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La Liga

Barcelona Are Champions!

May 12th, 2011
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FC Barcelona have won their 21st Primera División title after earning a 1-1 draw away at Levante on Wednesday night. It’s the third successive year that Guardiola’s side has finished top of the league. And there is now a growing consensus throughout the football world that this Barça team is one of the greatest ever to play the game.

The point was convenient for both sides, with Levante now close to securing their La Liga status for another season. And although the first half was relatively competitive the last 20 minutes of the game saw both teams more than happy to settle for a draw.

The final whistle was greeted with rapturous celebrations, as the entire Barça squad ran onto the pitch to revel in the moment and cap a season of near-total superiority, but one that was also full of drama. In truth, the title is testament to the sheer guts of a side that has negotiated an injury crisis in defence for much of the season. Despite losing a host of players at the back, this remarkable team has only lost two league matches this season, all the while playing with their trademark attacking flair.

Although there was an element of rotation tonight, Barcelona started with David Villa, Messi and Xavi, demonstrating a desire to get the title wrapped up as early as possible with the Champions League final looming large on the horizon.

Levante’s manager Luís García had made it clear before the match that he had no intention of attacking his visitors, and instead anticipated his team’s best opportunities coming from set pieces. So it was little surprise to see the Granotes getting men behind the ball and defending stubbornly. Captain and human monolith Sergio Ballesteros was doing a fine job marshalling his teammates and keeping defensive discipline.

Barcelona’s answer to these tactics was to move the ball patiently and wait for an opening to present itself rather than forcing the issue. As has often been the case this season, Barça eventually found a way through on the half-hour mark.

It was a goal that underlined the unique qualities of Guardiola’s Barça; Xavi spotted Seydou Keita making a run from a deep inside-left position and found the Malian midfielder with a perfect lofted forward pass. Keita barely had to break stride as he headed the ball into the top-left corner from just inside the area.

In response Levante made a concerted effort to put Barça’s defenders under pressure. Their equaliser came after Ecuadorian striker Caicedo took advantage of a mix up between Gerard Piqué and goalkeeper Víctor Valdés.

Lionel Messi came to fore in the second half, lighting up the pitch two outrageous dribbles, only to be denied firstly by the post, and then by the despairing lunge of a Levante defender.

For the final minutes of the match the Barcelona subs were all standing arm in arm, ready for the final whistle, and with it confirmation of another season of domestic domination.

La Liga table 2010/11 – round 35

May 9th, 2011

With just nine points available and Barça eight points ahead of Real Madrid this season is all but decided after both teams won their respective matches. Barcelona faces Levante on Wednesday and that is almost certain to be the deciding match.

Team P W D L F A Pts
1
Barcelona
35
29
4
2
91
19
91
2
Real Madrid
35
26
5
4
87
31
83
3
Valencia
35
20
6
9
60
42
66
4
Villarreal
35
18
7
10
53
40
61
5
Athletic Bilbao
35
17
3
15
55
51
54
6
Sevilla
35
15
7
13
54
55
52
7
Atlético Madrid
35
15
7
13
55
47
52
8
Espanyol
35
15
3
17
42
49
48
9
Sporting Gijón
35
10
13
12
33
39
43
10
Levante
35
12
7
16
38
49
43
11
Mallorca
35
12
7
16
35
47
43
12
Racing Santander
35
11
10
14
37
51
43
13
Málaga
35
12
6
17
50
64
42
14
Osasuna
35
11
8
16
41
42
41
15
Real Sociedad
35
13
2
20
45
61
41
16
Getafe
35
11
7
17
46
56
40
17
Zaragoza
35
10
9
16
36
50
39
18
Deportivo
35
9
12
13
29
44
39
19
Hércules
35
9
6
20
33
56
33
20
Almería
35
5
11
19
32
61
26

Barcelona Amble Past Espanyol

May 9th, 2011

FC Barcelona registered a simple win against Espanyol in the Barcelona derby tonight, easing to a 2-0 victory against their local rivals. It was a professional but low-key victory – the perfect antidote to the acrimony that engulfed the recent series of Clásicos.

After an uneventful start, Iniesta opened the scoring in the first half with a stylish run and finish, while Gerard Piqué made it 2-0 with a straightforward headed finish from a Xavi corner. Barça now just need one point from their remaining three games to secure a 21st Primera División title.

Starting with his best front six, Guardiola was able to call on a strong team against a side that has offered stiff resistance in recent seasons. At the back Fontàs filled in for Abidal and Adriano, while Mascherano’s impressive recent displays at centre half were rewarded with another start.

The opening half hour of the match was tight, with Espanyol quick to get players behind the ball and close off space. On their rare attacks they appeared to be targeting Fontàs at left back, but a few brief forays yielded little more than a dangerous set piece.

Osvaldo, els Banquiblaus’ most impressive player this season, was cutting an increasingly forlorn figure as the home side started to find their rhythm.

Iniesta made a statement of intent as he turned and ran at the Espanyol defence before finding room to curl a shot inside the far post. Kameni, the Cameroonian ‘keeper, was equal to the attempt on that occasion, but Barça’s stylish playmaker would find the net from a similar position a few minutes later.

This time Iniesta played a fortuitous one-two with Espanyol’s Galán, before cutting inside Amat at centre half and giving Kameni no chance. Barcelona were now in full flow, crafting a handful of chances via sublime one-touch combinations; Messi found David Villa after some delightful staccato passing, but the Asturian striker was unable to produce a finish worth of the move, guiding a close-range effort past the left post.

Barcelona had been forced to work hard for their first-half opportunities, but were handed their second goal on a platter at just after the break. Piqué was able to meet a Xavi corner unopposed and nod down to double his side’s lead.

This goal effectively killed the contest, and, after an exhausting month, Barça could be excused a couple of lapses of concentration. The slippery Osvaldo twice got the better of Piqué with the score at 2-0, but Víctor Valdés showed quick reactions on both occasions to preserve his side’s clean sheet.

Éric Abidal was then given the opportunity to continue his remarkable rehabilitation, replacing Fontàs on the 70-minute mark. With Adriano still absent the French defender will offer a much-needed option at left back, as Barcelona can now turn their attention to the final of the Champions League in Wembley at the end of the month.

1-0, Iniesta (min 29)
2-0, Piqué (min 47)

La Liga table 2010/11 – round 34

May 2nd, 2011

Barcelona retain their eight point lead over Real Madrid after both teams lost at the weekend. After last week’s Champions League clash tensions are running high, with the the return match taking place at the Nou Camp on Tuesday and Jose Mourinho apparently conceding defeat in his post match press conference rant.

Team P W D L F A Pts
1
Barcelona 34 28 4 2 89 19 88
2
Real Madrid 34 25 5 4 81 29 80
3
Valencia 34 19 6 9 57 42 63
4
Villarreal 34 18 6 10 53 40 60
5
Sevilla 34 15 7 12 52 49 52
6
Atlético Madrid 34 15 7 12 55 44 52
7
Athletic Bilbao 33 16 3 14 51 47 51
8
Espanyol 33 14 3 16 40 46 45
9
Levante 34 12 7 15 36 46 43
10
Sporting Gijón 34 10 12 12 31 37 42
11
Mallorca 34 12 6 16 35 47 42
12
Real Sociedad 34 13 2 19 45 58 41
13
Racing Santander 34 10 10 14 34 49 40
14
Málaga 34 11 6 17 47 64 39
15
Zaragoza 34 10 9 15 35 47 39
16
Osasuna 34 10 8 16 38 41 38
17
Deportivo 34 9 11 13 27 42 38
18
Getafe 34 10 7 17 44 56 37
19
Hércules 34 9 6 19 31 53 33
20
Almería 34 5 11 18 32 59 26

Barcelona Slip Against Spirited Sociedad

May 2nd, 2011

FC Barcelona fell to a 2-1 defeat at Real Sociedad on Saturday evening. The Basque team capitalised on two defensive slips to condemn Barça to a first league defeat since September and boost their own fight against relegation. Substitute Diego Ifrán tapped home from close range, and Xabi Prieto converted a penalty to cancel out Thiago’s opener for the away team.

Barça will feel also somewhat aggrieved after a legitimate Milito goal was disallowed for offside when the match was finely poised at 1-1. Despite this frustration the result means that the picture remains unchanged at the top thanks to Real Madrid’s latest home defeat, this time at the hands of Real Zaragoza.

Pep Guardiola elected to field a smattering of young Barcelona B talent ahead of the crucial Champions League semi-final second leg at the Camp Nou on Tuesday. Andreu Fontàs, Martín Montoya and Thiago all provided a glimpse of the next generation.

Barcelona were largely superior early on and fashioned two quick chances, with Messi smashing a volley just wide and Afellay forcing a smart save from ‘keeper Claudio Bravo. Montoya then had his game sadly cut short after a foul by Xabi Prieto.

There was little to trouble Pinto at the other end, apart from a half-chance for Raúl Tamudo. The former Espanyol man almost notched a goal against his old rivals, directing a lobbed Griezmann pass inches past the post.

Just before the half hour mark, the mounting Barça pressure told; Xavi fired a 20-yard pass along the ground to Messi. For once in his career the Argentine failed to bring the ball under control, but young Thiago Alcántara was quickest to react and found the back of the net via a touch from Claudio Bravo and the underside of the crossbar.

By half time it looked like Guardiola’s men were taking another comfortable step towards a third successive title, but Real Sociedad came out for the second 45 with renewed purpose. Within minutes they were looking dangerous from set pieces; Pinto half-cleared a Griezmann free kick and Estrada went just wide with a long-range volley.

Barça’s defence was starting to look a little indecisive, and this was especially evident for the Erreala equaliser. After a scramble following one of many high crosses, substitute Diego Ifrán escaped the attentions of young Andreu Fontàs to find the net with his first touch of the game.

This goal was followed by the game’s most contentious moment. Gabriel Milito stooped to head home a teasing Xavi delivery at the back post, but the assistant’s flag was raised instantly. Replays suggested the Argentine defender was level.

Real Sociedad took the lead a few minutes later when a tentative exchange of passes between Mascherano, Alves and Pinto handed dangerous possession to Sociedad. Griezmann was felled by Mascherano and Xabi Prieto stepped up to squeeze home a tame penalty.

Although the defeat was frustratingly preventable, Barça’s lead at the top still looks unassailable.

0-1, Thiago (min 29)
1-1, Ifrán (min 71)
2-1, Xabi Prieto (pen, min 82)

La Liga table 2010/11 – round 33

April 25th, 2011

FC Barcelona remains eight points ahead of Real Madrid after both teams won their respective matches. Ominously – ahead of the Champions League clashes this week and next – Madrid beat third placed Valencia 6-3 but Barcelona’s 2-0 win against Osasuna rested some of Barça’s big guns

Team P W D L F A Pts
1
Barcelona
33
28
4
1
88
17
88
2
Real Madrid
33
25
5
3
79
26
80
3
Valencia
33
19
6
8
57
41
63
4
Villarreal
33
17
6
10
51
39
57
5
Athletic Bilbao
33
16
3
14
51
47
51
6
Sevilla
33
14
7
12
51
49
49
7
Atlético Madrid
33
14
7
12
54
44
49
8
Espanyol
33
14
3
16
40
46
45
9
Levante
33
12
6
15
36
46
42
10
Mallorca
33
12
6
15
35
45
42
11
Sporting Gijón
33
10
11
12
31
37
41
12
Deportivo
33
9
11
12
27
41
38
13
Real Sociedad
33
12
2
19
43
57
38
14
Getafe
33
10
7
16
43
54
37
15
Racing Santander
33
9
10
14
32
49
37
16
Málaga
33
10
6
17
44
63
36
17
Osasuna
33
9
8
16
37
41
35
18
Hércules
33
9
6
18
30
50
33
19
Zaragoza
32
8
9
15
31
45
33
20
Almería
32
5
11
16
32
57
26

Barça Backups Eventually Overcome Osasuna

April 24th, 2011

FC Barcelona produced a workmanlike performance to defeat CA Osasuna 2-0 and maintain their charge for a 21st Primera División title. David Villa struck midway through the first half to end an 11-game goalless streak, and Barcelona’s Ballon d’Or trio all came off the bench to help cement a low-key win.

In the end it was Lionel Messi who made the victory certain, dispatching a perfect Alves through-pass to reach a superhuman half-century of goals in all competitions for the season.

Barça’s starting XI was a mixture of fringe-players and youth stars, with Jeffrén making a rare appearance on the left wing and Maxwell at left fullback deputising for the injured Adriano and infirmed Abidal. Meanwhile Gerard Piqué was rested ahead of the midweek trip to the Bernabeu, and Messi, Iniesta, Pedro and Xavi helped make up a formidable Barça bench.

Despite the apparent low standard of tonight’s opposition – Osasuna arrived at the Camp Nou on the back of three straight defeats – Pep Guardiola’s young team needed to win to maintain the eight-point cushion ahead of Real Madrid, who had just registered a convincing victory over Valencia at the Mestalla.

Guardiola’s young charges looked comfortable in the opening exchanges without penetrating much. Meanwhile most of Osasuna’s counter-punches, orchestrated by the lively Camuñas, were neatly snuffed out by Javier Mascherano. The tenacious Argentine is looking more assured by the game in his new central defensive position.

Still, no player typified Barça’s first-half display better than Jeffrén Suárez on the left wing. The 23 year-old gave the ball away a number of times, but also conjured a couple of moments of magic. And it was from a perfect cross by the mercurial winger that David Villa notched a much-needed goal. The Asturian striker slid in at the back post to stab the ball past Ricardo into the bottom right corner.

Rather than instilling self-belief, the goal was followed by a period of Osasuna pressure. The final minutes of the first period saw the team from Navarre carve their best opportunities. And no chance was more clear-cut than the one that fell to former Barça B player Damià Abella. The midfielder found himself teed up 5 yards out by Enrique Sola, but he snatched his shot under pressure from Maxwell and Víctor Valdés produced a reflex goal-line save to turn the ball away for a corner.

The second half saw the introduction of Iniesta, who was followed by Messi and Xavi. This injection of quality helped to add a measure of stability to Barcelona’s second half performance, with Osasuna unable to build on their pressure at the end of the previous half.

Messi put the game to bed in the 87th minute when he was found by an incisive Dani Alves pass and drilled a right-footed shot beneath Ricardo, adding a little gloss to an unspectacular though professional win on St George’s day in Barcelona.

La Liga table 2010/11- round 32

April 18th, 2011

After Barcelona’s draw against Real Madrid on Saturday, the Catalans remain eight points ahead. While that is that as far as the arch-rivals go in the league, the two clubs face each other in the Copa del Rey final this week, as well as the Champions League semi-finals.

Team P W D L F A Pts
1
Barcelona
32
27
4
1
86
17
85
2
Real Madrid
32
24
5
3
73
23
77
3
Valencia
32
19
6
7
54
35
63
4
Villarreal
31
16
6
9
48
36
54
5
Athletic Bilbao
32
15
3
14
49
46
48
6
Sevilla
32
13
7
12
48
47
46
7
Atlético Madrid
32
13
7
12
50
43
46
8
Espanyol
32
14
3
15
40
45
45
9
Levante
32
12
6
14
35
42
42
10
Mallorca
32
11
6
15
33
45
39
11
Sporting Gijón
32
9
11
12
30
37
38
12
Real Sociedad
32
12
2
18
42
55
38
13
Deportivo
32
9
11
11
27
40
38
14
Getafe
32
10
7
15
43
52
37
15
Racing Santander
32
9
10
13
31
47
37
16
Osasuna
32
9
8
15
37
39
35
17
Málaga
32
9
6
17
42
62
33
18
Zaragoza
31
8
9
14
31
44
33
19
Hércules
32
8
6
18
29
50
30
20
Almería
32
5
11
16
32
57
26

Barcelona Continue Title March After Vital Draw in Madrid

April 17th, 2011

FC Barcelona took a huge step towards a third successive Primer Division title after securing a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabéu in the first of four climatic Clásicos. Pep Guardiola’s team bossed possession and arguably had the best chances, but had to settle for a point after Los Blancos came back from a goal and a man down to win a debatable penalty with ten minutes to go.

Nevertheless, the result leaves Barça in a practically insurmountable position; eight points clear at the top of the table, with a superior head-to-head record against their historic rivals.

Barcelona went into the game with their strongest XI for months, with captain Carles Puyol making a surprise start after recovering from a long-term injury that had kept him out of action since January.

For all of the hype, and column inches in anticipation of a memorable spectacle, the game got off to a relatively subdued start, with play frequently broken by niggling fouls. Both coaches spent much of the opening at the edge of their technical areas marshalling a fraught tactical battle.

The pattern that finally emerged was one of Barcelona dominance, and no little negativity from their opponents; Madrid’s midfield was effectively composed of three holding players sitting tight in front of their defence. It was no surprise that the first chance fell to the Blaugrana team – Iniesta crafted one of his signature looped passes to set Messi free, but the forward saw his lob saved easily by Casillas.

On the half-hour mark Barcelona had a great shout for a penalty when Villa raced onto a through pass after a stylish move, appearing to reach the ball before the Madrid ‘keeper who brought El Guaje to the ground. Referee Cesar Muniz Fernández wave the Barça protests away and even saw fit to book a livid Gerard Pique.

This fortunate escape appeared to stir Real Madrid, who finally began to emerge from their shells. Los Merengues’ best opportunities came via set pieces and the brutal right boot of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese forward slammed a trademark free kick off Valdes’ right post and had a header saved off the line by the increasingly impressive Adriano.

Yet it was Barcelona who were dictating play. And when the industrious Villa chased another clipped pass over the Real Madrid backline, Raul Albiol clumsily hauled the striker down by his collar – penalty, red card and Messi dispatched the spot-kick to take his tally to 49 and counting.

Puyol was withdrawn with a recurrence of his thigh injury, and Barça opted to slow the tempo, knowing Madrid had to chase the game with ten men. The strategy was paying off until Marcelo took on Alves down the left side of the penalty area. The right back appeared to win the ball with his sliding tackle, but Fernández pointed to the spot to allow Cristiano Ronaldo win a share of the points for Madrid ahead of Wednesday’s cup final.

0-1, Messi (pen, min 52)
1-1, Ronaldo (pen, min 83)

Barcelona See off Spirited Almería

April 11th, 2011

FC Barcelona edged a little closer to the title on Saturday night with a display of steely determination to overcome a stubborn Almería team. After a disjointed first-half, Barça swept the Andalucian visitors aside, but not before going a goal down.

Once again Lionel Messi will deservedly take the plaudits after raising his tally to a staggering 47 goals for the season. Much like his team tonight, the Argentine genius’ performance was a little below his best. But it was his sheer will to win that was most remarkable; as late as second-half injury time he chased an apparent lost cause to force a mistake from Marcelo Silva and seal the game for his team with a delicate close-range chip.

It was an unfamiliar Barça side to take to the pitch tonight. The recent defensive injury crisis was exacerbated by one-match suspensions to Víctor Valdés and Busquets, while Bojan began in place of Villa, and Pedro continued his slow reintroduction to the side by starting on the bench. Young La Masia graduate, Thiago was rewarded for his mature performance away to Villareal with another midfield start.

Perhaps understandably, Barcelona were unable to assert their usual tempo on the match in the first half. Bojan produced a rare moment of excitement as he crafted an opportunity for Thiago after a great run. But his game was ended by an awkward collision with Marcelo Silva, and Villa entered the fray in his stead.

Almería’s performance belied their status as the league’s bottom club, working hard to deny Barcelona time and space in the final third. In truth the Blaugrana side was starting to look more than a little frustrated when the half time whistle blew.

A much-improved second half was needed, and at the offset it was clear that Barça were upping the ante. Villa drilled the ball onto the post after just three minutes. Still, this team has been a little vulnerable on counter attacks lately, and so it proved when Almería broke from a corner and Miguel Ángel Corona was set free to tuck the ball below Pinto.

Gabriel Milito was perhaps culpable for the goal by dropping a little too deep, but the central defender atoned for his error moments later with a wonderful raking pass to release Villa, who was felled by Diego Alves to win a vital penalty. Messi stepped up and made no mistake, smashing the ball into the bottom right corner.

Pedro soon took to the field, allowing Iniesta to drop back to his midfield role and start conducting affairs with his usual panache. A second goal was starting to look inevitable, and it came from Barcelona’s youngest player; Thiago met a Messi corner with a perfect glancing header to give Alves no chance.

From then on, the visitors posed no real threat, and Messi struck at the death to add a little gloss to another crucial win.

0-1 Corona (min 49)
1-1 Messi (min 52)
2-1 Thiago (min 63)
3-1 Messi (min 90)

Team P W D L F A Pts
1
Barcelona
31
27
3
1
85
16
84
2
Real Madrid
31
24
4
3
72
22
76
3
Valencia
31
18
6
7
51
35
60
4
Villarreal
31
16
6
9
48
36
54
5
Sevilla
31
13
7
11
48
46
46
6
Atlético Madrid
31
13
6
12
48
41
45
7
Athletic Bilbao
31
14
3
14
47
45
45
8
Espanyol
31
14
2
15
38
43
44
9
Levante
31
11
6
14
33
41
39
10
Mallorca
31
11
6
14
33
42
39
11
Sporting Gijón
31
9
11
11
29
35
38
12
Racing Santander
31
9
10
12
31
45
37
13
Osasuna
31
9
8
14
36
37
35
14
Real Sociedad
31
11
2
18
40
54
35
15
Deportivo
31
8
11
11
25
40
35
16
Getafe
30
9
7
14
41
49
34
17
Zaragoza
30
7
9
14
29
43
30
18
Hércules
31
8
6
17
28
48
30
19
Málaga
31
8
6
17
39
62
30
20
Almería
31
5
11
15
32
54
26

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