Real Madrid started their first Champions League game of the season awfully with a 3-2 loss at home to Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk. The Ukrainian side, which was amputated from a few of their players, had an excellent first half and annihilated Madrid, who had a torrid night at the back. For example. Raphael Varane had a horrid game, scoring an own goal and looking lost without Sergio Ramos at the back.
Having already lost on the weekend to Cadiz in the league, Real Madrid look like half of the team that won the league in July and Zinedine Zidane has to get the spirits up before the most important game of the campaign, El Clasico. The Merengues’ campaign started with a 0-0 draw at Anoeta, and they struggled to beat Real Betis, and Valladolid afterward. Much like Barcelona after the Getafe defeat, Madrid needed to lift their spirits up in the Champions League against a relatively weaker side at home, but unlike their rivals, Los Blancos lost and go into El Clasico in poor form.
In contrast, Barcelona looked rubbish against Getafe, away from home, but gained confidence against Ferencvaros as their youngsters, in Pedri, Ansu Fati or Sergiño Dest, had excellent games at Camp Nou. Barça also never looked as bad as Madrid did this season as they had shaken off the Balaidos curse but struggled against Sevilla at home. However, they weren’t dominated against Sevilla so Los Culés must win this El Clasico to show their dominance after a trophyless season in 2019/20.
Nonetheless, Madrid did show a lot of fight against Shakhtar and even equalised before Federico Valverde’s strike was disallowed by VAR, so they must be respected. Barcelona have to neutralise the Merengues’ capacity to make something out of nothing, especially after seeing Luka Modric’s strike and Fede Valverde’s disallowed thunderbolt.
Koeman has ruled out the departure of Junior Firpo
According to a report published by SPORT, Ronald Koeman has ruled out any and all departures from the squad in the winter transfer window – barring Matheus Fernandes -, including that of Junior Firpo to AC Milan.
The report states that Barcelona are in a sketchy position and do not want to sell any players because signing replacements is getting increasingly tough. The signing of Eric Garcia remains scheduled for the summer when he will be signed on a free transfer, while Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum seem extremely unlikely.
Firpo was linked out of Barcelona, with both Italian capital clubs – Inter Milan and AC Milan tracking his progress in Spain. A loan move to Milan with a €20 million option to buy was looking extremely realistic. Still, without reinforcements in that position, Barcelona should not be letting the Spaniard leave in the winter.
The truth is, while Barcelona are in crippling debt, and desperately require players off their wage bill, selling low-earners like Firpo seemed like a bad idea. The plan was to let go of the former-Real Betis defender and hand Alejandro Balde his debut. However, at the age of 16, that is too much pressure to knight to a player.
That said, the club is still willing to listen to offers for Matheus Fernandes, who has been deemed surplus. The Brazilian joined from Palmeiras in what was termed yet another shady deal by the long-gone Josep Bartomeu. He has registered no more than 17 minutes this season, coming on against Dynamo Kyiv in the UEFA Champions League.
Matheus was not even given the chance to play against UE Cornella in the Copa del Rey and has spent 11 games on the bench this season following his lucky 17 minutes in the UCL. Deportivo Alaves are eyeing a loan move for the 22-year-old owing to their budget limitations, and Barcelona will be hoping to make this transfer a reality soon.