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Preview: Barca to be tested by Vallecano after Clasico defeat******
MADRID, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- FC Barcelona have another difficult game on Wednesday night when Ronald Koeman takes his side to the south of Madrid to play Rayo Vallecano.
Barca travel after the 2-1 defeat at home to bitter rivals Real Madrid on Sunday, which laid bare the club's current difficult situation and once again placed Koeman in the firing line for criticism and worse as a group of fans insulted him and kicked his car as he left the Camp Nou after the game.
The club has issued a statement criticizing the incident, but despite his apparent support for the coach, club president, Joan Laporta would find it difficult to retain the Dutchman in the wake of a defeat to the recently promoted side.
Koeman will still be without the injured Martin Braithwaite, Ronald Araujo and Pedri for the trip, with rumors that Pedri's recovery from a knee injury is going to take longer than at first expected.
However, the Barca coach will be at least content that Ansu Fati looks as if he has now fully recovered from his knee injury, while Kun Aguero is pushing for minutes after scoring his side's consolation goal on Sunday.
Oscar Mingueza is likely to drop out of the side with Sergino Dest dropping back to right back, while Sergi Roberto and Philippe Coutinho could also start in the Vallecas Stadium.
Although Rayo have lost two of their last three games, the team from the south of Madrid are still seventh in LaLiga, which is a reward for the adventurous attacking football they are playing under coach Andoni Iraola.
Proof of that was the way they fought back from 2-0 down away to Betis at the weekend, before finally succumbing to a late penalty. But players such as Isi Palison, Randy Nketa and the experienced Radamel Falcao will be a handful for a hard-pressed Barca defense and unless Barca can deal with their high pressure better than they did with Real Madrid's on Sunday, Koeman could be in trouble. Enditem
Chinese international Li Lei to join Swiss club Grasshopper Zurich******
BEIJING, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- Swiss Super League side Grasshopper Zurich announced on Monday that Chinese left-back Li Lei will join the club in January 2022.。
"Playing football in Europe has been a dream since I was a child. It's a very precious opportunity for a player of my age. I want to experience a new environment and see what I can do in Europe," said Li, who currently plays for Chinese Super League (CSL) club Beijing Guoan.。
29-year-old Li helped Guoan win the 2018 Chinese FA Cup, and was named in the CSL's Team of the Year in 2019, also making his international debut in March that year.。
"We are really happy to see Li join our club. He is a Chinese international and can bring a lot of experience to the team. We hope he can adapt to Swiss football and culture well and help the team in the rest of the season," read a Grasshopper Zurich statement. Enditem。
Russia almost completes destruction of Ukrainian military infrastructure: Putin******
Russia has "practically" completed the mission of destroying Ukraine's main military infrastructure, including weapon warehouses, ammunition depots, aviation and air defense systems, President Vladimir Putin said Saturday.
Russian forces will fulfill all their assigned tasks and the operation in Ukraine is proceeding in accordance with the plan and schedule, Putin said at a meeting with women flight crews of Russian airlines.
Commenting on a new wave of Western sanctions, Putin said they are akin to a "declaration of war."
He stressed that there is no need to introduce a state of emergency in Russia.
It was "a difficult decision" to launch a special military operation in Ukraine, but there are "absolutely real threats" to Russia, the president said.
If Ukraine joins the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the whole military bloc is obliged to support Kiev militarily and Ukraine may get into Crimea, leading to direct clashes between Russia and NATO, Putin warned.
As Russia demands demilitarization of Ukraine, Putin said there are many different options on the negotiating table with Kiev.