Comeback spirit

Comeback spirit

An exercise in faith is what Barcelon a's players are asking from their supporters, as they chase an almost impossible dream of turning around a 4-0 deficit.

Despite the defeat in the Parc des Princes, the Blaugrana are not giving up and ask for a last vote of confidence and trust.

The result on Tuesday was horrendous and, what is worse, the image of the team was very poor.

So much so that right now it is hard to believe those who send messages that the comeback is achievable.

It is a repetitive speech however, that has been heard from a number of first-team members since Thursday.

From Andres Iniesta to Denis Suarez, and right through to Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

"The first thing we have to do is to convince ourselves that we can," said Luis Suarez, the latest player to try and get everyone onside.

"We are aware that it is possible because this team has already achieved great things before.

"Having made history getting a treble, if we want to make history again we have to turn this tie around."

In the dressing room they know that the main role in the comeback is their responsibility, but there is a need for the Camp Nou to create an environment conducive to achieving it.

The club is aware that right now the Barcelona public is a little down, so it has been proposed that the next league commitments serve to recover their lost confidence with an objective to re-engage and generate the feelings that existed before the bump against Paris Saint-Germain.

To do this, Luis Enrique's side will be looking for four league wins from the four games they'll play in LaLiga before facing PSG again: Leganes. Atletico, Sporting Gijon and Celta Vigo.

Real Madrid will rest players to maintain title charge

Zinedine Zidane announced his intention to rest key players against Espanyol on Saturday, arguably a tactic prompted by fear of expanding Real Madrid's injury list.

Keylor Navas, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema are not included in Los Blancos' match-day squad, whilst Sergio Ramos, Fabio Coentrao and Danilo miss out through injury.

Gareth Bale will feature, albeit from the subs bench.

For the first time since missing Real Madrid's opening six domestic games through injury, Navas will play no part in a LaLiga fixture, meaning Kiko Castilla - who has not seen league action since late September - gets the nod.

In defence, Dani Carvajal's position is safe as Danilo can'r even train at this point.

It seems Marcelo may drop to the bench with Nacho entering at left-back, but failing that, the Brazilian starts with either Pepe or Varane having a break and Nacho filling a centre-half role.

Mateo Kovacic will replace Modric in midfield, and it is doubtful Casemiro and Toni Kroos, the two heroes against Napoli, will sit on the bench even though the former has played 14 consecutive 90-minute games.

However, if Isco was to start, it would be to replace the German, as Casemiro's presence brings a balance that cannot be replicated.

Up front it has been confirmed that Alvaro Morata and Cristiano Ronaldo will play.

In the event of a 4-3-3 formation, Marco Asensio has not been included in Real's last two games so it is likely Lucas Vazquez will start, with Gareth Bale set to make a second-half cameo appearance after returning from injury.

In total, Los Blancos could make between five and six changes in order to maintain their one-point lead at the top of LaLiga - having played two games less than their title rivals.

Zidane: I don't want Morata to leave and he'll start against Espanyol

Alvaro Morata is set to start for Real Madrid against Espanyol this Saturday afternoon, with his coach Zinedine Zidane confirming that he'll be handed a place in his XI.

Explaining that he does not want the striker to leave in the summer due to a lack of playing time, the coach stressed the importance of giving him opportunities.

"I wouldn't like [Morata] to leave at the end of the season," he said at his Friday press conference.

"He will play from the start against Espanyol and I know that this won't be the last time he plays from the start.

"We look at the circumstances of each match and each player.

"The staff knows how many minutes each player has played and what we want from them all until the end of the season."

Further discussing the issue of rotations, Zidane pointed out how hard it is to keep all his players happy when everybody is training and playing well.

"Everybody is training phenomenally and it's obviously difficult [to spread the playing time] when I have 24 players," he said.

"However, I cannot only say that they're all important, as we must rotate when we have matches every three days in order to give others a chance to play and also to introduce some freshness.

"That's what we'll do from now until the end [of the season]."

Of those 24 players, almost all of them are available for the final stretch of the season, even if Sergio Ramos misses out this weekend.

"[Ramos] has a knock, not an injury, and he'll be with us next week, from Monday," those at the press conference were told.

"We have a two or three players with minor injury niggles, but no serious injuries, so I'm happy that we're almost all available."

One of the players available again is Gareth Bale, who Zidane also confirmed is in line for some playing time.

"[Bale] is in the squad and our plan is for him to have some minutes," the Frenchman revealed.

"He is important for us as we know the quality he possesses, the speed he can unleash when in position and the pain he can cause opponents.

"He is very happy to be back with the team."

The midweek Champions League action was also reflected upon, with Zidane delighted with the 3-1 home win against Napoli and with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema's displays.

"The support from the fans was fantastic the other day and that energy was a boost for us, as it always is," he insisted.

"[Ronaldo] isn't just a goalscorer, but he can also link up and play with the team and that is what he is doing.

"He did so against Napoli and it won't the last time.

"[Benzema] got a goal the other day, while other times it hasn't come for him.

"A No.9 has to score, but he knows how to score and how to do other things too."

As for Barcelona's devastating 4-0 loss in Paris, Zidane did not believe their potential elimination from Europe would affect the race for the league title.

"I don't think things in LaLiga will change if Barcelona are eliminated from the Champions League," he said.

"We're only looking at our own situation."

Finally, analysing this weekend's opponents, Zidane urged caution regarding an Espanyol side that has won three of its past four.

"Espanyol are a team coming off a good run of results and we know how difficult this match will be, which is what we now have to deal with every three days," he said.

Dybala grabs a brace as Juventus prepare for Porto with Palermo rout

Juventus made light work of Palermo with Rosanero old boy Paulo Dybala grabbing a brace which sends the Bianconeri 10 points clear atop the Serie A summit.

Once Claudio Marchisio had fired Juve into a 13th minute lead, there was only ever going to be one winner in this Friday night game.

Dominant in every facet of play, the hosts made light work of the disappointing visitors and the only surprise was that it took until the 40th minute for Paulo Dybala to double the hosts' lead.

The Barcelona and Real Madrid target was on hand in the second half to tee up Gonzalo Higuain for Juve's third and the pair reversed roles in the 89th minute, a delightful backheeled assist from El Pipita helping Dybala cap a man-of-the-match performance.

There was still time for Ivailo Chochev to grab an injury time consolation, denting Juve's hopes of a clean sheet.

Roma's Florenzi sustains second ACL injury this season

AS Roma midfielder Alessandro Florenzi had surgery on Friday after medical tests confirmed he had sustained an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury to his left knee for the second time this season.

"This morning Alessandro Florenzi underwent further tests that confirmed our initial suspicion, which is that he has torn the same anterior cruciate ligament," the Serie A club said in a statement.

The Italy international suffered the injury on Tuesday while training with the youth team as part of his rehabilitation from the previous injury that he sustained in late October.

Italian media reported that the 25-year-old is unlikely to return to action this season.

The typical recovery time for an ACL injury is around six months.
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