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Nico Gave Barcelona Three Precious Points As They Beat Elche 3-2 At Camp Nou

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After two league games without a win and a humiliating 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich that knocked them out of the Champions League in the group stage for the first time in almost two decades, Barca were desperate for a win.

The started well and arguably had their best 45 minutes of the season in the first half, with Xavi’s bet on his younger players appearing to pay off as Spanish youngsters Ferran Jutgla and Gavi both scored early on.

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With strikers Memphis Depay and Ansu Fati hurt, Jutgla leapfrogged veteran Luuk de Jong as the starter up-front, and he sent in the first goal with a header from an Ousmane Dembele corner.

Four minutes later, teenage sensation Gavi scored the first goal of his professional career to double Barca’s lead.

But in the second half, Elche scored twice in two minutes through Tete Morente and Pere Milla, and it looked like Barca’s recent run of nightmare games was set to continue.

But Dembele found Gavi breaking through Elche’s defensive line in the 85th minute, and the young international cut the ball back to Nico inside the area, who blasted the ball into the roof of the net.

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The win lifts Barca one spot in the standings to seventh, two points off the European qualifying places but still 15 points behind league leaders Real Madrid.

“Gavi, Nico, Abde, (Ronald) Araujo, (Alex) Balde, they are the future of the club,” Xavi said. “I played here when I was 18 and I was scared but they let their personality show.”

Gavi was particularly impressive, and Xavi added: “What’s surprising is his age, he’s 17 and look how he competes.

“Today he made the difference with a goal and an assist. More than anything his work is spectacular. We’re happy to have him and I don’t want to compare him to anyone. There’s no ceiling for him.”

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“We will fight to finish in the top four, and surely this victory will give us energy to climb up (the table),” Nico said after the match.

Elche, who have lost half their league games this season, could end up in the relegation zone by the end of the weekend.

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Arsenal target €50m star as striker solution with Vlahovic transfer under threat of collapse

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Arsenal are reportedly aiming to sign a €50million striker as the transfer of Dusan Vlahovic to the Emirates comes under threat.

Mikel Arteta, along with technical director Edu, wants to make Vlahovic the successor to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette up front. The Fiorentina hitman would be an ideal capture, having hit 20 goals in just 24 games so far this term.

Arsenal were making some headway over a deal earlier this month, although Vlahovic’s move is now set to collapse due to two reasons.

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Firstly, the Serbian has tested positive for Covid-19 in recent days. Italy’s current Covid guidelines mean anyone who has tested positive can leave isolation after seven-to-10 days, if they return a negative test.

This puts Vlahovic in a race against time to secure a transfer away from Serie A before the end of the winter window.

Italian outlet La Repubblica have gone on to hand Arsenal another major blow. They claim Vlahovic is holding out for a switch to Manchester City this summer.

The Gunners clearly know their chances of signing Vlahovic are dwindling, forcing them to look at alternatives.

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Arsenal hunt Dusan Vlahovic alternative

According to The Athletic reporter David Ornstein, they are setting their sights on Real Sociedad man Alexander Isak.

The Swede has long been on Arsenal’s radar, although he fell down their shortlist due to the Vlahovic chase.

However, Isak is now back in the frame as he represents a more realistic, as well as cheaper, option.

While Vlahovic would cost upwards of £58m, 22-year-old Isak is available for €50m (£41.9m) according to Fichajes (via Caught Offside).

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Isak enjoyed a great campaign last season, hitting 17 goals in 34 La Liga matches. He has not been able to replicate that form this time around but would certainly be a threat to Premier League defenders if he did join Arsenal.


Nine former world-beaters who are now in the bargain bin: Dembele, Alli, Hazard, Martial and more


Pepe insight on Aubameyang move

Meanwhile, Arsenal wide man Nicolas Pepe has responded after a fan asked him about Aubameyang’s future.

The Gabon forward is a target for Saudi Arabian outfit Al Nassr, who are hoping to take him on loan with the option to buy this summer.

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Several European clubs are also in for his signature, most notably AC Milan, Juventus and PSG.

Aubameyang’s contract expires in 2023, giving Arsenal just a couple more chances to get his full transfer value.

When asked about his team-mate’s potential exit, Pepe said on social media: “I don’t know. I think he’ll stay, but I don’t know.”

READ MORE: Arsenal transfer nightmare involving three strikers to spark humbling Arteta U-turn

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Tottenham fire up Traore talks with move close; intriguing option in second deal dismissed

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Tottenham will ramp up their efforts to sign Adama Traore today and are confident of securing a deal, though an intriguing option in a second move has been dismissed, per a trusted source.

Spurs have already had an offer worth £15m for the Wolves winger rejected. However, that was never likely to be the end of the story with Wolves reportedly holding out for just £5m more.

Antonio Conte reportedly wishes to convert the 25-year-old into a deadly right-wing-back. Emerson Royal has floundered thus far, while Matt Doherty’s impact since arriving in 2020 has been minimal.

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Bruno Lage suggested his side would hold out for a deal that suits them. However, according to transfer guru Fabrizio Romano, Tottenham will ramp up their pursuit today (Monday).

Romano tweeted Spurs will ‘push’ the move forward today. Talks will re-commence with the ‘final details’ to be discussed. Whether Tottenham have had a raised bid accepted, or whether the transfer fee is on the agenda for today’s talks isn’t stated.

Nonetheless, Tottenham are deemed ‘confident’ of completing a deal to sign Traore before the window closes.

Option in Ndombele transfer dismissed

The next few days could be busy ones in north London amid ongoing speculation Tanguy Ndombele could leave.

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The Frenchman – who cost a club record £55.45m – is being lined up by PSG in either a loan or swap capacity.

Spurs chief Fabio Paratici was stated to he gunning hard to secure the best terms possible with the Parisians last week.

A potential swap had been touted, though PSG were struggling to convince any of their midfielders to move the other way. Leandro Paredes in particular had been mentioned, though the Argentine refused the move. Jose Mourinho’s Roma are also in the mix, with Jordan Veretout mentioned as a potential swap candidate.

One intriguing option that had been touted from PSG’s perspective was that of Georginio Wijnaldum. The ex-Liverpool midfielder is labouring in Paris and has been mooted to be open to a Premier League return.

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The Dutchman is a proven performer on these shores and could add steel and experience to Conte’s midfield.

However, Romano concluded that there have been no talks to include Wijnaldum as a makeweight ‘as of now’.


Nine former world-beaters who are now in the bargain bin: Dembele, Alli, Hazard, Martial and more


Conte a difference-maker, but Spurs not favoured for fourth

Meanwhile, Jamie Redknapp claimed Antonio Conte has already made a “huge difference” at Tottenham, though picked a different team as favourites to snatch fourth spot.

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Speaking in the Sky Sports studio on Sunday, Redknapp hailed Spurs for bringing serial winner Antonio Conte on board, claiming the Italian has already made a “huge difference”.

Redknapp reckons Tottenham’s future is bright if Conte is backed. However, he thinks Man Utd will have too much in the race for fourth this season.

“Man United are favourites to get fourth for me,” said Redknapp (via the Express). But they’ve (Spurs) given themselves a great chance and getting the manager in when they did has made a huge difference.

“I said it a few weeks ago and I’ll say it again. If you give him the funds and get him the right players there’s no reason why he can’t achieve so much at Tottenham.

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It’s all there but they need one or two to thicken the squad up and make them better.”

READ MORE: Newcastle to follow Diego Carlos deal with capture of £32m man on Tottenham wish list

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