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Barcelona Bulldoze Racing

October 16th, 2011

Lionel Messi starred on Saturday night, as FC Barcelona eased their way to a 3-0 win at the Camp Nou against Racing Santander. The Argentine dynamo was in fine fettle and notched his side’s first and last goal, separated by a Xavi header, sending Barça back to the Primera División, one point ahead of Real Madrid.

The home team had welcomed Andrés Iniesta back into the starting lineup, after a month-long absence with a muscular injury. Puyol and Piqué were also making a rare, and unfortunately short lived, outing as a central defensive pair. Other than that it was a conventional 4-3-3 for Barcelona, although they were without a recognised defensive midfielder, with Xavi, Thiago and Iniesta playing across the middle.

Early on the Cantabrians, still winless in the league, worked hard to close Barça down, and almost caught Valdés in possession once or twice. There was also another injury setback for Gerard Piqué, when he was forced off after no more than ten minutes to be replaced by Éric Abidal.

But Barcelona soon settled, and scored with their first real attack; Messi set Iniesta free on the right hand side of the box. The midfielder held the ball up before nudging it back to the Argentine forward, who surged through with his first touch, dummied round Toño and passed the ball home into the empty net.

Racing had posed a minor threat before the opening goal, but wouldn’t trouble the Barça defence again before half time, as Guardiola’s men assumed total control and created chance after chance. Messi was denied by a last-ditch block, before Pedro worked some space down the left wing against Francis and delivered and inviting cross for Xavi to head down into the bottom right corner.

In the last 15 minutes of the half Pedro and Messi both went close, but perhaps the best chance fell to Villa, who was found by a delightful Messi through-ball and rounded Toño only to see his effort hit the side-netting.

Valdés was forced into action early in the second period, pushing away Koné’s low show after the forward found a yard of room in the area. Unaffected, Barcelona then resumed their dominance, keeping possession and probing the Racing defence. Xavi had a shot deflected wide and Messi was twice foiled by Toño. He also might have won a penalty when he set off on a thrilling run, beating three players before tricking his way past Álvaro González, only to be felled by the defender just inside the area.

Barça’s number 10 would exact his revenge moments later; he guided a pinpoint diagonal pass for Iniesta, who wriggled past two defenders and slammed a shot against the far post for Messi to follow up and grab his second of the night.

Guardiola’s men closed the game out with little trouble, and might have extended their lead when David Villa clipped the top of the crossbar and Éric Abidal saw a spectacular overhead kick saved at full-stretch.

1-0, Messi (min 11)
2-0, Xavi (min 27)
3-0, Messi (min 68)


La Liga 2011/12 – standings after week 7

October 3rd, 2011

Barcelona go to the top of the table after this weekend, after a narrow victory against Sporting Gijon, at the very bottom of the table. With Levante in second place, Real Madrid are now in the third spot but a single point behind.

  Team P W D L F A Pts
1
Barcelona
6
4
2
0
23
4
14
2
Levante
6
4
2
0
7
3
14
3
Real Madrid
6
4
1
1
20
5
13
4
Málaga
6
4
1
1
10
4
13
5
Valencia
6
4
1
1
9
6
13
6
Sevilla
6
3
3
0
6
3
12
7
Betis
6
4
0
2
9
7
12
8
Atlético Madrid
6
2
2
2
8
6
8
9
Real Sociedad
6
2
1
3
7
8
7
10
Mallorca
6
2
1
3
5
7
7
11
Osasuna
6
1
4
1
5
12
7
12
Espanyol
5
2
0
3
5
7
6
13
Villarreal
6
1
3
2
7
11
6
14
Rayo Vallecano
6
1
3
2
6
10
6
15
Zaragoza
6
1
3
2
7
13
6
16
Athletic Bilbao
6
1
2
3
7
9
5
17
Getafe
6
1
1
4
6
10
4
18
Racing Santander
6
0
4
2
4
9
4
19
Granada
6
1
1
4
2
8
4
20
Sporting Gijón
6
0
1
5
2
10
1

Barcelona claw their way to win in Gijon

October 3rd, 2011

FC Barcelona battled to a 1-0 victory away at Sporting Gijón on Sunday night. Utility man Adriano scored the only goal on what was a demanding and occasionally bruising encounter away at La Liga’s bottom club.

Indeed, recent weeks have brought plenty of bad news on the injury front, and for this game Guardiola had to make do without Alexis Sánchez, Cesc Fàbregas and Andrés Iniesta, all of whom are recovering from muscular injuries.

However, the coach continues to persist with a three-man defence; this time Alves and Abidal flanked Macherano at the back. Busquets sat in front of the backline again, offering help to his defenders when needed. Meanwhile Adriano started the game in a somewhat unfamiliar right-midfield role.

And it was to be the Brazilian player who made the breakthrough for Barcelona. With 11 minutes on the clock, Xavi looked up and slammed a shot from central position about 25 yards out. Juan Pablo in the Sporting goal was well beaten, but the ball rebounded off the left post and into the path of Adriano on the right angle of the penalty area. His bouncing, left-footed effort was slightly scuffed, but completely wrong-footed the ‘keeper and nestled in the bottom-left corner to make it 1-0.

The rest of the half was a story of absolute domination but few clear chances for Barça. A few minutes after the goal, Villa swapped passes with Thiago, but fired straight at Juan Pablo.

After that Barcelona couldn’t make their 80% possession count further. This was partly down to the organised defending of Gijón, who stepped up and caught Barcelona offside on a number of occasions; Villa was perhaps the chief culprit in this respect, but was joined by Messi and Alves.

Not long before half time Messi might have won a penalty, when he dribbled into the Sporting area, only to be felled by Miguel de las Cuevas, who appeared to catch his heels.

As the half ended there was a minor injury scare for Mascherano, who was caught on the side of the head accidentally by Alves’ knee and looked in real trouble before walking off groggily down the tunnel to join his teammates in the dressing room.

The second half was a similar story to the first, with Barcelona working hard to create openings, but being denied either by the offside flag or by sloppiness. Abidal limped off after 52 minutes with what appeared to be yet another muscle strain. He was replaced by Maxwell, and Barça then reverted to a back four when Piqué arrived in place of Pedro.

There were a few rugged looking challenges flying in as the game wore on, with Busquets, Messi and Alves all sent flying in the closing minutes. Messi came closest to doubling the lead, heading directly at Pablo, but Barcelona were ultimately happy to settle for a single goal and in truth were never really troubled at the back.

0-1, Adriano (min 12)


BATE battered in Minsk

September 29th, 2011

FC Barcelona cruised to a 5–0 victory against Belarusian side BATE Borisov in Minsk on Wednesday night. Guardiola’s men were never less than comfortable throughout, creating numerous chances on the way to a relatively rare away victory in Europe.

Sporting their black away colours, Barça took the lead through an own goal, before Pedro scored a header and Messi added two more goals to his already impressive tally this season.

As soon as the match settled, Barcelona were confronted by a wall of yellow shirts, with BATE setting up very deep in the hope of stifling Pep Guardiola’s side. Sole striker Mateja Kezman cut a very isolated figure on the halfway line, with his teammates withdrawing to the edge of the area in two tight banks. The first opportunity fell to BATE, as defender Marko Simic headed a corner over.

Barça stuck to their task and slowly the chances began to flow. Thiago’s shot was saved, and a Messi free-kick flashed past the left corner. With BATE unable to build anything resembling an attack, the strain was beginning to tell. And when Alves delivered a teasing cross from the right flank, midfielder Volodko turned the ball into his own goal under pressure from Messi at the back post.

Just three minutes later Barcelona were two goals ahead, when David Villa swung a pinpoint cross for Pedro to rise and nod home from the penalty spot. After this fine effort the home defence was in disarray, and a host of chances followed for the away side.

Still, the home team did muster one chance – Volodko nearly made up for his earlier error when he found some space in the Barça area, but the Belarusian poked the ball wide under pressure from Valdés.

David Villa was looking particularly lively and had two shots well saved after working some space on the left side of the area. The third goal for Barcelona was an absolute gift. This time Pedro broke free down the right, and when his rather tame cross was inexplicably fumbled by Gutor in the BATE goal, Messi was on hand to stab the ball home from five yards.

Early in the second half Lionel Messi looked hungry for more goals; just after the break he set off on a bustling run from the right flank, but skewed the ball wide at the near post with the outside of his left boot. The Argentine forward was not to be denied though; soon after, he set Alves galloping down the right flank and the Brazilian aimed a forensic square pass through the BATE ranks, which Messi controlled and fired into the top right corner to complete a fantastic move.

Messi nearly turned provider moments later when he found Abidal clear in the area with a breathtaking angled pass, but the French defender’s effort was saved. The night was topped off at the death by David Villa, who tucked a Thiago through pass into the bottom right corner.

0-1 Volodko (own goal) (min 18)
0-2 Pedro (min 22)
0-3 Messi (min 38)
0-4 Messi (min 56)
0-5 Villa (min 89)


La Liga 2011/12 – standings after week 6

September 26th, 2011

FC Barcelona are now second in the league, with Betis heading the table with their week 6 match still to play. Valencia slipped into 7th place after losing against Sevilla, and while Real Madrid won 6-2 against Rayo, they remain one point behind Barça and lie in fifth place. Check out FC Barcelona tickets for Spanish League matches on the website.

Team P W D L F A Pts
1
Betis
4
4
0
0
9
5
12
2
Barcelona
5
3
2
0
22
4
11
3
Levante
5
3
2
0
7
3
11
4
Sevilla
5
3
2
0
6
3
11
5
Real Madrid
5
3
1
1
16
5
10
6
Málaga
5
3
1
1
7
2
10
7
Valencia
5
3
1
1
8
6
10
8
Atlético Madrid
5
2
1
2
8
6
7
9
Real Sociedad
5
2
1
2
6
6
7
10
Espanyol
5
2
0
3
5
7
6
11
Mallorca
5
2
0
3
3
5
6
12
Osasuna
5
1
3
1
3
10
6
13
Rayo Vallecano
5
1
2
2
5
9
5
14
Villarreal
5
1
2
2
5
9
5
15
Zaragoza
5
1
2
2
5
11
5
16
Granada
5
1
1
3
2
7
4
17
Racing Santander
5
0
3
2
3
8
3
18
Athletic Bilbao
5
0
2
3
5
8
2
19
Getafe
4
0
1
3
3
7
1
20
Sporting Gijón
5
0
1
4
2
9
1

 


Messi Shines as Barcelona Thrash Atlético

September 26th, 2011

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)


La Liga 2011/12 – standings after week 5

September 22nd, 2011

The midweek match sees Valencia remaining at the top of the table, Barcelona in forth place and Real Madrid down in ninth. However, there are only three points separating Valencia and Madrid so it’s too early to call. Betis still has to play this round and if they win they’ll take over from Valencia.

Team P W D L F A Pts
1
Valencia
4
3
1
0
8
5
10
2
Málaga
4
3
0
1
7
2
9
3
Betis
3
3
0
0
5
2
9
4
Barcelona
4
2
2
0
17
4
8
5
Sevilla
4
2
2
0
5
3
8
6
Levante
4
2
2
0
4
2
8
7
Atlético Madrid
4
2
1
1
8
1
7
8
Real Sociedad
4
2
1
1
5
4
7
9
Real Madrid
4
2
1
1
10
3
7
10
Rayo Vallecano
4
1
2
1
3
3
5
11
Osasuna
4
1
2
1
2
9
5
12
Villarreal
4
1
1
2
4
8
4
13
Zaragoza
3
1
1
1
2
7
4
14
Espanyol
3
1
0
2
3
4
3
15
Mallorca
4
1
0
3
1
4
3
16
Granada
4
1
0
3
1
6
3
17
Racing Santander
4
0
2
2
3
8
2
18
Athletic Bilbao
4
0
1
3
4
7
1
19
Getafe
3
0
1
2
3
6
1
20
Sporting Gijón
4
0
0
4
2
9
0

You can check out availability of FC Barcelona tickets for home fixtures for the 2011/12 Spanish League now.


Barcelona battle for draw at Mestalla

September 22nd, 2011

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)


La Liga 2011/12 – standings after week 4

September 19th, 2011

FC Barcelona stormed ahead on Saturday at the Nou Camp against Osasuna in a match that saw Leo Messi score a hattrick. There were goals galore, with two from Villa and one each from Cesc and Xavi plus an Osasuna own goal the final score 8-0.

Real Madrid on the other hand didn’t fare so well, with a 1-0 defeat against lowly Levante, dropping them from the head of the table where they are replaced by Valencia, who Barça faces on Wednesday. You can check out availability of FC Barcelona tickets for home fixtures for the 2011/12 Spanish League now.

Team P W D L F A Pts
1
Valencia
3
3
0
0
6
3
9
2
Betis
3
3
0
0
5
2
9
3
Barcelona
3
2
1
0
15
2
7
4
Sevilla
3
2
1
0
5
3
7
5
Real Madrid
3
2
0
1
10
3
6
6
Málaga
3
2
0
1
6
2
6
7
Levante
3
1
2
0
2
1
5
8
Rayo Vallecano
3
1
2
0
2
1
5
9
Atlético Madrid
3
1
1
1
4
1
4
10
Real Sociedad
3
1
1
1
4
4
4
11
Zaragoza
3
1
1
1
2
7
4
12
Osasuna
3
1
1
1
2
9
4
13
Espanyol
3
1
0
2
3
4
3
14
Mallorca
3
1
0
2
1
2
3
15
Granada
3
1
0
2
1
5
3
16
Athletic Bilbao
3
0
1
2
4
6
1
17
Getafe
3
0
1
2
3
6
1
18
Racing Santander
3
0
1
2
3
8
1
19
Villarreal
3
0
1
2
2
8
1
20
Sporting Gijón
3
0
0
3
2
5
0

Barcelona Bag Eight on Memorable Night at Camp Nou

September 18th, 2011

FC Barcelona answered their critics in emphatic style at home to CA Osasuna on Saturday night, thrashing Los Rojillos 8-0. Messi chalked a hat-trick, with David Villa netting two, accompanied by Cesc and Xavi, who scored one goal each. It was a night of spectacular attacking football, and Guardiola’s men were back to their devastating best, enjoying more than 80% possession in the process.

In this fixture Guardiola opted for the 3-4-3 formation that dispatched Villareal so clinically in the first match of the season. A major pre-game positive was the return of Carles Puyol after almost nine months of injury problems. He took his place at the centre of the back three, flanked by Mascherano and Abidal, and looked in good form until coming off early in the second half.

In truth the Barcelona defence was pretty much untested for the whole evening. There was a clear determination to disprove any accusations of complacency after letting two leads slip, against Sociedad and Milan. Indeed Barcelona were in front by the fifth minute; Busquets floated a delightful pass out to Dani Álves, who headed square for Messi to sweep the ball home.

Fàbregas then continued his fine scoring form for his new club; chesting the ball down for Messi, who flicked it over the Osasuna backline for the recent signing to time a perfect left-footed volley past the hapless Fernández.

Barça were now 2-0 up and showed no sign of loosening their grip – Alves skipped down the right flank and curled a sublime cross for Messi, who nodded the ball down but onto the post. Still, the home side would not be denied; after a period of sustained possession Abidal slipped a pass through for David Villa, and the striker rounded Fernández, finishing with his left foot to make it three.

Five minutes later the Asturian was set free down the left once again. This time his attempt was saved, but ricocheted off the unfortunate Roversio and into the empty net. Then, on the 40th minute, Cesc was found in the box by Xavi before pirouetting and squaring for Messi who notched his second and Barcelona’s fifth of the night.

If Osasuna were hoping for a reprieve after half time, their opponents were unwilling to oblige, as within ten minutes Barcelona had scored six. This was perhaps the pick of the bunch; Xavi was put through by another perfectly weighted Messi chip. The midfielder let the ball bounce before lobbing Fernández from the edge of the area.

But Barça still weren’t done – Fàbregas bustled through the beleaguered Osasuna defence to find Villa, who turned the ball home from seven yards. Once again, it was Messi who stole the show, and the Argentine dynamo capped a landmark night for his team when he swapped passes with Cesc and strode clear to find the bottom right corner past Fernández.

1-0 Messi (min 4)
2-0 Cesc (min 13)
3-0 Villa (min 33)
4-0 Roversio own goal (min 39)
5-0 Messi (min 41)
6-0 Xavi (min 56)
7-0 Villa (min 75)
8-0 Messi (min 79)


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