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La Liga 2011/2012 – standing after week 20

January 23rd, 2012

Barcelona remain five points behind Real Madrid in the Spanish League, with both teams winning their respective matches 4-1. Reports in the Spanish press suggest that Jose Mourinho has been dealing with a player “revolt” after rowing with Sergio Ramos and captain Iker Casillas, and he was booed by fans at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on Sunday night. On Wednesday the visit the Nou Camp for the second leg of the Copa del Rey quarter final, with Barça the stronmg favourites to go through.

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Fantastic Hat-Trick for Messi the Magician

January 23rd, 2012

Messi grabbed three goals to help Barcelona to an impressive 4-1 victory at La Rosaleda against Málaga on Sunday evening. Guardiola’s men put in a smart and efficient display against a potentially dangerous opponent, scoring two goals early in the second half, through Alexis and Messi to effectively close the game 45 minutes early.

Guardiola opted to rest Puyol, Xavi and Cesc, giving a rare start to Adriano, while Thiago joined Busquets and Iniesta in midfield, and Mascherano partnered Piqué in central defence. Pellegrini’s Málaga side offered a mix of youth and international experience, with three veteran stars in Mathijsen, Demichelis and van Nistelrooy, and two creative talents in Cazorla and Isco.

The early exchanges were relatively even, with Thiago coming close with a diving header Messi shooting just wide from the edge of the area. Málaga also posed a threat, not least through young midfielder Isco. His powerful curled effort was bound for the top right corner, but Valdés managed to flick it over on the stretch. From the ensuing corner Valdés had to be sharp to first stop a header by Isco, then block the youngsters follow up attempt.

Despite these chances, Barça were dominating the ball and creating openings with some comfort. Piqué had got on the end of a free-kick, but was off balance and sent it well wide. Málaga replied with a half chance for van Nistelrooy but the striker misconnected and sent it over.

Then, on the half-hour mark, Iniesta bustled forward and laid the ball off for Adriano, whose swirling cross found Messi on the penalty spot. The Argentine rose well and directed a powerful header into the bottom corner, giving Caballero no chance and Barcelona the lead.

Barcelona came out all guns blazing for the second half, and within just two minutes they had extended their lead. Alexis dispatched a low Adriano cross, scoring from close range after Thiago had already forced a save by Caballero. And only seconds had passed before Barça were 3-0 up.

This time it was all about Messi, who collected the ball from Thiago and weaved his way through the Málaga defence, before cooling slotting the ball into the bottom left corner.

With the match wrapped up, Barcelona could afford to take it easy, and some key performers were withdrawn – Dos Santos, Cuenca and Pedro came on for Adriano, Busquets and Alexis, and the game seemed to be petering out.

Messi though was hungry for more goals. He saw a fabulous free-kick cannon off the underside of cross bar and out for a corner via Caballero, but soon had the ball in the net. With ten minutes to go he embarked on a run from his own half, evading Demichelis and Mathijsen and finishing with typical ease to cap a truly memorable performances. In the dying stages Málaga started to press forward, and Rondón was on hand to grab a late consolation, pouncing on a rebound from Valdés.

0-1 Messi (min 32)
0-1 Alexis (min 46)
0-1 Messi (min 49)
0-1 Messi (min 80)
1-1 Salomón (min 84)


Abidal Grabs Rare Goal in Brave Victory

January 19th, 2012

FC Barcelona deservedly gained the upper hand in the Copa del Rey quarter-final, defeating a rugged Real Madrid 1-2 at the Santiago Bernabéu. After going behind to an early Cristiano Ronaldo goal, Barça stormed back with strikes from Puyol and Abidal.

The early exchanges were frantic, with neither side able to keep possession for more than two or three passes. This was playing into Madrid’s hands, who were seeking to break quickly and directly at every opportunity, given their three pacy forwards and absence of an attacking midfielder. It was from such a counter-attack that they took the lead after just 11 minutes.

Cristiano Ronaldo exploited the space behind Dani Alves, latching onto a Benzema pass, powering into the Barça area and wrong-footing Piqué before dispatching a low strike between Pinto’s legs to put Madrid ahead.

Really, it was to be their last attack of note before the break, and for the rest of the first half the onus was on Barcelona to find a way back. Iniesta began to shine, testing Casillas at the near-post from the edge of the area, later getting onto an Alexis layoff but skewing his effort just wide on the left side of goal.

In between Cesc did well to spot Alexis dropping behind Ramos and Coentrão, and curled a pass that Alexis, backpedalling, could only head onto the bar with Casillas completely stranded. Busquets then set up Messi down the inside-left Channel, but Real’s ‘keeper was alert and made another low near-post save.

But as the half wore on Madrid began to enjoy some success by closing down quickly in midfield and occasionally disrupting the game’s flow with niggling fouls. Just before the half-time whistle, first Alexis then Messi looked clean through in potential one-on-one situations but were incorrectly flagged offside.

Barcelona began the second half with renewed vigour, and were rewarded almost immediately. Xavi swung a corner in from the left side and Puyol stooped to head home unmarked from six yards. It was the ideal start, and Iniesta was so close to making it two when Cesc lifted a stylish pass over the top for him to volley, but Ramos’ intervention saw the ball cannon off the outside of the post.

Madrid’s response nearly saw them regain the lead – Altintop beat Iniesta down the right with some skill and sent a deep cross the Benzema headed onto the post from an acute angle. This let-off aside, Barcelona were gaining the upper hand, and Los Blancos’ apparent solution was to kick anything that moved. Pepe was looking out of control – replays caught him stamping on Messi’s hand, but Carvalho, Ramos and Alonso were equally guilty of trying to intimidate their opponents.

At this stage only Barça looked capable of snatching another, and the did just this when Messi showed great vision to spot Abidal, flicking a perfect pass to the left-back, who controlled it on his chest and angled it past Casillas from close range.

1-0 Cristiano (min 10)
1-1 Puyol (min 48)
1-2 Abidal (min 76)


La Liga 2011/2012 – standing after week 19

January 16th, 2012

Real Madrid remain five points ahead of Barça following the weekend’s fixtures, with Madrid beating Mallorca 2-1 on Saturday and Barcelona winning 4-2 against Betis.

Next stop for both teams is the clasico on Wednesday, when Barça visits the Bernabeu in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarter finals.

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Alexis on form in Tough Win

January 16th, 2012

Barcelona struggled at times, but achieved a 4-2 victory a lively Real Betis team at the Camp Nou. After taking a two-goal lead through Xavi and Messi Barça were pegged back before Alexis and Messi got the winners.

Barcelona were caught cold in the first few minutes of the game. Real Betis attacked with verve, and might have taken an early lead when Rubén Castro set Jorge Molina through one-on-one, but Valdés was alert to the danger and snuffled out the chance. He had to be on his toes from the ensuing corner, clawing a flicked header by Dorado out at the near post.

Barcelona then took over, and scored their first goal with just ten minutes gone. The improving Alexis slipped a smart pass between two defenders for Cesc. His left-footed effort hit the post, but Xavi was first to react to the rebound. It was only a matter of seconds before they made it 2-0. Betis continued to throw bodies forward and when Barcelona won possession they had little trouble cutting through Los Béticos’ ranks. For the second Iniesta picked up the ball from deep and burst forward. He chose to release Alexis, whose low cross found Messi free in the centre to score from close range.

Barça then had a comfortable spell, combining neatly, with only last-ditch efforts from the Betis defenders keeping the score down. But despite being two-down, Betis remained smart on the break – they offered a reminder of their attacking threat when Jefferson Montero cut back for Rubén Castro, who misconnected with the ball and watched it fly over the bar.

And they clawed a goal back on the half hour mark – Molina rounded Valdés and laid it on for Sevilla, who spotted striker Castro at the far post, giving him a simple finish to make from six yards. Now looking more confident, the away side was suddenly a real a match for Guardiola’s men, who were struggling to find their customary fluency.

Betis ramped up the pressure at the start of the second half, winning a dangerous free-kick and pegging Barcelona back. The home side was on its heels and conceded the lead on 52 minutes. Rubén Castro broke free on the counter down the left wing – his pass infield found substitute Roque Santa Cruz, who powered a strike inside the right post from the edge of the area.

Barcelona then went on the attack – they should have had a penalty when Iniesta was fouled by Montero, but Villanueva somehow saw fit to book Barcelona’s number 8 for a dive. When Betis had Mario sent off for a second yellow things started to look a little easier, and, after a couple of half-chances, Barcelona regained the lead when Xavi clipped a pass over the top for Alexis, whose shot evaded Casto at the near post. With the clock running down, Barcelona won a penalty for a Dorado hand-ball, and Messi made no mistake from the spot.

1-0 Xavi (min 9)
2-0 Messi (min 11)
2-1 Rubén Castro (min 31)
2-2 Santa Cruz (min 50)
3-2 Alexis (Min 73)
4-2 Messi (min 84)


Barça eliminates Osasuna to go through to Copa del Rey quarter-final

January 13th, 2012

After last week’s 4-0 win against Osasuna in the Nou Camp there wasn’t much left to do for Barça to make it through to the next round.  There was some doubt during the day whether the match would take place due to the weather, but in the end it went ahead as planned in freezing fog.

The Barça squad looked as though they weren’t going to over exert themselves in the cold, however after 15 minutes Fontas was stretched off the pitch, with Abidal coming on in his place. After some undemanding play, Osasuna finally came alive at the end of the first half and Lekic put the ball past Pinto to put the hosts ahead.

After the break Barça quickly got into the game to make sure Osasuna’s advantage was temporary. The Catalan’s moment came just four minutes into the second half when Adriano crossed to Alexis, who put the ball into the Osasuna net. Guardiola then brought on Messi in place of Alexis and soon after Busquets came on to replace Pedro, who was suffering a thigh strain.

A few minutes later Messi set up Sergi Roberto’s goal inside the area in the 72nd minute to put Barcelona ahead; the scoreline remained 2-1 to Barcelona, who once again have qualified for the Copa del Rey quarter-final. Next week they face Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, with Barcelona v Real Madrid at the Nou Camp leg being played a week later.

1-0 Lekic (min 40)
1-1 Alexis (min 49)
1-2 Sergi Roberto (min 72)


Buy Barcelona football tickets for another clasico!

January 13th, 2012

Following Real Madrid’s qualification for the Copa del Rey quarter finals later this month and FC Barcelona going through after defeating Osasuna, football fans can look forward to two clasicos both next week and the week that follows.

On 17/18/19 January Real Madrid play at home, with the Nou Camp leg a week later on 24/25/26. These dates will be confirmed shortly and if you’d like to order now you can do so to ensure you don’t miss out on what will be another exciting encounter between the two sides.

Last season the Copa del Rey was Real Madrid’s only title and so Jose Mourinho’s boys will be looking to at least make it through to the next round and defeat their Catalan arch-rival even if they don’t win the title.

Click the following links to order now: Real Madrid v FC Barcelona or FC Barcelona v Real Madrid


Messi wins Player of the Year for third year in succession

January 10th, 2012

Here at Simply Barcelona Tickets we’d like to extend our congratulations to Lionel Messi and Pep Guardiola for being recognised by FIFA as the best player and best coach in the world right now.

Last night at an award ceremony is Zurich Leo Messi was awarded the FIFA Ballon d’Or, in its second year of existence after the FIFA Player of the Year and France Football Magazine’s Ballon d’Or were merged. In its previous incarnation only Michel Platini had been awarded the Ballon d’Or three years straight, and he is joining Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo who were both three time winners of the old FIFA award.

Messi received 48% of votes, with Cristiano Ronaldo on 22% and teammate Xavi on 9%. Upon receiving the award the Argentine player thanked “my teammates, trainers, physios, the coach and everyone at Barcelona” before adding “I want to share this honour with my teammate, Xavi… He deserves it, too. I want to share it with you, because you deserve it as much as me. It’s a pleasure to be here alongside him and to play with him.”

In addition to Messi, Barça coach Pep Guardiola won the Coach of the Year award ahead of Sir Alex Ferguson and Madrid’s motormouth Jose Mourinho. Ferguson, who received FIFA’s Presidential Award for his success over three decades as manager said “Messi could play in any generation… The Barcelona team right now, with Lionel in their side, are an extraordinary side.”


La Liga 2011/2012 – standing after week 18

January 9th, 2012

Real Madrid are again five points ahead of FC Barcelona after they beat Granada 5-1, while Barcelona drew against local rivals Espanyol on Sunday.

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No Luck for Barcelona in Derby

January 9th, 2012

Barcelona had to settle for a 1-1 draw away to Espanyol in the derby on Sunday night. Cesc headed Barça into an early lead, but his side was unable to build on it, and was pegged back at the death by Álvaro Vázquez. It was a tense, hard-fought encounter, in which key refereeing decisions went against Guardiola’s men.

The big story at kick-off was Iniesta’s return to the side, recovering from a strain picked up before the winter break. He took his place in a strong team, on the left side of central midfield in a 4-3-3.

Espanyol came flying out the traps in front of a raucous crowd at the Estadi Cornellà-El Prat, closing down Barcelona’s defenders at a ferocious tempo, and breaking quickly whenever in possession. Their pressure almost paid off in the first ten minutes when Sergio García rushed clear down the left side of the area and crossed for Verdú, whose initial headed effort was miraculously saved by Valdés, and Piqué was ready on the line to clear the follow up.

Barcelona soon woke up though and forced a number of close calls. First Cesc thought he’d scored when Messi intercepted Álvarez’ clearance and squared for him, but replays showed a handball by Messi in the build up. Alexis then went one-on-one with Álvarez, but never looked confident and was hustled wide by the ‘keeper. On their next attack though, Barcelona took the lead. Dani Alves surged forward down the right and picked out Cesc with a perfect cross. Cesc’s header was powerful and aimed at the bottom corner. Álvarez got his fingertips to it, but couldn’t keep it out.

The remainder of the half was relatively even, with both teams forcing slight openings without capitalising. Abidal had to be sharp to block a Thievy shot inside the area. At the other end Barça continued to threaten as Alexis posted Iniesta through, but his left-footed effort was deflected away by Álvarez. Puyol made a crucial block from Verdú, and then just before the half-time whistle Cesc cleverly turned past an Espanyol defender on the byline, but his close-range strike hit the outside of the near post.

The game remained poised at 1-0 after the break, with no clear sight of goal for either side. It wasn’t until half an hour in that some space opened up for Barça – Pedro, on for Alexis, fired a deep low cross that Messi met on the stretch with his right boot, ricocheting off the near-post and into the side-netting.

Espanyol hadn’t created much, but took their opportunity with 86 minutes gone. Raúl Rodríguez was released down the right and his cross was headed on by Thievy for Álvaro Vázquez to score from no more than a couple of yards out. Then in injury time Barcelona had real reason to feel aggrieved – Messi played Piqué in, and after his shot crashed off the cross-bar, Pedro’s follow-up was clearly pushed away by Raul Rodriguez’ arm.

0-1 Cesc (min 15)
1-1 Alvaro (min 85)


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