Where does Coutinho fit in at Barcelona now?

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Against Getafe on Sunday night, Barcelona’s record signing, Phillipe Coutinho, was again left on the bench.

That’s right, €160 million worth of talent being given a cursory eight-minute cameo at the end of the match.

Predictably it wasn’t enough time for the Brazilian to really make an impact, and that is becoming a consistent theme for him of late. Continue reading

Barca need to up the ante in the Champions League

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When your captain and talisman is steadfast in his resolve that this will be the year that the team is going to win the Champions League, the least that’s expected from every player is 100 percent concentration, commitment and effort in every game in the competition.

It’s a given at the top level, but since Lionel Messi uttered those words at the start of the campaign, the Argentinian has been the only one following his own advice in each European match that he’s been involved in. Continue reading

Time to stop talk of a Neymar return to Barca

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Not too long ago, Barcelona’s Pep Segura made a simple statement that could be easily understood and with no room for misinterpretation.

Any player that leaves the club is not welcome back.

It was almost as if he was saying ‘if we weren’t good enough for you then, you’re not good enough for us now.’

An understandable point of view, particularly when it relates to one of the biggest names in world football. Continue reading

Portugal have to take a leaf out of Godin’s book

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Two contrasting styles will take to the Fisht Olympic Stadium on Saturday as Uruguay face Portugal.

Both have their merits and weaknesses and as the stakes get higher, we could be in for one of the games of the tournament so far.

Cristiano Ronaldo will be keen to continue his goal scoring form from the first couple of group games, and his prowess in front of goal could well be needed if Messrs. Suarez and Cavani are in the mood for Uruguay. Continue reading

Barcelona unbeaten streak ends in shock loss at Levante

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Our game of the week looks at the blockbuster fixture at Estadi Ciutat de València that saw Levante put an end to Barcelona’s unbeaten streak in an enthralling 5-4 win that will be etched on the minds of both players and fans alike for some time to come.

A much changed Barcelona side came into the tie with a lethargy that suggested they believed this result to be a mere formality.

However, they were given an early shock when Boateng just managed to force a whipped cross into the goal off the underside of the bar to open proceedings in the ninth minute.

The 21-year-old Ghanaian then doubled the lead just after half an hour into the tie when he capitalised on a Continue reading

Barcelona secure emphatic league title in Game of the Week

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Our La Liga game of the week saw a Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona run out 4-2 winners at the Estadio Riazor as they overcame a robust Deportivo La Coruna side to claim a 25th title.

With Barcelona knowing that victory would be enough to reclaim the highest domestic honour from bitter rivals Real Madrid, the visitors came into the tie focused solely on the goal of sealing a title that has been months in the making.

And it appeared that the game was set to go according to the script early on, when Philippe Coutinho met a Dembele pass first time to swing the ball inside the far post on six minutes – netting his 11th goal across the Premier League and La Liga in 2017/18.

The visitors then doubled their lead a little over half an hour later when Messi  took down a looped Luis Suarez ball before driving it past Deportivo keeper Martinez.

However, if Barcelona had expected that they might walk to the title then they were gravely mistaken.

Just two minutes after Messi had put Barcelona two goals ahead, Lucas Perez then halved the deficit when he rounded off a counter attack to score his sixth goal of the season and put himself on 29 points.

Emre Colak then put the hosts level, capitalising on some slack Barcelona defending to put his side level on the 64 minute mark and earn himself a place in our team of the week.

This proved to be the wake-up call that Barcelona had needed, with the league leaders having been guilty of coasting after the break.

Despite their renewed vigour, it wasn’t until the 82nd minute that Barcelona finally made the break-through – Leo Messi again the creator in chief as he turned several Deportivo defenders before stroking home after an audacious one-two with Luis Suarez in the box.

Suarez then set up Messi for a third time just three minutes later, as his team mate ensured he would be taking home the match ball to add to his La Liga winner’s medal.

The hat-trick goal caused scenes of delirium among the Barcelona players and topped off a scintillating solo performance from the Argentine who now has 154 points and 32 goals for the campaign.

The Catalan side must now host arch rivals Real Madrid as they keep their collective thoughts on the prospect of finishing the campaign with an unbeaten run in tact – something that would in itself be a tremendous accolade to the successes of their campaign.

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La Liga Game of the Week: Barcelona close out Valencia in tight affair

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This week’s La Liga Game of the Week saw Barcelona overcome a challenging Valencia side to secure a 2-1 victory at the Camp Nou.

Barca will have been justified had they come into the game with a degree of trepidation, knowing full well that the fourth placed side posed a credible threat to their unbeaten record.

However, the hosts put the handle on the game from the early stages – taking the lead in the 15th minute when Luis Suarez netted near post after Philippe Coutinho’s exquisite slide-rule pass.

The Uruguayan’s emphatic celebrations have been a regular occurrence this season, with him having hit 23 goals in 28 games on his way to 100 points.

Equally, the Brazilian will have been delighted to have contributed to the goal.

The 25-year-old has dropped off the exceptional rate of goals and assists he was delivering at Liverpool following his big money move but moments like this show he is certainly beginning to settle in at his new club.

He again highlighted his ability once again when Umtiti headed in from his whipped cross to double Barcelona’s lead on 51 minutes – punishment for a Valencia side that had missed a number of high quality chances.

With nine goals and 11 assists across the two leagues, Coutinho’s 77 points this season and will be a hot favourite to really kick on next campaign.

With the game seemingly tied up, Dani Parejo added a touch of spice when he converted from the spot to score his seventh goal of the campaign after Dembele was penalised for a foul in the 87th minute – the hard shot squirming under Marc ter Stegen’s body.

ter Stegen will have been disappointed to have conceded the goal so late on, with the German on the cusp of an 18th clean sheet of 2017/18.

The penalty added a touch of drama to the final moments of the game but the hosts were good value for the victory in truth, seeing the tie through to the finish as they secured an 25 win of the campaign to put them on 82 points.

The victory puts Barcelona another step closer towards claiming this season’s La Liga title, though second placed Atletico Madrid did secure a 3-0 victory over the weekend.

The Catalans next see action against Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final, whilst Valencia travel to Celta Vigo as they look to consolidate a qualification place for next season’s Champions League.

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La Liga Team of the Week

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Want to see our team of the week from La Liga’s most recent action? Check it out here!

Daniel Gimenez, Real Betis – seven points

The keeper has played twice for his club this season, keeping consecutive clean sheets in the process.

The 34-year-old’s performance helped his side to a 1-0 win over Girona and he will be hoping his run can put him in the frame as a first team contender for next season.

Damian Suarez, Getafe – nine points

The 29-year-old scored the decisive goal in his side’s fiery 1-0 win in which Flamini saw red in the second half.

The side’s ability to dig in for the win symbolised a mentality that has seen Suarez earn eleven clean sheets and 45 points across the season.

Sime Vrsaljko, Atletico madrid – seven points

The Croatian international has not always been a fixture this season but always dependable when called upon.

With 11 clean sheets and four assists in his 17 games, Vrsaljko  remains more than valuable to Diego Simeone.

Diego Godin, Atletico – five points

The Uruguayan has kept a highly impressive 17 clean sheets this season, helping him to 78 points so far across the campaign.

His exploits helped Atletico onto an impressive 3-0 win this weekend as they look to run the campaign in with a flourish.

Victor Laguardia, Alaves – five points

Another player to be named in our team of the week for consecutive turns, his Alaves side ran out 1-0 winners against an uninspired Eibar.

Laguardia now has six clean sheets this season, an impressive tally when considering the fact he has managed just 14 appearances over the campaign.

Casemiro, Real Madrid – four points

The Brazilian scored what proved to be a pivotal second goal for his side as they ran out 2-1 victors against an all-but-relegated Malaga.

Casemiro may not have had the best of campaigns over 2017/18 but his goal saw him hit 35 points for the season.

Daniel Parejo, Valencia – four points

Parejo has managed 49 points across the campaign, his seven goals and seven assists seemingly likely to help Valencia to a Champions League spot for next season.

Parejo scored a late penalty during the weekends action, but it was not enough to facilitate an unlikely come back at the Camp Nou.

Philippe Coutinho, Barcelona – four points

Coutinho is finally starting to find his groove for Barcelona, setting up his one-time Liverpool team mate Luis Suarez to score the games opener.

The Brazilian now has nine goals and 11 assists across La Liga and the Premier League, seeing him hit 77 points across the two competitions.

Angel Correa, Atletico Madrid – eight points

The Argentine midfielder has been a valuable member of the Atletico side this season, making 32 appearances for Simeone’s men.

Correa now has 75 points, thanks in part to his 15 goals – one of which game in their comprehensive win over Levante.

Isco, Real Madrid – six points

It’s been a tough campaign for many in the white of Madrid but Isco has arguably been one of the better performers.

He got the opener against his old side Malaga as he hit six goals and six assists in his 27 games.

Adrian Lopez, Deportivo La Coruna – eight points

It’s been a disappointing season for relegation threatened La Coruna but Adrian’s brace in the 3-2 victory over Bilbao gives them a sniff at survival.

If they are to stay up then the form that has seen him secures nine goals in 25 appearances will prove crucial.

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Intrepid Barcelona fight back at Sevilla in Game of the Week

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Our La Liga Game of the Week saw Sevilla and Barcelona play out an entertaining 2-2 draw at La Bombonera as the visitors valiant fightback saw them come from two goals behind to retain their unbeaten streak in this season’s campaign.

Having lost two games on the bounce in a season that has seen them undergo intermittent periods of bad form, the hosts came into this tie with an attitude suggestive that they believed they had a point to prove.

With Correa having missed an early opportunity to put his side ahead, he made amends by setting up Franco Vasquez to open the scoring, the latter scuffing home the Argentine’s ball from six yards out. Continue reading

Barcelona suffer shock loss but is Luis Enrique to blame?

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Barcelona were expected to pick up an easy 3 points on Saturday night when they came face to face with newly promoted Alaves at the Camp Nou. But Alaves shocked their mega star opponents and won 2-1. Players and fans alike have been stunned by the result and some are pointing the finger at manager Luis Enrique.

Enrique rested a host of Barca players instead having them as substitutions ahead of their first Champions League game of the season. Whilst it was understandable that Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta were benched after coming back from injuries one could wonder why the likes of Luis Suarez and Samuel Umtiti started from there.

Neymar has had an exhausting summer, was he rushed back a week too early? This game seemed to confirm that. Enrique opted to play a 4-3-3 but the midfield looked weak of holding ability in the form of Denis Suarez, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. Up front Enrique pushed Arda Turan there and also picked youngster Alcaco Paco. These decisions against a team who went to Atletico Madrid and claimed a draw.

Starting the likes of Paco up front would have only motivated Alaves more, what Enrique was saying was that the visitors were not good enough for Barcelona to roll out their stars. This can of course be questioned, but if the opponent had been Real Madrid, Enrique would have started with this best players.

Some things of course were out of Enrique’s hands, such as goalkeeper ter Stergen’s injury so Jasper Cillessen had to be brought in and Aleix Vidal in defence had a nightmare match.

This isn’t the first time though that Enrique has made odd choices and he has a tendency to make a few a season. He will of course be let off the hook if Barca beat Celtic and go on a winning run, this match can be left in the memory banks and quickly forgotten about, or could it start a moment of bad luck?

Credit of course must be given to Alaves- who have started the season unbeaten. Yes they had to fight for the win and frustrate their opponents but they had a game plan that ultimately outfoxed Barcelona and Enrique.

The harshest of critics will say that there is something rather hollow to Enrique’s plans given that he has such quality at his disposal. A couple of more mistakes and the league can be sealed in such a country where the smallest of errors are punished by the likes of running wins from Real Madrid and Atletico. We should know in about 10 days time if this loss was indeed just a blip.