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Barcelona eye another famous comeback with semis in sight

April 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Little over a month after producing the greatest comeback in Champions League history, Barcelona need another special turnaround as they face Juventus in the second leg of their quarter-final on Wednesday.

Barcelona

Luis Enrique’s side were taken apart in the first leg in Turin, losing 3-0 to a Juve team inspired by Paulo Dybala, who scored twice.

In the last 16 they became the first team ever to overturn a 4-0 deficit when they beat Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 in the return at the Camp Nou, so fans are hoping for a similar “remuntada” this time.

“We are going to take as many risks as we need to the point that we could go out with eight strikers, as we have nothing to lose,” said Luis Enrique after Saturday’s 3-2 defeat of Real Sociedad.

The Barcelona coach also called for supporters “to have faith in these players who have won everything. This is a squad of champions.”

But he added: “The thing is that we are used to always eating beluga caviar. That can’t go on forever.”

Barca welcome back midfielder Sergio Busquets from suspension, while Juve are hopeful Dybala will be ready after he came off in the 2-0 weekend win at Pescara with a sprained ankle.

“We have four days and we need to be optimistic,” declared coach Massimiliano Allegri.

In contrast to their fierce rivals, Real Madrid are very much on course for a semi-final berth after their 2-1 win away to Bayern Munich last week.

The sides clash at the Santiago Bernabeu in Tuesday’s second leg with the Germans looking to become just the third side to overturn a first-leg home defeat to win a Champions League tie.

Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti has fitness concerns with leading scorer Robert Lewandowski hopeful of returning from a shoulder injury.

Defenders Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng are also fighting to be fit, while Javi Martinez is suspended.

“We go to Madrid well aware of the fact that nothing is impossible,” Thomas Mueller told Bundesliga.com.

“We’re annoyed any time we don’t win, but we have our own way of playing. No matter what problems or injuries we have to deal with, we’re always able to put a strong team out there on the pitch.”

Gareth Bale is struggling to shake off a calf problem for Real, who have lost just twice in 12 past home meetings with Bayern.

Borussia Dortmund go to Monaco still shaken by the events of last week, when the first leg between the clubs was postponed by 24 hours following the bomb attack on the German team’s bus en route to the game.

Dortmund went on to lose 3-2 to the French league leaders but morale was lifted as they got back to winning ways in the Bundesliga at the weekend, beating Eintracht Frankfurt 3-1.

After that game, the Dortmund players paid tribute to defender Marc Bartra by holding his number five shirt aloft as they celebrated in front of their fans.

Spanish international Bartra had earlier been released from hospital after having surgery on a broken wrist suffered in the attack.

“This gesture shows how important the things off the field are to us at this moment, and that Marc gets better soon and that we are all still here,” said Dortmund captain Marcel Schmelzer.

Monaco, looking to become the first French side in the Champions League semi-finals since Lyon seven years ago, are missing the banned Fabinho as well as Djibril Sidibe, who is recovering from appendicitis.

Leicester City have defensive concerns as they look to turn around a 1-0 deficit when they host last season’s runners-up Atletico Madrid.

Robert Huth is suspended and the Foxes are hoping Wes Morgan can return from a back injury as the English champions look to extend their run in Europe. Atletico have French striker Kevin Gameiro back from a groin injury.

Barcelona rue missed chance despite Atletico lead

February 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Barcelona coach Luis Enrique admitted missed chances leave his side with still some work to do to reach a fourth consecutive Copa del Rey final despite taking a 2-1 semi-final, first leg lead over Atletico Madrid.

Barcelona

Sensational strikes from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi had Barca cruising at half-time at the Vicente Calderon on Wednesday.

However, Antoine Griezmann pulled a goal back for an inspired Atletico after the break before Neymar blasted over a huge chance to restore Barca’s two-goal lead.

“If we had been more efficient with the quality we have in this team, we could have taken our chances better and had a different second leg,” said Enrique.

Barca will also be without Neymar for the return leg on Tuesday as he picked up his third yellow card in the Cup this season late on.

“We knew we had to score here,” said Suarez.

“That was important and we got two, but it is not at all over.”

It was a tale of two halves as Barca dominated in the first 45 minutes with Suarez’s sensational solo run and finish after seven minutes added to by Messi’s thunderous 20-yard strike.

“I think we started the tie very well, knowing how difficult it is to play here at the Calderon,” added Enrique.

“We made sure they couldn’t create any attacks, we kept the ball in their half, created a lot of chances and were very efficient.

“In the second-half, given the result, Atletico had to attack. They pressed us much more and caused a lot more problems.

“But it would be naive or ridiculous to think you can come here and not suffer.”

Messi was once again a class apart as he constantly pulled the Atletico defence apart on top of firing home his 30th goal in 29 games this season.

“The big games are when you see the best Leo Messi,” added Enrique.

“He showed us his full repetoire. His dribbling, generating superiority in midfield, giving assists and scoring goals. There are few new superlatives for Messi.”

Four previous two-legged ties between these sides over the past three seasons had been split two apiece.

And Atletico looked far more like the side that Diego Simeone has made a serial contender for trophies over the past five years after the introduction of Fernando Torres at half-time.

“We spoke at half-time and I think in the second-half we got close to the team we have always been,” said Simeone.

“I am left with that positive feeling. We were close to a draw, we fronted up against all the difficulties we faced in the first-half.”

However, for all his achievements, Simeone is yet to win at the Camp Nou as Atletico boss and is aware the odds are very much against Los Rojiblancos reaching the final.

“I don’t know what percentage chance we have,” he added.

“Even if it is 20 percent, we will give everything we have to make that 20 percent count.”

Barcelona, Sevilla maintain pressure on Madrid

January 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar were all on target as Barcelona shrugged off the loss of the injured Sergio Busquets to remain just two points behind La Liga leaders Real Madrid with a 4-0 win at Eibar on Sunday.

Barcelona

Sevilla separate the giants of Spanish football in second, just a point behind Madrid, after twice coming from behind to edge a seven-goal thriller 4-3 at rock-bottom Osasuna.

However, Real Madrid also have a game in hand over their title rivals.

Barca’s visit to the Basque Country was only eight minutes in when Busquets had to be carried off with ankle ligament damage after a dangerous challenge from Gonzalo Escalante that went unpunished.

“The good news about Sergio Busquets is that it doesn’t look as serious as we first thought,” Barca boss Luis Enrique told Spanish TV station Movistar.

The visitors were briefly unsettled as a fine save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen prevented Adrian Gonzalez giving Eibar a shock lead at the tiny 6,200 capacity Ipurua.

Yet, there was little doubt over the outcome once Denis Suarez, who had replaced Busquets, drilled home his first Barca goal into the far corner from outside the box on the half hour mark.

Neymar missed a one-on-one and Luis Suarez hit the post as Barca squandered a series of chances to kill off the game before half-time.

However, Messi doubled their lead just six minutes into the second-half when he swept home Luis Suarez’s cross for his 28th goal in 26 games this season.

And Luis Suarez matched his strike partner as La Liga’s top scorer this season with 15 when he robbed Florian Lejeune before slotting home at the near post 22 minutes from time.

Neymar hadn’t scored from open play since October, but brought that run to an end by slotting home Aleix Vidal’s low cross in stoppage time.

“A positive run of results means everything flows better, the players have more confidence,” added Enrique after a fourth straight win.

“But we are still far off where we want to be.”

Sevilla scored twice in the final five minutes to end Real Madrid’s 40-game unbeaten run in all competitions last weekend and have now won five of the seven La Liga games when they have conceded first this season.

“The team did some good things and made mistakes, but from start to finish looked to win the game,” said Sevilla boss Jorge Sampaoli.

“To finish the first half of the season with a record number of points (42) and be second fills us with excitement for what is to come.”

Sergio Leon gave Osasuna a shock early lead before an unusual hat-trick from Sevilla captain Vicente Iborra levelled at 2-2 as he twice equalised either side of an own goal to restore Osasuna’s lead.

Osasuna were infuriated Franco Vazquez’s vital third goal for Sevilla was allowed to stand despite a push on Oriol Riera 10 minutes from time.

Pablo Sarabia’s fine left-footed shot from outside the area sealed the points, but there was still time for Osasuna to pull another goal back when Kenan Kodro headed in from close range.

Atletico Madrid lost further ground on the top three as they needed a spectacular Antoine Griezmann equaliser 10 minutes from time to secure a 2-2 draw at Athletic Bilbao.

Diego Simeone’s men are now eight points back on Real Madrid.

The visitors got off to the perfect start when Koke’s cross towards Griezmann evaded everyone and flew into the far corner after just three minutes.

However, Atletico were punished for trying to sit on their lead when Inigo Lekue smashed home an equaliser three minutes before half-time.

Athletic then went in front as former Atletico favourite Raul Garcia crossed for Oscar de Marcos to head home.

Griezmann had already had one spectacular finish ruled out by the offside flag, but the French international continued his fine form with a rasping low drive from 25 yards to at least salvage a point for Atletico.

Real Sociedad move level on points with Atletico in fourth as Juanmi’s towering header 18 minutes from time handed them a 1-0 win over Celta Vigo.

Messi magic sparks Argentina, Brazil march on

November 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lionel Messi produced a magical display to get Argentina’s World Cup qualification back on track Tuesday as Brazil notched their sixth consecutive victory to put one foot in the 2018 finals in Russia.

Messi

Messi curled home a stunning 30-yard free-kick and set up goals for Lucas Pratto and Angel Di Maria in a 3-0 win over Colombia in San Juan.

The victory elevated Argentina into the qualifying places after a disastrous run of results which saw them take just two points from their previous four games.

But the feelgood factor generated by the result was overshadowed by a media boycott imposed by a furious Messi and his Argentina team-mates after the final whistle.

Messi said the Albiceleste’s players were incensed by a claim made by an Argentine journalist that forward Ezequiel Lavezzi had been caught smoking marijuana in the camp.

Lavezzi, who was not included on the substitutes bench against Colombia, has angrily denied the claims.

“We have made the decision not to talk to the press anymore, obviously you know why,” said Messi, who has an often tense relationship with Argentina’s media.

“There were a lot of accusations, a lot of disrespect, and the accusations they made against ‘Pocho’ (Lavezzi) are very serious.

“We know that most of you guys don’t play that game of disrespect. We can be criticised if we lose, or win, or if we play well or badly. But this is getting into personal lives. If we don’t put a stop to it now, we’ll never stop it.”

Tuesday’s win left Argentina in fifth spot in the 10-team standings, with 19 points from 12 games. The top four sides qualify automatically for the 2018 finals while the fifth-placed team goes into a play-off with the first-placed team from the Oceania zone.

Colombia meanwhile slipped to sixth place following the defeat, one point behind Argentina.

While Argentina have made hard work of qualification so far, Brazil appear to be coasting towards Russia.

Only a miraculous sequence of results is likely to deny them an automatic qualifying place following Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Peru in Lima.

Manchester City-bound teenager Gabriel Jesus was the hero once more, scoring one goal and laying on another for Renato Augusto to give Brazil a sixth consecutive win under new coach Tite.

The result left Brazil four points clear at the top of the standings with 27 points from 12 games.

In qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup, 28 points was enough to guarantee automatic qualification.

With six games left, Brazil should be safe with something to spare.

In Santiago meanwhile, Chile continued their recovery with a hard-fought 3-1 win over Uruguay.

Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez was the hero, scoring twice for the Chileans in the second half after Eduardo Vargas had cancelled out Edinson Cavani’s first-half opener for Uruguay.

Sanchez and Chile had risked the wrath of Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger after playing despite injuring a hamstring during training last week.

Wenger had expressed fear Chile had made a “suicidal” decision by playing Sanchez after the injury.

But the in-form striker showed no sign of ill-health with two well-taken goals to seal a crucial three points.

Manchester City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo saved a late penalty from Luis Suarez as the two-time Copa America winners hung on for the win.

In other games Tuesday, Bolivia jolted Paraguay with a 1-0 win in La Paz while Venezuela slipped to the bottom of the standings after Ecuador coasted to a 3-0 victory in Quito.

Ecuador are now third in the standings, three points behind second-placed Uruguay.

Messi penalty snatches thrilling Barca win

October 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lionel Messi shrugged off his recent woes from the penalty spot with a decisive 94th-minute spot-kick to move Barcelona top of La Liga with a pulsating 3-2 win at Valencia on Saturday.

Messi

However, the dramatic victory came at a cost for Barca as a tearful Andres Iniestasuffered ligament damage in his right knee that could keep him out for several months.

Messi netted twice and his opener midway through the first half was allowed to stand despite Luis Suarez straying into an offside position.

Valencia hit back with two goals in six second-half minutes through on-loan Barca winger Munir El Haddadi and Rodrigo.

However, Suarez levelled and was then upended inside the area by Aymen Abdennour to allow Messi to hold his nerve and slot past penalty-stopping specialist Diego Alves for all three points.

Victory moves the champions a point clear of Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, who face Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao respectively on Sunday.

He may be one of the finest footballers ever but Messi has struggled from the spot in recent seasons, most notably blazing over as Argentina lost the Copa America final to Chile in June.

“Our best penalty-taker is Leo Messi without any doubt,” Barca boss Luis Enrique said.

Valencia stopper Alves had saved three penalties this season and from Messi in the past, but was beaten low to his right.

“Messi took responsibility in the best moment and it is a glorious feeling for us,” added Enrique.

A bad-tempered encounter spilled over after Messi’s strike, though, as Suarez and Neymar were hit by a plastic bottle thrown by the Valencia fans as Barca celebrated.

“We celebrated as it is normal to celebrate a last-minute winner,” said Enrique.

The game was only 14 minutes old when Iniesta was carried from the field in tears holding his right knee, which buckled under a heavy challenge from Enzo Perez.

Enrique was furious with referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco as Perez avoided even a yellow card, whilst a series of other fouls on Barca players went unpunished.

Barca confirmed Iniesta suffered lateral collateral ligament damage, but said further tests would be carried out to determine the exact extent of the injury.

However, it was Valencia who were up in arms at the officials when Messi opened the scoring on 22 minutes.

The Argentine’s fifth goal in three games since returning from a groin injury sneaked in at Alves’s near post, but the Brazilian goalkeeper had been distracted by the presence of the offside Suarez jumping over Messi’s effort.

“It is lamentable, absolutely lamentable that refereeing decisions prevented Valencia from taking a point or more from this match,” Valencia sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch told BeIN Sports Spain.

Valencia turned the game around early in the second half as Dani Parejo’s cut-back was drilled into the bottom corner by El Haddadi against his parent club.

The 21-year-old held his hands up apologetically after finding the net, but there were wild celebrations led by new Valencia boss Cesare Prandelli moments later when Rodrigo swept home Nani’s through ball.

Valencia’s lead lasted just six minutes despite Alves’s best efforts as Suarez pounced to smash home a rebound after Ivan Rakitic’s powerful header had been saved by the Valencia stopper.

Barca swarmed forward in search of a winner, but had to wait until deep into stoppage time when Messi played in Suarez and he was clearly taken out from behind by Abdennour.

Messi stroked home his 14th goal of the season to secure a vital three points in the title race.

Earlier, Espanyol battled back from 3-0 down at half-time to salvage a point and possibly coach Quique Sanchez Flores’s job in a 3-3 draw at home to Eibar.

Granada and Sporting Gijon remain in the relegation zone after a 0-0, whilst Real Sociedad moved into the top half with a comfortable 3-0 win over Alaves.

Suarez picks up Golden Shoe after prolific last season

October 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Barcelona’s Uruguayan star Luis Suarez on Thursday collected the Golden Shoe award for the leading scorer in Europe last season and admitted he never imagined being the most prolific member of such a star-studded attack.

Suarez

“I didn’t imagine myself as the top scorer, I only thought about being a champion, winning the Champions League, which I have done,” said Suarez at a prize-giving ceremony in Barcelona.

“I have team-mates who make it easy but I am not going to take credit from myself because it needs to be done and you need to be in the right place,” Suarez, 29, said of his goal-scoring exploits.

The former Liverpool striker, who moved to the Camp Nou in 2014, scored a remarkable 40 goals in La Liga last season as Luis Enrique’s side edged out Real Madrid to take the title.

That tally allowed him to pip Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain, scorer of a Serie A record 36 goals for Napoli, to the award.

Cristiano Ronaldo was third with 35 goals for Real.

He said of all his goals among those that stood out came in the 4-0 destruction of Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“There were many beautiful goals, important ones, but the ones I liked the most for what they meant were the two against Real Madrid and one against Atletico Madrid because it allowed us to stay top,” he said.

It is the second time Suarez has won the Golden Shoe — in 2013-14 he shared the prize with Ronaldo after netting 31 times for Liverpool in the Premier League.

Ronaldo has won it a record four times, while Suarez’s Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messiis a three-time winner.

He gave a nod to Messi and Neymar, the other member of the so-called MSN.

“I am in the best team in the world, with the best players,” he said.

“When you fix an objective you can reach it but the priority is the collective and winning titles as a team.

“If individual prizes come with that then it’s even better. But if it’s not me who wins them then let it be Leo or Neymar!”

Suarez is the second Uruguayan to win the trophy after Diego Forlan, who took the Golden Shoe when with Villarreal in 2004-05 and again as an Atletico player in 2008-09.

Luis Enrique takes blame for shock Barcelona loss

September 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Barca boss Luis Enrique admitted he must take responsibility for the Spanish champions’ shock home defeat to newly promoted Alaves after starting Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez on the bench.

Barcelona

Enrique made seven changes on Saturday after many of his squad returned to club duty after taking part in World Cup qualifiers around the world in the past week, whilst Messi was also struggling with a minor groin injury.

“I am the one ultimately responsible for all the bad things that happen,” said the Barca boss after suffering just his fifth home league defeat in three seasons in charge at the Camp Nou.

“Many of the changes came from the circumstances surrounding us, but we have 22 players and we are going to use everyone this season.”

As well as leaving out Messi and Suarez, Enrique changed his entire back four, whilst goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen and striker Paco Alcacer made their debuts.

Deyverson beat Cillessen from close range to hand Alaves a surprise lead before half-time, but Jeremy Mathieu brought Barca back into the game when he headed homeNeymar’s corner a minute into the second-half.

Mathieu somehow then blasted wide when it seemed easier to score from another set-piece before Barca’s makeshift defence was caught out once more when Ibai Gomez slotted home the winner.

Enrique called upon Messi, Suarez and Andres Iniesta from the bench, but even they couldn’t break Alaves’s resistance as Messi fired wide deep into stoppage time.

“We lacked fluidity, precision and we were fragile in defence, which is one of the things that normally makes us strong,” added Enrique.

“The one positive is it is a time to reflect on what this team has won over the years. Everyone makes us favourites for everything, but it is not easy to win any game.”

Enrique is expected to revert back to his strongest line-up for Celtic’s visit to the Camp Nou to start their Champions League campaign.

The Scottish club will be high on confidence after thrashing old rivals Rangers 5-1 on Saturday.

“It’s clear it wasn’t our best game, they didn’t have many chances but they were very effective,” said midfielder Sergio Busquets.

“We lacked a spark, we lacked a lot of things. It is hard to say it is a deserved defeat because they also didn’t create a lot.

“Now we have to think about Celtic because the season rolls on.”

And Iniesta insisted Barca will have licked their wounds and learned the lesson in time for the visit of the Scottish champions.

“We have to do better in the next game in a different competition,” added the Spanish international. “As always when there is a defeat, we have to analyse it and correct it for the next game.”

Barca trio reunited, Ronaldo returns for Real

September 9, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Barcelona’s fearsome front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar could join forces for the first time in four months against Alaves, while Cristiano Ronaldo will make his Real Madrid return on Saturday.

Barcelona

Neymar has missed Barca’s 100 percent start to the season due to his efforts in leading Brazil to Olympic gold on home soil, but returned to Spain for the first time since May after more international duty in World Cup qualifying this week and is expected to start at the Camp Nou.

Messi is a much bigger doubt after missing Argentina’s clash with Venezuela in midweek due to a groin problem. The five-time World Player of the Year has played a limited part in training in recent days and coach Luis Enrique is likely to be cautious for the first of seven games in 22 days for Barca.

Paco Alcacer is in line to make his debut after sealing a 30 million-euro ($33 million) move from Valencia and the Spanish international striker is aware he will have to make the most of limited opportunities as fourth choice behind Messi, Suarez and Neymar.

“I will do everything I can to take advantage of the chances I have to the full,” Alcacer said as he was presented on Thursday.

Andres Iniesta has also returned to training following a knee injury and will battle Arda Turan and Denis Suarez for a place in midfield as both have impressed early in the campaign.

Ronaldo makes his long-awaited return at the Santiago Bernabeu against Osasuna earlier on Saturday in what will be his first appearance since suffering ligament damage in his left knee during Portugal’s Euro 2016 final win over France.

Real haven’t suffered in Ronaldo’s absence with two wins from their opening two La Liga games and victory over Sevilla in the European Super Cup.

And after winning two Champions League titles in his first three seasons at Madrid, Gareth Bale insists the European champions have to put more emphasis on ending a four-year run without winning La Liga.

“It’s important to try to win La Liga because it’s been a few years since we have and it’s normal that it’s our focus,” said Bale.

“I’m looking forward to next weekend’s game against Osasuna and I’m sure that they will make it difficult for us, but it’ll be great to be able to call upon almost the whole squad.”

Karim Benzema and Pepe have also returned from injury to leave Zinedine Zidane with a fully-fit squad bar the absence of goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

Champions League finalists Atletico Madrid desperately need to kickstart their season after back-to-back disappointing draws with Alaves and Leganes when they visit Celta Vigo in the first match in a new early Saturday kick-off time of 1300 (1100GMT) designed to compete with the English Premier League in Asian television markets.

Celta finished sixth last season, but have also endured a poor start with defeats in both their opening matches and the Galicians will be without influential playmaker Fabian Orellana for a month due to a muscle tear.

Early season leaders Las Palmas have been on fire in scoring nine goals in their opening two games to shoot ahead of Barca and Madrid to the top of the table for the first time in 38 years.

However, the searing Spanish heat could get in their way this weekend with record temperatures for September registered across the country.

League chief Javier Tebas has promised players’ safety won’t be risked and Las Palmas’ visit to Sevilla is one of a number of games that could be delayed or even postponed if temperatures are deemed to be too high.

Suarez, Munir strikes give Barca Super Cup advantage

August 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Barcelona took a big step towards lifting the Spanish Super Cup after second-half strikes from Luis Suarez and Munir El Haddadi sealed a 2-0 win at Sevilla in the first leg on Sunday.

Football Soccer - Sevilla v Barcelona- Spanish SuperCup first leg - Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium, Seville, Spain - 14/08/16 Barcelona's Luis Suarez (R) celebrates after scoring against Sevilla. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

Suarez, La Liga top scorer last season, broke the deadlock with a low finish in the 53rd minute and substitute Munir doubled the lead in the 81st barely five minutes after coming on to put Barca on top before Wednesday’s return at the Nou Camp.

“It’s a very good result, it’s not definitive, but the second leg is mapped out for us,” said Barca coach Luis Enrique.

“I feel very positive and not just because of the result. We knew what Sevilla were capable of and how intense they were, and they are even stronger at their own stadium.

“We played well in the first half but were better in the second half. We created more danger, more chances and our build up play was better.”

With Neymar on Olympic Games duty with Brazil, Luis Enrique fielded Arda Turan behind Lionel Messi and Suarez in an otherwise familiar looking Barca side.

Despite a bright start, Barca struggled for long periods at the Sanchez Pizjuan and Luis Enrique was forced to make first-half substitutions as defender Jeremy Mathieu and midfield maestro Andres Iniesta were forced off with injuries.

Luis Enrique’s opposite number Jorge Sampaoli made his home bow after coming so close to beating Real Madrid to the UEFA Super Cup last week in his first competitive game in charge.

There were further signs that Sevilla have adapted quickly to the former Chile coach’s intense brand of football, although they could have fallen behind early on.

Sergio Busquets carved a pass into the path of Suarez, who turned his marker effortlessly but drilled his shot straight at Sevilla goalkeeper Sergio Rico.

That chance aside, the hosts controlled the first period, overpowering Barca in midfield and winning several corners although also struggling to produce clear-cut chances.

Iniesta’s injury allowed former Sevilla player Denis Suarez to make his first competitive appearance for Barcelona after rejoining the club from Villarreal.

He crafted Barca’s opener, finding space in midfield and playing a delightful ball which Turan chested down into the path of Suarez, who drilled the ball into the bottom corner.

“This was a vital win against an uncomfortable opponent,” said the Uruguay striker. “We’ve got a small advantage but in the second leg at home we’ll have to give everything.”

The goal rocked Sevilla and put the wind in Barca’s sails and it looked inevitable that they would extend their lead.

Barely a minute after scoring, Suarez teed up Messi but Rico punched the Argentine’s dinked effort away, and the young goalkeeper then denied Sergi Roberto at the near post.

Munir banished Sevilla’s hopes of finding a way back when he latched onto Messi’s low pass and flicked the ball beyond Rico with the outside of his boot, repeating the scoreline by which Barca beat Sevilla in last season’s Kings’ Cup final.

Milestone for Ronaldo but another Pichichi unlikely

May 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Cristiano Ronaldo achieved another milestone in his Real Madrid career when he scored his 200th goal at the Bernabeu on Sunday but he looks like failing in his bid to become La Liga’s top scorer for the third season in a row.

Ronaldo

The prolific Portuguese struck twice in Real’s 3-2 win over Valencia to move on to 33 league goals this season, four behind Barcelona’s Luis Suarez with one match left.

“Knowing him, he’ll keep fighting until the end,” Real coach Zinedine Zidane told the club’s website on Monday.

“Not for the Pichichi (leading scorers’ trophy), but because he wants to score in every game, to score more and more,” the Frenchman added.

“As always, it’s the team that reaps the benefits of this.”

Ronaldo has been prolific at Real’s home stadium, averaging 1.16 goals a game since joining the Madrid side from Manchester United in 2009.

Four-goal Suarez keeps Barca on top, Bale rescues Real

April 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Luis Suarez struck four goals for the second time in four days as Barcelona moved back to the top of La Liga with the help of three penalties in a 6-0 win over Sporting Gijon on Saturday.

Suarez

Only Barca’s superior head-to-head record continues to separate them from Atletico Madrid with three games remaining as Angel Correa’s deflected strike handed Diego Simeone’s men a 1-0 win over Malaga.

Gareth Bale ensured Real Madrid remain just a point behind in third as he struck twice to inspire a stunning fightback from a Cristiano Ronaldo shorn Madrid from two goals down to win 3-2 at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

Suarez hit four as Barca bounced back from three consecutive league defeats in style with an 8-0 thrashing of Deportivo la Coruna in midweek, and his eight-goal week takes him three clear of Ronaldo in the fight to be La Liga’s top scorer.

“I’m a little bit surprised,” Suarez told Movistar.

“I just want to enjoy the fact the goals helped the team in the second-half after a difficult first-half.

“We didn’t play the ball at the speed we normally do and at half-time we had to reflect on the fact we weren’t playing well. In the second-half we showed that we need to play with that intensity all the time.”

Lionel Messi opened the scoring for Barca with a looping header into an empty net despite Sporting protests that Suarez had fouled goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar in the build-up.

Yet, Barca had to wait until 25 minutes from time to make the game safe when Suarezslotted home his 50th goal of the season from Andres Iniesta’s pass.

The Uruguayan then added two more from the penalty spot after Roberto Canella handled and Antonio Sanabria upended Neymar inside the area.

Neymar converted Barca’s third spot-kick after Ognjen Vranjes was shown an incredibly harsh second yellow card for a push on the Brazilian.

And Suarez rounded off the scoring when he smashed home Messi’s pass off the inside of the post.

Without the injured Ronaldo for the first time in La Liga this season, Real’s title hopes looked set to end in the rain at Rayo when early goals from Adrian Embarba and Miku put Rayo 2-0 in front.

However, Bale took responsibility to drag Madrid back into the game as he rose highest to power home Toni Kroos’s corner 10 minutes before half-time.

Madrid suffered another blow before the break as Karim Benzema limped off with a knee injury making him a serious doubt to face Manchester City in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Tuesday.

Lucas Vazquez replaced the Frenchman and it was the diminutive winger who brought Real level in unusual fashion as he powered home a header from Danilo’s cross six minutes into the second half.

And fittingly Bale was the man to decide the game as he pounced on a loose pass midway inside the Rayo half and surged forward before striking low and hard past Juan Carlos for his 18th goal of the season.

“He is very happy to make the difference,” Real coach Zinedine Zidane said of Bale.

“When we needed him he was phenomenal. He scored two, but even without speaking about the goals, he played very well.”

Atletico were also forced to work for the three points ahead of their Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich in midweek and could face further repercussions after coach Diego Simeone was sent to the stands at half-time in bizarre circumstances.

Referee Mateu Lahoz punished the Argentine after an extra ball was thrown onto the pitch from near the Atletico bench to break up a dangerous Malaga counter-attack.

“It is clear the referee took the correct decision,” said Simeone, who could face up to a three-game touchline ban.

“We hope it isn’t too many games.”

Correa eventually made the telling contribution just five minutes after coming on as a substitute as his shot from outside the box flicked off Raul Albentosa to leave Guillermo Ochoa helpless and Atletico recorded a 32nd clean sheet of the season to seal all three points.

Suarez on fire as Barca rout Deportivo 8-0

April 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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A red hot Luis Suarez scored four goals and contributed three assists as Barcelona’s stuttering La Liga title charge sparked back to life with a spectacular 8-0 thrashing of Deportivo La Coruna on Wednesday.

Football Soccer - Deportivo Coruna v Barcelona - Spanish Liga BBVA - Riazor stadium, Coruna - 20/4/16. Barcelona's Luis Suarez celebrates his goal against Deportivo Coruna. REUTERS/Miguel Vidal

Three successive defeats had put the brakes on Barcelona’s title pursuit but Suarez’s goal burst ended that losing run, while their closest challengers Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid made sure they stayed in the hunt with victories over Athletic Bilbao and Villarreal respectively.

Real Madrid’s 3-0 win over Villarreal came at a cost though as Cristiano Ronaldo was seen limping off the pitch clutching his thigh though Real manager Zinedine Zidane later sought to play down the seriousness of the injury.

“He felt something just at the end, I can’t tell you anything at the moment but its more that he had a scare than that something serious happened,” he said.

“I’m more relaxed now than when he left the pitch. He had a scare and that’s why he left the pitch, he wanted to know what happened. In the end it was just a scare.”

Atletico secured a 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao thanks to a first half header from Fernando Torres but they too suffered an injury setback with defender Diego Godin forced off in the ninth minute with a suspected hamstring injury.

Barca lead Atletico due to their superior head-to-head record, with both teams on 79 points with four games remaining. Third-placed Real Madrid are a point adrift.

Uruguayan Suarez was unstoppable on Wednesday as he took his goal tally to 49 in all competitions. He gave Barca a two-goal cushion at the break by scoring in the 11th and 24th minutes.

He then provided the cross for Ivan Rakitic to grab the third in the 48th. Suarez completed his hat-trick five minutes later and netted his fourth in the 64th. Lionel Messi, Marc Bartra and Neymar rounded off the scoring late on.

Barca headed to Riazor without influential defender Gerard Pique in search of a first win in five league games.

Suarez put them on their way by volleying home Rakitic’s corner from inside the six yard box, then added the second with a first time finish with the help of a stylish tee up from Messi.

The former Liverpool striker laid on the cross for Rakitic to score on the half volley shortly after the break, and completed his treble thanks to another assist from Messi.

Suarez’s fourth goal was scrappier, following his shot in on the rebound after being denied by Deportivo goalkeeper Manu.

He then set up Messi to tap in from inside the box in the 73rd minute.

Barca coach Luis Enrique praised his team’s efficiency in front of goal but said the performance was not any better than in the 2-1 defeat to Valencia last Sunday.

“This time we had infinite solutions and we moved the ball around midfield really well, but I insist that we did the same against Valencia and look at the result,” he said.

“We have a marvellous challenge in front of us and we are better prepared for it after this spectacular result.”

Karim Benzema gave Real Madrid the lead against Villarreal in the 41st minute by pouncing on an error by goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo and Lucas Vazquez made it 2-0 in the 69th before Luka Modric completed the scoring in the 75th.

Torres scored for the fifth consecutive game in all competitions to give Atletico a fourth straight league win, heading in Antoine Griezmann’s chipped cross on 38 minutes.

Elsewhere, Sporting Gijon came from behind to beat Sevilla 2-1 and climb out of the relegation zone, while fellow strugglers Rayo Vallecano were denied victory at Malaga due to Federico Ricca’s injury time equaliser.

Valencia thrashed Eibar 4-0 to earn a third consecutive league win which takes them eighth, on 43 points.

Suarez double sees Barca recover to beat 10-man Atletico

April 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Barcelona’s Luis Suarez netted twice for a 2-1 win over 10-man Atletico Madrid in their Champions League quarter-final, first leg on Tuesday after the visitors’ Fernando Torres opened the scoring and was later sent off.

Football Soccer - FC Barcelona v Atletico Madrid - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final First Leg - The Nou Camp, Barcelona, Spain - 5/4/16 Luis Suarez celebrates with Neymar after scoring the second goal for Barcelona Reuters / Albert Gea Livepic

After a flurry of chances for the home side, Suarez levelled from close range in the 63rd minute and then headed the winner in the 74th, giving the European champions the edge before next week’s second leg at the Vicente Calderon.

Atletico got off to the ideal start when Torres fired Koke’s pass through the legs of keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen after 25 minutes but 10 minutes later he was dismissed for a second booking as they suffered a seventh straight loss to Barca.

Atletico had been in confident mood after thrashing Real Betis 5-1 in la Liga on Saturday and were looking to take advantage of Barcelona, who were reeling from a 2-1 home defeat by Real Madrid that ended their record 39-game unbeaten run.

Diego Simeone’s men defended as a team and their organised play and high pressing interrupted Barca’s usual quick passing game.

“We are still alive in the tie,” Atletico coach Simeone said. “They had a chance to score another goal with an extra man and they didn’t, so that gives us hope and belief. The second leg is going to be a great game.”

After Lionel Messi and Neymar missed the target in the early stages, Atletico pounced with their first proper chance.

After a long spell of possession, Koke received a pass from Gabi and took a touch before threading the ball into the path of Torres, who got his 11th goal in 15 matches against Barcelona.

The former Liverpool and Chelsea striker received his first booking for a late tackle on Neymar in the middle of the pitch four minutes after scoring and got his marching orders for a second yellow minutes later for fouling Sergio Busquets.

Simeone’s side had two sent off when they lost to the Catalans in La Liga and were again punished for indiscipline.

After the break Messi was inches away from his 500th career goal with a scissors kick before Neymar hit the far post and then sent a shot whistling just wide.

Barcelona broke Atletico’s resistance when Suarez diverted Jordi Alba’s low cross home with his shin and then powered into the area to head Dani Alves’ cross past Jan Oblak to score the winner with his eighth Champions League goal this season.

“The only downside is we didn’t score another goal, which would have helped us a lot,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said.

“We feel positive because the result is in our favour, we have won again and beaten Atletico again, a team that makes things extremely difficult.”

Suarez hat-trick helps Barca crush Celta 6-1

February 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Luis Suarez completed a hat-trick as Barcelona crushed Celta Vigo 6-1 to restore their three-point cushion over Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga on Sunday.

Football Soccer - Barcelona v Celta Vigo- Spanish Liga BBVA - Camp Nou stadium, Barcelona - 14/2/16Barcelona's Lionel Messi takes a penalty as he assists Luis Suarez to score a goal against Celta Vigo. REUTERS/Albert Gea

Atletico made sure they did not lose further ground on the leaders as Fernando Torres’s 101st goal for the club gave them a 1-0 win at Getafe.

Barcelona have 57 points but will reach 60 in 24 matches, six clear of Atletico and seven ahead of third-placed Real Madrid, if they beat Sporting Gijon in the match they have in hand on Wednesday.

Messi, who could have scored a record 300th La Liga goal with a late penalty, chose to cheekily kick the ball square allowing Suarez to charge into the box and complete his hat-trick to goalkeeper Sergio Blanco’s surprise.

“There will be those who like it and those who don’t. Here (at Barcelona) we try, as well as winning titles, to give enjoyment to our members,” coach Luis Enrique told reporters.

Messi opened the scoring with a superb free kick in the 28th minute, given for a foul by Carles Planas on Suarez. It was his 13th goal in La Liga this season.

Celta, who had beaten Barca 4-1 at home in September, equalised with a penalty 11 minutes later taken by John Guidetti after the striker was brought down by Jordi Alba.

Suarez put Barca in front again just before the hour was up when he volleyed home a superb pass from Messi.

The Uruguayan struck again 15 minutes from time as he finished off a fine move started by Messi and continued by Neymar.

Suarez then scored his third from Messi’s penalty tap for a league tally of 23, overtaking Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo as the top scorer in La Liga after the Portuguese had scored twice on Saturday.

Substitute midfielder Ivan Rakitic scored Barca’s fifth in the 84th with a lob over Blanco and Neymar completed the rout in the final minute.

Torres scored in the opening minute at Getafe and they then held on for a 1-0 win.

Winger Yannick Carrasco’s low cross from the left in Atletico’s first attack beat the defence and reached the far post where the unmarked Torres tapped the ball home.

The dangerous Carrasco was injured early in the second half defending a Getafe corner and had to come off with what the club later reported was a damaged right ankle ligament.

Getafe are 13th with 26 points.

Suarez, Messi hat-tricks hit Neville’s Valencia for seven

February 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Luis Suarez scored four and Lionel Messi hit a hat-trick as Barcelona piled more misery on Gary Neville’s ill-fated reign as Valencia boss to take an unassailable 7-0 lead in their Copa del Rey semi-final, first-leg on Wednesday.

Messi

Two fine finishes inside 12 minutes from Suarez put Barca in control before Messirounded off a fine team move for Barca’s third.

It could have been even worse for Valencia as Neymar hit the post from the penalty spot after Shkodran Mustafi was sent-off for bringing down Messi inside the area.

However, Messi and Suarez both added two more after the break to make next week’s second-leg at the Mestalla a formality.

“It is one the best games we have played all season in every sense,” Suarez told Canal Plus.

“From the first minute to the last we showed a great attitude, we were good on the ball and we have a good advantage.”

The Cup had been Neville’s one refuge during a winless run of eight league games since taking charge in December, but Valencia were blown away by a Barca side back to their best and on the verge of a fifth final in six seasons.

However, Neville insisted he wasn’t prepared to resign just two months after taking charge.

“I won’t sleep well tonight. I didn’t like what I saw. The fans didn’t deserve that and we have to recover incredibly quickly,” said the former Manchester United captain.

“It’s going to be a painful three or four days. This was one of my most painful days in football.”

Neymar had made headlines earlier in the week as he was quizzed by a judge in Spain’s top court over the murky transfer deal which brought him to Barca in 2013 amidst corruption and fraud allegations.

However, he showed his performances continue to be unaffected by off-field problems as he drove at the Valencia defence before playing in Suarez to fire across Australian international Matt Ryan into the far corner.

Aleix Vidal then cut-back Sergio Busquets’s ball over the top of the Valencia defence for Suarez to slam home his 33rd goal of the season five minutes later.

Messi was left with the simple task of slotting in his first of the evening from close range after great work by Andres Iniesta and Suarez just before the half-hour mark.

Valencia were happy to get to the break just three down as Messi then hit the bar from Suarez’s brilliant low cross before the Argentine was clipped by Mustafi as he bore down on goal.

Neymar was over-confident with his one-step run-up, though, as his penalty came back off the post.

Gerard Pique, Busquets and Messi all fired just off target as Barca continued to run riot after the break.

However, the biggest cheer of the night from the home fans was reserved for on-loan Real Madrid winger Denis Cheryshev’s introduction as a substitute on his Valencia debut.

Cheryshev’s inclusion when he should have been suspended saw Madrid thrown out of the competition in December.

Messi latched onto Suarez’s lovely backheel to make it 4-0 and then completed his hat-trick with a fierce effort that Ryan was disappointed to see slip through his grasp.

Suarez rounded off the scoring as he powered home a header from Adriano’s cross and fired in a low shot at the near post two minutes from time.

Messi, Suarez edge Barca past nine-man Atletico

January 31, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Barcelona took control of the La Liga title race as goals from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez inspired a come from behind 2-1 win against nine-man Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

Suarez

Koke handed the visitors a deserved early lead, but Barca turned the game thanks to two goals in eight minutes before the break through Messi and Suarez.

Atletico’s hopes of salvaging a point were then ruined as Filipe Luis and Diego Godin were sent-off for rash challenges either side of half-time.

Victory takes Barca three points clear of Atletico at the top of the table – having also played a game less – and seven points clear of third-placed Real Madrid, who host Espanyol on Sunday.

“It is clear it is an important day for us to pick up three points against our closest rivals, but there is a long way to go,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique.

“Every game presents its difficulties and you don’t always overcome them in the most effective or spectacular way.”

Meanwhile, Atletico coach Diego Simeone refused to chastise Luis and Godin for leaving his side short-handed against the European champions.

“I have nothing to reproach them for,” said the Argentine.

“Even with nine men we maintained our way of playing. In a game you can win or lose, but I always prefer to lose in this way.”

The clash between La Liga’s top two pitted Europe’s most feared attack against its strongest defence, but it was Atletico who started on the front foot.

Saul Niguez’s dipping effort was brilliantly turned over by Claudio Bravo after just two minutes.

However, another Niguez burst provided the opening goal eight minutes later when his cross from the right just evaded Antoine Griezmann and was slotted home at the far post by Koke.

Atletico could even have had a more commanding lead as Augusto Fernandez flashed a shot inches wide with Barca struggling to get a foothold in the game.

The European champions had been outplayed by Malaga and Athletic Bilbao in the first-half of their previous two games before reacting after the break, but they clicked into gear in the final 15 minutes of the first-half to turn the game on its head.

Suarez fired a warning shot that Jan Oblak got down well to save at his near post.

However, the Slovenian’s 483-minute run without conceding was ended when Jordi Alba showed great composure to pull a low cross into Messi’s path to smash home.

Atletico were then caught uncharacteristically flat-footed as Dani Alves’s long ball over the top picked out Suarez, who showed great strength to hold off compatriot Jose Maria Gimenez, before slotting between Oblak’s legs.

The game looked over as a contest a minute before the break when Luis was sent-off for high, studs-up, challenge on Messi inside the Barcelona half.

Yet, despite their numerical disadvantage, Atletico still started the second period the better.

Yannick Carrasco’s lung-bursting run was snuffed out at the last hurdle by Gerard Pique.

The Belgian then produced a fine cross for Griezmann, but his acrobatic effort from point-blank range was brilliantly saved by Bravo.

Atletico’s resistance was undone by their own stupidity again 25 minutes from time, though, as Godin lunged in on Suarez and was rightly shown a second yellow card.

Barca then rubbed salt into the visitors’ wounds by introducing former Atletico midfielder Arda Turan for Ivan Rakitic and the Turkish international was inches away from his first goal since swapping the Spanish capital for the Camp Nou when his shot flew just wide of the far post.

And a horrible day for Diego Simeone’s men was rounded off when Fernandez had to be stretchered from the field with what looked like a serious knee injury 15 minutes from time.

Barca’s Suarez flying before Bilbao Cup clash

January 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Barcelona forward Luis Suarez turned 29 on Sunday confident he is in the best form of his career before Athletic Bilbao visit in the second leg of their King’s Cup quarter-final tie on Wednesday.

Football Soccer - Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao - Spanish Liga - Camp Nou stadium, Barcelona - 17/1/16Barcelona's Luis Suarez (C) celebrates a goal against Athletic Bilbao's goalkeeper Iago Herrerin. REUTERS/ALBERT GEA

The combative Uruguay international was suspended for Barca’s last two Cup games for his part in a fracas after the last 16, first leg against Espanyol but his enforced absence has done little to tarnish his impressive statistics for the Spanish and European champions in 2015-16.

Top scorer in La Liga with 18 goals in 19 appearances, including two at Real Madrid in November’s 4-0 ‘Clasico’ victory, Suarez has five in five Champions League games and struck twice in Barca’s 3-0 win over River Plate in last month’s Club World Cup final.

He has 29 goals in 29 matches in all competitions and has come a long way since he was banned and widely condemned for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

Suarez is a key part of Barca’s formidable South American attacking trident alongside Argentina captain Lionel Messi and Brazil forward Neymar.

Neymar missed Saturday’s 2-1 La Liga win at Malaga, which lifted Barca into top spot, with a muscle complaint and remains a doubt for Wednesday’s game at the Nou Camp, when the Cup holders will be defending a 2-1 advantage from the first leg in Bilbao.

“Both on and off the pitch we get on marvellously and nobody thinks they are better than the other which is the most important thing,” Suarez said on Barca’s website on Saturday.

“We are more focussed on the collective and the group,” he added.

“People can see that we take pleasure from the good form each of us is in and we are delighted with every goal or assist for the good of the team.”

Barca, chasing a fourth domestic Cup triumph in eight years, have beaten Bilbao three times in the final since 2009, including last season, and are the record winners with 27, four more than the Basques.

Atletico Madrid drew 0-0 at Celta Vigo in their quarter-final first leg, while Gary Neville’s Valencia had to come from behind to rescue a 1-1 draw at home to Las Palmas.

Atletico host Celta on Wednesday and Valencia play at Las Palmas on Thursday, when Sevilla take a 2-0 lead to second division Mirandes.

Suarez double as Barca set record in Betis win

December 31, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Luis Suarez struck twice and Lionel Messi scored on his 500th appearance for Barcelona who set a new Spanish record of goals in a calendar year with a 4-0 win over Real Betis that lifted them top of La Liga on Wednesday.

Barcelona v Real Betis - Spanish Liga BBVA -Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - 30/12/15 Barcelona's Luis Suarez (C) and Betis' goalkeeper Antonio Adan in action REUTERS/Stringer

Late strikes from Angel Correa and Antoine Griezmann gave Atletico a 2-0 victory over Rayo Vallecano while Cristiano Ronaldo scored a penalty and missed another as Real Madrid beat Real Sociedad 3-1.

Barcelona and Atletico have 38 points with the Catalan side having played a game fewer, two more than third-placed Real.

Messi slid home his 425th goal for Barca after 34 minutes to add to their lead which came from a Heiko Westermann own-goal following a controversial penalty.

The Argentine was harshly judged to have been fouled by keeper Antonio Adan and although Neymar slipped and hit the crossbar with his spot-kick, Westermann put the rebound into the back of his own net.

Suarez pounced twice in the second half to take Barca’s goal tally to 180 this year, two more than the previous Spanish record set by Real Madrid in 2014.

“It has been a fantastic year and we wanted to finish it the same way,” Messi told reporters.

“It will be difficult to improve on what we have done but we will try.”

Atletico substitute Correa fired home from a Thomas Partey pass after 88 minutes and Griezmann sealed the victory over Rayo.

“It was a tough battle and we managed to break through at the end,” Correa told reporters.

“He (coach Diego Simeone) just told me to go on and help the team to win and luckily we did.”

Ronaldo blazed a spot-kick over the bar after 24 minutes but slotted home another three minutes before the break to put Real ahead.

Sociedad substitute Bruma equalised for the visitors after 49 minutes before Ronaldo struck a volley through a crowded penalty area into the net midway through the second half.

Lucas Vazquez sealed the win with a goal after 87 minutes that will ease the pressure on coach Rafa Benitez.

Barca struggled to break down a well-organised Betis until the penalty.

When the game opened up, however, Messi quickly added another from close range following an exchange of passes with Neymar.

Suarez slotted home a Sergio Busquets pass after the restart and with Betis stretched the chances continued to fall for the Catalan side.

Neymar and Dani Alves both struck the woodwork with shots and Messi’s free kick come back off the woodwork before Suarez fired home his second from inside the area.

Atletico’s Yannick Carrasco posed the main attacking threat and went close with a couple of chances but generally there was little invention.

It was heading towards a stalemate when Correa showed his predatory instincts inside the area and struck the ball into the roof of the net.

Rayo were stunned and Griezmann took advantage to finish clinically from a Martinez pass.

Real won a penalty after a slight push from fullback Yuri on Karim Benzema but Ronaldo missed a penalty for the 15th time in his career with a poor effort that went over the crossbar.

He made no mistake with a second spot-kick, though, tucking the ball into the right corner after Gareth Bale’s cross was handled by Yuri.

Sociedad lost Sergio Canales with suspected knee ligament damage but came out stronger in the second half and Bruma, given too much space on the right of the area, curled a shot into the top corner.

Just as the game was turning Sociedad’s way, Ronaldo volleyed in from a corner for his 57th goal of the year and Vazquez struck late from another Bale cross.

Barca sweep to another title in one-sided contest

December 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Barcelona swept to the Club World Cup title by outclassing South American champions River Plate 3-0 on Sunday, with Luis Suarez scoring twice after Lionel Messi had broken the deadlock in a one-sided contest.

Football Soccer - River Plate v FC Barcelona - FIFA Club World Cup Final - International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama - 20/12/15 FC Barcelona celebrate winning the FIFA Club World Cup Final with the trophy Reuters / Yuya Shino Livepic

There was a hint of handball about Messi’s goal, although it did not appear to be intentional, as the Argentine brought down Neymar’s pass and cleverly flicked the ball past Marcelo Barovero.

Uruguay forward Suarez took his tally in the tournament to five goals after his hat-trick in the semi-final win over Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande, and 24 goals in as many games this season.

The European champions, fielding six South American players, were especially dominant in the second half when they repeatedly sliced through the River defence looking as if they could score with almost every attack.

Messi, Neymar and Suarez seemed to take it in turns to run at the bewildered River defence and the Brazilian, in particular, over-elaborated in his attempt to get on the scoresheet.

The match emphasised the gap between club football on the two continents with nearly all the top South American players now based in Europe.

River’s team, made up mainly of journeymen with only a smattering of international caps between them, cost around 5 million euros ($5.43 million) in transfer fees, compared to an estimated 80 million euros that Barcelona paid for Suarez alone.

Backed by 15,000 fanatical supporters who had made the trip from Argentina, they made a promising start as Rodrigo Mora and Lucas Alario both got into good shooting positions, only to produce weak efforts which were easily saved by Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.

“We had a game plan that we executed for 36 minutes until Messi’s first goal, from then on we started to lose our shape,” River coach Marcelo Gallardo told reporters.

“We’re upset we couldn’t give the supporters this satisfaction (of winning). “When you play a phenomenal team like Barcelona, you have to recognise their supremacy.”

Messi had already been denied by Marcelo Baravero before scoring the opener, although replays suggested the ball may have touched his arm as he brought it under control.

River enjoyed some possession after halftime, but only until Sergio Busquets sent Suarez clear of the River defence to score the second four minutes into the second half.

The third goal in the 68th minute was a gem as Neymar planted a cross on Suarez’s head and he placed the ball past Barovero.

Suarez treble gives Barca comeback win over Eibar

October 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Barcelona needed a clinical Luis Suarez hat-trick to secure a 3-1 comeback win at home to modest Eibar which put the champions level on 21 points with arch-rivals Real Madrid at the top of La Liga on Sunday.

Barcelona's Luis Suarez (C) and Neymar (L) celebrate a goal against against Eibar during their Spanish first division soccer match at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, October 25, 2015. REUTERS/Albert Gea

Barca’s defence has been ragged this season and more poor play at the back allowed Borja Gonzalez in to give Eibar a surprise 10th-minute lead at the Nou Camp.

A well-worked move resulted in a simple header for Suarez to level in the 21st minute and Neymar drove into the area and fed the Uruguayan to make it 2-1 with a low strike into the corner three minutes into the second half.

Chances were scarce after the break until Neymar lifted a pass over the top for Suarez in the 85th minute and he chested the ball down and arrowed a shot past Asier Riesgo in the Eibar goal for his second La Liga hat-trick.

Suarez’s third goal, his seventh in the Spanish top flight this season, came moments after Barca’s Javier Mascherano was shown a straight red card having appeared to verbally abuse one of the referee’s assistants.

“We started off going behind, it was a difficult game because of that and that’s what we need to start looking at,” Suarez told Spanish television.

“Last season we conceded very few goals,” added the 28-year-old, who made his Barca debut exactly one year ago on Sunday.

“These are phases in which every time the opponents get forward they score and we have to correct that.”

Real, who host Barca in the first La Liga ‘Clasico’ of the season on Nov. 21, lead on goal difference after they secured a nervy 3-1 win at 10-man Celta Vigo on Saturday.

Celta are third on 18 points, one ahead of Villarreal, who drew 0-0 at promoted Las Palmas earlier on Sunday.

Atletico Madrid, the 2014 champions, can climb above Celta into third on 19 points with a win at home to eighth-placed Valencia in Sunday’s late kickoff.

Basque side Eibar, who were relegated last season but gained a reprieve when Elche were thrown out of the league for tax irregularities, are seventh on 13 points, one ahead of Valencia.

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