Gerard Piqué

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Barcelona denounces Spanish court decision on Catalan independence

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Barcelona released a statement criticizing a recent Spanish Supreme Court decision that saw 12 political activists jailed for their role in the 2017 push for Catalan independence.

The statement said that “prison is not the solution” and called the decision “condemnatory.” Instead, the club said that “the resolution of the conflict in Catalonia must come exclusively from political dialogue.”

The political activists were punished for pushing through an October 2017 referendum in Catalonia that resulted in over 90% of the population voting for independence. The referendum was declared illegal by Spain and seen within the country’s political hierarchy as an act of treason.

As one of the biggest social institutions of Catalonia, Barcelona’s statement on the matter carries significant weight both within the region and across Spain. Barcelona games often feature flags and banners calling for Catalan independence. Catalonia has also made a recent push for an independent FIFA-recognized squad, unsuccessful to this point. However, they played their first match inside a FIFA-sanctioned international window this March against Venezuela.

As a result of the court decision, the Catalan Football Federation suspended all its matches for Monday in solidarity with the accused. This includes only clubs and leagues that fall under the federation, which does not include Barcelona, La Liga, or the Spanish national team.

“FC Barcelona also expresses all its support and solidarity to the families of those who are deprived of their freedom,” the club said in the statement. Gerard Pique re-tweeted the social media version of the statement, adding the caption “Proud to be part of this Club.” Pique is a Catalan native and has appeared for the Catalonia national team 10 times.

La Liga roundup: Messi-less Barcelona halted by Osasuna

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Barcelona’s draw and Real Betis’ win highlight Saturday’s La Liga action.

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Osasuna 2-2 Barcelona

With Antoine Griezmann’s magic nowhere to be spotted, Barcelona felt every bit of Lionel Messi’s absence for a second time this season.

Messi has yet to feature for the defending champions this season. Without him, Barcelona are off to a their worst start since Pep Guardiola‘s treble-winning side 11 years ago, earning only four points throughout three matches.

Barcelona’s latest hiccup? A 2-2 draw against a persistent Osasuna.

Osasuna’s game-defining goal came in the late stages, following a penalty call on Gerard Pique. Roberto Morales’ brace concluded a triumphant draw for the home side, that despite being severely outpossessed, managed to create more chances than Ernesto Valverde’s side.

Although the numbers aren’t in their favor, there is a glaring break in the clouds for Barcelona: 16-year-old Ansu Fati, who became the club’s youngest player to score in La Liga. The highly-touted left winger was brought on in the second half, and proved to be pivotal in the Catalonian’s punctured frontline.

With or without Messi, Barcelona host Valencia next, while Osasuna hope to continue their positive run against Real Valladolid.

Real Betis 2-1 Leganes 

For the first time this season, Real Betis have won a game.

With back-to-back losses to start the new campaign, Los Verdiblancos were far from meeting the high expectations that had them bouncing back from a wobbly 2018/2019 season. The team’s transition following a plethora of departures didn’t help the cause.

That continues to be the case for Real Betis, but with players such as summer signing Nabil Fekir, who continues to become more influential with each passing day, things can be different for Rubi’s side this time around.

The 26-year-old Frenchman, who missed out on move to Liverpool last summer, scored the game-winner against Leganes. With Giovani Lo Celso in London with Tottenham, Fekir is seamlessly becoming the ideal replacement: scoring two goals in the first three games La Liga.

The Sevilla based side can benefit from it again with Getafe up next, while Leganes, who are dead last, can learn something from Betis’ perseverance ahead of their bout against Villareal.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Levante 2-0 Real Valladolid

Getafe 1-1 Alaves

Pique: Copa-losing Barca still ‘really hurting’ from UCL exit

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Barcelona was the favorite to win La Liga, the UEFA Champions League, and the Copa del Rey for the majority of the season, but only claimed one.

Liverpool’s amazing comeback to beat Barca in the second leg of the UCL semifinals met Saturday’s loss to Valencia in the Copa del Rey Final to give Barca a league title alone.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Even with that La Liga advantage being decisive — Barca carried the table by 11 points over Atletico Madrid and finished 19 ahead of Real Madrid — there’s a very dour mood and promised change for the Camp Nou set.

And Gerard Pique says it all traces back to the loss against Liverpool. From The Liverpool Echo:

“I believe that if we had gotten through at Liverpool, we would have won the treble. We would have come here [to the Copa del Rey final] with a different mood, and I’m convinced we would have won the Champions League final, but that is football. We are really, really hurting.”

There are hints of a massive clear-out at Barcelona, with Lionel Messi and Pique two of the only safe bets to stay. When will Barca get over it?

Early goal holds up for Barcelona at Man Utd (video)

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  • Suarez scores 13th minute opener
  • Man Utd with 10 shots, zero on target
  • Second leg Tuesday in Barcelona

Manchester United out-attempted UEFA Champions League favorites Barcelona but couldn’t find a way into the goal in a 1-0 quarterfinal first leg loss at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Luke Shaw own goal was the difference in a scrappy affair, put behind David De Gea on a play produced by Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

The second leg is Tuesday at the Camp Nou.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The early stages had a typical “feeling it out” vibe, though Marcus Rashford was especially lively.

Barcelona went ahead, and VAR helped give the goal overcome the linesman’s offside flag. Who knows what he was looking at it, but Suarez’s attempted header of a Messi cross came off Shaw and defied David De Gea with everyone onside. 1-0, 13′.

De Gea saved from Coutinho in the 36th minute, and Barca was buzzing again.

Diego Dalot headed over the goal with the crown of his head after a long cross found him back post.

By the way, Manchester United center back Chris Smalling saw nothing for this:

United has all of the ball and the chances to start the second half, but Barca held firm like Spurs versus Man City a day earlier.

Suarez knifed into the 18 but sliced his shot into the outside of netting in the 65th.

Messi tried to sneak a free kick through the wall but his shot deflected and De Gea adjusted to catch it in the 83rd, the lone moment of interest in a sleepy 10-15 minutes.

Gerard Pique then intervened to stop Anthony Martial from a prime scoring chance. The ensuing corner kick led to nothing.

Here’s the only goal:

UCL Wednesday preview: Barca wary of Man Utd size

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If Manchester United is to get past Barcelona, the likely victim on multiple levels will be Lionel Messi.

The Argentine megastar gets fouled in every match, and that’s certain to happen on Wednesday at Old Trafford in the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Spurs-Man City recap | Kane hurt | 3 things ]

But Barcelona center back Gerard Pique and manager Ernesto Valverde is concerned about another kind of physical play, and that’s when Barcelona is taken out of the run of play.

“We have to be on our guard and look out for set pieces like corners, and crosses into the box,” Valverde said. “They are an English side, so they are strong, tall and will take advantage of opportunities. We have to try and avoid those situations and if we are on our game and we are focused, we can try to stop them.”

Pique is a former Manchester United youngster and is happy to be going back to Old Trafford and matching wits with one of his former teammates: Red Devils manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

“I was 17 and he was one of the veterans. He had problems with injuries but you could see his quality in training. I’m glad to see him doing well as coach at Old Trafford and it will be a tough content but we hope we can win,” he said.

The other match sees further Manchester United connections, as Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus head to upstart Ajax.

Ronaldo will be start for The Old Lady, but Ajax will need to be wary of in-form Moise Kean and the solid play of youngster Daniele Rugani.

“We are all happy that he’s with us for tomorrow night’s game as he’s a very important player,” Rugani said. “I’m in a team of champions here and I’m very happy.”

To come full circle, there’s a Barcelona connection with Ajax; If you’re watching that match, be sure to keep a close eye on Frenkie de Jong before the Dutch youngster makes his big move to the Camp Nou this summer. He’s special.