By Tim Stannard
Messi-out but Dembele-in as Barcelona continues quest to stay in touch with LaLiga's Madrid-themed title race
Ronald Koeman had five days to come up with a good reason why Lionel Messi was going to be afforded an extra long rest over the truncated holiday period in LaLiga, as opposed to the rest of the team.
No wonder that Ronald Koeman's verbal sick note sounded solid on Monday with the declaration that his star player "has a hurty ankle, so we gave him two extra days of vacation. The doctor said that he will be ok after a week of no training."
Normally, at this time of year in Spain, that would not be a problem with a usual fortnight off from LaLiga activities. But not in 2020 when everything has been condensed to see the best league in the world returning with a midweek round of action just a week from the last one.
For those needing a before-the-episode recap, Atletico Madrid are top of the standings with the same number of points as Real Madrid (32) but with two matches in hand. Both these teams are in action on Wednesday.
Barcelona are now beginning a heck of a slog to join that runaway pack. However, the task is a tough one with Barca in fifth place, eight points behind Atletico, win one game played more than the Rojiblancos.
To borrow an overused phrase from LaLiga's clan of coaches, every match for Barca from now until the end of the season is a 'final'. And that run starts today at home to an Eibar side having a sluggish season and without a win in four.
Although Messi will be missing the fun at the Camp Nou, Ousmane Dembele returns to the squad after another bout of injury to help fill the Argentinean's tactical vacuum.
Barcelona vs. Eibar is live today on beIN SPORTS from 1PM ET.
Diego Costa cast off from Atletico Madrid
Well, that went rather fast. Just a wee short time after stories were out there that Diego Costa wanted out of Atletico Madrid to rebuild his career (and faltering body), the Rojiblancos have made it so.
The X-rated Dream Team of Luis Suarez and Diego Costa is set to be short-lived with Atletico Madrid announcing on Tuesday that the club had agreed to rescind the forward's contract with the Spanish-Brazilian striker.
Agreement with @diegocosta for the termination of his contract.— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) December 29, 2020
The club wishes the striker the best of luck in the next stage of his professional career.
The 32-year-old has had a very 2020 year with a hernia, thrombosis and also a bout of COVID-19 restricting the player's appearances for the league leaders. Costa now leaves the team six months before his contract was due to run out.
Atletico Madrid vs. Getafe is live on beIN SPORTS on Wednesday from 1PM ET.
Unai Emery returns to Sevilla in his Yellow Submarine
The real humdinger in LaLiga actually takes place before Barcelona's encounter with Europe's most consistent big team in action.
Admittedly, it is not the sexiest tag, but that's currently the role Villarreal are playing with the Yellow Submarine now unbeaten in 19 matches in all competitions. The coach in charge of this impressive run of form that leaves Villarreal in fourth place and in touch with the title race is Unai Emery.
Yes, the same Unai Emery sacked by Arsenal, a club now finding itself one loss away from a relegation scrap. Emery is taking a trip on Tuesday to another former club - Sevilla - with whom he won three Europa League titles in a row. It will be a first return since leaving in 2016 and the Spanish coach admitted that it will be "special."
Don't miss out on the best ⚽️ in the world this Tuesday! Only on beIN SPORTS ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/pPIAY4caIA— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) December 29, 2020
Sevilla are likely to be a strong contender in the race for the Champions League places with the Andalusians in sixth - three points behind Villarreal but with two matches in hand. A victory today would very much give the hosts an advantage in this particular fight.
Sevilla vs. Villarreal is live today on beIN SPORTS from 10:55AM ET and the whole day is rounded off by Cadiz taking on Valladolid from 3:20PM ET.
The Sports Burst live show at 12PM ET on our beIN SPORTS Facebook page will be all over a big three days of action to come in LaLiga.
PSG Sack Thomas Tuchel in non-surprise move!
After letting the rumors and rumblings float around the soccer ether for five days, PSG have finally confirmed the sacking of their coach, Thomas Tuchel, six months before his contract with the club was due to expire.
The deed was reportedly done on December 24 but it is only today that a short club statement has been released to announce that the decision had been taken "after a deep analysis of the sporting situation."
Since joining PSG in 2018, the German coach won the Ligue 1 title twice, the 2020 Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue as well as taking PSG to the Champions League final in the same year.
The question now remains on who will replace Tuchel, before PSG's first match after the winter break in a week's time. Actually, the really big question is if it will be a certain Argentinean manager, known giving his players warm, welcoming hugs - maybe to a fairly famous, soon to be out of contract Argentinean player who probably needs a big hug?
"I do not know if it is true about Pochettino to PSG," was Ronald Koeman's gruff response to the story on Monday, "If Messi decides his future, it will not depend on a coach.
PSG's handball team is in action on beIN SPORTS today - and so is Barcelona's.
Tuesday is the finale of the EHF men's 2019-20 Champions League with PSG in action in the third-placed playoff from 12PM ET and Barcelona in the final against THW Kiel at 2:30PM ET. Both matches can be seen for free on beIN XTRA.