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Match report

Barcelona Continue Title March After Vital Draw in Madrid

April 17th, 2011
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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)

Messi Breaks Record to Put Barça Through

April 13th, 2011

FC Barcelona are through to the semi-finals of the Champions League after a measured 1-0 victory in the Ukraine. The upshot is a likely encounter with Real Madrid in the next round, with four Clásicos looming on the horizon. It’s proving to be a thrilling conclusion to a campaign that could yield an historic treble for Guardiola’s men.

Tonight the outcome of this quarterfinal tie was rarely in doubt. An early spell of Shakhtar pressure was negotiated thanks to the safe hands of Víctor Valdés, and, when Messi notched a record-breaking 48th goal of the season in the final minutes of the first half, a potentially testing evening became a lot easier for the Blaugrana side.

Still, Shakhtar Donetsk are a club with considerable European pedigree, and had a home record in the Champions League strong enough to suggest that Barcelona still had some work to do. Despite the 5-1 first leg score-line Pep Guardiola certainly wasn’t taking the challenge lightly, selecting his strongest available lineup, with Afellay taking his place on the left of the front three as Pedro continues his careful reintroduction to the first team.

As expected from a side hoping to overcome a four-goal deficit, Shakhtar took the reins in the opening minutes, attacking with style and pace. Much of their best work came though the Brazilian Jadson, who produced an early chance for Douglas Costa, but the winger’s near-post effort was matched by a wonderful reaction save from Valdés. More smart interplay found Jadson alone on the penalty spot, but his shot was easily gathered by the Barça goalkeeper.

They would prove to be Shakhtar’s best opportunities of the match. By the 20-minute mark FC Barcelona had found their feet. Mascherano had slipped back into defence with Sergio Busquets pushing forward into his favoured holding midfield role and the Blaugrana side was starting to look very comfortable, producing opportunities for Adriano and Afellay before Messi capped a stylish move to end the match as a contest.

The Argentine star was found by Dani Alves on the edge of the area, evaded one desperate Shakhtar challenge and dispatched the ball past Pyatov into the bottom-right corner. It was his 48th goal of the season – a new Spanish record, beating his own tally from last season and surpassing Ronaldo’s record for Barcelona in 1996-97, and Puskas’ effort for Madrid in 1959/60.

The second half was largely uneventful. A succession of attacking Shakhtar substitutions failed to loosen Barça’s grip on the game, and the away team nearly doubled their lead when Messi went on a spectacular run, dodging two tackles before laying the ball off to Afellay whose shot was palmed away by Pyatov.

Shakhtar mustered one final chance when Víctor Valdés denied Mkitaryan with a dazzling save to help Barça close out the tie as impressive 6-1 victors. The result also ends a run of eight winless knockout-stage matches for Guardiola in the Champions League.

0-1 Messi (min 43)

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

Barça Overcome Shakhtar in Emphatic Style

April 7th, 2011

There were five different scorers for FC Barcelona as they overcame tricky opposition with staggering ease at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night. Guardiola’s men will take an apparently insurmountable 5-1 lead to Donetsk next week, although the manager will be anxious to warn against complacency.

As the Blaugrana side has experienced in the past, Lucescu’s Shakhtar team are a smart outfit, boasting plenty of pace and creativity thanks to a quartet of young Brazilians and two of Europe’s most exciting attacking fullbacks. And in truth, some stiff resistance had to be overcome in this match.

Iniesta opened the scoring in just the second minute, taking advantage of a deflected through ball to slot home at Pyatov’s near post. As ever, Barcelona were taking the initiative, pressing high and circulating the ball at speed. Messi looked lively, beating three men before having his shot blocked by a last-ditch challenge.

Still, Shakhtar possessed startling pace and directness in the counter attack; Striker Luiz Adriano spurned a one-on-one opportunity, shooting woefully wide after being released by fellow countryman, Jadson. The Ukrainian side also looked dangerous on the flanks through Willian and Douglas Costa, and Dani Alves appeared tentative as he sold Víctor Valdés short with a weak backpass.

Recovering from these early scares, Barça began to tighten their stranglehold on the game, and Shakhtar Donetsk, like so many before them, struggled in the face of such concerted pressure.

Just after the half-hour mark the home side crafted a goal of real beauty. A lofted pass by Iniesta found an angled Dani Alves runs. The Brazilian wingback controlled the ball on the penalty spot with his instep, before rounding the ‘keeper and flicking home to double the lead.

The dormant Shakhtar threat resurfaced early in the second half; Luiz Adriano lacked composure as he failed to control a dangerous deep cross.

Once again the away team was punished almost instantly, as Piqué latched onto a low corner by Xavi and sent the ball home via a deflection off centre half Rakitskiy. Minutes later, the same Shakhtar player scored a potentially crucial away goal at the other end, guiding a neat header past Valdés to make the score 3-1.

Aware that their cushion was suddenly looking a bit slim, Barcelona bit back straight away.

Just a minute after Shakhtar’s goal, Keita increased home side’s lead, lashing a ferocious first-time shot into the top-left hand corner after wonderful work by Messi on the right. The Blaugrana side pushed on and produced their best football of the night during the last half hour, with some lovely combinations.

Although largely subdued, Shakhtar Donetsk did muster one late counter attack, culminating with Luiz Adriano striking the post from an acute angle. Once again Barcelona retaliated with a goal – Alves created space on the right side of the area and found his captain Xavi, who made no mistake from 10 yards and capped a satisfying night’s work for Guardiola’s team.

1-0, Iniesta (min 2)
2-0, Alves (min 33)
3-0, Piqué (min 53)
3-1, Rakitskiy (min 59)
4-1, Keita (min 60)
5-1, Xavi (min 86)

Barcelona Seal Crucial Villareal Win

April 4th, 2011

FC Barcelona have extended their lead at the top of La Liga to eight points after a controlled 1-0 victory against Villarreal at El Madrigal. Piqué struck in the 66th minute when an Alves corner found its way to the elegant defender, who chested the ball down before slamming home into the roof of Diego López’s net.

The Blaugrana side also had goalkeeper and captain Victor Valdés to thank for a number of fine saves and decisive interventions. His best contribution came in the match’s dying embers when he produced a fantastic reaction save with his legs to deflect a powerful close-range Cazorla volley over his crossbar.

Even before kick-off Guardiola’s team was given a huge lift by the news that Real Madrid had fallen to a 0-1 defeat against Sporting Gijón. This potentially fatal slip might even have influenced the manager’s team selection, opting to start partially fit Lionel Messi on the bench, even with stars like Pedro, Xavi, Abidal and Puyol all unavailable.

One of the deputies tonight was midfielder Thiago Alcântara, who was making his first league start and is yet another precocious young Barcelona B star. Playing in the Xavi role, the 19-year-old was at the heart of some of the most dangerous Barça moves early on, displaying impressive balance and composure to beat two defenders and get Iniesta in behind.

Still, it was Villarreal who conjured the first half’s best opportunities. Santi Cazorla twice released rumoured Barça target, Guissepe Rossi. Valdés snuffled out the first opportunity with a well-timed dive at the Italian striker’s feet, before displaying lightning reactions to push a low drive around his left-hand post.

Both managers had erred on the side of caution with their team selection – Guardiola and Garrido elected to start with two rugged central midfielders each. In Barça’s case Mascherano and Keita provided plenty of brawn and grit but not much by way of creativity.

The second half brought an altogether more enterprising and dynamic performance from Barça. Iniesta came to the fore, stepping in from the right flank to add creativity to his side’s attacks. He and David Villa forced two fine saves by López, and in the face of mounting pressure the Villarreal ‘keeper won’t have been thrilled by the sight of Lionel Messi being prepared on the sidelines.

After his entry diminutive wizard instantly set about terrorising the opposition. Barça’s 67th minute goal arrived after a spell of dominance and was richly deserved, although Villarreal may have cause to feel a little aggrieved after replays suggested that Piqué might have controlled the ball with his arm.

At any rate, Cazorla’s late chance aside, Villarreal spent much of the second half struggling to get to grips with a resurgent Barça, who greeted the final whistle with passionate celebrations, conscious that a telling blow had been struck in the battle for the title.

0-1 Piqué (min 66)

Team P W D L F A Pts
1
Barcelona
30
26
3
1
82
15
81
2
Real Madrid
30
23
4
3
69
22
73
3
Valencia
30
17
6
7
46
35
57
4
Villarreal
30
16
6
8
48
31
54
5
Sevilla
30
13
6
11
46
44
45
6
Espanyol
30
14
1
15
38
43
43
7
Atlético Madrid
30
12
6
12
45
41
42
8
Athletic Bilbao
29
13
3
13
44
41
42
9
Levante
30
11
5
14
32
40
38
10
Mallorca
30
11
5
14
31
40
38
11
Racing Santander
30
9
9
12
30
44
36
12
Osasuna
30
9
8
13
36
36
35
13
Sporting Gijón
30
8
11
11
28
35
35
14
Real Sociedad
30
11
2
17
40
51
35
15
Getafe
30
9
7
14
41
49
34
16
Deportivo
30
8
10
11
25
40
34
17
Zaragoza
30
7
9
14
29
43
30
18
Hércules
30
8
5
17
28
48
29
19
Málaga
30
8
5
17
39
62
29
20
Almería
29
5
11
13
30
48
26

Barça takes 3 points against Getafe

March 21st, 2011

Over the course of the last few years fans from around the world have clamoured to adopt Barça as their own team – FC Barcelona was a guaranteed source of goals, emotions and aesthetics. Yet, during the last few matches it is also true that Barça had to learn a new skill; it had to learn how to suffer.

For instance, a couple of weeks ago during the second leg of the Champions League playoffs against Arsenal, after playing a marvellous match, Mascherano made an amazing intervention in the final minute when Bendtner was just about to score the second goal for the 2-3, which would have meant elimination for Barcelona. This weekend, in the Camp Nou, for the 29th round of the Spanish League, the story was pretty much the same.

FC Barcelona built another excellent performance, full of good passes, ball circulation and beauty.  Dani Alves scored an awesome goal (a superb half-volley) and Bojan, on his 100th Liga appearance, scored the second. But the final score line was 2-1 against a humble Getafe.  The final score doesn’t paint the complete picture of course, but we all know that football results are not logical, and Getafe could have drawn the match in the last minute. Reasons for that?

The first cause is the lack of effectiveness of the forwards, specifically Villa’s bad aim, and the fact that Messi also seems to have broken off his ‘friendship’ with the goal. But, it has to be said; Mr Muñiz Fernández (the referee) played his part in this story, as he did not see two clear penalties in the first half.  The final feeling is the FC Barcelona just has to put the finishing touches to it and close the matches earlier, so as to avoid this undeserved suffering.

FC Barcelona has also established a new record; 27 consecutive games without losing in the League, surpassing the record from the 1973/74 season (26).

As Real Madrid won its derby against Atletico, the gap between the two giants remains at five points.  It’s really a very useful difference to keep optimistic and face the challenging last part of the tournament, which includes a direct duel at the Bernabéu.

And the future is not only showing this duel for the Spanish League.  The Champions League draws conducted at UEFA offices last Friday established a possible semi-final involving these two same opponents who are already facing each other in the Copa del Rey final on April 20th.

1-0, Alves (min 16)
2-0, Bojan (min 49)
2-1, Manu (min 87)

Team P W D L F A Pts
1
Barcelona
29
25
3
1
81
15
78
2
Real Madrid
29
23
4
2
69
21
73
3
Villarreal
29
16
6
7
48
30
54
4
Valencia
29
16
6
7
42
33
54
5
Espanyol
29
14
1
14
37
41
43
6
Athletic Bilbao
29
13
3
13
44
41
42
7
Sevilla
29
12
6
11
43
43
42
8
Atlético Madrid
29
11
6
12
42
39
39
9
Mallorca
29
11
5
13
30
38
38
10
Osasuna
29
9
8
12
34
33
35
11
Real Sociedad
29
11
2
16
39
48
35
12
Levante
29
10
5
14
30
39
35
13
Getafe
29
9
7
13
39
45
34
14
Racing Santander
29
8
9
12
28
43
33
15
Sporting Gijón
29
7
11
11
27
35
32
16
Deportivo
29
7
10
11
23
39
31
17
Zaragoza
29
7
9
13
28
40
30
18
Málaga
29
8
5
16
38
59
29
19
Almería
29
5
11
13
30
48
26
20
Hércules
29
7
5
17
25
47
26

Barcelona in Test at Defiant Sevilla

March 14th, 2011

FC Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw on Sunday night against a tough-tackling Sevilla team in one of most thrilling encounters of the season. Pep Guardiola’s men took the lead through Bojan before being pegged back by a Jesus Navas header in a hard-fought second half.

Barcelona’s goal came after Iniesta’s fantastic pass over Sevilla’s backline found Alves. The Brazilian pulled the ball down, before squaring for Bojan, an early replacement for the injured Pedrito, to fend off Caceres’ lunge and guide the ball into the net.

But Sevilla fought back after a first half that was all Barcelona. Within minutes of the restart Negredo drew Valdes wide, crossing for Navas to head home.

Barcelona had started the match with real swagger. Iniesta floated in from the left side of the midfield three to bypass the retreating Sevilla defence with a series of looping through-balls.

Messi was dropping as deep as the halfway line to collect the ball and add pace and momentum to the Blaugrana attacks, while Bojan and Villa filled the vacuum created by his absence, making rapier-like thrusts through the massed rojiblanco ranks.

Yet, with Sevilla defending with depth and resolve, the most dangerous runs were from former Sevillistas Adriano on the left, and the vibrant Alves on the right. Alves was incorrectly ruled offside as early as the 16th minute, before breaching the defence expertly for the Barcelona goal.

And Barcelona had a right to feel hard done by after a precise early Messi free kick was crazily ruled out by referee Perez Lasa.

Despite this injustice Barcelona were tightening their stranglehold on the game with every minute. Another smart, looping Iniesta pass found Messi, whose header rebounded agonisingly off the crossbar.

Sevilla’s usual suspects, Navas, Rakitic and the burly Negredo, were little more than exhausted bystanders throughout the first 45.

Still, when the teams came out for the second half, the home side took to the field with renewed energy and intent. Manzano’s players appeared to take heart from being only 1-0 down; Kanoute replaced Zokora, and started to pose questions of the high Barça backline.

Their aggressive attack combined with a fierceness in the tackle that appeared to startle the Barça players; Messi, recovering from a collision with Varas on the stroke of half time, was the chief target, but Pique, Busquets and Bojan all felt the force of this robust approach. It was now a different match and Barcelona needed to knuckle under.

They did manage to recover some of their first half fluency, carving out a handful of chances in a breathless second period. Messi went close, Iniesta crashed a long-range effort off the bar, before being denied on the line by Medel. And at the other end a crucial Valdes block denied Navas and Sevilla an unlikely lead.

There was a strong penalty shout after Bojan was felled by Navas late on, but ultimately Pep’s men had to be contented with a hard-earned point.

0-1 Bojan (min 30)
1-1 Navas (min 48)

Team P W D L F A Pts
1
Barcelona
28
24
3
1
79
14
75
2
Real Madrid
28
22
4
2
67
20
70
3
Valencia
28
16
6
6
42
32
54
4
Villarreal
28
15
6
7
47
30
51
5
Espanyol
28
14
1
13
37
39
43
6
Athletic Bilbao
27
13
2
12
42
38
41
7
Atlético Madrid
28
11
6
11
41
37
39
8
Sevilla
28
11
6
11
42
43
39
9
Real Sociedad
28
11
2
15
38
46
35
10
Mallorca
28
10
5
13
29
38
35
11
Getafe
27
9
6
12
36
41
33
12
Osasuna
28
8
8
12
30
33
32
13
Levante
28
9
5
14
29
39
32
14
Deportivo
28
7
10
10
23
38
31
15
Zaragoza
28
7
9
12
28
39
30
16
Racing Santander
28
7
9
12
26
42
30
17
Sporting Gijón
28
6
11
11
26
35
29
18
Almería
28
5
11
12
30
47
26
19
Hércules
28
7
5
16
25
43
26
20
Málaga
28
7
5
16
36
59
26

Barça outguns Gunners

March 9th, 2011

After losing 2-1 against Arsenal in the first round, FC Barcelona only needed a 1-0 victory to go through to the Champions League quarter-finals on away goals. However, 1-0 was never going to be enough against a team such as Arsenal and the reality was that Barça made things unnecessarily complicated for themselves thanks to a second half own goal by Busquets.

Barcelona came on looking like they intended to win and possession throughout the match was close to 70 percent. The majority of the play was in Arsenal’s half, which perhaps was just as well with Puyol still of through injury and Piquet serving a suspension. However, Arsenal was dealt a poor card in the 18th minute, when goalkeeper Szczesny was substituted through injury.

Arsenal started to look ruffled and things got heated, losing their cool. Meanwhile Barça continued a relentless attack on the Arsenal goalmouth and Barcelona really looking like they’d deliver the goods.  However, Arsenal were still still unnerved by Barça’s dominance continued going in hard. The result was a yellow card for Van Persie for a foul on Alves and he was perhaps lucky not to have been sent off immediately.

2 mins into injury time Messi came close to scoring, and then a minute later out the ball home to end the first half 1-0.

If the score had remained 1-0, Barcelona would have gone through. Unfortunately things are never that simple and while defending the Barça goal Busquets scored an own goal for the visitors, which changed things completely. However, once again the balance tipped in Barcelona’s favour, whenVan Persie was shown a second yellow card for proceeding after the offside whistle blown – a controversial decision, which the player contested with the ref.

Facing a 10 man Arsenal, Barça had a go at the goal again and again. Eventually Xavi scored in the 69th minute, meaning Barça needed just one more goal to secure their place. That came just 2 minutes later when Messi scored from the penalty spot following a foul on Pedro.
Arsenal meanwhile hadn’t quite given up and a few minutes before the final whistle mounted an attack on the Barcelona goal; however, Victor Valdes saved the day. The final score was 3-1 and the irony is that none was actuall scored by Arsenal.

1-0 Messi (min 48)
1-1 Busquets p.p. (min 52)
2-1 Xavi (min 69)
3-1 Messi (p) (min 71)

Barça scrapes another win

March 7th, 2011

After some of the goal-fests earlier in the season it should probably be no surprise that Barça is capable of far less spectacular results too. For the second match in a row, Barcelona won by just 1-0, this time thanks to Keita in the 42nd minute – set up by Leo Messi.

Barça struggled to find their feet for the first 20 minutes but when they did they were certainly effective – unfortunately so was Zaragoza’s goal keeper.

Thirty minutes in it looked like Barcelona had broken the deadlock, but Keita’s goal was incorrectly judged to be offside. Three minutes before the break though, Keita did score the only goal of the match. Victor Valdes was back in action after a lay-off through injury, but really he had little to do; when Zaragoza did break through, Valdes was there to stop the ball.

In the second half Barça dominated possession, and both Pique and Bojan got close to adding another goal to Barça’s tally. However, it wasn’t to be and when the final whistle blew it was just a single goal scored but three more points on the league table. Barça’s next match is against Arsenal on Tuesday. While it is good news that Victor Valdes is back in goal, it will be without Carles Puyol, who can make a huge difference to defence.

After Barça’s 2-1 loss at Emirates, they need just 1-0 to go through to the next round. Fingers crossed that they can do that – or more.

1-0, Keita (min 42)

Team P W D L F A Pts
1
Barcelona
27
24
2
1
78
13
74
2
Real Madrid
27
21
4
2
65
20
67
3
Valencia
27
16
6
5
42
28
54
4
Villarreal
27
15
5
7
46
29
50
5
Athletic Bilbao
27
13
2
12
42
38
41
6
Espanyol
27
13
1
13
35
39
40
7
Atlético Madrid
27
11
5
11
39
35
38
8
Sevilla
27
11
5
11
41
42
38
9
Real Sociedad
26
11
2
13
37
42
35
10
Mallorca
27
10
4
13
28
37
34
11
Getafe
27
9
6
12
36
41
33
12
Levante
27
9
4
14
28
38
31
13
Racing Santander
27
7
9
11
25
39
30
14
Osasuna
27
7
8
12
27
32
29
15
Sporting Gijón
27
6
10
11
25
34
28
16
Deportivo
26
6
10
9
21
35
28
17
Zaragoza
27
6
9
12
24
39
27
18
Hércules
27
7
5
15
25
41
26
19
Almería
27
5
10
12
28
45
25
20
Málaga
27
6
5
16
34
59
23

Narrow victory for Barça against Valencia

March 3rd, 2011

FC Barcelona narrowly scraped a victory at the Mestalla in Valencia last night with a second half goal from Lionel Messi.

Barça looked rather scrappy throughout the match which was partly due to the state of the grass; it was dry thanks to windy conditions and hadn’t been watered. Barça was also missing Puyol in defence, although reserve keeper Pinto was put to good use.

The result puts Barça temporarily 10 points ahead of Real Madrid, who  are playing tonight. it’s a big week for Barça with Zaragoza on Saturday night and then comes crunch time when Arsenal visits the Nou Camp on Tuesday.

0-1 Messi (min 76)

Team P W D L F A Pts
1
Barcelona
26
23
2
1
77
13
71
2
Real Madrid
25
19
4
2
55
19
61
3
Valencia
26
15
6
5
40
27
51
4
Villarreal
26
15
5
6
45
26
50
5
Espanyol
26
13
1
12
35
38
40
6
Athletic Bilbao
26
12
2
12
40
38
38
7
Sevilla
26
11
5
10
41
40
38
8
Atlético Madrid
26
10
5
11
36
34
35
9
Real Sociedad
26
11
2
13
37
42
35
10
Mallorca
26
10
4
12
27
35
34
11
Getafe
26
9
6
11
36
39
33
12
Racing Santander
25
7
8
10
23
35
29
13
Levante
26
8
4
14
27
38
28
14
Deportivo
26
6
10
9
21
35
28
15
Zaragoza
26
6
9
11
24
38
27
16
Osasuna
26
6
8
12
26
32
26
17
Hércules
26
7
5
14
24
39
26
18
Sporting Gijón
26
5
10
11
23
34
25
19
Málaga
25
6
5
14
34
51
23
20
Almería
25
4
9
12
25
43
21

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