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Barcelona vulnerability makes time right for Diego Simeone to end home hoodoo vs. Catalans

Gab Marcotti and the FC crew break down Dutch duo Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong, a pair of Ajax stars catching the eyes of Europe's elite.

If a television documentary crew was given unfettered access to Diego Simeone's house, it would be no shock to find he had a little wax effigy of Lionel Messi with big needles sticking out of it. Of course nothing drives this elemental competitor to distraction more than those two Champions League final defeats to Real Madrid in Lisbon and Milan, but if anything comes close, it's the hex that Messi and Barcelona hold over him in La Liga and the Copa del Rey.

Notwithstanding twice knocking them...

Lionel Messi and Paul Pogba chat at Salt Bae's restaurant in Dubai

You know the situation: You're having a nice holiday and a meal out with your family when suddenly you spot someone from work in the same restaurant ... awkward!

Not so for Lionel Messi and Paul Pogba, as the pair looked to be getting on famously at Salt Bae's Turkish steakhouse in Dubai.

Both France and Argentina were in action on Friday, but neither star player was involved, choosing instead to have a lovely meal cooked for them.

Of course they also found time to have a deep conversation...

How jaded fans can still appreciate Lionel Messi on the 15th anniversary of his Barca debut

The fact that Lionel Messi makes the extraordinary look ordinary at times shouldn't diminish just how brilliant he is.
The fact that Lionel Messi makes the extraordinary look ordinary at times shouldn't diminish just how brilliant he is.

Sporting greatness is a form of anesthetic -- it has a numbing effect. The first time you watch Simone Biles skip across the floor, Roger Federer execute a perfect drop shot or Lewis Hamilton take a corner in the driving rain, you're utterly enchanted. By the hundredth time you see them do it, there's a danger that you will become immune to the sheer wonder, the same way you might if you'd grown up with your bedroom looking out toward the Northern Lights.

For that reason, there's a risk that...

Transfer Talk: Liverpool plan record £85m move for Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele

La Liga correspondent Sid Lowe and the FC crew weigh in on the drama surrounding Ousmane Dembele at Barcelona and his links to Liverpool.
The FC panel answer your tweets on Liverpool's precarious position in Group C, how Cavani's absence affected PSG and if Ousmane Dembele or Malcom is more likely to leave Barca.

With the winter window opening soon, the rumour mill is beginning to gather pace. Who will be moving where come January? Transfer Talk has the latest.

TOP STORY: Liverpool ready record move for Barca's Dembele

Liverpool are set to shatter their transfer record to sign Ousmane Dembele from Barcelona, according to the Sun.

France forward Dembele joined Barca last summer but could be on his way out amid questions over his attitude, with the Sun saying Jurgen Klopp "wants him to boost his team's Premier...

 By Shaka Hislop

Power Rankings: Manchester City stay top but beaten Barcelona fall

Shaka Hislop reveals his latest power rankings which see Manchester City on top while Barcelona take a tumble following their loss to Betis.
Craig Burley breaks down Manchester City's 3-1 win over Manchester United, which he says demonstrates the gap in quality between the two rivals.
Sergio Aguero shrugs off talk of an unbeaten Premier League season after Manchester City's victory over rivals Manchester United.

Derby day victory kept the English champions atop Shaka Hislop's Top 10, while Porto and Juventus are on the up. Barcelona, though, pay for their defeat.

Dropping out: Inter, Chelsea, Arsenal.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know, and watch Shaka defend his picks on ESPN FC TV!

Jordi Alba is the best player in La Liga right now, something Luis Enrique cannot ignore

Despite his reported falling out with Luis Enrique, ESPN FC's Sid Lowe explains why Jordi Alba couldn't be ignored ahead of Spain's clash at Croatia.
After Barcelona's home defeat to Real Betis, the FC crew examine the club's issues in the back, and Gab Marcotti questions their preparation.

"I think I've talked about Jordi Alba enough," Luis Enrique protested, but there was one more thing to say, left to the last minute. In the end, even he couldn't resist. On Thursday, the Spain coach returned Alba to the national team for the first time since the World Cup and the first time since he took over, finally ending one of the oddest absences anyone could remember.

Luis Enrique said he didn't change his mind because of the "clamour," but the noise, like the evidence, had become overwhelming....