Suarez uncertainty gives Trincao space to shine at Barcelona

Barcelona’s Portuguese forward Trincao, center, in action during the pre-season friendly match against Nastic at the Johan Cruyff Stadium in Barcelona on Saturday. (AP)
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Updated 15 September 2020

Suarez uncertainty gives Trincao space to shine at Barcelona

  • The 20-year-old has been touted as a ‘talented and quick’ player with tremendous potential

MADRID: With the future of Luis Suarez uncertain, young forward Francisco Trincao has an early chance to shine with Barcelona.

The 20-year-old Trincao just joined the team but could get some extra playing time as the club ponders what to do with Suarez, who was told by new coach Ronald Koeman that he is not in the Dutchman’s plans this season.

Trincao took advantage of his first chance on the field with Barcelona by impressing fans and Koeman in a 3-1 win over Nastic in a friendly on Saturday.

“I liked how he positioned himself, sometimes coming in from the inside and sometimes from the outside,” Koeman said. “He has quality and will start adapting to the speed and rhythm of the ball. He was a great signing.”

Barcelona paid Portuguese club Braga more than €30 million ($35 million) in the beginning of the year to acquire Trincao on a five-year contract. He finished the season with Braga and joined Barcelona last month.

Trincao was put in a tough spot right away as he was officially introduced by the Spanish club a day after Lionel Messi announced he wanted to leave. But he showed that he has some off-the-field foot skills, too, in sidestepping questions about Messi and not making headlines.

Barcelona brought in Trincao touting him as a “talented and quick” player with tremendous potential. He has been with Portugal’s youth teams and helped the under-19 squad win the European Championship in 2018 as its top scorer.

He showed some of that talent and quickness after entering the friendly against Nastic by displaying good ball control under pressure and beating defenders. He was named by Spanish media as one of the best players in the match.

Trincao can also play on the flanks, especially through the right side, but he might face greater competition there than in the middle of the attack as Barcelona also count on more experienced youngsters such as Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele. Martin Braithwaite, who arrived last season, is also an option for Koeman in the attack. The club is also reportedly looking at other options, with Memphis Depay and Lautaro Martínez among those rumored to join the club.

“I can play in all positions in the attack,” Trincao said. “I’m here to help any way I can.”

Trincao is expected to have his second opportunity when Barcelona take on Girona in another friendly on Wednesday. The club’s final preparation match ahead of its Spanish league debut will be against Elche on Saturday.

Barcelona’s first league game, against Villarreal at home, is scheduled for the final weekend of the month. Their matches in the first and second rounds were postponed because of the team’s participation in the Champions League in August.

It was Barcelona’s embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League that led to the arrival of Koeman and the revamping of the squad.

Messi eventually decided to stay, but Suarez was among the players who were told that they were not in the new coach’s plans. Suarez remains with the club and has been practicing normally, but he was not included in Koeman’s squad for last Saturday’s friendly. He has been linked to transfers to clubs such as Inter Milan, Juventus and Atletico Madrid.

But with lingering uncertainty over the Uruguay striker’s future, Trincao will continue to have chances to impress Koeman and gain a spot on the team.

Fati delights, Jovic disappoints, optimism for Atletico

Updated 30 September 2020

Fati delights, Jovic disappoints, optimism for Atletico

  • Atletico scored 19 fewer goals than champions Real Madrid last season and 35 fewer than Barcelona

MADRID: Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid will all be hoping to build on their first wins of the season as La Liga heads into its fourth round of games this week.

Here are the five talking points ahead of the midweek fixtures.

For the first time in a long time, Barcelona can enjoy some calm after a 4-0 win over Villarreal in their first match of the season on Sunday.

Lionel Messi scored on his first competitive appearance since attempting to leave in the summer but most exciting was the performance of the 17-year-old Ansu Fati, who scored twice and won a penalty.

Ronald Koeman must decide how to make the most of the teenager, whose maturity on the pitch belies his age and whose body might not be ready to start every week.

But Fati's pace, movement and decision-making are all so impressive it will be difficult to leave him out, as Barca look to build on that win at Celta Vigo on Thursday.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane switched to a 4-4-2 formation during his team's 3-2 win at Real Betis on Saturday as Luka Jovic was deployed up front alongside Karim Benzema.

But the Serbian striker failed to take his chance, instead enduring another underwhelming night before going off with 18 minutes to go.

It remains to be seen whether Zidane persists with Jovic at home to Real Valladolid on Wednesday, or at all, given Madrid could yet decide to let their €60 million (today $70 million) signing leave before the end of the transfer window.

When Eden Hazard regains fitness, that spot next to Benzema will belong to the Belgian so Jovic's window of opportunity may be small. Time would appear to be running out.

Atletico scored 19 fewer goals than champions Real Madrid last season and 35 fewer than Barcelona.

So hitting six against Granada on Sunday offered some early encouragement that this season's Atletico, boosted by the arrival of Luis Suarez in attack, can put those scoring problems behind them.

Suarez stole the show after scoring twice on his debut but Joao Felix was arguably the biggest plus for Diego Simeone, who will hope the 20-year-old's excellent display is the start of a more consistent campaign.

Atletico go up against newly promoted Huesca on Wednesday, the kind of game they slipped up in too often last season.

Even defeat by Real Madrid could not knock Real Betis off the top of the table, as Manuel Pellegrini's team enjoy the benefits of a strong start and more games played than the traditional powerhouses three weeks into the season.

But there is cause for optimism longer-term as Betis began with wins against Alaves and Real Valladolid, before matching Madrid for prolonged spells until their opponents pulled away in the second half.

With the likes of Nabil Fekir, Sergio Canales and Joaquin, this Betis squad has not lacked for attacking talent but solidity at the back has too often been an afterthought.

Villarreal face Alaves on Wednesday, with pressure already on both coaches. Villarreal have four points from their opening three games but a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Barcelona on Sunday, as well as a draw at home to newly-promoted Huesca means Unai Emery could do with a victory.

Alaves, meanwhile, are second bottom after managing just a point from their first three games, with Pablo Machin seeking a first win at la Ceramica.

Valencia have also made a stuttering start, a draw at home to Huesca on Saturday coming on the back of a surprise loss away at Celta Vigo.

New coach Javi Gracia has already expressed disappointment with the club's summer transfer dealings, meaning credit with the board may be lacking if results do not improve.