Valverde has to rest Barcelona’s big hitters now

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After another dominant El Clasico performance, and with the Champions League once again the priority, Ernesto Valverde must start tinkering with his squad.

His ‘safety first’ approach will need to take a back seat in a handful of the next few league games as Barca go for it in the European competition.

Though the Catalans can still conceivably be caught in La Liga, both Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid are far enough behind for the Blaugrana to have a blip and still remain as leaders. Continue reading

Time for Barcelona to banish away day blues

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Here we are on the cusp of Barcelona’s biggest couple of weeks of the 2018/19 season.

At the time of writing, the match against Lyon is a few hours away, the first of four huge games for the Catalans, all away from home.

Following the trip to France, Ernesto Valverde’s side travel to Sevilla in La Liga before a double header against Real Madrid in the space of 72 hours. Continue reading

Barcelona’s incentive to end Real Madrid’s season

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There was a 50 percent chance of it happening, and once Valencia and Real Betis had been drawn out of the Copa del Rey hat, it meant that, yes, we were going to see a two-legged El Clasico semi-final.

Moreover, the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu precedes a league match between the two teams at the same venue just 72 hours later.

It’s the first time in Barcelona’s history that they will have played two consecutive games at the Bernabeu, and given their recent record there, the Blaugrana will be entirely confident of continuing their run of victories. Continue reading

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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