by Tim Stannard
Ronald Koeman backs Lionel Messi 180% ahead of Saturday's crucial clash against Betis
In these somewhat topsy-turvy, really-could-go-anywhere times, at least one sure-fire, predictable event happened on Friday. Ronald Koeman was going to be asked about the apparent decline of Lionel Messi...and Ronald Koeman was asked about the apparent decline of Lionel Messi.
Despite the footballer wrapping up a LaLiga campaign in August with 25 goals and 21 assists, an admittedly slower tally this season of just the single goal and no assists has some BLASPHEMERS! calling on the End of Days of Messi's career.
Hence, Koeman was quizzed on this particular hot topic ahead of Saturday's match with Betis and called nonsense on such gloomy predictions. "He is still a decisive player," purred the Dutch coach, "we want to get him on the pitch where he can do damage to the opposition."
The Dutch coach also proved that he loves freedom by calling up not one, but two American players to the Betis game - coverage getting underway on beIN SPORTS from 9:30AM ET on Saturday. Sergino Dest and Konrad de la Fuente have both been included in Barcelona's match day squad.
The weekend in LaLiga gets underway on Friday at 3PM ET on beIN SPORTS Spanish with Elche taking on Celta Vigo.
Once again, the visitors are having a stinker of a season despite a squad packed with talent and the mercurial gifts of Iago Aspas. Celta really, really, really need to win this one. And so do Elche to continue to stay above Barcelona in the LaLiga standings, which is quite remarkable in of itself.
Pochettino is crisis king of PSG and Manchester United
Manchester and Paris are relatively close by American standards - a country where a five-hour drive is seen as a mere local hop. So Mauricio Pochettino won't be needing a plane to fly between the two cities but perhaps a helicopter. Or a car. Which ever method is best in the middle of a quarantine-dominated pandemic in the UK and France. Probably a Zoom call.
The Spurs boss is being linked with two big jobs at the same time on Friday. The first is at Old Trafford, where once again Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is reportedly one match away from the sack - that game being against Everton.
But Thomas Tuchel is in the same situation. And that's a weird one considering PSG are top of the Ligue 1 standings, and just off the back of four domestic titles and a Champions League final. And dealing with constant injuries and suspensions to his leading players.
However, concerns over a lack of tactical clarity and a frosty relationship with players and his sporting director boss, has Tuchel's future under a cloud at PSG ahead of Saturday's massive clash against Rennes that is live, live, live on beIN SPORTS at Saturday from 2:30PM ET.
Marseille attempt to be less s**t against Strasbourg in Friday match-up
The Ligue 1 weekend gets underway on Friday. Marseille are traveling to struggling Strasbourg with a very public rebuke ringing in the ears of the players.
In this case, rebuke means repeatedly being called s**t by their coach, Andre-Villas Boas for a limp Champions League defeat to Porto. Strasbourg v Marseille is live on beIN SPORTS at 3PM and preceded by Besiktas - Pride of Canada in action. Why Pride of Canada? Well, tune in at 12PM ET to find out.
And do tune in to the Copa Sudamericana highlights show at 7PM ET for a wrap up of a wild week of soccer in South America as some big continental cheeses had some very bad nights indeed.