FC Barcelona will be expecting to have to beat Real Sociedad today to retain their place at the top of La Liga, because Real Madrid have the much easier task of a home game against Elche. Barcelona can expect a tough away match, with the Sociedad manager, players and fans seeking revenge for what they see as a very unfair game at the Nou Camp recently.
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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.
The fact that Barcelona have not lost a game by more than one goal all season is a pretty incredible stat and should give Tata Martino and his players a great deal of confidence for tomorrow. But the Barca boss is taking no chances and is set to name his strongest possible starting XI.
The second leg of the Copa Del Rey semi-final against Real Sociedad should see the new manager book a place in the final of a major competition at the first time of asking. I’m not including the Spanish Supercup victory over Atletico Madrid because Martino was not in charge to qualify for that.
When Barcelona suffered a shock defeat at home to Valencia last week, it saw them slip off the top of the Spanish La Liga table for the first time in months and, with Real Madrid and their city rivals Atletico seemingly in relentless form (winning games even when playing badly) it seemed like it might be a hard task to get that top spot back.
But a spot of luck has given Barca the chance to bounce back at the first opportunity. Atletico travelled to relegation strugglers Almeria but were below par and ended up losing 2-0. To be fair to them, the referee was abysmal and should have given them two penalties and sent two Almeria players off, but all that matters now is that we take advantage of their slip.
There have been concerns raised in Spain about the form of Barcelona and Lionel Messi. As usual, the two are closely linked, even perhaps intrinsically linked, especially with new Brazilian star Neymar currently unavailable with his own injury problem.
People have pointed to the fact that Messi has not been playing quite the same role as usual, often dropping deeper and not making his trademark bursts into the penalty area. His goalscoring has certainly not been what we expect since he returned from a two month lay-off with a hamstring problem.
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.
It seems as though Barcelona are on the verge of finally capturing the replacement for current keeper Victor Valdes. The Ctalan club have given Valdes every chance to change his mind about leaving when his contract expires at the end of the season, but he has been open and honest and is set on moving on.