Real Madrid 0-3 Barcelona :Copa del Rey | Talking Points

Real Madrid 0-3 (1-4 on Aggregate) Barcelona :Copa del Rey | Report and Talking Points

Luis Suarez’s brilliant second-half brace helped Barcelona to a 3-0 win over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night, confirming the Blaugrana’s place in the final of the Copa del Rey. 

The match ended 4-1 on aggregate, highlighting the glaring disparity between the two La Liga juggernauts.

Having secured an encouraging 1-1 draw in the first leg at Barcelona’s Camp Nou, Real Madrid fancied themselves to get an early foothold in Wednesday’s match. They started the game on the front foot and allowed Barcelona very little time on the ball. Troubled by Real Madrid’s aggressive pressing, Barcelona decided to soak up the pressure and attack on counters. 

Los Blancos, buoyed by the home support, continued to charge, especially down the left flank. Vinicius Jr, who has been Madrid’s standout performer in recent weeks, was once again at his explosive best and kept Nelson Semedo on his toes. He cut inside on a number of occasions, tried to breach Barcelona’s compactness, but failed to apply the telling touch. Barcelona stopper, Marc Andre Ter Stegen was tested on a couple of occasions in the first half but ended up making some decisive saves to keep his team in the contest.

In the second half, the champions came out all guns blazing and turned the game on its head. Ousmane Dembele teed up Suarez in the 50th minute for Barcelona’s first goal on the night. Next, Real Madrid defender, Raphael Varane, bundled the ball into his own net to double the visitors’ tally, before Suarez converted from the spot to seal Real Madrid’s fate. 

Talking Points

Real Madrid’s Wayward Finishing

Real Madrid needed to be at their best to get something out of their Copa del Rey clash with their bitterest rivals. Sadly, they couldn’t even come remotely close to what was expected. They started the match strongly and kept Barcelona on their toes, but when it came to converting their chances, they frustratingly fell short. 

The youngest member of Santiago Solari’s team, Vinicius Jr, was once again Real Madrid’s most prominent attacker. He took the game to Barcelona and didn’t allow them to take control of the game in the first half. However, due to his tender age and negligible top-flight experience, he couldn’t apply the finishing touch. 

Barcelona Show their Class in Second Half 

Real Madrid were superb in the opening forty-five and ticked all the right boxes except for finding the back of the net. Barcelona, having struggled to cope with Blancos’ relentless pressure in the first half, came out with an improved plan in the second. They used Ousmane Dembele to take the game to Real and ultimate scored the decisive opener. 

After falling behind, Real Madrid couldn’t find it in themselves to come up with a proper response and found themselves two goals down with 20 minutes still to play. Suarez — who scored Barcelona’s first — then converted from the spot to book Barcelona’s place in the final. 

Season Over for Real Madrid

For Real Madrid, last night’s match against Barcelona was a make or break fixture. They find themselves third in La Liga, 9 points adrift of toppers Barcelona, with virtually no hope for a turnaround. In the Champions League, they were thoroughly outplayed by Ajax in the first leg of their last-16 tie and will have to fight tooth and nails to get the better of them in the second leg. 

The embarrassing 3-0 home defeat is bound to take its toll on players, and it would be interesting to see if they can come up with a fitting answer when they take on Barcelona — once again at the Bernabeu — in La Liga on Saturday night.

Also Read: Rivalry beyond years

Real Madrid vs Barcelona :Copa del Rey | Key Players and Prediction

Real Madrid vs Barcelona :Copa del Rey | Key Players and Prediction

European champions Real Madrid welcome La Liga leaders Barcelona to the Santiago Bernabeu for the second leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal on Wednesday night. 

The two iconic rivals played out a fascinating 1-1 draw in the first leg, at Camp Nou, and will do everything in their power to better that outcome, tonight, in the Spanish capital. 

Real Madrid, due to their inconsistent patches this season, came into the tie as the underdogs. However, at Camp Nou, we saw a totally different Real Madrid in action. They were creating chances, defending religiously, and managed to outplay Barcelona in their own backyard. Lucas Vazquez drew first blood in the 6th minute to set the tempo, which Real Madrid maintained until the final whistle. Barcelona, thanks to a common Marcelo mistake, still got themselves back into the contest through Malcom’s firm strike in the second half. 

So, the 1-1 scoreline does seem like a decent one from Real Madrid’s perspective as they need a goalless draw or better to secure their place in the Copa del Rey final — their first since the 2013/14 campaign. However, considering how great Barcelona have been at the Santiago Bernabeu — without defeat at the Bernabeu since October 2014 — lately, the narrow margin hardly provides any protection. 

Key Players


Lionel Messi

This one is pretty much a no-brainer. The best player in La Liga and possibly the world, Lionel Messi needs to have a spotless game to help his side make it to the finals. Last weekend, the Argentine shrugged off injury concerns to score a decisive hat-trick in a 4-2 win at Sevilla. Tonight, he will once again be marked heavily and will have to put in a shift. But knowing just how capable the Barcelona skipper is, there is no reason for fans to be anxious. Lionel Messi has registered a whopping 33 goals and 18 assists in 32 appearances across all competitions this season and will fancy himself to add to his tally, tonight. 

Real Madrid

Gareth Bale

Following Cristiano Ronaldo‘s departure, the Welshman was supposed to emerge as Real Madrid’s most important, decisive player. Sadly, things haven’t been quite straightforward for the former Tottenham Hotspur ace. During his absence, Vinicius Junior made his way into the team and has managed to make himself an indispensable member of Santiago Solari’s squad. Having lost his place to an 18-year-old, the most expensive player in the squad has been acting out, landing the team in a complicated situation. The Welsh wizard is desperate for an opportunity to win his place back, and an emphatic performance against Real’s fiercest rivals could go a long way in helping his cause. 

Probable XI

Real Madrid (4-3-3): Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Vazquez, Benzema, Vinicius

Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Vidal; Messi, Suarez, Dembele


El Clasico is one of the most decorated and intense rivalries in the world. These two iconic sides have played out some fascinating fixtures over the years, and we expect nothing less tonight. Barcelona seem to be the more in-form team right now, but a desperate Real Madrid will not be an easy team to beat.

We predict Real Madrid to beat Barcelona on penalties.

Also Read: Rivalry beyond years

Messi and Pele, two generations united by an image

Messi and Pele, two generations united by an image

The Argentine star footballer, Lionel Messi repeats the same iconic gestures of the Brazilian legend 49 years later on Saturday. 

It happened on June 21, 1970, at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico. One of the most spectacular World Cup finals of all time was played, in which Brazil beat Italy by four goals to one. Pele, the legendary Brazilian football player, gave the most remembered image of that World Cup, when he celebrated the victory climbing on his teammate Jairzinho, raising his right fist to the sky, with a smile of indescribable satisfaction as he put his other arm around the neck of number 7 Brazilian. It is a photograph that is seen a thousand times.

Against Seville, in the victory of Barcelona 2-4, as if he wanted to repeat the image, Leo Messi was the protagonist of a practically traced photograph. Almost 50 years later, the Argentine star celebrated one of his goals climbing on Dembele and repeating all gestures: right fist to heaven, left arm around the neck of his partner, smile of euphoria to the wind. Only the dorsal of the crack support changes. If in Mexico it was 7 of Jairzinho, this time it was 11 of Dembele.

The similarity of the two photographs is surprising and the football quality of the two main characters still gives more prominence to the comparison. Pele was, at that time, the best footballer on the planet. Leo Messi is now without discussion. He showed it again in Seville. Although the two games cannot be compared by importance, the commitment, happiness, and euphoria of two of the greatest players of all time is exactly the same. In Mexico in 1970, in the Spanish League in 2019, the picture is quite really same.

The exhibition of Messi was the best news of the Barca in the Pizjuan. But also the worst, as if not for the Argentine, yesterday the Catalan club would have lost the game. Messi is the best and decides the meetings, it is normal, but another thing is an excessive dependence and have to win it alone, the way it happened on Saturday. On an optimistic note, the outburst of Messi should be a turning point for the team, after a few games of gray and before a big week in which they can sentence the Champions League and qualify for the Cup final.

Messi pulled the car too much alone and now the rest of the players must join before it’s too late. With a crack at this level, if the team recovers the tone, they are in time to make history this season. From Saturday duel, we also have to highlight, on a positive level, Valverde’s reading of the game and the changes in the break. And also the quality minutes of Alena who deserves to be a starter in the big match.

Also Read: The unknown facts about Messi

Lionel Messi Bags 50th Career Hat-Trick in 4-2 Win over Sevilla

Lionel Messi Bags 50th Career Hat-Trick in 4-2 Win over Sevilla

Barcelona skipper, Lionel Messi, netted his 50th career hat-trick to help his side register a comeback win at Sevilla in La Liga on Saturday afternoon. 

Saturday’s treble against Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium saw him net his 44th hattrick for the Catalan outfit, with 32 of them coming in La Liga itself, landing him just two behind record-holder former Real Madrid man, Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Earlier in the 2018/19 campaign, the Argentine genius scored his 8th hat-trick in the Champions League in an emphatic 4-0 win against PSV Eindhoven at Camp Nou. The treble against the Dutch league leaders made him the most prolific hat-trick getter in Europe, beating former record-holder Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Last night, against Sevilla, Lionel Messi, once again, proved his potency in front of goal to help his side bag all three points. The hosts started the game on the front foot and deservedly took the lead capitalizing on a rare misplaced pass from Lionel Messi. Four minutes after Sevilla’s devastating counter, Lionel Messi restored parity from the edge of the area, dispatching an unstoppable volley. 

Just before the half time whistle, Sevilla restored their advantage, thanks to Barcelona’s sloppiness at the back. Once again, Lionel Messi stepped up to the plate and evaporated the Andalusian side’s one-goal cushion. He picked the ball on the edge of the area, capitalized on Sevilla’s lackluster marking, and curled his right-footed effort past Sevilla stopper, Tomas Vaclik. 

His third of the night demonstrated his steely composure in front of goal. The Argentinian waited patiently right until the end to chip the ball over the oncoming and helpless Sevilla goalkeeper to top off his treble. And as if his superb hat-trick wasn’t bad enough, the 31-year-old took it upon himself to assist Luis Suarez for Barcelona’s fourth goal. 

Following the emphatic 4-2 win at Sevilla, which saw Barcelona open up a 10-point lead at the top of La Liga table, Barcelona coach, Ernesto Valverde, discussed the brilliance of his skipper. 

Lionel not only scored three goals, but you have to see where, when and how he gets them,” said Valverde, as quoted by AS

“We have a decisive and superlative player. All teams have decisive players but we have the best in the world. Not only for his goals, but because he [always] appears in the right place at the right time.”

Messi himself was pleased with the victory and reiterated his intention of finishing this season strongly and bagging all three trophies on offer. 

There is still a long way to go in the title race, but it was important to win here to keep the gap as it is,” he said on BeIN Sports afterwards, as quoted by Marca.

“We have some more tough fixtures ahead. It gets harder and harder to win. We’re not dismissing any of the tournaments. We’re one step away from reaching a Copa del Rey final, but we have a very tough match as we take on Real Madrid in their stadium.”

“But we’ll go there to try to win and we are confident that we can do that. Then we’ll think about the league again. We’re going to try to win it all,” he concluded. 

Also Read: Messi becomes first player to score 400 La Liga goals

Football Matches You Just Can’t Miss this Weekend

Football Matches You Just Can’t Miss this Weekend

Weekend and nailbiting football matches – the ultimate stressbuster in existence. After a gloomy, and practically never-ending week; we are finally here, hours away from kicking off this weekend’s scheduled, unadulterated action.

With a host of football matches to choose from, picking just the right one can often be a hectic task. So, we have taken it upon ourselves to help fellow fanatics out.

Here are the five football matches you can’t miss, this weekend:

Arsenal vs Southampton (Sunday, 7:35 PM) 

Unai Emery’s Arsenal will look to climb back into top-four when they welcome Southampton to the Emirates Stadium in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon. 

The Gunners currently sit fifth in the Premier League table, only a point adrift of fourth-placed Manchester United. The 2018/19 Premier League campaign hasn’t been very kind on the Gunners, but they should not find it difficult against a relegation-threatened side, which haven’t picked up all three points in their last three outings. 

Prediction: Arsenal 3-1 Southampton

Fiorentina vs Inter Milan (Monday, 1:15 AM) 

Eighth-placed Fiorentina will look to pull off an upset when they host a high-flying Inter Milan in Serie A on Sunday night. 

These two decorated Italian clubs have produced some enticing fixtures over the years and look all set to produce something similar this Sunday. Over their past ten league clashes, Fiorentina have been the better team —  5 wins, 1 draw, and 4 losses — but Inter, who won the reverse fixture 2-1, will fancy themselves to get the job done in Florence. 

Prediction: Fiorentina 1-1 Inter

Levante vs Real Madrid (Monday, 1:15 AM)

Real Madrid will look to return to winning ways when they make the trip to Levante in La Liga on Sunday night. 

Santiago Solari’s men succumbed to a shock 2-1 home defeat against Girona, last weekend. The gut-wrenching defeat landed a sucker punch to their title aspirations, but Los Blancos have never been very fond of staying down. Having conceded 43 goals, Levante, officially, have the worst defense in the division, but Real Madrid’s unpredictability in front of goal makes this an interesting contest. 

Prediction: Levante 2-3 Real Madrid

Sevilla vs Barcelona (Saturday, 8:45 PM)

La Liga leaders, Barcelona, will need to be at their very best if they are to get something out of their trip to Sevilla, this Saturday.

This fixture has a knack for being painfully unpredictable, and we expect the trend to continue this weekend. Fourth-placed Sevilla are coming into the match on the back of a comfortable 2-0 Europa League last-32 win over Lazio and will fancy themselves to take the game to their lofty rivals. Barcelona, on the other hand, were held to a goalless draw at Lyon in the Champions League and will look for a response at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium. 

Prediction: Sevilla 2-2 Barcelona

Manchester United vs Liverpool (Sunday, 7:35 PM)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s rejuvenated Manchester United welcome Jurgen Klopp’s leaders to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon for an eagerly anticipated Premier League showdown. 

No match on earth that can match the allure of this fixture, not even the great El Clasico. The two iconic and most successful clubs in England are all set to add a new chapter to their fabled rivalry this Sunday, and the stakes, as always, are sky-high. While Liverpool need all three points to keep Manchester City at Bay, United are required to bag maximum spoils to stay alive in the top-four race. An unpredictable and nail-biting evening awaits. 

Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool 

Also Read: Everything you need to know about United vs Liverpool rivalry

Champions League: Round of 16 – 1st Leg Round Up

Champions League: Round of 16 – 1st Leg Round Up

UEFA Champions League Round of 16’s second four matches came to a conclusion on Wednesday and all lived up to their high-voltage expectations. 

Barcelona’s Champions League last-16 tie against Lyon remains finely poised after a goalless draw in the first leg, away from home on Tuesday, while the stage is similar for Liverpool also, with the same score-line at Anfield against German giants Bayern Munich. On Wednesday, Atletico Madrid delivered a major shock when they overcame Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus 2-0, while Manchester City scored two late goals to beat Schalke 3-2 at Veltins-Arena. Here’s a full round-up of the action.

Lyon 0-0 Barcelona

Barcelona failed to score despite managing 25 shots in their goalless stalemate at Olympique Lyonnais in the Champions League last-16 on Tuesday, leaving the tie finely balanced ahead of next month’s second leg. Though Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele impressed, Barcelona struggled to produce any clear cut chances in response. Moussa Dembele had both the last chance of the first half and the first chance of the second half. But heavy touches allowed Gerard Pique and ter Stegen to get the better of him on those occasions. Then, with 20 minutes to go, came the game’s biggest chance. Jordi Alba picked Suarez out brilliantly but the Uruguayan, slipping as he shot, fired wide. Sergio Busquets had an effort from 18 yards tipped as the clock ran down, then Lionel Messi drilled a free-kick into the wall with Lyon standing firm.

What’s next in the 2nd leg?

Lyon will be pleased to have kept a clean sheet for the first time in the competition this season but they will have to defy the weight of history if they are to progress, having not won an away game at this stage since 2005/06. Though Barcelona are without a win in their last six away knockout games, with this result, the Catalan club are now favorites to go through to the quarters, as the second leg will be hosted at Camp Nou.

Liverpool 0-0 Bayern Munich

The hosts posed the greater threat but were either wasteful in front of goal or kept out by Bayern’s well-organized defense. Sadio Mane missed a handful of first-half chances, most notably dragging a shot on the turn wide from inside the penalty area when unmarked. Joel Matip also failed to convert Roberto Firmino’s cross from six yards. Matip almost handed Bayern an away goal early on when his misdirected clearance rebounded to safety off Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson. The German champions were excellent defensively in the second half, with Mane’s 85th-minute header at the near post the closest Liverpool came to scoring. The second leg at the Allianz Arena will take place on 13 March.

Also Read: Liverpool 0-0 Bayern Munich | Talking Points

What’s next in the 2nd leg?

Bayern have lost only two of their past 26 home Champions League games, and with this record on home soil, Niko Kovac’s men will be confident of progress in front of their own fans. But Liverpool are undefeated in their previous four trips to Germany, two wins and two draws, and know if they can score it will give them a huge advantage with away goals counting as double in the event of a draw.

Schalke 2-3 Manchester City

Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling scored late goals as 10-man Manchester City stunned Schalke at Veltins Arena to claim a 3-2 first-leg win in their Champions League last-16 tie. Despite leading through Sergio Aguero’s 18th-minute effort, City were behind at the break after Nabil Bentaleb scored a pair of spot-kicks. The first of those, awarded after a lengthy period of deliberation and confusion, was given for a handball against Nicolas Otamendi, who was booked for that transgression and then picked up a second yellow card with 22 minutes remaining. Substitute Sane scored against his former club with a sensational free kick in the 86th and Sterling grabbed a 90th-minute winner

What’s next in the 2nd leg?

Manchester City have never failed to win a European tie after winning the away first leg. There have been nine such contests, most recently against Basel in last year’s round of 16 (4-0 away, 1-2 home). They will be without the suspended Otamendi and Fernandinho for the return but the portents are certainly in Guardiola’s charges’ favor.

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Juventus

Atletico Madrid registered a huge victory over Juventus in the Champions League last 16 first leg thanks to two goals from their center-backs at set-pieces. Diego Simeone’s side were denied a penalty and an Alvaro Morata goal by the video assistant referee before they opened the scoring. Jose Maria Gimenez pounced from eight yards after Morata’s header was blocked by Mario Mandzukic. Diego Godin netted a half-volley, via a deflection off Cristiano Ronaldo. Striker Costa and midfielder Thomas Partey of Atletico Madrid and Juve left-back Alex Sandro will all miss the second leg on Tuesday, 12 March after picking up their third bookings of the tournament.

What’s next in the 2nd leg?

Atletico Madrid, under the tutelage of Diego Simeone, has still not lost a European match against any Italian opposition, winning five and drawing twice. Equally important for Juventus is that the Old Lady have been eliminated in all five UEFA ties in which they lost the first leg 2-0 away from home. Other than that, Atletico’s defense is a tough nut to crack. So Juve have to deliver something extraordinary to keep their European dreams alive.

La Liga 2018-19 : Week 24 Round Up | Barcelona extends lead at the top

La Liga 2018-19 : Week 24 Round Up | Barcelona extends lead at the top

The 24th match-week of Spanish La Liga 2018-19 brought with it some wonderful displays on the field, exciting goals and the usual dose of thrills and excitement.

Match-week 24 of La Liga 2018-19 came to a conclusion on Sunday. The match-days witnessed plenty of excitement and emotions. Real Madrid suffered a serious setback against Girona, while it was a comfortable week for most of the teams as Barcelona and Atletico Madrid all secured three points. Here are some results from the week gone by, and some of the key talking points.

Barcelona 1-0 Real Valladolid

Barcelona secured a narrow 1-0 victory over Real Valladolid in La Liga as the champions strengthened their lead at the top of the table on Saturday. After enduring a frustrating first half in which the home side struggled to create chances at the Camp Nou, Barca finally took the initiative after Gerard Pique was brought down by a clumsy challenge in the Valladolid box. Lionel Messi stepped up to coolly convert the penalty and edge the champions ahead on the stroke of half time. With this win, Barcelona moved back seven points clear of Atletico Madrid, and nine points ahead of arch-rivals Real Madrid, who lost against Girona on Sunday.

Real Madrid 1-2 Girona

Real Madrid failed to grab the chance to go second in La Liga as Girona came from behind to record a surprise away win. Casemiro had headed his side in front with a fine header from a Toni Kroos cross in the 25th minute. The hosts continued to dominate without too much penetration heading into the break. And Girona came alive following the interval, profiting from poor defending to snatch all three points. Cristhian Stuani netted from the penalty spot after Sergio Ramos’ handball. Portu prospered from slack marking to slot home the winner from a Thibaut Courtois save. Ramos, booked for his part in the penalty, was sent off late on for a second yellow.

Villarreal 3-0 Sevilla

Villarreal boosted their hopes of survival with an impressive 3-0 win over Sevilla. Alvaro Gonzalez, Karl Toko Ekambi and Alfonso Pedraza got the goals for the Yellow Submarine. Villarreal moved up to 18th spot and now sit one point adrift of safety. They rounded off a good game, the best of the season, especially in the first half with a lot of chance. Without being an exquisite football, he had control of the game and hardly gave opportunities to Sevilla.

Rayo Vallecano 0-1 Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid moved above city rivals Real into second place in La Liga after Antoine Griezmann’s second-half goal saw off Rayo Vallecano. The only goal of the match came in the 74th minute when Alvaro Morata, on loan from Chelsea, set up the Frenchman, whose shot went in off Jordi Amat. It was Atletico’s first win in three matches after defeats to Real Betis and Real Madrid earlier this month. Atletico broke the deadlock and scored the only goal at Vallecas when Alvaro Morata teed up Griezmann and his close-range volley deflected past Stole Dimitrievski.

Football Matches: Top 5 Matches You Just Can’t Miss this Weekend

Top 5 Football Matches You Just Can’t Miss this Weekend

Weekend, football, and nailbiting clashes – the ultimate stressbuster in existence. After a gloomy, and practically never-ending week; we are finally here, hours away from kicking off this weekend’s scheduled, unadulterated action.

We don’t have any Premier League matches this week, but have a number of intriguing FA Cup fifth round clashes to look forward to.

With a host of football matches to choose from, picking just the right one can often be a hectic task. So, we have taken it upon ourselves to help fellow fanatics out.

Here are five football matches that you can’t afford to miss this weekend:

Newport vs Manchester City (Saturday, 11:00 pm)

On paper, this fixture seems like a mismatch of the highest order, but FA Cup’s knack for churning out unpredictable results makes this an interesting contest. Newport County play in League Two, the fourth tier of English football, and shouldn’t pose much threat to City’s flamboyance, but their home stadium could make things interesting for neutrals.

The pitch at Newport isn’t the greatest out there and won’t aid Manchester City’s effortless passing football. Pep Guardiola‘s men have enough quality to beat any team in the world, but they probably won’t find it a walk in the park, this weekend.

Prediction: Newport 0-2 Manchester City

Real Madrid vs Girona (Sunday, 4:30 pm)

Santiago Solari’s Real Madrid had to dig deep to get the 2-1 win at Ajax in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at Ajax. The match against Girona won’t probably be that competitive, but Real Madrid can’t afford to slack against a side as potent as Girona.

After a lackluster start to the league campaign, Los Blancos seem to have steadied their ship. They have produced some impressive results over the last couple of weeks — including a 3-1 win at Atletico Madrid — and will look to get another comprehensive win under their belt against the 17th-placed side in the division.

Prediction: Real Madrid 3-1 Girona

Also Read: Champions League Round of 16 – As it happened

FC Nurnberg vs Borussia Dortmund (Tuesday, 1:00 am)

This match isn’t technically this weekend but is still a part of Gameweek 21 in the Bundesliga.

Statistically, the worst team in the division, FC Nurnberg, will look to get an unlikely win when they host Lucien Favre’s leaders on Monday night. The hosts haven’t been able to hold their ground in the division so far but would love to make a statement against the most impressive team in Germany, this season.

Borussia, on the other hand, are going through a rough patch. They were handed an emphatic 3-0 drubbing at Tottenham on Wednesday night and will need a proper response. They still have a five-point advantage over second-placed Bayern, which they will be desperate to maintain right at the end of the campaign.

Prediction: Nurnberg 1-3 Dortmund

FC Barcelona vs Real Valladolid (Sunday, 1:15 am)

La Liga leaders, Barcelona, will look to return to winning ways when they welcome Real Valladolid to Camp Nou on Saturday night.

The Catalans haven’t won any of their last three matches across all competitions, delivering sub-par performances in all three of them. Their talisman, Lionel Messi, has struggled in recent games, while players like Philippe Coutinho and Arturo Vidal have failed to justify their potential.

Beating the league 15th-best side shouldn’t be a problem, but the Blaugrana will be under pressure to produce something worth remembering.

Prediction: Barcelona 2-1 Valladolid

Chelsea vs Manchester United (Tuesday, 1:00 am)

Manchester United will look to will need to at their very best if they are to get the better of Chelsea in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Monday night.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United were handed a harsh reality check by Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie. Now, the Norwegian, who endured the first defeat of his Manchester United managerial career on Tuesday night, will seek a fitting response from his spirited men against a familiar foe.

Chelsea, too, aren’t in the best of forms. They were beaten 6-0 at Manchester City, last Sunday, and could only manage a narrow 2-1 win at Malmo in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie. It’s difficult to pick a favourite here, but United’s 2-0 defeat against PSG could give Chelsea an edge. It is a football match you just cannot miss.

Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Manchester United 

La Liga: Match-Week 23 Round Up | Madrid close gap with Barcelona

La Liga 2018-19 : Match-Week 23 Round Up | Real Madrid close gap with arch-rivals Barcelona

The 23rd match-week of Spanish La Liga 2018-19 brought with it some incredible actions on the field, last minute goals and the usual dose of thrills and excitement. 

Match-week 23 of La Liga 2018-19 came to a conclusion on Sunday. The match-days witnessed plenty of thrills, spills, and emotions. Atletico Madrid suddenly found the going tough after suffering a serious setback against Real Madrid, while spoils were shared by Sevilla, Barcelona, and Valencia. Real Madrid scored thrice in their match against Atletico. Here are some results from the matches gone by, and some of the key talking points.

Atletico Madrid 1-3 Real Madrid

Real Madrid moved up to 2nd place in the Spanish La Liga, after beating their city rivals Atletico Madrid 3-1 at the Wanda Metropolitano. Los Blancos got on the score-sheet after 16 minutes of play, with a great scissor kick by Casemiro. Antoine Griezmann grabbed the equalizer with a low shot from inside the box, in the 25th minute. The European champions took the lead as captain Sergio Ramos scored from the spot, just before the break. Gareth Bale secured the 3 points for Real, after scoring his 100th goal for Los Blancos in the 74th minute, 3-1 the final score.

Also Read: Madrid Derby – As it happened

Valencia 0-0 Real Sociedad

Real Sociedad came away with a point from Mestalla, but the home side had a number of good goalscoring chances  In the first half, Sociedad dominance was clear while Valencia were backing themselves on the counter. Januzaj was close to breaking the deadlock but his shot failed to test the goalkeeper. In the second half, the hosts looked dangerous every time they attacked but the goal did not arrive. The away side tried to defend themselves against Valencia, who failed to get the opening goal. In the final minutes, Theo put Sandro on the goal. However, the play was not easy and the ball hit an opponent.

Athletic Bilbao 0-0 Barcelona

Barcelona were held to a goalless draw at Athletic Bilbao as they went six points clear at the top of La Liga. Lionel Messi had Barca’s best chance as his lob from outside the box hit the top of the crossbar. The hosts were the better team and Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen pulled off excellent saves to deny Markel Susaeta and Inaki Williams. Athletic ended with 10 men when Oscar de Marcos was shown a second yellow card in injury time for handball. Champions Barcelona, who are unbeaten in 11 league games are now six points above second-placed Real Madrid.

Sevilla 2-2 Eibar

Sevilla came back from two goals down to snatch a 2-2 draw at home to Eibar on Sunday, and down to 10 men. Eibar appeared to be completely in charge after Fabian Orellana and Charles scored goals and Sevilla midfielder Ever Banega earned a second booking for a foul in the 84th minute. But forward Wissam Ben Yedder sparked the comeback with a goal two minutes from stoppage time to give the home side hope. Sevilla midfielder Pablo Sarabia then slid in from close range to equalize in stoppage time and provoke wild celebrations at the Sanchez Pizjuan. This draw took Sevilla to 37 points, two ahead of fifth-placed Getafe.

Coutinho: The Brazilian is running out of steam and time

Philippe Coutinho: The Brazilian is running out of steam and time

There is no better showcase for a player than an El Clasico. A Barcelona – Real Madrid match can give air (like Malcom and Vinicius), confirm a continuous growth (like Semedo) or clear a few doubts that could be about a signing (Arthur). 

But an El Clasico can also be a double-edged sword, especially for those players who do not meet expectations.

This is now the case of Philippe Coutinho

In the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-finals, the Brazilian had the last great opportunity as a starter to prove his worth, and once again he disappointed. The context was the ideal to take a step forward, but the suspense around him that was involved for months was confirmed. Without Messi or Dembele in the field, Coutinho failed to take the responsibilities and went back into hiding. Shy in each of his attempts, he failed to tickle Real right-back Dani Carvajal and was disconnected all the time. It was a worrying situation for Valverde, who was running out of ideas to find the best version of the player, unknown even in the Catalan capital.

On a path of shrinkage

Image Source – TEAMtalk

The process of Coutinho’s shrinkage is very much evident. Little remains of the promising start he delivered for few weeks after landing from Liverpool. In short, Coutinho has run out of resources – he almost does not even test his characteristic dribble inwards with a coiled shot. He also does not offer solutions to the team and his body language on the pitch to invite optimism. The two goals in the previous round against Sevilla momentarily covered his shortcomings. But it is far from reality, or what Barca actually requires.

Coutinho is not Andres Iniesta

Image Source – Metro

At the beginning of the season Coutinho’s timid role was overshadowed by the intensity of Dembele, but when the Frenchman took off, there was no way to make up. With his signing, the most expensive in the history of the Catalan club (about 135 million euros), the Brazilian was asked to become the heir of Andres Iniesta. However, right now it’s hard to see him to fill in the mighty shoes. Not only for his limited contribution to the development of the game, but also for his little defensive commitment that happens every time he gives away the ball.

Dembele, more reliable for Barca

Image Source – Barca Blaugranes

Insipid and shabby in the field, against Real Madrid, Coutinho ended up being replaced by Lionel Messi in the 63rd minute. The Blaugrana coach valued Malcolm’s effort and kept him on the field for long when his early change was pre-determined. Coutinho has had three weeks to show that he is ready for competing Dembele’s position, but the return of the Frenchman after his injury is eagerly awaited now as the season goes up in temperature with the return of the Champions League. Dembele has conquered the Barca fans, and Coutinho has run out of time. Now he will have to reverse the situation from the bench. If he fails to do so, the departure next summer will be closer, although Barca will have to see to what extent the investment is recoverable.

Also Read: 5 talking points of the El Clasico