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La Liga

La Liga 2011/2012 – standings after week 16

December 12th, 2011

Barcelona made it clear that the league this season is by no means over, with a devistating victory against Real Madrid on Saturday. Once again the Catalans ran rings around Madrid, with stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo seemingly overawed by players such as Leo Messi. The result leaves Barça on top of the table, equal on points with Real Madrid, but having played an extra match thanks to their Club World Cup commitments.

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Barcelona Make a Statement at the Bernabeu

December 12th, 2011

Barcelona have landed a major blow on bitter rivals Real Madrid, winning 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabéu. Goals from Alexis, Xavi and Cesc ensured a gutsy comeback and memorable result for Barça after sloppy play by Valdés had gifted Madrid an early goal through Benzema.

Perhaps the only surprise in Guardiola’s lineup was the absence of David Villa, who dropped to the bench – surely a result of the exciting form of Cesc and Alexis in recent weeks. And in some ways the formation was less overtly attacking than expected, with Cesc and the electric Iniesta joining and instigating attacks, but retaining a certain degree of discipline. Alexis was always furthest forward, probing across the frontline, while Messi operated in his deeper central role.

Barcelona got off to a dreadful start; Real Madrid pressed an early backpass to Valdés, and the ‘keeper made a hash of his kick, tamely finding Di Maria on the edge of the area. Busquets made two desperate blocks, but both fell to Madrid players – the second dropped at Benzema’s feet and the striker smashed his easy finish home from five yards with just a minute on the clock.

Understandably, Barça took time to find some composure. There were a few hairy moments for their backline, but it would be Messi who had the next real chance. He seized on a Ramos slip, jinked past Pepe, but saw his low effort saved on the stretch by Casillas. Two chances followed for Madrid – first for Benzema, whose header was well gathered by Valdés; then for a subdued Cristiano who had a close-range opportunity but sliced it wide.

From here Barcelona started to find their feet, keeping possession for longer spells. And by half an hour they were back in the game. Messi was the architect, bursting forward from the halfway line, dodging three tackles and posting Alexis through on goal. Under pressure from Pepe and Coentrão the Chilean found the bottom-right corner with precision.

With Barcelona’s ascendancy continuing into the second half it was probably no surprise that Real Madrid were becoming more forceful in the 50-50s, and the rancour that had plagued last season’s fixtures resurfaced intermittently. Ramos, Alonso, Pepe and Diarra were all booked, as increasingly dangerous tackles started to fly in.

Then, after a period of sustained possession, Xavi lashed a volley on goal from outside the area. Marcelo got a block in, but the ball skewed off his shin and span beyond the despairing reach of Casillas. Real Madrid were finding it increasingly difficult to get forward, but still posed a threat; Cristiano somehow managed to head a cross by Kaka wide from six yards.

The home team was punished almost instantly by a slick counter-attack. Messi set Alves free down the right wing, and Cesc stooped to meet his deep cross at the back-post to take the score to 3-1. There were subsequent chances for both teams, but the result never looked in doubt for Barcelona

1-0 Benzema (min 1)
1-1
Alexis (min 29)
1-2
Xavi (min 52)
1-3 Cesc (min 65)


La Liga 2011/2012 – standings after week 15

December 5th, 2011

Barcelona remain in second place in the league following their 5-0 win against Levante. Real Madrid are three points ahead, but it should be noted that Barça have played an additional match due to their participation in the Clubs World Cup.

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Thrashing for Levante

December 5th, 2011

Barcelona were back to their free-scoring best on Saturday night, trouncing Levante 5-0 at the Camp Nou. Cesc opened the scoring, and then made it two with a fine header after half an hour. Cuenca got the third, before Messi and Alexis completed the rout.

Guardiola reverted to a 3-4-3, which hadn’t been seen for a couple of months. Puyol started between Abidal and Mascherano, behind an all-Spanish midfield four of Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets and Cesc. At the apex of the side were Alexis, Messi and youngster Isaac Cuenca.

This was a match in which Barcelona never looked troubled; they controlled possession from the first minute, and the fluency that was so lacking a week ago at Getafe appears to have been recovered.

The first goal, just four minutes into the game, epitomised Barça’s rediscovered confidence. Messi fired a pass into the feet of Andres Iniesta, and the ever-stylish midfielder produced a perfect back-heeled flick to thread the ball through to Cesc in the clear, who in turn produced a clinical low finish past the stranded Munúa.

Xavi and Messi went close with free kicks; the latter was parried by Munúa into Puyol’s path, but the veteran defender just couldn’t make a connection. At any rate, his side was combining well, and Levante’s backline was forced into a series of rash tackles, leaving three of four with bookings by the half–hour mark.

After yet another foul on the edge of the penalty area, Xavi whipped in a free-kick that Cesc met with a smart glancing header that flew into the top corner, giving the goalkeeper no chance. The game was then put beyond doubt with a few minutes of the first half remaining. Messi embarked on one of his classic right to left dribbles before feeding Iniesta on the edge of the area, who in turn laid the ball off for Isaac Cuenca. Barça’s latest young star took his tally for the season to two, and made it three on the night for his team with a low curling shot, into the bottom right corner.

Valdés then had to react quickly to keep Kone out, but Barcelona were comfortable going into the break.

The second half was more of the same for els Culés, apart from personnel; Puyol had been withdrawn for Alves after colliding with Kone, and Keita replaced Sergio Busquets in the midfield.

Levante did manage to create a chance early on though, when del Horno rose to head a Javi Venta free-kick goalwards, but Valdés equal to the effort, pushing it round the post.

Barcelona were quick to reassert themselves – Dani Alves spotted Messi free on the right side of the area, and when the little Argentine went one-on-one there would be only one outcome, with Barça striding to a four goal lead. Five minutes later Alexis added another, finishing a slick passing move with an attempted lob that deflected off del Horno’s back and clipped the underside of the crossbar.

1-0 Fábregas (min 3)
2-0 Fábregas (min 32)
3-0 Isaac Cuenca (min 36)
4-0 Messi (min 53)
5-0 Alexis (min 59)


Alexis Steps Up For Barcelona

November 30th, 2011

FC Barcelona strolled past Rayo Vallecano on Tuesday night, beating the team from Madrid 4-0. Alexis Sánchez was one form, scoring two well-taken goals, the first of which was an impressive curled effort. Villa added the third after a slick passing move, and Messi made it four with a trademark solo effort.

Barça fans were handed some welcome good news in the build up to the match, learning that the ever-influential Andrés Iniesta would make his comeback. He joined Keita and Xavi in the midfield, sitting behind a potent attack of Villa, Messi and Alexis. Iniesta nearly marked the occasion early on with a spectacular goal from the halfway line, but his effort was just kept out by Cobeño.

Perhaps heartened by fellow Madrid club Getafe’s achievements on the weekend, Rayo began the match at full throttle, pressing and presumably hoping to take advantage of any hangover for Barcelona. A deep, floated cross found Guinean striker Lass free at the back-post, but his volley hit the side-netting. The 19 year-old was a real nuisance in the opening exchanges, showing pace and willingness to chase lost causes.

Cobeño was then forced back into action by Barcelona, the improving Alexis slipped Alves through, and his cross was deflected goalwards and only kept out on the stretch by Rayo’s ‘keeper. A swirling free-kick nearly caught Valdés out at the back-post.

Then, after a prolonged spell of possession, Barcelona took the lead; Xavi angled a pass to Alexis on the left angle of the area, and the Chilean forward curled a delightful shot in off the far post.

Rayo almost responded in kind. Michel brought the ball down in the area, but pressure from Abidal saw him shoot over.

From then it was all Barcelona, and the home team enjoyed what was perhaps a long overdue slice of luck; Messi fired a pass into Xavi’s feet on the edge of the area. The midfielder miscontrolled, but the ball landed at the feet of Alexis who produced a composed finish with the outside of his boot.

Then Villa capped the satisfying half Guardiola’s men, when he tapped home to make it 3-0 after a Piqué drove forward and released Dani Alves, who squared for the Asturian striker.

The second half was barely underway when Lionel Messi took centre stage. As he so often does, the diminutive Argentine picked the ball up by the right touchline and powered forward; he beat a defender to go one-on-one, and slotted past Cobeño to take the score to 4-0 and end the match as any kind of contest.

With the match in the bag, Guardiola could afford to withdraw Xavi, Inesta and Alexis, and the series of substitutions took the momentum out of the game.

Rayo were effectively spent, and Barcelona maintained possession, while occasionally fashioning chances. Villa’s effort in the 69th minute was spectacular, as he elegantly controlled a long pass and then tried a lob that went just over.

1-0 Alexis Sánchez (min 28)
2-0 Alexis Sánchez (min 40)
3-0 Villa (min 42)
4-0 Messi (min 49)

La Liga 2011/2012 – standings after week 14

November 28th, 2011

Barcelona lost their first match of the season on Saturday and while they remain in second place in the league Real Madrid’s 4-1 win over Atletico Madrid means the Catalans trail by six points and are just one point ahead of Valencia.

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Muted Barcelona Slip to First Defeat

November 28th, 2011

Barcelona lost their unbeaten record on Saturday night, slumping to a 1-0 defeat at Getafe. Guardiola’s men were subdued for most of the encounter, and fell to a header from Azulones’ defender Juan Valera.

Guardiola rested Fábregas for this match, opting for a midfield of Thiago, Sergio and Xavi, behind Messi, Alexis and Villa in attack. Getafe are a side with a decent home record, having overcome local rivals Atlético Madrid at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez at the start of the month.

And indeed, it turned out to be a tough night for Barça against a rugged and committed Getafe team. For the first half hour there were few opportunities for either outfit, with Barcelona struggling to get into their stride due to a mix of pressing by Getafe and their own occasional sloppiness.

Still, the away team might have been one-up in the second minute, when Alves slipped Villa free on the right side of the area. Moya tipped the ball wide, and that would be the sum of Barcelona’s chances for much of the first period. There were a couple of efforts from long-range free-kicks, and Getafe also had occasional sightings of goal, but two teams were largely cancelling each other out.

With around ten minutes of the first period to go, Barça started to find their rhythm; Moya had to be quick to snuffle out a one-on-one with Messi, add then a stylish flowing move ended with a Alves cutback and Alexis shot that Moya managed to push wide. Then another fleet attack led to another effort from Alexis, that too a dangerous deflection, carrying it just over the bar.

If Guardiola was hoping from a response from his players he’d have been a little disappointed, as Getafe enjoyed a degree of comfort after the break.

Worse still, after 20 minutes Getafe took the lead with one of their few spells in the Barcelona half. Sarabia curled a corner in, and Valera cropped up behind Busquets to head home.

Barcelona looked tired and were slow to respond, but Guardiola threw on Pedro and Cuenca in a bid to open up the stubborn home side. And it was Pedro who would have the next chance, breaking free on the right side of the area, but only able to shoot straight at Moya.

Barcelona piled on the pressure, but found Getafe increasingly frustrating, and the home side might even have doubled their lead when Miku broke free, only to shoot wide.

Then, as the clock wound down there were three moments of great drama; first Sergio went down in the area after wriggling free, but was issued a yellow card. Barça then had the ball in the net after a move between Messi and Keita, but the Malian midfielder was narrowly offside. With stoppage time all but over, Messi brought the ball into the area, but could only hit the post, bringing at end to what was a night to forget for Barcelona.

1-0 Valera (min 66)


La Liga 2011/2012 – standings after week 13

November 21st, 2011

FC Barcelona remain second in the league table after their 4-0 win against Zaragoza was matched by Real Madrid narrowly beating Valencia 3-2.

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Real Zaragoza Offer Little Resistance to Rampant Barcelona

November 21st, 2011

FC Barcelona romped to a 4-0 win at home to Real Zaragoza on Saturday night, with Piqué, Messi, Puyol and David Villa grabbing the goals. The home side was in sparkling form and had complete control of the game – only a fine performance by Los Blanquillos’ ‘keeper Roberto kept the score-line down.

Barcelona lined up for this game with an exciting attacking side; Alexis Sánchez started on the left flank, presented with an opportunity to put his stuttering early career with the club behind him. Young winger Isaac Cuenca took his place on the right, and Messi, Cesc and Xavi took up the central creative roles, switching positions throughout the evening.

As is so often the case, Barça took a little while to get going, but completely dominated possession and territory, with the majority of the football played on the edge of Zaragoza’s area. In fact it took a goal from Barcelona for them to find their attacking rhythm.

Cesc won a free-kick on left angle of the area after 20 minutes – Xavi stepped up and curled a teasing cross, which Piqué headed home unmarked from the six-yard line.

The remainder of the first half was a barrage from Barça, and saw Zaragoza ‘keeper in stunning form. Messi alone had four close-range chances stopped, with Alexis and Cesc providing the ammunition. One of the best opportunities fell to Barça’s Chilean winger – Messi hustled forward, laid the ball to Cesc, whose back-heel was perfectly timed to meet, Alexis’ run, but Roberto was once again equal to the shot.

Then, just as the first half was coming to a close, Cesc found Messi in space in the area with a perceptive pass. The Argentine forward ducked past centre-half Lanzaro and finished right-footed to double Barcelona’s lead.

Barcelona continued to carve Zaragoza open after the break, with Lionel Messi at the heart of the best moves. He released Cesc, who saw his left-footed effort tipped past the post by Roberto. This effort was followed by the away side’s only real attacking spell in the match – the most notable attempt was by Laifto, who ran at Barça’s backline, but smashed a right-footed shot wide of the near post.

Barcelona responded by scoring their third of the night. Puyol took up an advanced position for a free-kick and showed real grit to score at the second attempt after Keita headed Xavi’s back across goal. Sensing that the game was now safe, Guardiola withdrew Cesc, Xavi and Alexis, bring on Thiago, Iniesta and David Villa.

After a sublime run, Messi fed Iniesta, but his clever toe-poke was clawed away by the fingertips of Roberto, who was the man responsible for keeping an air of respectability to the score-line.

In the end it was El Guaje who notched Barcelona’s fourth – Cuenca worked his way to the byline, and, when the youngster’s cross was deflected by Minero, Villa was on hand to complete the rout with a diving header.

1-0 Gerard Pique (min 17)
2-0 Lionel Messi (min 42)
3-0 Carles Puyol (min 53)
4-0 David Villa (min 74)


La Liga 2011/2012 – standings after week 12

November 7th, 2011

Barcelona remains in second place in the Spanish League table after the weekend. While Real Madrid beat Osasuna 7-1, Barça took just a single point, which leaves them three points behind and Valencia now snapping at their heels.

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