market already this summer, and have already signed Thorgan Hazard, Nico Schulz and Julian Brandt​. 

But the club still have some business to attend to, with both Mario Gotze and manager Lucien Favre in need of new deals to stay on at Dortmund. 

And Watzke is confident that new contracts will get done for both in the coming weeks. 

“I feel that they both feel very well,” he said. “We will deal with these two topics in the next few weeks. We want to extend with both.”

A collapse in the second half of the season saw Dortmund come up short in their chase for a Bundesliga title, but Watzke explained that Farve’s place with the club has only strengthened following their runners-up finish. 

“We are convinced of our line and of Lucien!” he said. “With the runner-up, he achieved more than we expected.

“He has finally given the team a clear style of play again. Lucien is the right person for Dortmund.

“In the second and third year, it will become clear whether we can collect titles together.”

Winning the Bundesliga remains the goal for Dortmund, but even their CEO knows the job is far from easy and has likened knocking off title holders Bayern Munich to climbing the tallest mountain in the world. 

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“We want to become German champions!” he exclaimed.

“But Bayern are like Mount Everest. You can try to defeat it once – and we want that.

“I think Germany needs that again soon. But we still know that Bayern will always remain the Mount Everest.”

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Barcelona news: Pique admits season could have been better after cup final defeat

The defender called Valencia ‘well-deserved champions’, but said the Barca players expected so much more this season

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has admitted his club’s season could have been better after they finally lost their grip on the Copa del Rey following a 2-1 defeat to Valencia.

Having lifted the trophy in four consecutive seasons, Barca were undone by first-half goals from Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo in Seville, and couldn’t find a way back into the tie despite Lionel Messi’s 73rd-minute strike.

Valencia held on to win their first major trophy since last lifting the Copa del Rey back in 2008.

The defeat denied Barca a domestic double after they picked up the La Liga title following a solid campaign that saw them lose just three of their 38 games and finish 11 points clear of runners-up Atletico Madrid and 19 ahead of bitter rivals Real Madrid.

However, Pique conceded that despite their league triumph, the season as a whole – which included their infamous collapse against Liverpool in the Champions League semi-final – has left a “bittersweet” taste in the mouths of the Barcelona players

“As long as the La Liga title is won, I always say it’s a good season,” he said to Teledeporte, “but the expectations were for a much better year. 

“It was not like that, and we leave with the bittersweet taste because we could have been better.

“They (Valencia) arrived twice and scored two goals in the first half. I am proud with the reaction of the team – we have made a great goal and almost got a draw, but we have to congratulate Valencia. They are well-deserved champions.” 

The result was not so gracefully received by a large number of Barca fans – many of whom took to social media to voice their displeasure at manager Ernesto Valverde. 

But Pique was quick to defend the 55-year-old, and insisted the players are keen to see the Spaniard stay at the Camp Nou after he delivered the club’s fourth La Liga title in five years. 

“In the end, there are decisions that are not in our hands,” he said. “This is something that we cannot control. But we would like him to continue, as we have already said. He did very well. 

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“We do not worry. We have to make an individual analysis and of what we can improve.” 

When asked if Barca had missed the influence and guile of Luis Suarez, who was absent from the starting XI after undergoing recent knee surgery, Pique added: “If you do not win, and you have absences, you can always blame it on missing players, but there are no excuses. 

“We are Barcelona and we are obliged to win everything, especially this final against Valencia. Next season we have to fight again, for all of the titles.” 

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Rwanda Premier League: Rayon Sports secure ninth league title after win over lowly Kirehe

A 4-0 success over Kirehe clinched the Kigali-based club’s second title in three years

Rayon Sports Football Club have claimed the 2018/19 Rwanda Premier League title after thrashing Kirehe 4-0 at the Nyakarambi Stadium.

The triumph is Gikundiro’s second success in three years which takes their total number of league wins to nine.

A pair of goals by Jules Ulimwengu and Michael Sarpong – the competition’s highest scorers with 19 and 16 respectively – helped the Nyanza outfit to a comfortable win over the relegation-threatened side.

Speaking to Ferwafa after the game, Oliveira Goncalves couldn’t hide his joy after seeing his side claim the title following an impressive 18-game unbeaten run (16 wins and two draws) which began in late December.

“This is a historic night,” he said. “At some point we were written off in the title race, but we kept fighting.

“This is proof that in football nothing is impossible.”

Having trailed last season’s champions Armee Patriotique Rwandaise Football Club by seven points before the title challengers met in April, a seven-game winning run, which included four clean sheets, coupled with APR’s run of just two wins since last month has seen Oliveira’s side beat their rivals to the crown with one game to play.

Rayon, who sit on 69 points after 29 games, are seven clear of APR.

By claiming top spot in the league this year, Oliveira’s side will represent the nation in next season’s Caf Champions League.


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Luka Jovic transfer: Striker hints at possible move to England or Italy

The Serbian striker was expected to join Real Madrid, but recent comments have hinted at a move to England or Italy instead

Eintracht Frankfurt striker Luka Jovic has opened the door to a potential transfer to England or Italy this summer, despite being heavily liked with a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid in recent weeks.

The 21-year-old has made a huge impact in the Bundesliga since initially joining Eintracht on a two-season loan deal from Benfica, and has found the net 27 times in all competitions this term.

His form has attracted the attention of Los Blancos, who were reportedly willing to pay up to €50 million (£44m/$56m) for the Serbian forward, but the deal is understood to have stalled as his asking price has crept higher.

In a report from Marca, Real are said to have cooled their interest and are not willing to enter into a bidding war – a stance which has alerted the likes of Paris Saint-Germain to the situation.

In a fresh twist, however, Jovic has seemingly suggested that a move to the Premier League or Serie A might be a better fit in terms of his style of play.

“From my experience in the Europa League, I would say that some other leagues in Europe are more suited to me and my way of playing football,” he told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

“In terms of the physique, the Bundesliga is very demanding, but after the games against Chelsea or Inter Milan, I personally had the feeling that I could feel even better [playing] in the Premier League or Serie A. 

“The way the teams play there suits me better.

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“I’m looking forward to seeing my level compared to the best players in the world. One thing is clear: I want to succeed in my career.”

Jovic scored twice against Chelsea across Eintracht’s two-legged Europa League semi-final, before seeing his side crash out of the competition on penalties at Stamford Bridge.

He also enjoyed success in front of goal against Italian opposition in the earlier stages of the same tournament, netting against Lazio in the group stages and scoring the winner against Inter in the San Siro in the knock-out phase.

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Caf Confederation Cup final: Berkane seek to hold off Zamalek in Egypt

The Moroccan outfit have to hold on to their slender advantage against the Egyptians if they’re to secure their first continental crown

RS Berkane’s 1-0 win over SC Zamalek last week saw the Moroccan outfit edge closer to their first ever Caf Confederation Cup success.

A late Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba strike in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time was enough to separate the sides at the Stade Municipal.

The Togo frontman’s late goal came after he had hit the woodwork on two occasions in the first-half, but he ended the night third-time lucky with his eighth strike in the competition deciding the first-leg in Morocco.

It’s brought Berkane within 90 minutes from claiming their first continental cup success, in their maiden final appearance, with the clash in Alexandria set to decide their fate.

Mounir Jaouani’s side ended Zamalek’s nine-game unbeaten run last time out, but Sunday’s reverse fixture represents a different prospect.

The Moroccans’ indifferent away form in the competition almost saw them knocked out in the semi-final, and they had to rely on their home form at the Stade Municipal to progress.

They’ve fallen to defeats in three of their seven games on the road in the Confed Cup, with two of those losses coming in their last three away fixtures – a 1-0 defeat by Hassania Agadir in March and the 2-0 loss to CS Sfaxien in the semi-final last month.

The Oranges’ leaky defence in away games has seen them fail to keep clean sheets in five of their seven games outside Morocco, with their shut-outs coming in two of the three away games they’ve won – 1-0 at Al-Ittihad in December and 2-0 win against Gor Mahia in the quarter-final.

Regardless, Jaouani’s wants his side to rewrite history by bringing the title home from Alexandria.

“We know the second leg will be difficult, but the late goal we scored here will be the goal of the championship,” Jaouani said after the first leg. “Now we have a big mission to bring the title from Egypt.”

For Zamalek, Sunday’s fixture represents their chance to pick up their first Confederation Cup title.

While the White Knights have picked up five Caf Champions League titles, they’ve never tasted success in the continent’s secondary club competition.

Fo-Doh Laba’s goal at the death in Morocco was disappointing for the visitors who felt they’d done enough to secure a goalless draw at the home of their North African opponents in Sunday’s meeting.

“We are very sad with the last minute goal.” Zamalek boss Christian Gross said to Caf after the game.

While that defeat ended their nine-game unblemished run in the competition, Gross’ side have been imperious in games in Alexandria, winning five and drawing two of the seven games played in Egypt, with 18 goals scored in those games and only three conceded.

They’ve kept clean sheets in three successive games on their turf, and will draw on the home crowd’s support against the Moroccans.

However, Gross won’t be able to call upon the services of Omar El-Said and Hamdy Nagguez in Sunday’s game after the pair received yellow cards in the first-leg which has consequently ruled them out the return fixture due to suspension.

The Swiss boss recognized his side’s mistakes at the Stade Municipal, but reckoned his side will fight in the return leg as they aspire to make history in the competition.

“We made mistakes, and the goal came from a counter-attack by the Moroccan team,” he began. “We had some opportunities to score, but our players didn’t succeed and missed more than one chance against a strong opponent, who have got quality players.

“We will try to compensate in the return game in Cairo to achieve the African championship.”

Zamalek will strive to reverse the first-leg defeat by the Oranges in Alexandria as they search for their firsttitle, and consequently end a 16-year wait for success on the continent.

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