Barcelona have got one foot in the quarter-finals of the Champions League after an exciting and hard fought game away to Manchester City ended in a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Lionel Messi and Dani Alves. But the night was spoiled somewhat by the City manager claiming that the referee was biased and had basically gifted the game to Barcelona.
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It must be difficult being the manager of FC Barcelona. You do not get a lot of credit for winning, even when your players play brilliantly and score a hatful of goals. But one defeat and the club is in crisis, whether the defeat be a narrow or undeserved one or not.
Tata Martino has faced the Spanish press today ahead of the Copa Del Rey semi-final against Real Sociedad and as well as deflecting more questions about the Neymar transfer, he has had to field questions about the so-called crisis of losing to Valencia at the weekend.
The performance of Lionel Messi was one of the few positives to come out of the Barcelona vs Valencia game at the weekend. Not only did Barcelona lose at the Nou Camp for the first time this season, the defeat meant that the Spanish champions slipped off the top of La Liga for the first time in well o0ver a season.
The result of this two legged tie was almost settled in the favour of Barcelona in the first leg at Levante, but the Spanish champions made absolutely sure with a professional and ruthless performance at the Nou Camp last night. The weather was awful, but the team warmed the home fans up with five goals and a place in the Copa Del Rey semi-finals.
The opponents in that semi will probably be Real Sociedad and they must be wondering if they have any chance at all after Barcelona won 5-1 without Messi and made the aggregate score 9-2 against decent La Liga opponents. Messi was rested and Alexis Sanchez was given a chance to shine in the middle. He grabbed it with both hands and scored a nice brace.
Barcelona traveled to play Getafe in the second leg of the Copa Del Rey clash last night and Tata Martino could have been forgiven for sending out a team of youngsters and fringe players as they were already ahead 4-0 from the first leg at the Nou Camp.
At the end of the game, which Barca won comfortably 2-0, the manager may have wished that he had. Halfway through the first half, the Brazilian superstar Neymar, just back from a spell on the sidelines with illness, went over on his right ankle and slow motion replays did not look good.
It was billed as the clash of the titans in La Liga and for good reason. It was only a superior goal difference that was keeping Barcelona above Atletico Madrid at the top of the Spanish league table. The fact that Atletico had home advantage as well and had only lost the two-legged Spanish Supercup on away goals, all pointed towards it being a very tough game.
Add to that the fact that Tata Martino had a selection headache, with two of the club’s best players, Lionel Messi and Neymar, as doubtful to start. The Barca boss has been criticised from some quarters in Spain for leaving the two stars on the bench, even though both did come in in the second half, but is that really fair?
Everything is starting to fall into place again for Barcelona after a tricky month or two for the Spanish champions. Unsurprisingly, the club’s struggles have coincided with the injury lay-off for the best player in the world, Lionel Messi.
So when he ran back onto the Nou Camp pitch last night with around half an hour to go, the Barca fans were delighted and the return of Messi has given the whole club a lift. Just in time as well, because this weekend sees the crunch La Liga clash with Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon stadium.
Alexis Sanchez has been looking like the real deal for Barcelona again this season, after a disappointing campaign in La Liga last time, and he carried that through onto the international stage as he inspired Chile to a convincing victory over Roy Hodgson’s makeshift England side at Wembley.
Alexis pounced with almost the first attack of the game from Chile. His speed and determination were key elements as he burst forward and got in front of the left back to head past Celtic’s keeper Forster who he had been praising this week. The 24-year old went on to be the stand out performer and was rightly voted as the Man of the Match.