The clasico is one of the most eagerly awaited matches of the football calendar, with football lovers worldwide tuning in to watch the clash between two biggest sides in Spain. However, while the clasico is certainly a big deal, its importance is too often seen out of perspective.
It is largely symbolic of the antagonism felt between centralist Spain and Catalonia rather than actually being a title decider and all too often it is a damp squib after all the media hype leading up to the game.
That was not the case last night though and although the season was still a three horse race going into the weekend, a loss last night could certainly have put Barça out of contention for the league title, but the match was exciting throughout.
From the word go play was intense and while Madrid were looking for an early opener, it was Barcelona who scored first after just six minutes when Iniesta put the ball into the back of the Madrid net from a Messi assist. Despite dropping the chance for a goal a few minutes later, Benzema scored the equaliser for Madrid just before the 20 minute mark and then put the hosts into the lead just minutes after. However, Leo Messi scored his first of the night towards the end of the first half to go into the break equal.
Less than ten minutes into the second half Ronaldo put Madrid back into the lead from the penalty spot, although replays showed Alves appeared to bring him down outside the box; that’s the nature of football though and Barcelona has benefitted from similar decisions this season too. Messi equalised from the penalty spot ten minutes later after Neymar was brought down by Ramos, who was shown a red card for his efforts.
Alves came close to scoring with quarter of an hour to go with a blistering shot that struck the woodwork, but the decider came in the last ten minutes after Iniesta was brought down in the area and Messi scored his hat trick from the penalty spot.
The win leaves Real Madrid and Atletico madrid on 70 points, with Barcelona in third place on 69, leaving the season far from decided. A lot of flack had recently been aimed at Barça, in particular coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino, after Barcelona slipped behind Real Madrid, with media stories that he would leave the club at the end of this season, stories denied by both him and the club.
This happens at both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid; but the truth is they cannot be expected to win every single match and, indeed, a club that wins every match is one playing in a league below its true capabilities. Yet the critics are quick to sharpen their knives for the smallest failing and the media talks about the clubs being in crisis.
It remains to be seen whether the pressure on Martino will ease off, but what is clear is that he and his squad can produce results when they are really needed.
0-1 Iniesta (min 6)
1-1 Benzema (min 19)
2-1 Benzema (min 23)
2-2 Messi (min 41)
3-2 Ronaldo (min 54)
3-3 Messi (min 64)
3-4 Messi (min 83)
What a difference a week can make. Last weekend Barcelona seemed to be in crisis after losing against Valladolid, but Sunday afternoon saw the club pull Osasuna apart in a 7-0 win just days after seeing Man City off in Champions League.
Leo Messi opened the scoring after the quarter hour mark, thereby equalling the club record for goals scored by a player, with Alexis making it two just minutes later. And when Iniesta scored goal number three for Barça it was clear that the team wanted to make it clear that they have not given up hope in La Liga and pretty much tying up the result.
Back on after the break Messi became the number one goal scorer in Barça’s history, as the crowd roared their appreciation; fifteen minutes later Tello scored goal number five; and then just minutes before the end Messi made it a hat trick. Even then Barcelona had not finished as Pedro scored goal number seven just before the final whistle went.
1-0 Messi (min 17)
2-0 Alexis (min 21)
3-0 Iniesta (min 33)
4-0 Messi (min 61)
5-0 Tello (min 76)
6-0 Messi (min 86)
7-0 Pedro (min 89)
Following last weekend’s disappointing result against Valladolid the knives have been out for coach Gerardo Martino, with many sections of the press and supporters baying for his blood. However, last night’s Champions League encounter showed that Barça are not yet done and showed that they still have what it takes to win.
Possession was more evenly matched that FC Barcelona is usually used to, with a slight tilt in the favour of the Catalans, but throughout the first half the two teams looked pretty evenly matched. At this stage of the competition that should be no surprise and when the half time whistle came neither side had scored.
Back on after the break it took 20 minutes for Messi to opener, but the balance changed when the visitors went down to 10 men after Zabaleta was shown his second yellow. Although City scored an equaliser two minutes before the end it was too little too late and but a Dani Alves goal right at the end made sure of a quarter-final place for Barcelona.
1-0 Messi (min 66)
1-1 Kompany (min 88)
2-1 Dani Alves (min 90)
On paper it looked pretty straightforward; Barcelona in the number 2 spot in the league table playing Valladolid, hovering near the bottom. However, football isn’t always as straightforward as that as was proved on Saturday when the Catalans lost out to their hosts.
It seemed that Barcelona found it difficult to properly get into the match as Valladolid went on the offensive and after just fifteen minutes the hosts went ahead. As Barça started to find their feet there were a few chances created, but all the same the squad was unable to do enough to make it count and much of the play looked sloppy.
Things looked a little better after the break, when both Messi and Neymar attempted to draw level. However, still the squad didn’t seem to be able to connect properly and looked a shadow of Barça at their best. In the end neither team scored again and with both Real Madrid and Atletico playing on Sunday the two rivals had a chance to reflect on Barça’s slip up prior to playing their own matches.
1-0 Fausto Rossi (min 16)
This weekend was an important one for Barça, with Real Madrid at the top of the table and Atletico equal on points with the Catalan club. Whatever happened elsewhere, Barcelona needed to win their match, while hoping that the Madrid derby would help out. While championships are never won or lost on a single fixture, the sooner they can leapfrog Madrid and open up the points gap the better.
In the end they didn’t disappoint, while the Madrid derby didn’t quite go as well as it might have. But then again, it means Atletico Madrid are now behind on points rather than behind on goal difference, while Real Madrid are just one point ahead.
Alexis made sure the home side went ahead inside 10 minutes when he fired in a rebound shot by Cesc Fabregas. With possession high as normal, Barça were in control of the game, although perhaps looking a little ragged at times. It took another quarter hour before the next game from Messi, who by luck or design curled the ball into the net from a free kick, way out of reach of the goalkeeper. However, minutes later Almeria got one back from a corner and the break came with Barça just a goal ahead.
Back on after the break Almeria started to look threatening at times, and while both Neymar and Messi both came close the score remained as it was. With Iniesta brought on though the dynamic changed and inn the 83rd minute Messi headed the ball to the crossbar with Puyol put it home to make it 3-1. With the minutes ticketing down it looked as though Barcelona had just about done enough, but three minutes before the end Xavi scored again to seal the win for Barcelona.
1-0 Alexis (min 8)
2-0 Messi (min 23)
2-1 Trujillo (min 26)
3-1 Puyol (min 81)
4-1 Xavi (min 87)
With three teams tying for points at the head of the table it was just a matter of time before the deadlock was broken; this Saturday was when it happened. Earlier in the afternoon Real Madrid had played host to Elche, beating the visitors 3-0.
FC Barcelona’s match in San Sebastian turned out to be a different matter, with the Catalans unable to get fully into the game it and seeming to be lacking. Things started to unwind at the half hour mark when Real Sociedad scored from an Alex Song own goal, but even then it was just a matter of minutes before Messi struck back to equalise.
After the break things went badly wrong. Soon Griezmann but the Basques into the lead again followed by Zurutuza just minutes later. With Gerardo Martino receiving several warning from the ref during the first half he was obliged to sit out the second half from the stands. How much this affected Barça is impossible to know, but whatever the reason the Catalans were just unable to recover from this setback and ended the match 3-1 down.
The result leaves Barça trailing Real Madrid by three points, just ahead of Atletico Madrid on goal difference after they also lost on Sunday. There is still a long way to go in the league and there is still plenty of time for things to change. However, Barcelona can’t afford to have many more matches like that if they want to take this season’s league trophy.
1-0 Alex Song (min 31)
1-1 Messi (min 35)
2-1 Griezmann (min 52)
3-1 Zurutuza (min 57)
Goals by Leo Messi and Dani Alves ensured that Barcelona go into the return leg of the Champions League knockout against Manchester City as firm favourites for the semi-final. Early on Barcelona had close to 75% possession, but despite the impressive stats they were unable make it count.
However, as the hosts got into the match after the first quarter hour they began to threaten and soon Victor Valdes was called into action. Luckily every time he was needed Valdes was there and perhaps he wasn’t always as clean in stopping the ball as he would have liked, he was effective throughout.
Although the first half ended goalless, it wasn’t long after the break before the deadlock was broken when, eight minutes into the second half, Messi was brought down on the edge of the area by Demichelis. While replays showed it was probably outside the area the ref thought otherwise and Demichelis sent off. Messi scored from the penalty spot to put the Catalans ahead.
With one man down Pellegrini made some changes to the Man City lineup, but Barcelona was still unable to do as much as might be expected. The hosts had by no means given up on the match, while Barcelona wanted to slow down the pace as much as they could. Neymar came on for the last twenty minutes in place of Alexis and just as it looked as if Barça was going to win by a single goal a last minute move but Alves and Neymar saw Alves shoot the ball between the keeper’s legs and win the match 2-0.
0-1 Messi (min 53)
0-2 Dani Alves (min 89)
Saturday night was the turn of Rayo Vallecano, second bottom of the league, to play the mighty Barça at the Nou Camp. The first goal came inside two minutes with Adriando showing how Barcelona continued to go on, and although they dominated possession Rayo also had a couple of opportunities that looked dangerous.
The Barcelona attack was relentless though and with the ball hitting the posts time and time again it only looked a matter of time for the second goal from the hosts. Eventually it came when Messi chipped the ball over the head of the Rayo keeper and into the net and the first half ended 2-0.
Back on after the break Barça continued the attack and just a few minutes in Alexis scored their third of the night. Minutes later they made it 4-0 when Pedro scored after a fantastic move from Iniesta and Cesc. Despite the match being well under control, Barcelona maintained the pressure and Messi scored his second of the night.
Finally, just a couple of minutes before the full time whistle, Neymar, playing for last 20 minutes after a six week injury layoff, made it six for Barça. All in all a great confidence booster ahead of their Champions League clash against Manchester City on Tuesday.
1-0 Adriano (min 1)
2-0 Messi (min 35)
3-0 Alexis (min 52)
4-0 Pedro (min 55)
5-0 Messi (min 67)
6-0 Neymar (min 88)
Barcelona travelled to the Basque Country last night for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final, the first leg of which they won 2-0 last week. The Catalans came on with one aim in mind and controlled possession throughout. However, try as they might, Real Sociedad made sure that Barça had little space to make the most of their high possession and were quick to counterattack, creating several dangerous situations.
Messi scored 26 minutes in, pretty much sealing a place in the final for Barcelona with the home team, but despite needing to score 4 goals the Basques kept on fighting to the end. The match was fairly tough, with five yellow cards handed out by the ref, and in the end Griezmann scored for Real Sociedad with a great shot in the closing minutes but there was no chance at all to catch up with Barça.
FC Barcelona will face Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final, currently scheduled for April 19th. That date is likely to change as it coincides with a weekend in which a league match is already scheduled and so something has to give.
0-1 Messi (min 26)
1-1 Griezmann (min 85)
After last weekend’s poor result against Valencia Barcelona stood in the number two spot in the Spanish League table, three points behind Atletico and tying on points with Real Madrid. This weekend also looked like a fairly tough one, with Barça being drawn against Sevilla, in seventh place, while Atletico faced lowly Almeria and Real Madrid playing Osasuna. In the end Saturday see Atletico slip up on Saturday and lose 2-0, while Real Madrid won their match 2-0, suddenly turning the spotlight back on FC Barcelona.
It was the hosts who opened the scoring in a match plagued by heavy rain, when Alberto Moreno shot from the edge of the box and the ball deflected off Bartra. However, they were unable to capitalise on three other occasions on the Barça goal. Meanwhile Barcelona picked up the pace and just after the half hour mark Alexis off a Messi free kick, although it looked like he might have been offside; that’s the way of football though and the ref gave the goal. And then two minutes before the half-time whistle Messi put the Catalans into the lead.
Back on after the break Sevilla had a good go at the Barça goal; the fight had by no means left them, and Valdes was called into action. And then 10 minutes into the second half Iniesta set up Messi to put the visitors 3-1 in the lead. Barça continued to control the game, although the possibility of a Sevilla fight back was ever present but finally in the closing minutes of the game Alexis crossed to Cesc, who scored the final goal of the match and put Barcelona back on the top of the table.
1-0 Alberto Moreno (min 14)
1-1 Alexis (min 33)
1-2 Messi (min 43)
1-3 Messi (min 55)
1-4 Fábregas (min 87)