Headlines in Spain may still be focused on what many consider “the comeback of Champions”, following Barcelona’s spectacular turnaround from a 2-goal deficit against Sevilla over the weekend in a display that all Blaugrana fans have been waiting for since the season started. Despite their unbeaten record in La Liga thus far, the squad seem to lack that swift and precise play and that may all be to blame on the unseemingly bad luck that has befallen the squad as a string of injuries continues to hamper an already shaky backline…but the breathtaking play by Barça turned the dooming deficit into a vivacious victory with remarkable goals by Fàbregas, and a third by Villa to solidify their spot at the top of La Liga ahead of Sunday’s ‘El Clásico’. Now, with their second triumph in the Champions League race against Benfica, the Barcelona side seems to be well on track in their quest to victory.
Alexis Steals The Show As Barça Secures Victory Against Benfica
In the much anticipated match of the Group G fixture, Benfica –FC Barcelona, fans finally witnessed a Barcelona side that seemed composed and determined. Despite the absence of Thiago, the dynamic duo, Messi and Alexis stole the show. It was a superb pass from Messi that found the Chilean striker merely six minutes into the game as Barça took the lead. With numerous shots from Alexis, perhaps his statement from last week rings true, “The best Alexis hasn’t arrived yet”. Add to that, swift and precise play by Jordi Alba and the Barça side saw a pretty smooth ride to victory against the Portuguese side. Unlike the previous match against Sevilla, Fàbregas refrained from simulation and instead handed Barcelona their second goal in the 55th.
The Barcelona back line seemed slightly more solid with the return of Captain, Carles Puyol, following his last injury, but another nasty tackle close to the 80th minute saw the Catalan back on a stretcher…exiting the field, again.
Barça Dirty Simulation Rears Its Ugly Head…Again
Despite the quality of FC Barcelona’s display against Sevilla, a shocking simulation by Cesc Fàbregas seemed to make just as many headlines as Villa’s spectacular goal. With twenty minutes left, it was what seemed to be a rather innocent confrontation between Cesc Fàbregas and Gary Medel that would lead to the only red card, and a Sevilla side reduced to 10 men. Upon replay, no one can deny that the ‘incident’ was clearly not one worth showing a red card, but quite simply over the top dramatics by Fàbregas. Reminiscent of the infamous ‘Busquets dirty dive’, one must wonder when someone will finally put an end to these ridiculous antics. Perhaps even more shocking was the fact that the referee in this match, Mateu Lahoz, one of Mourinho’s favorites since he barely blows for anything, found the incident worthy of such a punishment. Post-game, Fàbregas stated, “He touched my face with his forehead … if you like, I can do that to you and see what you think.”
It may be their city rivals, Real Madrid that most consider to be Barça’s biggest threat, but it seems that this time around, the Blaugranas may want to pay closer attention to the lesser notarized, Atletico Madrid. With star-striker, Falcao, the current goal leader in La Liga, who has had a spectacular start to the season, scoring 7 out of 16 goals during the squad’s first six matches of the season, the Colombian striker seems to be set for a stellar season, if his current form continues. Atletico Madrid, who are merely two points behind Barça in the La Liga standings are nipping at the heels of the Catalan giants. It was Falcao’s fantastic form thus far that led to Atletico Madrid’s President, Enrique Cerezo statement that “He (Falcao) is the best striker in the world… Nor would I want to swap Falcao for Messi or Cristiano, Falcao is the best”. Can Atletico Madrid continue their current form, and if so, may we be in store for a surprise contender this season?
“Catalonia Is Not Spain” - Political Tensions Rise Ahead of El Clásico
It is no secret that the rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid is far more than an athletic one, but now, as the people of Catalonia continue to fight for their independence ahead of next month’s much anticipated election, political tensions from the other side of the world have been thrown into the mix. Mahmoud al-Sarsak, a former Palestinian footballer and former hunger striker, has stated that he will not accept an invitation to watch the El Clásico at the Nou Camp on Sunday. The statement followed news that former Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who spent five years in captivity in Gaza would also be attending the game. The FC Barcelona club representatives have clarified that they had not sent invites to either Shalit or al-Sarsak, but accepted request for them to attend this immense clash of Spanish powerhouses. At what point will politics remain in a political sphere without interrupting the ‘beautiful game’, or are the two truly inextricably linked?
Next Stop –El Clásico
“This is a big week for us”, Vilanova stated in a press conference prior to this Champions League fixture. This victory over Benfica may be just what the squad needed to keep spirits high as their next clash is against rivals, Real Madrid. This next meeting between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, one synonymous with dirty diving and antics may be Barça’s biggest challenge yet considering their injured backline, as well as the absence of Thiago. Can Tito find a way to surprise Mourinho and ‘Los Blancos’, or will Real Madrid put an end to Barcelona’s unbeaten streak?
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