The Observer says Johan Neeskens, Rijkaard's assistant coach at the Nou Camp, has told friends that he believes the pair will be replaced during the winter break regardless of results before then.

Jose Mourinho's agent, Jorge Mendes, has been contacted by Barca - and Real Madrid - to prepare the ex-Chelsea boss for an opening at one of the two Spanish giants. Though Bernd Schuster's team are top of the Primera Liga, the German has upset members of Real's hierarchy.

Both positions appeal to Mourinho, who is aware that the 23 December meeting between Real and Barca could open up one or the other. In typically thorough style, he and his coaching staff have begun to devise outline strategies for each club.