Tag: Barcelona

Champions League: Barcelona v Bayern, Juventus v Real Madrid

Barcelona have been drawn against Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals.

The other last-four tie sees Juventus – in their first semi-final since 2003 – face Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid, the defending champions.

The first legs will be played on 5 and 6 May, with the return matches a week later.

In the Europa League, holders Sevilla face Fiorentina, while Rafael Benitez’s Napoli are up against Ukraine’s Dnipro.

Bayern boss Guardiola won 14 trophies as a manager – including the Champions League in 2009 and 2011 – during four years at Barcelona.

He has reached the Champions League semi-finals in each of his six seasons as a manager, four with Barca and now two with Bayern.

The Catalan said: “Everyone understands how special this game is for me, for [midfielder] Thiago and my staff.

“Barcelona was our life. Barcelona is my home.

“Barcelona are the best team at the moment. I am not surprised. He (Luis Enrique) has a lot of quality. He is a great guy and I am happy I will be facing him.”

Read more at BBC Sport

Champions League: Barcelona 2-0 PSG (agg 5-1)

Neymar stars as Barcelona ease past PSG into Champions League semifinals

Barcelona reached the Champions League semifinals for the seventh time in eight years after comfortably brushing aside the challenge of Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca did most of the damage in the first leg with a 3-1 win in Paris and they finished the job off with relative ease at the Camp Nou, with two first-half Neymar goals earning a 2-0 win.

Luis Enrique’s in-form side will now go into Friday’s mouthwatering draw for the last four along with Bayern Munich, with one of last season’s two finalists — Atletico and Real Madrid — joining them, as well as either Juventus or Monaco.

The 5-1 aggregate victory also keeps Barca firmly on course for the Treble, having already reached the final of the Copa del Rey and boasting a two-point lead in La Liga with six games to go.

Neymar broke the deadlock in the first leg and it was the Brazilian who got things up and running on Tuesday as well, although it was some Andres Iniesta magic that made it happen.

Iniesta, wearing the captain’s armband, missed the weekend win over Valencia through injury but showed no sign of any ill-effects as he brilliantly beat three players as he charged through the PSG midfield before threading a perfect pass into Neymar’s path.

The Brazilian did the rest, rounding Salvatore Sirigu and slotting into an empty net.

Dani Alves tested Sirigu with a long-range piledriver that the PSG keeper did well to parry, but he was beaten for a second time in the 33rd minute as Barca further strengthened their grip on proceedings.

Alves teased former Barca team-mate Maxwell on the right before floating in a left-footed cross that Neymar, having ghosted in behind David Luiz, easily headed past Sirigu.

The tie was as good as over, although PSG continued to battle and another of their ex-Barca contingent Zlatan Ibrahimovic — who had an effort correctly ruled out for offside in between Neymar’s strikes — almost brought them a goal midway through the second half.

The Sweden international, who missed the first leg due to suspension, ignored the run of an unmarked team-mate to try his luck from 25 yards out and his well-struck effort drew an awkward save out of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Edinson Cavani and Blaise Matuidi then tried to scramble the ball home with 10 minutes left as the French champions continued to probe, albeit against a Barca side that already knew the job was done.

Substitutes Lucas Moura and Ezequiel Lavezzi both also spurned openings to get on the scoresheet for Laurent Blanc’s men before Lionel Messi fired a shot just wide at the death for Barca, who have now won 23 of their 26 competitive games in 2015.

Read more at ESPN

Champions League: Barcelona 1-0 Man City

Barcelona ease past Man City as Sergio Aguero misses penalty

Lionel Messi and Barcelona turned on the style to dump Manchester City and their inspired goalkeeper Joe Hart out of the Champions League.

It was thanks to Hart’s heroics that Barcelona could manage only a 1-0 win at the Nou Camp.

Ivan Rakitic scored the only goal of another one-sided encounter between the two sides, completing a 3-1 aggregate win to secure the Catalan giants’ place in the quarterfinals.

City did show some spirit in the second half, and could have pulled one back when Sergio Aguero had a penalty saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen — but in truth the scoreline flattered them.

Barcelona were in a different league to the English champions, and Messi was simply outstanding.

One of the enduring images from the game will be his first-half nutmeg on James Milner, who was bamboozled and left on the turf by the Argentinian’s brilliance.

It said much for City’s night that their man of the match was comfortably Hart, who made a strong of brilliant saves in the second half to limit the damage.

The loss will leave City manager Manuel Pellegrini fighting for his future, but most coaches would have struggled against Barcelona in this mood.

City’s defeat meant the end of English involvement in the Champions League, after Arsenal and Chelsea’s defeats at this stage and Liverpool’s elimination in the group round.

Pellegrini changed tactics, deploying Aguero as a lone striker, but it was to little avail.

After being well beaten in the first leg, it always seemed likely City would follow their Premier League rivals out of the competition.

And so it proved as Barcelona set about them from the outset, looking in ominous form as Dani Alves forced a Vincent Kompany error and Neymar rolled a shot against the inside of a post.

Barcelona were relentless, with Messi at his ingenious best, continually wrong-footing City with masterful control and movement.

Messi combined brilliantly with Andres Iniesta in the box, but Hart came to the visitors’ rescue with a low save from the Argentinian.

City could not keep pace with the Spanish league leaders and four of their players — Fernandinho, Aleksandar Kolarov, David Silva and Samir Nasri — were booked inside the first 36 minutes. Nasri was lucky not to see red for hacking at the ankles of Neymar.

But by then City were already a goal down after Messi picked out Rakitic in space in the box with a brilliant cross. Rakitic controlled superbly on his chest and reacted quickly to lob the advancing Hart.

City’s torture continued as Messi, who had earlier been crudely hacked down on the touchline by Kolarov, reacted with great dexterity as Milner attempted to close him down out wide.

Messi simply flicked the ball back inside, nutmegging the England international and dumping him on the turf. Former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, watching in the stands, put his head in his hands in disbelief.

Barcelona almost had a second goal before the break as Luis Suarez, scorer of two in the first leg, broke clear and beat the advancing Hart only for his shot to bounce off the far post.

The one-way traffic continued as Hart saved from Iniesta, Rakitic and Jordi Alba in the opening minutes of the second half.

Pellegrini attempted to change his side’s shape, with Jesus Navas having replaced the ineffective Nasri at the interval. He pushed Toure forward, but Barcelona were not greatly troubled despite an increase in City possession.

One good opportunity did open up when Navas got to the byline, but there was no-one on hand to turn in his cross.

Barcelona had the menace to be able to kill the game at any moment, and Suarez lashed a shot into the side netting before Messi skipped past a challenge on a lightning counter-attack but was forced wide.

Alba thought he had scored a second when he snapped up a rebound after Hart blocked a Neymar shot, but offside was given.

Hart denied Neymar again on the hour and City were given a potential lifeline moments later as they broke up to the other end and Aguero fell as Gerard Pique challenged.

A penalty was awarded, but Aguero could not take advantage as Ter Stegen saved to his right.

It was not going to be City’s night, but Hart could still hold his head high, saving again from Suarez before the former Liverpool star hit the bar.

Hart saved brilliantly again from Messi in the last minute and Neymar was also frustrated by him in injury time.
 Read more at ESPN

Champions League: Man City 1-2 Barcelona

Luis Suarez marked his first return to England since a £75m summer move to Barcelona with two goals that leave Manchester City on the brink of a Champions League exit.

The former Liverpool striker demonstrated the quality the Premier League has been missing – and which defenders have been spared – with two strikes in the opening half-hour to put Barcelona in command of this last-16 first-leg tie.

City improved after the break and were rewarded with Sergio Aguero’s strike but their growing momentum was halted when Gael Clichy was sent off for a second yellow card.

And even though they still face a mountainous task at the Nou Camp in the second leg on 18 March – they need to score at least twice to have a chance of progressing – they were spared an even tougher job after keeper Joe Hart saved Lionel Messi’s penalty from virtually the final kick of the game.

Uruguay international Suarez preyed on the uncertainty of City captain Vincent Kompany throughout and with Messi the orchestrator, Luis Enrique’s side tormented the Premier League champions in the first half.

Suarez ended this summer’s World Cup in Brazil in disgrace after bitingItaly’s Giorgio Chiellini but it was not enough to dissuade Barcelona fromtaking him from Liverpool to La Liga and this was an illustration of exactly why, the movement and menace a familiar sight to those who had watched him terrorise opponents in the Premier League.

City manager Manuel Pellegrini will take some heart from the manner in which they created chances in the second half but in reality Barcelona are now overwhelming favourites to progress as they took advantage of the timidity of an opposition, without suspended midfield talisman Yaya Toure, who showed them far too much respect in the first 45 minutes.

Aguero’s goal and Hart’s save offer a lifeline but it is flimsy at best and City will need to produce a special performance in Catalonia to reach the quarter-finals.

Suarez, so often cast in the role of the Premier League’s villain during his time at Anfield, was jeered when his name was read out before kick-off – but he soon turned the taunts back on his tormentors as Barcelona produced an imperious first half display.

He had already threatened before he put Barcelona ahead after 13 minutes, reacting quickly to fire a low, angled finish past Hart after Messi’s cross had rebounded off Kompany.

City’s lame approach was in contrast to Pellegrini’s claim that they would attack Barcelona and they were lucky not to fall further behind when a brilliant pass from Messi released Suarez in behind Kompany but Hart rescued City with a crucial block at the striker’s feet.

Barcelona only ever seemed a moment away from another goal – and so it proved when Suarez pounced for his second on the half-hour, showing great instincts to turn Jordi Alba’s cross at the near post.

Dani Alves sent a glancing effort off the bar before an agonising first half drew to a close for City and supporters who had suffered in silence for long periods as Barcelona went through their party pieces.

City, as they had to do, showed some attacking ambition after the restart and should have pulled a goal back when the unmarked Edin Dzeko headed straight at keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen from only six yards out.

Aguero, so industrious despite barely having any service worthy of the name, was then only inches off target as City finally looked capable of posing Barcelona problems.

The goal City had threatened finally arrived with 21 minutes remaining, Aguero taking an inventive David Silva backheel in his stride before beating Ter Stegen.

Suddenly there was hope for City, although some of that was extinguished as Clichy was sent off four minutes later after receiving a second yellow card for a mistimed challenge on Alves.

Messi had the chance to heap further punishment on City when he was fouled in the area by Pablo Zabaleta in the closing moments but Hart blocked his spot-kick and the Argentine headed wide of an open goal.

Read more at BBC Sport

Premiership: Man Utd to sign ex-Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes

Former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes has accepted an offer to join Manchester United.

The Spain international, who has been training with United in his bid to recover from a serious knee injury, has agreed an 18-month contract.

Valdes, 32, won six La Liga and three Champions League titles with Barcelona, before leaving at the end of last season when his contract expired.

The deal could lead to reserve keeper Anders Lindegaard leaving Old Trafford.

It also poses a question about the future of 24-year-old first-choice goalkeeper David De Gea, who was the club’s player of the year last season and has excelled again this term.

His contract is due to expire in 2016, although senior United sources have said they were relaxed about him signing an extension to that deal.

Before last season started, Valdes confirmed it would be his final one at the Nou Camp, but his campaign ended in March when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that kept him out of the World Cup.

Manchester United are third in the Premier League, nine points behind joint leaders Chelsea and Manchester City.

De Gea has played in every match for United this season but conceded four in the League Cup defeat at MK Dons in August and five in thePremier League loss to Leicester on 21 September.

However, the defensive record has improved in the last few months, with the club only letting in seven goals in their last 13 matches.

Denmark international Lindegaard, 30, arrived at Old Trafford in a £3.5m deal in January 2011 but has only made 19 Premier League appearances.

Read more at BBC Sport

La Liga: Real Sociedad 1-0 Barcelona

David Moyes’s Real Sociedad stopped Barcelona going top of La Liga thanks to an early own goal from Jordi Alba.

Real Madrid’s 2-1 defeat at Valencia earlier in the day would have allowed the Catalans to edge ahead in the title race if they had won.

But coach Luis Enrique started with Lionel Messi, Neymar and Dani Alves on the bench following the festive break.

And they were unable to inspire a fightback as Moyes secured a memorable second win as Sociedad manager.

Messi, Neymar and Alves only returned to training last Friday after an extended break in South America during the league’s Christmas shutdown.

Enrique took the gamble of starting without them for a fixture that has proved tricky for Barcelona in the past.

And so it proved again with their winless run at Anoeta now extended to six games.

In Moyes’s previous two home La Liga games, former Arsenal striker Carlos Vela had struck in the opening five minutes.

And while there was to be no repeat for Vela, Sociedad were still ahead after just two minutes as Alba headed a cross from Sergio Canales past his own keeper.

For a team which had already beaten Real Madrid and defending champions Atletico Madrid in San Sebastian this season, it was the perfect start.

Sociedad have been difficult to beat under Moyes, with just two losses in their previous seven matches since the former Manchester United and Everton boss took over in November, and they clung tenaciously to their lead.

They were helped by an insipid first-half performance from Barcelona, who rarely threatened an equaliser.

Sociedad went closest to a second goal when Canales turned sharply and tested former Socieded keeper Claudio Bravo at his near post.

Not surprisingly, Enrique sent on Messi at the start of the second half and waited just a further 12 minutes to introduce Neymar to try and spark an improvement.

Barcelona increasingly dominated possession and began to camp around the Sociedad penalty area.

But with a wall of blue and white shirts to pass, they could not turn their pressure into any meaningful chances.

Sociedad defended superbly with goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli making his one real save four minutes from time when dashing out to save at the feet of Luis Suarez.

Barcelona’s next La Liga game is against champions Atletico Madrid next Sunday.

Read more at BBC Sport

La Liga: Barcelona transfer ban appeal rejected by Court

Barcelona will not be allowed to sign any players in 2015 after their appeal against a transfer ban was dismissed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The Spanish club was handed a 14-month ban in April after being found guilty of breaching Fifa’s rules on the transfer of players aged under 18.

Fifa rejected an appeal in August but the pending appeal to Cas allowed Barca to sign players including Luis Suarez.

Barcelona has expressed its “utter nonconformity with the resolution”.

The players concerned in the infringement of Fifa rules were registered and participated in competitions with Barcelona between 2009 and 2013.

Cas said: “The panel found in particular that FC Barcelona had breached the rules regarding the protection of minors and the registration of minors attending football academies.

“Accordingly, the Fifa decision is confirmed in full and the sanction remains in force.

“In view of the need to issue a decision before the opening of the next transfer window, the panel has issued its decision without the grounds. The full arbitral award, with the reasons for the panel’s decision, will be issued as soon as possible.”

A Barcelona statement added: “The errors that the club might have committed, and which have been recognised and argued before the corresponding authorities, are, in all cases, of an administrative nature and to a large extent have been caused by the existing conflict between the Fifa regulations and Spanish legislation, along with the club’s conviction that it was acting correctly.

“Therefore, FC Barcelona considers the sanction to be completely disproportionate as it supposes an excessive punishment for the club, when considering its trajectory and the circumstances of this specific case.”

Barca went on a summer spending spree this year while the suspension went on hold during the appeals process, splashing out more than 150m euros (£117.5m) on Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Thomas Vermaelen, Claudio Bravo, Jeremy Mathieu and Alen Halilovic.

Read more at BBC Sport

Champions League: ManCity v Barcelona, PSG v Chelsea, Arsenal v Monaco

Man City draw Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League for the second year in a row with Chelsea to face PSG and Arsenal get Monaco.

Arsenal will take on Monaco, while defending champions Real Madrid face Schalke with Bayern Munich drawn to play Shakhtar Donetsk.

Champions League last-16 draw

Paris St-Germain v Chelsea
Manchester City v Barcelona
Paris St-Germain v Atletico Madrid
Juventus v Borussia Dortmund
Schalke v Real Madrid
Shakhtar Donetsk v Bayern Munich
Arsenal v Monaco
Basel v Porto

The first legs of the last 16 ties will take place on February 17/18 and 24/25, with the return matches on March 10/11 and 17/18.

Chelsea, as a seeded group winner, will be away in the first leg with Arsenal and City at home, having finished as runners-up in their respective groups.

Arsene Wenger had admitted before this morning’s draw in Nyon, Switzerland, that he was hoping to face Monaco, whom Arsenal have never played before and where Wenger was in charge between 1987 and 1994, winning the Ligue 1 title and the Coupe de France.

“I don’t think many people want Real Madrid,” he said. “I don’t want Bayern Munich and I am sure they don’t want us as well. I am not against Monaco.

“I have great memories from my time there. They gave me a chance when I was a very young manager. When I arrived they had never passed the first round in the European Cup; we had good times.

Read more at ESPN

Champions League: Apoel Nicosia 0-4 Barcelona

Lionel Messi became the record Champions League goalscorer and Luis Suarez opened his account for Barcelona as the Catalan giants cruised to a 4-0 win over Apoel Nicosia.

Suarez put Barca ahead with his first goal for the club since his £64million summer move from Liverpool before Messi took centre-stage with a hat-trick – all with his less-favoured right foot.

The first of those saw him break former Real Madrid striker Raul’s tally of 71 to make the Argentina superstar the leading scorer in the competition’s history.

It was the second notable scoring record that Messi had broken in the space of three days, with the 27-year-old having also become the all-time leading Primera Division marksman at the weekend with his hat-trick against Sevilla.

That treble moved Messi onto 253 La Liga goals and broke Telmo Zarra’s 59-year-old mark of 251.

As well as being a memorable night for Messi and Suarez, the victory keeps Barcelona in with a chance of pipping Paris St Germain to top spot in Group F.

Both teams had already qualified for the last 16 but PSG stayed a point clear of Barca with their win over Ajax.

Messi moved level with Raul’s European record with a brace in Barca’s previous match at Ajax, and he could have broken it inside three minutes on Tuesday only to see APOEL goalkeeper Rafael Urko do well to block his effort.

Messi was running the show early on and he set up good chances for Suarez and Jordi Alba, neither of which were taken.

It was Suarez who made the breakthrough, though, and in the process get on the scoresheet for the first time in Barcelona colours.

The Uruguay international created the chance with a superb bit of skill to turn his marker on the edge of the box and he beat Urko with a side-footed finish, albeit with the aid of a deflection.

That was in the 27th minute, and 11 minutes later Messi made it 2-0 and secured himself yet another spot in the history books when he stuck out his right foot to deflect Rafinha’s shot into the net.

Dominant Barca picked up where they left off after the break and Pedro Rodriguez almost made it 3-0 with a low drive in the 51st minute.

A third goal was not much longer in arriving, however, with Messi moving onto 73 Champions League goals in 91 games when he picked up Dani Avles’ pinpoint pass into the area and dinked a shot in off the far post.

Further Barca goals looked on the cards, but it was actually APOEL who came closest to netting next with a Tomas De Vincenti effort that produced a superb one-handed save by Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

The home side then received a further boost when Barca forward Rafinha was shown a second yellow card with 20 minutes to go, but the dismissal did little to change the flow of the game with Luis Enrique’s visitors still looking to attack.

Suarez was denied his second by the feet of Urko before APOEL lost their numerical advantage when Joao Guilherme picked up his second booking for a foul on Pedro in the 84th minute.

All that was left after that was for Messi to notch up yet another hat-trick, the Barca captain knocking home Pedro’s cut-back to cap a record-breaking evening for the Catalan outfit.

Read more at ESPN

La Liga: Messi breaks La Liga goalscoring record

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi broke Telmo Zarra’s all-time La Liga goal-scoring record of 251 goals with a hat trick in the 5-1 win over Sevilla.

Messi opened the scoring on 21 minutes to equal Zarra’s feat before netting again on 72 minutes to make it 252 Liga goals in 289 appearances and take him beyond the former Athletic Bilbao forward.

The key goal was a sliding tap in with his right foot from Neymar’s cross and Messi, 27, was subsequently congratulated by his team-mates and the crowd.

He then completed his hat trick with 12 minutes remaining, meaning his total now stands at 253 Liga strikes.

Barcelona’s 5-1 win against Sevilla took them back to within two points of Liga leaders Real Madrid, who beat Eibar 4-0 earlier in the day.

Read more at ESPN