Frenkie de Jong

Barcelona survives Copa del Rey scare
Photo by JAIME REINA/AFP via Getty Images

Griezmann’s second half brace saves Barcelona from shock upset in Ibiza

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Like a college kid on Spring Break, Barcelona vastly underestimated the power of Ibiza.

One of the biggest clubs in the world had loads of trouble in its Copa del Rey Round of 32 meeting at UD Ibiza on Wednesday.

Barcelona barely got past the third-tier side thanks to two Antoine Griezmann goals and a comeback 2-1 win at the Estadi Municipal de Can Misses.

UD Ibiza playing in a 5,000-seat stadium, took a ninth-minute lead and had more shot attempts as late as the 65th minute. New manager Quique Setien was left to sweat it out.

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Somewhat fitting that a man named Pep got the early goal. Josep Caballe Martin has more yellow cards than goals in Segunda B this season.

Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, and an injured Luis Suarez were among the players left behind, but this wasn’t a massively depleted Barcelona side. Arturo Vidal and Jordi Alba were brought off the bench.

Frenkie de Jong set up Griezmann for a 72nd minute equalizer, and Griezmann added his second off an Alba feed in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

La Liga roundup: Last-place Espanyol equal Barcelona late in Catalan Derby

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Espanyol’s thrilling, late draw against cross-town rival Barcelona highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Espanyol 2-2 Barcelona

With a late goal from Wu Lei, Espanyol pulled off a stunning 2-2 derby draw against league leaders and rival Barcelona, who failed to regain their two-point lead at the top of La Liga on Saturday at RCDE Stadium.

Luis Suarez leveled the score with a right-footed, leaping volley in the 50th minute and assisted Arturo Vidal only nine minutes later with a superlative outside-of-the-boot cross well within the box. The Uruguayan ace has either scored or assisted in Barcelona’s last 10 league goals.

Espanyol, playing under newly-appointed manager Abelardo for the first time ever, made it difficult to believe that it was a derby between the best team in the Spanish league against the worst. Los Periquitos came out confident and poised, drawing first blood 23 minutes after David Lopez’s zoomed passed Neto.

The hosts went into halftime up a goal, and even though Barcelona benefited from Arturo Vidal’s inclusion, Espanyol fought back.

Chinese star Lei sent the home fans over the moon after striking the back of the net against a Frenkie de Jong-less, 10-man Barcelona with a minute to play in regular time.

With only a goal differential advantage on Real Madrid, Barcelona host Atletico Madrid on Thursday in the Supercopa semifinal. Espanyol, on the other hand, look to carry their positive momentum to their second round Copa del Rey bout in a weeks time.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Getafe 0-3 Real Madrid

Valencia 1-0 Eibar 

Atletico Madrid 2-1 Levante

El Clasico: Deadlocked Barca, Real aim to seize control of La Liga

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A wonderful Wednesday of football will see El Clasico served up to a public that’s been waiting a few extra weeks for the celebrated meeting of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Barcelona and Real Madrid are set for a 2 p.m. ET Wednesday El Clasico at the Camp Nou in Catalonia, where the jailing of nine Catalan separatists caused an initial postponement.

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Both teams on a league-high 35 points and Barca ahead on goal differential.

Real failed to seize a measure of control in the race for first place when it drew Valencia on Sunday, a day after Barca did the same against Real Sociedad.

Don’t blame Lionel Messi for Barca’s slip-up. He remains the highest-rated player in the world at age 32, with 12 goals and six assists in 901 league minutes.

Frenkie de Jong had admired Messi from afar, but having him as a teammate elevates that respect.

“Everyone knows how important Messi is to us,” De Jong said. “It’s no longer surprising if he scores three goals in a match. He’s so much better than the rest. Any team that faces Messi is always more nervous, I would be too.”

Even with Real Madrid’s defending as good as it’s been in ages, manager Zinedine Zidane admits that the Argentine remains the biggest X-factor in El Clasico.

“We know what we’re facing, we know they have Messi, but we also have our weapons,” Zidane said. “We want to play a good match against Barcelona, who also hope to do the same.”

Zidane’s counterpart Ernesto Valverde knows he has some players making their El Clasico debut. While Antoine Griezmann is used to mixing it up in derbies versus Real from his time at Atleti, De Jong will experience it for the first time.

“It’s a game that is has something different about it and it is played at a different pace,” Valverde said. “They will experience it first hand. You can tell it is a Clásico from the players’ tunnel before you come out.”

Barca is unbeaten in its last six Clasicos.

WATCH: Luis Suarez delivers one-of-a-kind back-heel goal

Luis Suarez to Miami
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At 32 years of age and with a 15-year career behind him, Luis Suarez has scored some emphatic goals.

On Saturday, however, he painted a fine piece of art, a goal that became an instant classic the moment the ball came off of his backheel. With Barcelona already up 3-1 against RCD Mallorca, Ernesto Valverde’s men continued to push forward, comfortably and strategically ping-ponging the ball around the defensive-oriented visitors.

And then Frenkie de Jong found the ball at the top of the box.

The Dutch international smoothly placed a through ball, finding Suarez, who with precision and expertise that only he has, belted the ball into the bottom-right corner of Manolo Reina’s goal.

It’s only December, but the Uruguayan’s goal is an automatic La Liga goal of the season contender:

UEFA announce Champions League player awards

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UEFA named its best goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and forward during the 2018-19 Champions League season, as two Liverpool stars were named the best in their positions.

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Alisson Becker was named the goalkeeper of the season and Virgil Van Dijk was named the best defender after their heroic displays on the way to the Reds winning the UCL trophy last season.

Frenkie de Jong scooped the midfielder award after his displays for Ajax before heading to Barcelona this summer, and his new Barca teammate Lionel Messi picked up the forward of the year award.

Goalkeeper: Alisson Becker

Defender: Virgil van Dijk

Midfielder: Frenkie de Jong

Forward: Lionel Messi