Munir making the difference at Alaves

Munir was on target again for Alaves on Saturday as Abelardo Fernandez’s side continued their brilliant form with a 1-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna.

The goal was Munir’s sixth La Liga strike of the season, and he’s also produced five assists, which is a massive contribution to the cause.

It was a pretty special goal too as he picked the ball up just outside the box and took a couple of touches before firing into the top corner.

The 22-year-old is on a season-long loan with Alaves but looks to be finally enjoying his football again, long may it continue.

Conte discusses how Chelsea will deal with Messi

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has been talking about his side’s Champions League clash with Barcelona, and in particular how his team will deal with Lionel Messi.

Messi has famously never scored against Chelsea in eight attempts, and Conte is hopeful that the Argentine will continue his drought against the Blues.

“I hope to continue this tradition but I repeat we are talking about a fantastic player and we must have great respect,” he said.

“But at the same time we must try to be excited to play this type of game and this challenge.

“We are talking about one of the best players in the world but, for sure, we have to work together, work with the team and not only with one player to try and stop him.

“Because I think that when we feel this type of challenge to man-mark [a player], Messi can become very dangerous.”

Source | The Guardian

Conte also said that his team must be “perfect” if they are to knock out Barcelona and they go into the game on the back of a 4-0 FA Cup win over Championship side Hull City.

Five talking points from Barca’s win over Eibar

Barcelona pass a tough test

Make no mistake this was a really, really tough game for Barca. Eibar came into the match in brilliant form and started the game quickly, forcing the visitors back.

It took a moment of brilliance from Lionel Messi to set up the opener and the sending off of Fabian Orellana helped, but to win 2-0 at Eibar is an excellent result.

Once again Barca were not at their brilliant best, but they had enough to dig out the win, keep yet another clean sheet and restore confidence after two La Liga draws.

Eibar v Barcelona - La Liga
Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Will Paulinho lose his place against Chelsea?

After a bright start to his Barcelona career, Paulinho has gone off the boil in recent weeks and Sunday was another muted showing.

It’s easy to predict most of Ernesto Valverde’s strongest starting lineup but there is a place in midfield up for grabs.

It won’t go to Philippe Coutinho against Chelsea, as he’s cup-tied, and it’s unlikely to go to Ousmane Dembele either as he didn’t even get off the bench against Eibar.

Which means it looks as if it’s between Paulinho, Andres Gomes, Aleix Vidal and Paco Alcacer as to who will start alongside Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta at Stamford Bridge.

Eibar v Barcelona - La Liga
Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Iniesta starting was a surprise

With Chelsea up next, a match Coutinho will sit out, most of us expected the Brazilian to start in midfield with the 33-year-old on the bench.

However, Valverde sent out Iniesta for his 19th La Liga outing of the season and he lasted 63 minutes before he was replaced by Coutinho.

One of the reasons Coutinho was brought in during January was supposedly to allow Iniesta to rest before the big games, something that didn’t really happen on Saturday.

Eibar v Barcelona - La Liga
Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Coutinho makes a difference

However, when Coutinho did arrive he did make a difference for Barcelona and had a hand in the second goal as he started the attack with a fine cross-field pass.

Coutinho looked far more comfortable out on the left and also set up a great chance for Messi which he surprisingly fired over the bar.

The Brazilian has not had perhaps the start to life at Barcelona that his transfer fee demands, but this was a really good showing from the 25-year-old.

Eibar v Barcelona - La Liga
Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Suarez looking sharp for Chelsea

It’s fair to say Luis Suarez has a bit of history with Chelsea, just ask Branislav Ivanovic, but he was on target again against Eibar with 17th La Liga goal of the season.

Interestingly, Suarez is yet to find the back of the net in the Champions League in this campaign but looks in great shape with 14 goals and five assists in his last 15 games.

Chelsea conceded eight goals in six games in the the group stages and Suarez might just fancy ending his European drought at Stamford Bridge.

Valverde hails ‘very important’ win for Barca

Ernesto Valverde said Barcelona’s 2-0 win over Eibar was “very important” as the team got back to winning ways in La Liga.

Barcelona went into the game on the back of draws against Getafe and Espanyol but took all three points to extend their lead at the top to 10 points.

Valverde admitted it had been a difficult test against a spirited Eibar side but was clearly delighted with the win.

“The victory today was very important for us after two consecutive draws. Everybody has problems here not just us.

“Atletico came here and they only won in the last few minutes and Eibar had plenty of chances in that game.

“They kept us in our half a lot, it was difficult to get over the pressure but when we did that we got in their area and scored.

“There were some difficult moments but that happens during the season. today we were able to overcome it.”

Source | FC Barcelona

Barcelona must now turn their attentions to the Champions League as they head to Chelsea on Tuesday for the first leg of their last 16 clash.

Busquets: We’ll go to Chelsea with confidence after Eibar win

Sergio Busquets said that Barcelona will go into Tuesday’s Champions League clash against Chelsea with confidence after beating Eibar 2-0 on Saturday.

It was a tough test for Barcelona with Eibar in good form and they only made the game safe late on when Jordi Alba made it 2-0.

Eibar were reduced to 10-men in the second half as Fabian Orellana saw red and Busquets admitted it had been a difficult afternoon.

“It’s true that we were a little uncomfortable during the game, but that’s the way Eibar set up,” he said.

”We knew that if we could overcome that first line of pressure, we would have chances. We didn’t have lots of possession, though, and it took a long time to kill the game off but we didn’t suffer too much, either.

”Now we go to Stamford Bridge with confidence, in terms of results the season has been very good. But what’s been done so far doesn’t mean anything, we know that it’s going to be really tough, that we have to be intelligent and that the tie lasts 180 minutes.”

Source | Sport

The win should give Barca confidence, particularly as it ended a run of two consecutive draws in La Liga. However, Ernesto Valverde also picked a really strong team which means players only have three days to recover before they are in action again.

Eibar made us suffer a lot, says Alba

Barcelona left-back Jordi Alba admitted Eibar made Ernesto Valverde’s side “suffer” as the visitors claimed a 2-0 win on Saturday.

Eibar came into the game in good form and put in a spirited showing as they forced Barcelona back.

However, Luis Suarez put Barcelona ahead and then Eibar were reduced to 10 men after Fabian Orellana was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Alba made the game safe late on but admitted it had been a tough test at Ipurua.

“Eibar are a very difficult team who know how to play and make it difficult for you,” he said.

“I am very happy with the goal and the win. It’s clear that we suffered a lot at the start of the match.”

“Mendilibar was defending his player and I’m not going to get involve. That’s the referee’s job. After the sending off we had more calm, although they still pushed a lot.”

Source | Sport

Barcelona may not have been at their best against Eibar, but it was still an impressive result at a really tough away ground and the unbeaten run continues.

Messi equals another record as he hits the woodwork yet again

Lionel Messi is no stranger to picking up records and he was at it yet again as he was denied by the woodwork against Eibar.

The Argentine looked set to make it 2-0 in the first half when he fired at goal from a tight angle but once again saw the ball hit the frame of the goal.

Opta show just how many times he has been denied by the woodwork already this season.

Despite that, Messi did finish the game with an assist which ensures he remains top of the charts in La Liga for both goals and assists.

He is, though, overdue a goal as Messi has not scored in any of his last five games, his last goal coming in the 2-1 win over Alaves.

Barca equal Pep’s unbeaten record against Eibar

Barcelona equalled a club record on Saturday after they saw off Eibar 2-0 in La Liga.

Goals from Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba secured the win for Barca in a really tough game against Eibar.

The win means that Barca have now gone 31 games unbeaten in La Liga, equalling the record set by Pep’s team in 2011.

Barcelona now have the chance to break that record next weekend when they welcome Girona to Camp Nou on Saturday.

Valverde talks Pique, Messi and Iniesta ahead of Eibar clash

Ernesto Valverde has been in the hotseat taking questions from the press ahead of tomorrow’s La Liga clash with Eibar.

The Barcelona boss didn’t give much away, insisting his side were focused on Eibar and not thinking about the Champions League clash with Chelsea yet.

Here are the best bits…

Valverde on Eibar

They are in good form at the moment. They had a poor start to the season but since then they have got into good rhythm and are in good form. They have a very distinct way of playing. They are not in the European places, but almost, and apart from that what they have is a way of playing and they know exactly what they are doing. It’s difficult to play aginst. They are very intense, they put a lot of crosses in. You have to know how to get around that pressure and try to hurt them.

Valverde on team selection

Tomorrow’s game is important, Tuesday’s is important too. But the only thing we are thinking about is tomorrow’s game. We needed this week to give us a bit of a break. Now we have to start again. We are not thinking about Tuesday’s game. After the Getafe match it’s even more important.

Valverde on Vermaelen and Pique

I will wait for the training session with regards to Pique, but he was available last week so we imagine he will be available. With Vermaelen we have to wait, if there’s any kind of doubt we won’t risk him.

Valverde on Iniesta to China

If that happens then we will think about it but I have nothing to say about that because I haven’t even thought about it. I can’t comment on every story that comes out. Andres is our player, he will train a bit later today. We want him to stay with us, play more games and score more goals which is what he does.

Valverde on Coutinho and Dembele

Good players show what they can do on the field. We are in the decisive phase of the season and of course if they can do it then we’re going to be happy. But Dembele has had two injuries, Coutinho has just joined the team. What is clear is that we want them to help us.

Valverde on Argentina asking Messi to rest

I have faith in everyone, above all in Leo, who is our player, and I know his ambition is to win everything for Barca and then for then national team We want Leo in his best form for us and for them.

Valverde on Eibar’s pitch

The clear question is we have to adapt to the stadium, the size of the pitch, their style of play. The fact is that the ground is a little bit smaller or is a bit narrow. I think we’re used to that because we’ve played on small pitches before. It’s true they take advantage of playing at home because they put you under pressure and it’s difficult to get out of. At the end of the day they try and make you play they way they want you to. We have to try and get over that.

Valverde on having a week’s rest

We needed this week off, on a mental level more than a physical one. When you have more time before games, it’s easier to manage them and prepare for them. This midweek break has come at a good time for us, having a few days off to rest mentally from the drain of fighting to get to the Copa del Rey final. I would have liked to play against Eibar on Friday, too, to have an extra day before the game against Chelsea.

Willian’s Barca comments unlikely to impress Chelsea

Chelsea winger Willian has come up with some pretty interesting comments about Barcelona ahead of the clash between the two sides in the Champions League.

Barca head to Stamford Bridge for the first leg of their last 16 tie on Tuesday and Willian reckons it would be a dream to play in La Liga for either Barca or Real Madrid.

“They are the two biggest clubs in the world [Real and Barcelona], they are the clubs with the most visibility, it is everybody’s dream, of course there are other big clubs, there are Bayern, PSG, but these two [Barça and Real] are different,” he said.

Source | UOL

Willian was linked with moves to Barcelona and Manchester United at the end of last year but responded by coming out and saying he was happy at Chelsea.

However, the Brazilian has not been first choice for the Blues this season. He has started only two Champions League games and 13 times in the Premier League. He does though remain an important member of the squad and a move to Barcelona or Madrid looks pretty unlikely right now.

Yet his comments are unlikely to impress manager Antonio Conte too much, particularly ahead of what is a huge clash for both clubs.