Lionel Messi scored a spectacular hat-trick as FC Barcelona destroyed Atlético Madrid 5-0 at the Camp Nou on Saturday night. The Argentine forward was a menace throughout, bouncing back to form after a relatively subdued midweek performance against Valencia.
Víctor Valdés’ goal was rarely under threat from Los Colchoneros’ potent frontline, which was starved of space and possession in the face of a magnificent team display by the home side. David Villa opened the scoring, followed by a João Miranda own goal and Messi’s dazzling three-goal haul.
Even after an opening to the season that has seen a great deal of tactical experimentation by Pep Guardiola, Saturday’s formation was very unorthodox. The coach persisted with 3-4-3, but this time Dani Alves was playing as the right-sided defender. Meanwhile Sergio Busquets operated as a kind of attacking sweeper, dropping into defence when needed, but generally patrolling the area in front.
Barça were ahead within 10 minutes – David Villa chested down a 30-yard diagonal pass by Xavi, danced inside João Miranda and tucked the ball past Courtois to cap a fantastic goal. Tiago Mendes had earlier clipped the top of the bar, but Atlético Madrid were yet to settle, and fell further behind through an unfortunate own goal. This time Pedro broke forward, before the ball fell at the feet of Messi, whose shot ricocheted off ‘keeper Courtois and João Miranda, and into the net.
After the second goal it was Lionel Messi who took the limelight. On 25 minutes he took a short throw on the right touchline. Getting the ball back from Pedro, he squirmed past two Atlético players before accelerating past the remainder of the defence with one touch, and smashing home at the near post while feigning for the far corner. It was one of the best of many fantastic individual goals in the course of his short career.
As majestic as this effort was, Messi nearly topped it in the second half when he ran the length of the pitch before being fouled by Perea on the edge of the area. In between, Cesc Fàbregas almost scored with a fabulous 35-yard chip that Courtois could only watch bounce off the top of the cross-bar. Meanwhile there was more good news for Barcelona when Gerard Piqué made his return from injury, replacing Busquets a few minutes after half time.
With 15 minutes to go Lionel Messi once again went about terrorising the Atlético backline. This time he made a diagonal run from about 40 yards out, bypassing central defence before dummying his way round João Miranda and sidefooting past the static Courtois, into the bottom right corner.
He capped an unforgettable performance just before full time when he played a one-two with David Villa, strode forward and guided a finish between Courtois’ legs. It was a fitting end to the night for Barcelona’s number 10, who must already be counted among the greatest ever to play the game.
1-0 Villa (min 9)
2-0 Miranda (own goal) (min 15)
3-0 Messi (min 26)
4-0 Messi (min 77)
5-0 Messi (min 91)
FC Barcelona drew 2-2 with Valencia at the Estadio Mestalla on Wednesday night in a frenetic and fast-paced encounter. Valencia took the lead twice, first through an Abidal own goal, and then winger Pablo Hernández, but Barcelona fought back, with Pedro and Cesc getting on the scoresheet.
Barcelona’s evening got off to a difficult start; on the ten-minute mark Valencia winger Jérémy Mathieu drove down the left flank and delivered a teasing cross that Abidal could only turn push past Valdés despite not being under any real pressure. It was an unfortunate blow, but Barça’s response was almost instant.
A fine exhibition of quick passing and movement saw the ball flicked by Cesc to Lionel Messi at the edge of the area. The Argentine forward spotted the run of Pedro Rodríguez and slipped a deft pass between two defenders to the left side of the six-yard box for his teammate to equalise.
Moments later Barcelona could have had a penalty when Adil Rami brought down Messi on the very edge of the penalty box. The French international made no contact with the ball, but somehow escaped punishment for what looked like a clear foul just inside the area.
Valencia were soon causing Barça problems again, pressuring high up the pitch. Once again Mathieu surged down the left side, beating Mascherano and producing yet another dangerous cross. This time Abidal deflected the ball away from goal but only into the path of Pablo Hernández who made no mistake with his finish.
The away side might even have been two goals behind when the move was replicated for a third time, but to Valdés’ relief Soldado somehow managed to nudge Mathieu’s ball past the near post.
Up to half time Guardiola had opted for a three-man defence, but after the break Alves took his place at right-back after starting in midfield. As a result Barcelona looked far more comfortable and faced few defensive scares as the match wore on. Still, Valencia offered plenty of intensity, perhaps best typified by industrious central midfielder Éver Banega.
Barça’s first real sight of goal in the second half came after 20 minutes, when Mascherano crashed a 30 yard shot off the angle of the post and crossbar, with Gaita completely beaten.
Messi was then released by Thiago, but couldn’t quite bring the ball under his spell. Seconds later though, diminutive dynamo produced a perfect chipped pass to find Cesc who made no mistake to take his tally for the season to four goals in four league games.
Messi nearly conjured a match-winning assist late on, when he confounded the entire Valencia defence with a reverse pass for substitute David Villa, but the striker’s shot was well saved. There was still time for a late penalty shout, once again from Messi, but in the end Barcelona had to settle for a hard-earned point at a difficult venue.
1-0, Abidal (own goal) (min 11)
1-1, Pedro (min 13)
2-1, Pablo (min 23)
2-2, Cesc (min 76)
FC Barcelona were in breathtaking form on Monday night as they defeated Villareal 5-0 at the Camp Nou. Playing with a new formation, Guardiola’s men were in total control from start to finish. New recruits Cesc Fàbregas and Alexis Sánchez were among the scorers, while Barca’s latest young talent Thiago Alcântara was in excellent shape, weighing in with a goal and two assists.
But it was Lionel Messi who stole the show, as he so often does, providing one assist for Cesc, and scoring two well-taken goals of his own. The performance was a reminder to all that Barcelona are still the team to beat in the Primera División.
Barcelona started with an unorthodox 3-4-3 formation, especially remarkable because it didn’t include a single recognised striker, and, in Abidal, only one experienced defender. The remainder of the three-man backline included Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano, defensive-midfielders until only last season. Keita played in front of the defence, occasionally dropping back to offer support. Pedro and Alexis provided the attacking width, while Messi, Iniesta Thiago and Cesc interchanged to devastating effect.
With this formation Barça were able to maintain their usual lion’s share of possession, all the while offering even more penetrating runs from deep. Cesc’s movement, working in tandem with Messi, was especially unpredictable.
The first real chance of the half fell to Messi, after being released by a clever reverse pass from Pedro. The new Argentine captain’s shot was saved at the near post by Diego López, and Busquets grazed the crossbar when he rose to meet the ensuing corner.
Barça’s opening goal came after Thiago was found just beyond the halfway line by Cesc. The young midfielder drove forward in a diagonal direction until he reached the Villareal area. When a pass failed to present itself he lashed a left-footed shot into the bottom right corner.
The goal was followed by an isolated reminder of Villareal’s attacking threat, when Rossi latched onto a lofted pass but smashed his effort into the side-netting. At any rate Barcelona were in full control, and doubled their lead before half-time. Messi caressed a sublime through-ball for Cesc, who rounded López to open his league account for Barcelona on his first start.
Pep Guardiola’s men picked up where they left off after the break. Within seconds of the restart Thiago picked out Alexis with a looped pass from the outside of his boot, and the Chilean winger made no mistake one-on-one with Villareal’s exposed ‘keeper.
Just five minutes after this Messi would get on the scoresheet, when he rounded López yet again, after yet another perfect through-ball, this time by Iniesta. Such was Barça’s dominance that they could afford to withdraw both Iniesta and Cesc with more than 20 minutes of the game remaining.
Messi was on the field and still wasn’t finshed; he exchanged passes with Thiago in the Villareal area before tapping home from six yards to make it 5-0.
1-0 Thiago (25′)
2-0 Fabregas (44′)
3-0 Alexis (47′)
4-0 Messi (51′)
5-0 Messi (74′)
Barça took the first match of the new season last night with a 3-0 win against Racing Santander. Messi, Iniesta and new signing David Villa all scored in the away match, with the first hom game being played the weekend of 11/12 September against Hercules – check the homepage for details of Barcelona tickets for forthcoming home matches.
0-1 Messi (min 3)
0-2 Iniesta (min 32)
0-3 Villa (min 63)
Other news: the deadlock over Ibrahimovic has been solved by loaning him out of AC Milan. The player and his manager have recently been critical of Pep Guardiola after it looked like Ibrahimovic would spend much of the season on the bench again.
The date for Barcelona-Real Madrid appears to have been set for Saturday 22nd December, although we’re awaiting final confirmation and time. We’ll email clients for this match full details as soon as we have them.
The last home match before the big challenge from Real Madrid is being played tomorrow night. Deportivo de la Coruña will face a slightly tougher Barça squad with Giovani dos Santos, Thuram and Sylvinho all match fit after missing the previous game and Eto’o and Deco back in the squad.On the other hand Touré Yaya is out of the squad with sinusitis related migraines, as well as Edmilson, Oleguer and Henry.
More information: Barcelona tickets
Barcelona’s 2 match tour of Scotland kicks off today with a visit to Dundee. This is the first occasion for Barcelona to show off their new signings and you can see them on Catalan station TV3.
We’re just 2 days away from the last match of the season, with Barcelona and Real Madrid equal on points and Madrid in the lead due to goal average.
The Spanish League ordered that all teams playing for the top places – like Barcelona and real Madrid – be played on Sunday at 21:00 so that no club has the benefit of a pychological advantage when playing.
Barcelona’s match against Nastic (Gimnastic de Tarragon) ought to be a walkover and an easy 3 points, but For Barcelona to win the league they need Madrid to drop points. With Mallorca visiting Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium, that hope may easily go unfulfilled.
While the race for the league title will run until the final match of the season, Barcelona will be looking to repeat Tuesday’s result and beat Espanyol once again. Although aiming for a more comfortable margin than in the Copa Catalunya, all they need to do to feel like they’re contenders is beat Espanyol 1-0, while looking for Madrid to drop points in their away match against Deportivo, which could offer some good competition.
The final draw of the season will see Barcelona playing away at Nastic – theoretically a walkover and having little to play for they may offer little challenge – while Mallorca visit Real Madrid.
Kickoff times on Saturday are:
21:00 Zaragoza-Real Madrid
As if it wasn’t enough to play Espanyol once in a week, the finalists of the Catalan Cup are Espanyol and Barcelona. The match will take place in Sabadell on Tuesday night, with kick off at 21:45.
With many players currently on international duty, FC Barcelona is down to just 9 regulars and so will be boosted by members of Barcelona B and the youth team. Full training for Saturday’s clash will commence on Wednesday when it is expected that the missing players will be back in Barcelona.
The match is due to be shown on Barça TV Online – http://www.fcbonline.tv/default.aspx?uil=en so if you’re unable to attend the match you can get a flavour of what to expect on Saturday.