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05.04.14 FC Barcelona v Real Betis

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FC Barcelona maintained their title challenge this Saturday in a rollercoaster win against a spirited Betis side fighting to avoid the drop.  The visitors provided plenty of nervous moments for the Camp Nou fans and were even on top times, but two goals from Leo Messi plus a Jordi Figueras own goal were enough to keep pace with  Atlético Madrid at the top of La Liga.  The players can now turn their attentions to the Champions League. Despite the many distractions provided by the referendum, FC Barcelona started positively, with danger coming in particular from the right wing pairing of Alves and Alexis.  And it was the Chile international who teased Betis defender Jordi Figueras into bringing him down in the penalty box.  Messi stepped up to left foot the spot kick into the centre of the net. Barça’s best phase of the match came immediately after the opening goal.   Xavi, through the middle, and Alves down the right were constant threats for the visitors but Betis fought back stubbornly and persisted in their attempts to catch Barça on the break.  They came up against Sergio Busquets in magnificent form.  The midfielder had a superb first half, tackling, spraying out passes and going past opponents in a masterful display of technique and tactical savvy that had the fans chanting his name. Betis came out after halftime looking to take the game to Barça, spurred on by their desperate situation in the league.  Xavi hit the woodwork but it proved to usher in a period of sustained Betis pressure.  Manager Gabriel Calderón reaffirmed his team’s ambition by bringing on. Jorge Molina and Rubén Castro to join Leo Baptistao in a three-pronged attack. An unfortunate own goal by Jordi Figueras – the same player who conceded the penalty against Alexis in the first half – from Adriano’s cross, threw cold water on the Betis fight back. The game took another twist three minutes later when substitute Rubén Castro made it 2-1 with twenty minutes left to go. Betis pushed hard for the equaliser but inevitably left space at the back, especially for Neymar. The Brazilian forced Amaya into handling the ball in the area and once again Messi took the spot kick.  Betis keeper Adán guessed correctly but Messi seized on the rebound to make it 3-1.

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26.03.14 FC Barcelona v RC Celta de Vigo

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 After a lightning start to the game as Barça took up from where they left off at the Bernabeu,  a nasty looking injury to Valdes stunned the Camp Nou and although Messi and Neymar ensured the win, the keeper’s injury cast a pall over the celebrations. Luis Enrique made his return to the Camp Nou with a five-man defence that included Fontas as a deep lying midfielder and with an untypical tactic of ceding possession, which allowed Barça to lay siege to the Celta area and reap the benefits within the first five minutes, as a clever move between Iniesta, Messi and Alexis ended with a simple tap in for Neymar. With Iniesta finding plenty of space through the middle to release Messi, Barça were playing elegant and incisive football which created chances for both Neymar and Messi. All the optimism took a blow on 20 minutes however, when Valdes fell awkwardly saving a free kick and immediately called for help in obvious pain, before being stretchered off. The Barça players looked shocked for a while and the rhythm dropped, before Iniesta and Messi brought a smile back to the fans’ faces on the half hour with an inch perfect move that the Argentinean finished off by rounding the keeper to double the lead. Iniesta was replaced by Sergi Roberto as a precaution at half time and with the rain coming down and the players clearly affected by the injury to Valdes, Celta took the chance to step forward after the break and Pinto was called on to make a superb double save on 52 minutes to keep the Galicians out. Cesc was unlucky to have a goal ruled out for offside just before the hour mark, but it was the visitors who looked the more likely to score, until on 67 minutes, Neymar broke down the left into the box and fired through the defenders’ legs to beat the keeper and make it three. Soon after, the Brazilian was replaced by Pedro. There was still time for drama though, as Pinto clattered into a post after a good stop from Bermejo. The crowd held their breath, but the keeper got up and went on to make two more good stops on a night that brought another win, but one tinged wth sadness for Valdes’ injury.

22.03.14 RCD Espanyol v Levante UD

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Espanyol y Levante se han repartido los puntos en un partido muy disputado, emocionante por la entrega de los dos contendientes y en el que, posiblemente, los blanquiazules han merecido un mejor botín. El Espanyol lo ha intentado de todas las maneras, pero no ha sido capaz de superar a un Levante, que ha basado todo su juego en el orden defensivo y en algunas acciones a la contra bien resueltas por la defensa y Kiko Casilla. El partido ha tenido un inicio muy similar al de hace dos semanas ante el Elche, ya que Héctor Moreno ha estado a punto de marcar en el primer minuto de juego después de un córner botado por Simao. Sin embargo, Navas, uno de los porteros de moda del panorama actual, ha respondido con una gran parada. El Levante, que se ha encerrado en 30 metros, ha cedido todo el protagonismo al conjunto de Aguirre que si bien no suele sentirse excesivamente cómodo en este tipo de situaciones, no ha dudado en asumir la responsabilidad. Con paciencia y con mucha insistencia, el Espanyol ha ido encerrando a un adversario que ha presentado su orden defensivo como su principal baza para intentar llevarse algún punto del Estadio RCDE. Pizzi, con un remate desde fuera del área, ha vuelto a poner a prueba a Keylor Navas, que se ha mostrado muy seguro. El costarricense también ha sido decisivo para evitar el primer gol de Sergio García, después de una jugada a la contra del conjunto blanquiazul. El Espanyol ha llegado con frecuencia al área visitante y ha hecho méritos para llegar al descanso con un resultado más favorable. El dominio de los pericos ha sido total y absolutamente incontestable, pero sin premio. El Levante, por su parte, sólo ha inquietado en una acción de estrategia en la que Rodas ha estado cerca de conseguir el primero. El remate del central ‘granota’, por suerte, no ha inquietado a Casilla, que ha pasado muy desapercibido durante todo el primer tiempo ante la escasa presencia ofensiva de los levantinistas. Todo el trabajo que el portero blanquiazul no ha tenido en el primer tiempo, se le ha acumulado en cinco minutos tras el descanso. Primero, con una mano excepcional tras un remate de Barral de cabeza, en la que ha sido la oportunidad más clara para los visitantes. Después, ha estado rápido para detener una internada de Rubén por la izquierda y seguro para atrapar un chut lejano de El Adoua. Aguirre ha decidido mover el banquillo y enviar a pelearse a Jhon Córdoba con los rocosos centrales visitantes. El colombiano, un incordio por su potencia, ha dispuesto de la primera oportunidad clara para el Espanyol tras la reanudación, pero su disparo, demasiado forzado, ha salido fuera. El movimiento táctico de Aguirre ha tenido respuesta por parte de Caparrós, que ha dado entrada a Víctor Casadesús, un mediapunta con corazón de delantero. Con su presencia, los visitantes han dispuesta de dos buenas ocasiones tras sendos centros desde la derecha. El conjunto de Aguirre, a pesar de los sustos visitantes, ha continuado buscando la portería contraria y Sergio García, tras una indecisión defensiva, ha estado a punto de marcar. Y, poco después, a Córdoba le ha faltado un centímetro para llegar a un centro de Fuentes. El Espanyol ha vuelto a confiar en la estrategia y en un córner, Fernández Borbalán no ha visto un pisotón a Colotto, que ha podido ser penalti. Aguirre se la ha jugado con todo cuando el Levante se ha quedado con diez dando entrada a Torje, pero no ha podido ser y el partido ha acabado en empate.

02.03.14 FC Barcelona v UD Almería

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It took until the 83rd minute for Barça to secure the three points against Almeria. The eventual 4-1 win could easily have been achieved in the first half, but some great football was only reflected by two goals, and Almeria managed to grab one of their own to add to the drama. The intensity dipped in the second half, and the win was not decided until Puyol bravely stuck home FCB’s third, with Xavi making it four in the final minutes. A win was more essential than ever after the setback at Anoeta, and the 2-2 draw in the Madrid derby was surely the best result Barça could have wished for, and they now find themselves just one point short of the lead. The evening started well. After just eight minutes, Alexis Sánchez was once again the man to break the deadlock as he extended his excellent goalscoring form this season by pouncing on a rebound off visiting keeper Esteban from a Cesc shot. Barça were playing fast, intense football, and although the finesse was not always there, they looked well in control of the match, especially down the right, where Alves and Alexis were giving full-back Dubarbier a torrid evening. Leo Messi made his mark with an extraordinary goal from a 24th minute free kick, with the ball curving brilliantly to find the precise sport that Esteban was never going to reach. Barça were well in command, but totally against the run of play, Trujillo was able to knock home a corner for Almeria, and incredibly considering the number of chances that had fallen to Neymar, Messi and Alexis, at half time the Andalusians were still in contention. Barça had enjoyed 78% of the possession and shot 14 times in the first 45 minutes. In the second, in which they lost some of their rhythm and struggled to create as many chances, things started to get unnerving. Almeria seemed capable of containing the Barça pressure and also started putting Valdés to the test. Barça desperately needed a goal to settle the result, but Neymar missed an easy chance in the 65th minute, and moments later the visiting defence managed to prevent Messi from scoring a near-certain goal. The Argentinian had had a quiet second half, but burst back into life in the final quarter of an hour. Iniesta came on in the 70th minute, which helped to retain the ball in midfield and generate more ideas up front. And the third goal finally came in the 83rd minute, with Messi out-jumping his marker to head the ball onto the bar, whereupon it fell to Puyol, who volleyed it into the back of the net. The Camp Nou could breathe again and started chanting the captain’s name. And to round off a nervy night, Xavi then scored a stunner from outside of the area to set up the final scoreline of 4-1 and ensure three absolutely crucial points for Barça’s title bid.

12.01.14 Espanyol v Real Madrid

El Espanyol ha encadenado la segunda derrota del año al perder por la mínima contra el Real Madrid, en un partido muy disputado y que se ha acabado decantando por una jugada de estrategia. Los blanquiazules han plantado cara al equipo blanco, pero un gol de Pepe en el segundo tiempo ha acabado con las opciones locales. A pesar de las enormes diferencias presupuestarias, el Espanyol ha dado una lección de amor propio y de esfuerzo. El Espanyol ha salido al campo muy enchufado y con ganas de demostrarle al Real Madrid que pensaba pelearle los puntos hasta la última extenuación. El arranque de los blanquiazules ha sorprendido a los blancos, que se han visto desbordados por el ímpetu y las ganas locales. Stuani, en un par de remates muy forzados, ha avisado a Diego López, que se desgañitaba exigiendo más concentración a su defensa. Bien plantado defensivamente el Espanyol, los de Javier Aguirre, hoy con Alfredo Tena como ejecutor en el banquillo, han ofrecido buenos minutos de fútbol a sus aficionados. Como se podía esperar, el R. Madrid ha ido entrando en el partido y ha comenzado a imponer su estilo. Sin un dominio muy apabullante, pero sí gracias a su enorme potencial ofensivo, los visitantes han equilibrado el partido. Kiko Casilla, casi inédito en el tramo inicial, ha tenido que intervenir para despejar un par de disparos lejanos. El conjunto de Ancelotti se ha ido sintiendo más cómodo, mientras que el Espanyol ha comenzado a sufrir y ha tenido más problemas para conservar la pelota. Tras unos instantes de bastante agobio, los blanquiazules se han recompuesto y han vuelto a estirar un poco las líneas. Córdoba, que ha luchado como un coloso con la defensa visitante, ha propiciado una buena oportunidad para Álex, pero el disparo del madrileño no ha encontrado portería. Los visitantes han dado la réplica con una contra muy peligrosa que, afortunadamente, no han sabido aprovechar. Con todo por decidir, el segundo tiempo ha comenzado con un guión parecido. El Espanyol ha esperado atrás para intentar sorprender a la contra. Stuani, tras un robo, ha probado fortuna con un disparo desde la frontal que Diego López ha atrapado sin problemas. Sin embargo, el partido ha entrado en una nueva dimensión cuando, en uno de los pocos errores de concentración, Pepe ha logrado el primer gol al aprovechar una jugada a balón parado. El banquillo local ha reaccionado rápidamente y ha dado entrada a Lanza y Simao para reforzar el ataque. El Espanyol no ha querido entregarse y ha intentado apurar las opciones para intentar lograr, como mínimo, un empate. El Madrid, por su parte, parecía dar por buena la exigua ventaja en el marcador y sólo ha intentado sorprender en alguna contra, aunque la zaga espanyolista ha respondido con solvencia. Y, cuando no, ha aparecido Kiko Casilla para evitar el segundo gol después de una acción individual de Cristiano. Los pericos nunca han perdido la cara al partido. El equipo ha puesto corazón y ganas, pero no han podido ante un rival que, sin ofrecer un gran fútbol, sí ha sido eficaz y pragmático.

01.11.13 Barcelona v Espanyol

The day after roast chestnuts and Halloween, FC Barcelona took all three points from the local derby with Espanyol. The game was decided by a Neymar assist for an Alexis Sánchez who is enjoying his finest season yet for the club. The Chilean had already played a key role in the clásico and in Tuesday’s game in Vigo, and once again found the back of the net in this bank holiday encounter. Thanks to him, a more passive and practical Barça than we are used to seeing were able to claim another full set of three points. In total, that’s now an astonishing 34 out of 36. FC Barcelona did all they could in the first half, but got nothing out of it. They were superior in every aspect of the game and completely dominated the possession but simply couldn’t find a way through the superbly compact defense deployed by Javier Aguirre. Espanyol simply held their lines at the back and looked for loose opportunities to mount the occasional counter attack. The only place where Barça did seem to be finding gaps was down Alves’ wing, with the Brazilian giving Torje a nightmare of an evening, but never quite managing to get his crosses to connect. Alves was also the protagonist of two incidents, one at either end of the pitch, in the space of little more than a minute. In the FCB area, a misunderstanding with Valdés almost gifted a goal to ex Barça man Víctor Sánchez, but Valdés saved the day by pulling off a tremendous save. Moments later, Alves tried to make amends with a powerful strike from the edge of the Espanyol area, but the ball struck the post. The game reached half-time scoreless, but with no major reason for alarm among the Barça ranks. And in the second half they finally sorted things out. The football was a lot slicker and electric than it had been in the fitrst 45 minutes as Barça stepped things up a gear in search of the Espanyol net. It looked like Messi had scored from a header, but Casilla pulled off an absolutely extraordinary save, and Neymar also came close from outside the area. The ball just didn’t seem to want to go in. But Espanyol’s luck didn’t last forever. In the 67th minute, a delightful assist from Neymar, nutmegging both Raúl Rodríguez and Sidnei in the process, gifted a virtual tap-in for Alexis Sánchez, who was waiting unmarked at the far post. The two men who scored in the clásico had done it again. The goal obliged Espanyol to push forward in search of a leveller, and the last twenty minutes saw plenty of action at both ends of the pitch, but there was no further score. We certainly didn’t see Barça at their best tonight, and Espanyol produced a plucky performance, but nevertheless there is little doubt that the it was a thoroughly deserved win for the home side, whose unbeaten record continues.

26.10.13 Barcelona v Real Madrid

Barça- Real Madrid games always provide plenty of images that stick in the mind – this time it was not just the wonderful tribute to Tito Vilanova in the pre-match mosaic, but also Neymar’s first Clasico goal and Alexis Sanchez’s magical chip for the second. The Chilean’s 72nd minute beauty ended up being the difference between the two well matched sides, after Barça had the better of the first half with some clever play, but were seriously threatened after the break, when Valdes again pulled off some superb saves. Martino tried a new set up with Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta and Cesc holding onto the ball in the middle and Messi and Neymar up top, with freedom to roam wide or come into the centre. Madrid also sprung a tactical surprise, with Carvajal at left back and Ramos pushed into midfield behind a front three of Bale, Ronaldo and Di Maria, with the Welshman in an unfamiliar false number 9 role. Barça started well and were clearly heeding their boss’ warning that they had to control the ball and avoid losing possession in dangerous areas. With both sides’ defensive anchors – Busquets and Ramos both picking up early yellows, neither team looked too comfortable on the ball, with the emphasis very much on not making mistakes. Then on 18 minutes, Iniesta pounced on a loose ball just inside the Madrid half and ran at the visitors’ defence, before slipping in Neymar on the left for the Brazilian to cut inside and fire low past Diego Lopez for the opener. The Camp Nou crowd – full of banners and flags demanding Catalonia’s right to self-determination – erupted with the goal and their excitement lifted the team who upped their game a gear, with Messi almost immediately shooting just wide after escaping down the right and the Argentinean and Neymar were combining to cause plenty of problems for Madrid’s defence, as Barça stamped their style on the game. Xavi knew that it was in Barça’s interest to slow the game down and avoid any end-to-end stuff to allow them to weave their web of close passing and the Catalan midfielder was soon dictating the pace in the middle again. As the half came to an end with Barça’s superiority clear to all, Madrid gave a warning of things to come though, when Cristiano Ronaldo cut in from the left and sent a low cross in towards the onrushing Khadira, Victor Vlades was equal to the German’s point blank effort, but the rebound also came back to him off the supporting arm of Adriano, who was on the ground after his tackle on Khedira. After the break, it was Neymar who revitalised both the game and Barça, bamboozling Carvajal and bringing out a great stop from Diego Lopez with a powerful effort from the left after good work again from Iniesta. Then it was  Valdés who was called upon to once again save the team with a stunning save from a Ronaldo drive , Madrid were beginning to create in the middle now and the game began to open up – something that was always going to favour their style of play. With the yellow cards piling up and a bit of tiredness creeping in, Barça’s dominance of possession was also slipping.  Martino brought on fresh legs, with  Alexis coming on for Cesc and the side returning to a more familiar 4-3-3 shape as Madrid enjoyed their best phase of the game. Cristiano Ronaldo had a shout for a penalty turned down after a push from Mascherano and  Benzema rattled the woodwork with a shot from the edge of the box. However, once again Barça brought the game back to their pace and took control of possession to take the sting out of Madrid’s threat. And that was when Alexis popped up, picking up a long clearance deep in Madrid’s half and creating a few inches of space away from Varane to chip an inch perfect effort over the Madrid keeper and into the back of the net for the goal of the night. Alves then nearly made it three, darting down the right and nutmegging Cristiano before firing straight at Diego López. Jesé’s injury time goal – rounding off a quick counter to make it 2-1, was too little too late for the visitors and Barça played out the final couple of minutes to take the three points and stretch their lead over Madrid to six.

19.10.13 Espanyol v Atlético de Madrid

El Estadio RCDE celebró, después de tres derrotas, una nueva victoria del Espanyol. Un gol fabricado por Fuentes con la colaboración de Courtois dio el triunfo a los blanquiazules, que se impusieron a un rival de prestigio como es el Atlético de Madrid, que, además, llegaba a Cornellà-El Prat como colíder del campeonato. En un encuentro intenso, de lucha, de sacrificio, el Espanyol acabó imponiéndose y sumando tres puntos importantísimos. El Espanyol llegaba al partido después de encadenar tres derrotas consecutivas y el equipo de Javier Aguirre, con algunas sorpresas en el once inicial como Sidnei, M. Lanza o Abraham, tenía muchas ganas de reivindicarse ante un rival que ha tenido un espectacular inicio de Liga en el que ha sumado ocho victorias en otros tantos partidos. A priori, se antojaba un encuentro complicado para los espanyolistas, que deseaban recuperar su mejor versión para acabar con la mala racha y, de paso, demostrar que puede competir con cualquier rival de la competición. El planteamiento de ambos entrenadores, con bastantes similitudes, propició un partido espeso, con mucho centrocampismo, pocas acciones combinadas y escasas opciones de gol. El Espanyol aguantó bien en el centro del campo y no se dejó intimidar por la calidad de la medular rojiblanca. A pesar de la ausencia de unos de los fijos en el esquema como Víctor Sánchez, el equipo estuvo fuerte en la contención y muy aplicado en tareas defensivas. Por el contrario, al equipo le costó llegar al área contraria. Sergio García, quien se recuperó a tiempo para el compromiso liguero, mantuvo una dura pugna con Godín. El capitán blanquiazul no se amedrantó, como es habitual, pero apenas pudo generar opciones de peligro. Más activo estuvo Pizzi, quien lo probó en un par de ocasiones, pero sus disparos forzados apenas inquietaron a Courtois. David López, con un remate de cabeza muy desviado, cerró el capítulo de oportunidades locales. El Atlético, por su parte, y a pesar de jugar con David Villa y Diego Costa, también estuvo bastante espeso en ataque aunque Koke dispuso de una gran ocasión con un remate que se acabó estrellando en el palo. En el tiempo de añadido fue Diego Costa el que estuvo cerca del gol, pero, afortunadamente, su disparo salió fuera. El Espanyol ha arrancado más convencido tras el descanso y ha sido superior a su rival. El equipo de Aguirre ha controlado el juego y, sobre todo, ha tenido más llegadas con peligro al área rival. Manu Lanzarote ha tenido el gol en una doble oportunidad, pero en las dos ocasiones Courtois ha estado acertado y ha evitado que los blanquiazules se adelantaran en el marcador. Sin embargo, el belga, pocos minutos después, ha estropeado su buena actuación al desviar hacia su propia portería un centro desde la izquierda de Fuentes. Cornellà-El Prat volvía a festejar un gol a pleno pulmón. Simeone, que no quería perder el liderato, reaccionó rápidamente acumulando hombres de ataque. Los rojiblancos parecieron reaccionar con dos ocasiones consecutivas muy claras: un gol anulado por fuera de juego y un disparo cruzado de Diego Costa que no fue gol por poco. El Espanyol se sintió agobiado por primera vez en el partido, pero supo sacudirse la presión. Abraham dio síntomas de mejora con un disparo raso que Courtois atrapó bien colocado. El equipo y la afición sufrieron hasta el final. El Atlético buscó el gol del empate, pero el Espanyol gestionó muy bien los minutos finales e incluso pudo sentenciar a la contra. Victoria de mérito para los de Javier Aguirre, que ponen fin a una racha de tres partidos sin ganar con tres puntos de mucho valor.

24.09.13 Barcelona v Real Sociedad

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Barça have equalled the club’s best ever start to a Liga campaign by making it six wins out of six after a brilliant 4-1 win against Real Sociedad. And it all happened on the day that the city was celebrating its patron saint, the Mercè festival, and in emphatic style. The first 22 minutes saw a barrage of goals from Neymar, Messi and Busquets, and from then on it was complete dominance from the home side, with the visitor’s solitary goal doing nothing to worry the Camp Nou faithful. Nevertheless, things had got off to an alarming start. In the first minute, Seferovic struck the Barça bar, and Mascherano, who ended up being substituted on the half hour, ended up grounded after being accidentally stamped on by Busquets. But having avoided that early warning call, the Catalans regrouped and set about dominating their guests in every facet of the game. Real were forced back into their own half and the chances started flowing. Neymar was outstanding with his penetrating runs from the left, and Iniesta was plethoric in an aggressive, dominant midfield in which Xavi and Busquets read every play to perfection. It was the Brazilian who first found the net after just four minutes when he pounced on a moment of uncertainty between visiting goalkeeper Bravo and his colleague Cadamuro. Just five minutes later, the same man Neymar left two men stranded before crossing for Messi to grab the second. Barça’s attacking machine was on full throttle, and the play was developing at a frantic pace. Real Sociedad looked lost, and matters weren’t helped for them when their captain Xabi Prieto went off injured after 22 minutes, to be ambitiously replaced by Aguirretxe. Busquets soon made it 3-0 with a strike from outside the area, moments after Messi had hit the bar. Barça were combining to absolute perfection, and the fans even celebrated the chances that went begging, so impressive was the footballing display before them. And even though he had very little to do this evening, the crowd also started chanting the name of Víctor Valdés in recognition of the crucial saves he’s made in recent matches. Barça weren’t holding up, and despite their healthy lead, most of the play was still deep inside the Real Sociedad half – and after the break, Messi and Neymar continued searching for further goals. Real hadn’t exactly done much to contribute to the Camp Nou’s anniversary, but did manage to grab a consolation goal after 63 minutes through De la Bella. Barça responded in precisely the right way. With only two goals in it, they slowed the pace and started taking fewer risks. Not only that, but tiredness was clearly setting in, just as Real, encouraged by the goal, starting counter attacking with increasingly greater effect as they fought to somehow find a way back into the match. They played with courage, but it was still Barça who were in command, and not too many people in the Camp Nou were worried that the game wasn’t going to end in anything other than a home win. Any hint of uncertainty soon vanished in the 75th minute Bartra, looking every bit the forward, converted a Messi cross to make it 4-1. That as good as brought the night’s activities to a conclusion, and Martino decided to bring off both Neymar and Messi for some well-earned rest. Alexis was left to run the frontline alone, and really deserved a goal in the final seconds, but his header struck the post. All in all, it was another tremendous performance from FC Barcelona, and it’s now six wins out of six in La Liga.

14.09.13 Barcelona v Sevilla

In their first game back after the international break, Barça chalked up their 12th straight league win and their fourth of this season to stay top of the table. It certainly wasn’t all plain sailing though with an injury time winner from Alexis just edging it Barça’s way, as the 76,765 saw their team suffer in the final few minutes. Gerardo Martino gave Cristian Tello his first start of the season, partnering Messi and Neymar  in attack, whilst Xavi returned to midfield alongside Iniesta and Sergio, who had recovered from the injury that kept him out of the international games. Within the first quarter of an hour, Barça found themselves in difficulties when Jordi Alba was forced off with what proved to be a torn muscle and  Adriano had to come on and replace him. Neymar was already looking lively though and had forced two good stops from the Seville keeper, who was again called on to keep out Tello on 20 minutes. Despite these chances and a Messi free kick which flew inches wide, Emery’s side were as expected, well organised in defence and leaving few spaces for the Barça front men. Eventually though, Dani Alves found a way through, arriving late to meet a great Adriano cross to head home after 35 minutes. Sevilla looked more dangerous from the off after the break and began to threaten Valdes’ goal, with the ref ruling out a goal from a corner for a foul on Sergio Busquets. Martino brought on Alexis and Cesc for Tello and Iniesta, as the game loosened up and Enery’s side began to look more confident. After trying his luck with  a shot from the edge of the box, Messi then doubled the lead after  Cesc won the ball in midfield to release Neymar down the left and the Brazilian set up the world number one for his sixth goal of the season to double Barça’s lead and surely put an end to the visitors resistance. Seville refused to lie down though and after Rakitic scored two minutes later (76), Coke then fired home the equaliser from a corner on 90 minutes, with the ref signalling three minutes of injury time. There was still time for a fright or two at the back, but Messi struck again just when it looked as if Barça’s winning run might be coming to an end, dribbling to the dead ball line on the right and cutting back the ball, which the keeper could only parry pout toAlexis who fired home a winner that sent the crowd into ecstasy as they celebrated yet another league win. It’s back to the Camp Nou on Wednesday, when Barça take on Ajax in the Champions League.