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La Liga: Barca’s 31-game unbeaten run ties longest in club history

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ FA CUP: Man United advance, drawn against PL opposition in QF ]

Eibar 0-2 Barcelona

Barcelona, the last remaining unbeaten side from Europe’s five major domestic leagues, warmed up for Tuesday’s Champions League round-of-16 clash with Chelsea by dismantling seventh-place Eibar side away from home on Saturday and extending their unbeaten run to 31 games in the league, tying the club’s all-time record in the process.

The Blaugrana took the lead after 15 minutes, when Lionel Messi slotted an inch-perfect through ball for Luis Suarez who rounded the goalkeeper and slotted home (WATCH HERE) for his 17th league goal of the season (20 in all competitions).

Messi played his part in Barca’s second goal, which came three minutes before full-time. The Argentine’s shot was initially saved, but Jordi Alba arrived on the scene moments later to clean up and finish off the 10-man Basque minnows.

The victory sends Barca 10 points clear of second-place Atletico Madrid, who play on Sunday, and 20 points clear of fourth-place Real Madrid, who have played two fewer games thus far.

Malaga 1-2 Valencia

Valencia, who spent the majority of the season’s first half as Barca’s nearest title rivals (while never really challenging), fell to third when they recently lost three straight league games, but have since regained their footing with back-to-back wins, including Saturday’s come-from-behind triumph away to last-place Malaga.

Brown Ideye put Malaga ahead just before the half-hour mark, a lead which remained intact for more than 50 minutes. Alas, Francis Coquelin bagged his first goal for Valencia in the 80th minute to draw level, followed by a penalty kick converted by Dani Parejo five minutes later.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 1-2 Sevilla
Alaves 1-0 Deportivo La Coruña

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Real Sociedad vs. Levante — 6 a.m. ET
Atletico Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao — 10:15 a.m. ET
Espanyol vs. Villarreal — 12:30 p.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Real Madrid — 2:45 p.m. ET

WATCH: Suarez to Coutinho, and it’s Barca into the Copa del Rey Final

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Liverpool supporters will be familiar with both ends of Barcelona’s Copa del Rey Final-berth clinching duo.

Philippe Coutinho slid to meet a Luis Suarez cross just after halftime of Barca’s 2-0 second leg semifinal win over Valencia, as the Blaugranas aim for their fourth-straight Cup.

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Ivan Rakitic scored Barca’s other goal, with the tie ending 3-0 on aggregate.

The goal is Coutinho’s first for Barcelona, coming in his fifth match with the club following a big money transfer from Liverpool.

Barca will face Sevilla in the April 21 final.

Arsenal’s Francis Coquelin joins Valencia

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Francis Coquelin has swapped Arsenal for Valencia.

[ MORE: Pulisic to Liverpool, Man United?

The combative midfielder arrived in England in 2008 after catching Arsene Wenger‘s eye at Laval as a teenager, but after a decade at Arsenal he has signed for La Liga side Valencia.

It is believed Arsenal agreed a fee of $16.2 million for the French midfielder who spent spells on loan at Charlton Athletic, Lorient and Freiburg during his time in north London.

Per the official release from Valencia, Coquelin has signed a contract until the summer of 2022 and has a release clause of $96 million.

Coquelin, 26, has become a cult hero at Arsenal over the past few years as his tough tackling displays in midfield helped the Gunners to win the FA Cup in 2015 and 2017 and his steely determination was lauded by fans.

However this season he has made just seven appearances for Arsenal in the Premier League and will be joining a Valencia side battling for the La Liga title as they sit 11 points behind leaders Barcelona but well in the hunt for a return to the UEFA Champions League.

Coquelin’s departure is yet another indication that central midfielder Jack Wilshere will extend his stay at Arsenal beyond this summer as his current contract runs out on July 1.

Apart from Wilshere, the Gunners have a plethora of midfield options with Granit Xhaka, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey plus emerging talents Ainsley-Matiland Niles and Krystian Bielik coming through.

This deal works out well for everyone at Coquelin has certainly improved massively since 2015 when he was given a run in the first team after a successful loan spell at Charlton.

Valencia falls to Getafe despite 65-minute man advantage

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Barcelona just got an early Christmas gift in the La Liga title race.

A lackluster performance by Valencia on the road at Getafe saw the visitors fall 1-0 despite a red card to Getafe midfielder Mauro Arambarri in just the 25th minute. Valencia held 68% possession but only out-shot the home side 13-11, 6-3 on target.

Arambarri committed two yellow-card offenses within a four-minutes span, seeing him off before the half-hour mark. After finding themselves a man down, Getafe resorted to a foul-heavy strategy, committing 18 fouls in the match.

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Markel Bergara was the man to pull off the upset as his speculative shot from outside the top of the box, and it took a heavy deflection off a Valencia defender and slipped into the top corner past Neto for the lead.

The loss means Barcelona extends its lead to five points despite a draw with Celta Vigo on Saturday. Valencia also remains just three points above Real Madrid despite their 0-0 draw to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday. Atletico Madrid also sits just two points of behind Valencia.

Barcelona manager pushes for VAR after missed Messi goal

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It’s funny how nobody pushes for these things until the bad things happen to them.

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde is suddenly a proponent of VAR and goal-line technology after a missed call cost Lionel Messi a goal and possibly cost Barcelona two points.

“I think we all agree that in these plays so evident, the topic of VAR is not about re-refereeing the games, but it was clear that it had crossed and that we are still with this issues puts us on the spot,” he said after the match. “The other day against Malaga there was a ball that went out, we scored and it benefited us.”

What’s more, this incident took place just weeks after the La Liga president announced that the league would institute VAR next season after being vehemently against it for some time, claiming it was too expensive.

“Next season there will be VAR in La Liga, without a doubt,” said league president Javier Tebas on November 14th. “We are making lots of progress in meetings about it right now and it will be ready very soon.”

Barcelona could have taken a commanding six-point lead at the top of the table that would have given them much more room for error, but instead they sit just four points above Valencia, unable to gain any cushion.