Zinedine Zidane 2.0: What to Expect this season

Zinedine Zidane 2.0: What to Expect this season

Zinedine Zidane has come back home. Real Madrid have brought back the three-time Champions League winning manager only ten months after leaving his post, hoping to salvage something out of the hapless 2018/19 campaign. 

After suffering three season-defining defeats in the span of seven days, even Santiago Solari probably didn’t have much hope for himself. The Argentine, to be honest, wasn’t all that bad. He just wasn’t meant to be in charge of the most demanding club on the planet. Real Madrid have always been about results and glory, and the former Castilla manager had failed on both fronts. So, swiftly and positively, he was shown the door, and he left without uttering a word. 

Zidane came in, took the center stage, and announced he was ready to take Real Madrid where they belonged — the pinnacle of the world’s sport.

I want to put this club back where it belongs,” said Zidane, as per BBC.

“It has been difficult from the outside looking in. I have been living here in Madrid, doing my things. But I have recharged my batteries. I’m ready to coach this great club again.

Zinedine Zidane, thanks to his legendary 2.5-year spell at the club, is one of the most elite coaches in the world. But even for someone so accomplished, turning Los Blancos’ fortunes will be quite a challenge. This season, Zidane doesn’t have anything to look forward to, no trophy to fight for, but it’s still an important step for the Frenchman. Over the next 11 games, he’ll determine the players who would retain their place in his squad. Others, sadly, probably won’t have the privilege of donning the royal white again, next season. 

Real Madrid currently sit 5 points behind third-placed Atletico Madrid. Barcelona, who have a 12-point advantage over the Whites are almost out of sight, but Real Madrid won’t let Atletico finish second without a proper tussle. This season, a big chunk of Real Madrid glitterati has underperformed. Most of them failed to lead from the front and ultimately allowed the opposition to walk all over them. Under Zidane, this system will change for the better. Every member of the Real Madrid dressing room knows how brilliant the Frenchman is, which makes Zizou’s job a lot straightforward. 

Isco and Marcelo, who were warming the bench under Solari now have a better chance of proving their worth. Keylor Navas, too, is expected to get more minutes, which will automatically force Thibaut Courtois to up his game. Zidane’s rotation policy worked wonders during his previous spell and is expected to have a telling effect this time around as well.

Since Cristiano Ronaldo‘s departure, Real Madrid have struggled to find the back of the net. Zidane, even with his renowned skill set, won’t be able to solve this problem straight away. But he, most certainly, will have the authority to fix it in the next transfer window. His introduction probably won’t sit well with the likes of Dani Ceballos and Gareth Bale, but for the club and its fans are undoubtedly ecstatic to see him back. The next couple of months won’t be straightforward, but Madridistas now once again have something and someone to look forward to. 

Also Read: How Real Madrid got knocked out of Champions League

La Liga 2018-19 : Week 25 Round Up | Barcelona 7 points clear at top

La Liga 2018-19 : Week 25 Round Up | Barcelona still seven points clear at the top

The 25th 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 25 of La Liga 2018-19 came to a conclusion on Sunday. The match-days witnessed plenty of excitement and emotions. Real Madrid, returned to their winning ways after a hard-fought victory over Levante, while it was a comfortable week for teams like Barcelona and Atletico Madrid too, who secured all three points. Here are some results from the week gone by, and some of the key talking points.

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Villarreal

Alvaro Morata scored his first goal for Atletico Madrid in a 2-0 win at home to Villarreal on Sunday. Asenjo was beaten by the former Chelsea man, scoring through a sumptuous volley into the back of the net. It took Morata five matches since joining the UEFA Europa League title holder during the winter transfer window, on a year-and-a-half loan deal from England’s Chelsea, to open his account with the Spanish club. Saul Niguez added a late second for Atletico. The win for Atleti means they cut Barcelona’s lead at the top of the table to seven points, whilst the visitors remain in the bottom three.

Levante 1-2 Real Madrid

Real Madrid beat Levante 2-1 thanks to VAR. Karim Benzema stepped up to score the opener after Luka Modric’s cross hit the arms of Enis Bardhi, but Roger Marti deservedly equalized, having hit the post twice in the first half. Real got another penalty for a Cheick Doukoure foul on Casemiro, which substitute Bale scored. The visitors had defender Nacho sent off late on for two bookings. Levante midfielder Ruben Rochina was dismissed from the bench with two minutes left after protesting against a refereeing decision.

Sevilla 2-4 Barcelona

Lionel Messi’s match-winning display blew the hosts away who went from leading 2-1 approaching the final 20 minutes to lose 4-2 courtesy of the Argentine’s hat-trick. Jesus Navas opened the scoring in the 22nd minute as Barca were hit on the break before a sensational Messi volley saw them draw level. Gabriel Mercado then restored the lead for the home team but Messi canceled it out again with a sublime curler with his weaker foot. La Liga’s leading scorer then put the visitors ahead when Carles Alena’s deflected pass fell kindly into his path and he lifted it over the keeper before setting up Luis Suarez for a fourth goal to kill off the tie.

Also Read: Messi scores 50th career Hat-Trick

Athletic Bilbao 1-0 Eibar

Athletic Bilbao continued their good form by beating Eibar 1-0 on Saturday evening at San Mames. Both Athletic Club and Eibar have been in good form of late and sat mid-table in the La Liga standings and that continued after the result but saw them swap places. Raul Garcia scored the opening goal of the game and it proved to be the only one, netting inside the first minute. This victory allows Bilbao to beat Eibar in the standings, and to occupy the 10th position with 33 points. Eibar now holds the eleventh place with 31 points.

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

Three Big Reasons behind Real Madrid’s Shocking 2-1 Defeat to Girona


Girona’s Christian Stuani and Portu scored in the second half to hand Real Madrid a shock 2-1 defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday afternoon. 

Los Blancos, coming into the match on the back of five consecutive wins in La Liga, were the outright favorites against a side that hadn’t won a league match since November. It was supposed to be a walk in the park for Santiago Solari’s in-form Real Madrid team, and not a day to forget.

An almost packed Santiago Bernabeu anticipated an afternoon goal fest, and reasonably so. Girona weren’t supposed to be able to keep the likes of Karim Benzema, Marco Asensio, Gareth Bale, and Vinicius Jr out. Yet, they did, and walked away with three invaluable points, landing a sucker punch to Los Blancos’ title ambitions.

Real Madrid started the game on the front foot and found themselves justifiably ahead just before the half-hour mark. Casemiro outjumped his marker to meet with Toni Kroos’ inch-perfect delivery, leaving Girona stopper, Bono, helpless. The hosts kept up the tempo for the remainder of the half and came close to doubling their advantage on a couple of occasions. 

The second half saw an astonishing change of fortunes. Despite being outplayed in the first half, Girona came at Real Madrid full of confidence, and the Whites, unexpectedly, had no answer. Sergio Ramos’ lackluster decision-making allowed Christian Stuani to restore parity from the spot, sending the away fans into a frenzy. Girona landed the killer blow 10 minutes later, as Portu bundled home from close range. 

Things went from bad to worse for the hosts when Real Madrid skipper, Sergio Ramos, picked up his second yellow in the 90th minute and got himself sent off.

Here are the three biggest reasons behind Real Madrid’s shock loss to the Catalan outfit:

Lack of Sharpness up Top

Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure, Real Madrid needed to sign a potent goal scorer, someone capable of making the most of opportunities. The capital side, however, chose to stick with Karim Benzema and didn’t bother looking for suitable alternatives. 

On Sunday, their vulnerability was once again highlighted, as Real Madrid failed to convert from close range, time and again, in the first half. 

Santiago Solari’s Substitutions

Real Madrid boss, Santiago Solari, failed to justify his reputation and made some unflattering changes during Sunday’s defeat. Lucas Vazquez, who was performing convincingly was taken off for Vinicius Jr. That change, on paper, was positive. But it wasn’t the most helpful considering Vazquez’s defensive contribution. 

He then substituted Marco Asensio for Gareth Bale, who, once again, was abysmal on the night. Finally, he brought in Mariano, turning the 4-3-3 formation it into a 4-2-4, with little to no creativity in the middle of the park. 

Marcelo’s Defensive Lapses 

Real Madrid vice-captain, Marcelo, is one of the finest and most committed players in Solari’s squad. But the Brazilian just hasn’t been at his best over the last few weeks. On Sunday, Marcelo allowed the opposition to run circles around him and looked fairly disinterested when not in possession. 

As per reports, Ronaldo’s departure has hurt Marcelo deeply and the left-back is now considering to join him at Juventus. It’s difficult to say how credible these reports are, but Marcelo must make up his mind and soon. 

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.

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

La Liga 2018-19 : Week 22 Round Up | Real Madrid close gap with arch-rivals Barcelona

La Liga 2018-19 : Week 22 Round Up | Real Madrid close gap with arch-rivals Barcelona

The 22nd match-week of Spanish La Liga 2018-19 brought with it some wonderful goals, some incredible actions on the field, and the usual dose of excitement and exhilaration. 

Match-week 22 of La Liga 2018-19 came to a conclusion on Sunday. The match-days witnessed plenty of thrills, spills and emotions. Atletico Madrid and Sevilla suddenly found the going tough after suffering serious setbacks, while spoils were shared by Barcelona and Valencia. Real Madrid scored thrice in their match against Alaves. Here are some results from the matches gone by, and some of the key talking points.

Real Madrid 3-0 Alaves

Karim Benzema continued his scoring streak as he netted for the sixth time in four games to help Real Madrid cruise to a 3-0 victory over Deportivo Alaves on Sunday. The Frenchman struck after 30 minutes of a one-sided contest at Santiago Bernabeu where Gareth Bale made his first start overcoming a calf injury but Vinicius Junior stole the show, including scoring his side’s second. Real are now only two points behind city rivals Atletico Madrid, who suffered a 1-0 defeat at Real Betis earlier on Sunday. They have also closed the gap to arch-rivals Barcelona to eight points. The two Spanish giants face each other in the first leg of Copa del Rey semi-final on Wednesday.

Celta Vigo 1-0 Sevilla

Celta Vigo broke their losing streak on Saturday with a narrow win 1-0 in Balaidos against Sevilla in an even game. Sevilla remain in fourth place after this surprising defeat against Celta, as Okay Yokuslu scored the only goal of the game to move Celta out of the relegation zone. Sevilla had several chances to open the scoring, but Frenchman Ben Yedder was not successful. In the 57th minute, he failed, the only shot of the visitors throughout the game. In the 69th, Sevilla again hit the post. Fourth in the standings, the Andalusians have won one game in the last six La Liga games.

Real Betis 1-0 Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid fell to their first La Liga defeat in five months, second of the season, as they were beaten 1-0 at Real Betis on Sunday, They also missed the opportunity to close the gap with leaders Barcelona and slipping six points adrift of the Catalans. Alvaro Morata started his first game for Atletico since moving on loan from Chelsea, but Sergio Canales scored from the penalty spot after a handball by left-back Filipe Luis. Oblak went the right way but Canales’ strike was too powerful for the Slovenia international. The visitors responded as talisman Griezmann came close to scoring a wonder goal but his effort crashed the woodwork. Atletico could not find an equaliser and will be disappointed not to cut the gap at the top.

Barcelona 2-2 Valencia

Lionel Messi struck twice as Barcelona fought back against Valencia, but it still wasn’t enough to give the Liga leaders all three points as they had to settle for a 2-2 draw. Valencia, who hit the woodwork in the second minute, went ahead in the 24th with a well-taken finish from French forward Kevin Gameiro and doubled their lead with a powerful penalty from Dani Parejo in the 32nd. Messi halved the deficit seven minutes later by scoring for the ninth consecutive game in all competitions, converting from the spot after having a goal chalked off as the referee had already blown his whistle to award the penalty. Barca’s extra-ordinary captain equalised in the 64th with an unstoppable curling strike from outside the area, averting a first league loss for the league leaders since November and taking them on to 50 points from 22 games.

Also Read: Is Barcelona too much dependent on Messi

Lionel Messi’s double saves Barcelona against Valencia

Lionel Messi’s double saves Barcelona against Valencia

Barcelona had to heavily rely on Lionel Messi to bring back a point against Valencia (2-2) on Saturday. The Argentine genius, who scored twice, was the most vibrant Blaugrana against a very formidable Valencia team. 

In the standings, Barca still remains comfortably in the lead but can see Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid come closer to the top of the table after Sunday.

At Camp Nou, the captain of Barcelona scored his 20th and 21st goal of the La Liga, this season. Messi scored first from a penalty in the 39th minute, and then from a clear shot outside the box in the 64th minute. Earlier, the Frenchman Kevin Gameiro (24th minute) and captain Dani Parejo (32nd minute) gave the advantage to the Valencians.

Messi, who chained a ninth consecutive game with at least one goal scored, nevertheless remained on the sidelines for a long time to have his right thigh treated before re-entering the game to add relief to the Barca die-hards. In the standings of La Liga, this draw does not do the huge business for Barca (1st, 50 pts), but could see back on his heels Atletico Madrid (2nd, 44 pts), facing Real Betis on Sunday, and Real Madrid (3rd, 39 pts), who welcome Alaves on the same date.

But all of Catalonia is likely to worry for the next few hours for the physical state of Lionel Messi before a crucial month. The Argentine was hit in the thigh at the worst time, before facing Real Madrid on Wednesday. Barca’s schedule includes three successive (February 6th and 27th, March 2nd) and the round of 16 first leg of the Champions League in Lyon on February 19th.

Barcelona took high risks

Barcelona left Camp Nou with great frustration and with a large expenditure of energy. The opponents led 2-0 after half an hour of play. The opportunists Valencians took the advantage thanks to two counter-attacks. First, a breakthrough of the amazing Rodrigo, saluted by Gameiro (24th minute), author of his first goal since November before being forced to leave the field due to a head-to-head collision with Gerard Pique. As time ticked on, Daniel Wass was shoved in the box by Sergi Roberto. A logical penalty, transformed by Dani Parejo (32nd minute), and immediately a defensive curtain unfolded in front of the Valencia goal.

Also Read: The next superstar of Real Madrid

Untenable Messi 

As often in these cases, it was Messi who pulled his team out of the hole. The Argentinian first smoothly converted a penalty earned by Nelson Semedo just before the break (39th minute), which gave hope to Camp Nou. After the entry of his best partner, Jordi Alba at the break, Messi was untenable and ended up being rewarded from a pin-point shot sent from just outside the area to the back of the net in the 64th minute.

Camp Nou worried for Leo 

In the last half an hour, Barca tried to snatch the victory, and all three points, but all of Camp Nou held his breath in a cathedral when Messi left the field in the 70th minute to have a long massage in the right thigh. The Blaugrana captain eventually resumed his place, signalling that everything was fine, but the concern is likely to seize Barcelona. Especially, since La Liga race could get tighter after Sunday night if Atletico and Real win their respective matches.