Barça search for Valverde replacement, Badalona win cup shock
A loss in the semi final of the Super Cup has put the Barcelona manager’s position in doubt, while Barça qualify for basketball Copa del Rey
After falling to Atletico Madrid in the Super Cup semi final, Ernesto Valverde’s position as manager has been plunged into doubt. Despite sitting on top of the La Liga table after winning the last two league titles, and winning their tough Champions League group that featured Dortmund and Inter Milan, it appears the hierarchy at the Catalan club are already working on replacing the coach.
While in the Middle East competing for the Spanish Super Cup, the blaugrana decision-makers took advantage of the opportunity to meet with former Barça midfielder Xavi Hernández, who is currently managing Qatari side Al-Sadd Sports Club. However, it appears the four-time Champions League winner has given his old side a ‘no’ to the prospect of taking over at Camp Nou, at least for now.
Speculation in the Catalan press now says the board are hopeful to tempt former Espanyol and Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pocchetino, who previously swore he would never manage Barcelona due to his loyalties to Espanyol, to the Camp Nou, although it is not yet clear whether they will look to get rid of current coach Valverde immediately or wait until the summer.
Basketball Copa del Rey qualifications
Barcelona have qualified for the basketball Copa del Rey after finishing in the top 8 in the table after 17 rounds. Joventut de Badalona and Manresa both narrowly missed out. Manresa already knew they were out heading into the decisive round of fixtures, but Penya had the chance to qualify with a win in Valencia that ultimately proved beyond reach.
Meanwhile, a loss for Barcelona and a win for Real Madrid has handed the whites a clear advantage in the league table, who are now one win ahead of the Catalans at the summit of the table.
The Copa del Rey will be played in Malaga between February 13-16, in an eight-team knockout competition format.
Espanyol’s big bet gets off to a good start
RCD Espanyol, bottom of La Liga and in need of urgent revitalisation, have splashed out €20 million to bring ex-Rayo Vallecano forward Raúl de Tomás to Cornellà. Joining from Benfica, where the striker did not enjoy a good first half to the season, de Tomás scored 14 goals in Spain’s top flight last season with Rayo, and got off to a flying start with a debut goal in the Copa del Rey against San Sebastian de los Reyes.
The €20 million fee the Catalans paid to the Portuguese side for his services smashes the previous transfer record the club paid for a player. Their previous most expensive player joined just last summer for a mere €10.5 million, Matías Vargas.
Third-tier Badalona claim top-division scalp
CF Badalona, who play in the regionalised third-tier of Spanish football, have knocked Primera División side Getafe out of the Copa del Rey with a 2-0 win on the Catalan coast.
Getafe finished 5th in La Liga last campaign, and missed out on the Champions League on the last day of the season. Late goals from Chema Moreno and a wonderful free kick from Hugo Esteban ensured one of the most historic nights in the history of the third-tier side, who will hope for another memorable evening in the next round.
Catalans competing in Dakar Rally
The Dakar Rally kicked off last week, lasting 12 days until January 17.
In cars, Fernando Alonso is riding with Catalan five-time Dakar Rally champion Marc Coma. Coma stepped away from competing for some years to work as director of the race, before making his return as co-pilot alongside the acclaimed Formula 1 racer. After 8 stages, the pair are placing 13th in the general standings, just over 3 hours and 10 minutes behind the overall leaders.
Nani Roma, champion of the Dakar Rally in 2004, is placing 22nd after 8 stages, racing with Daniel Oliveras Carreras. In motorbikes, Laia Sanz is also competing, positioning 18th in her category, while Jaume Betriu sits 15th in the classification at this stage.