Ivan Rakitić

Barcelona Athletic Bilbao
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La Liga: Barcelona wins late, Atleti strengthens hold on third

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The phrase “better lucky than good” can still apply on occasion to the best player in the world.

[ MORE: Messi contract details, transfer rumors ]

On a day that Lionel Messi registered five key passes, a lucky bounce off his shin set up Ivan Rakitic up for Barca’s breakthrough to send the reigning champions back atop the table.

Atletico Madrid also won on Tuesday, while Getafe’s UCL hopes took a big hit with a surprising draw at Real Valladolid.


Barcelona 1-0 Athletic Bilbao

A fortuitous bounce turned into a Lionel Messi assist and Ivan Rakitic goal as Barcelona responded to Real Madrid’s Monday win with a 1-0 win against Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.

Real hosts Mallorca on Wednesday and can retake the table advantage with a win.

The Blaugranas appeared snakebit again days after drawing Sevilla 0-0 and handing control of La Liga’s title race to Real, who has the first tiebreaker after taking four of six Clasico points this year.

[ MORE: Run-ins for Barcelona, Real ]

Barca outshot Athletic 18-6 and Messi was again a force, four of his five key passes leading to squandered opportunities before Rakitic’s moment. Quique Setien is going to ride Messi, who’s gone 90 minutes four times in 11 days.

Messi might’ve run onto the bounce anyway, but it was the Croatian super sub who got the match-winner with his first goal of the season.

Levante 0-1 Atletico Madrid

Sitting an unsightly sixth heading into the coronavirus pause, Diego Simeone’s men have now claimed 10 of 12 available points while allowing just two goals and scoring eight.

Tuesday’s goal came via a Bruno Gonzalez own goal, sending Atleti two points clear of Sevilla and six ahead of fifth-place Getafe.

Don’t doubt Diego’s ability to find a place in the UCL.

Real Valladolid 1-1 Getafe

A setback for the visitors and a firm step toward safety for the hosts, as Valladolid is now eight points clear of the drop zone and Getafe slips four points back of the top four. Jaime Mata gave Getafe a 41st-minute lead, but Enes Unal scored his sixth of the season before halftime.

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Barcelona 31 21 5 5 70 31 39 15-1-0 6-4-5 68
 Real Madrid 30 19 8 3 57 21 36 11-4-0 8-4-3 65
 Atlético Madrid 31 14 13 4 39 22 17 9-5-1 5-8-3 55
 Sevilla 31 14 11 6 44 32 12 7-6-2 7-5-4 53
 Getafe 31 13 10 8 40 29 11 7-6-3 6-4-5 49
 Villarreal 31 14 6 11 49 40 9 7-5-3 7-1-8 48
 Real Sociedad 30 14 5 11 47 38 9 8-3-4 6-2-7 47
 València 30 12 10 8 41 43 -2 9-7-0 3-3-8 46
 Granada 31 12 7 12 37 36 1 9-2-4 3-5-8 43
 Athletic Club 31 10 12 9 33 27 6 8-4-3 2-8-6 42
 Levante 31 11 5 15 37 44 -7 7-4-4 4-1-11 38
 Osasuna 30 8 11 11 35 46 -11 5-5-5 3-6-6 35
 Alavés 30 9 8 13 31 45 -14 7-5-3 2-3-10 35
 Betis 30 8 10 12 40 48 -8 7-4-4 1-6-8 34
 Valladolid 31 7 13 11 26 36 -10 3-9-3 4-4-8 34
 Celta Vigo 30 6 12 12 28 35 -7 5-5-5 1-7-7 30
 Eibar 30 7 8 15 31 47 -16 6-2-7 1-6-8 29
 Mallorca 30 7 5 18 29 50 -21 6-3-7 1-2-11 26
 Leganés 31 5 10 16 23 44 -21 4-4-8 1-6-8 25
 Espanyol 30 5 9 16 26 49 -23 2-5-8 3-4-8 24

Transfer rumor roundup: Spurs lead race for Rakitic; Juve-Barca talk swap

Rakitic
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Sunday’s transfer rumor mill churns out beneficial news for a player Jose Mourinho believes is one of the very best center midfielders are on Earth (He’s not wrong).

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

A report out of Spain’s Mundo Deportivo says Tottenham has pulled in front of a pack of chasers in the race to sign Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona.

Rakitic, 32, has another season on his contract and Spurs are said to be best suited to land him due to Juventus preferring a younger player and Atletico less willing to give a longer contract.

The Swiss-born Croatian has 106 international caps with 15 goals and is one appearance away from making his 300th in a Barcelona shirt.

He won the Europa League with Sevilla in 2014 before claiming the Champions League with Barca one year later. Rakitic’s minutes and attacking numbers have taken a hit this season, as 11 of his 21 La Liga appearances have come off the bench.

Other unrelated reports have linked Tanguy Ndombele with a move in the other direction. Spurs would do well to act regardless of Ndombele’s destination, depending on the length of the deal for Rakitic. If he’s not a contract albatross in four years time, Spurs will have a valuable asset in their race to rejoin the UCL elite.

But would Daniel Levy be willing to sanction a higher salary for an older player? That will be key here.

Marca has two aforementioned clubs in an interesting swap deal, where Barcelona would acquire Miralem Pjanic from Juventus in exchange for Arthur.

The 30-year-old Pjanic has again been a key player for Juventus, scoring three times with two assists in 22 Serie A appearances.

Arthur, 23, has played much less at Barcelona and it would be a symptom of its sick if they cast him aside despite strong play in limited use.

The defensive midfielder has chimed in with three goals and three assists in 700 fewer minutes. He’s missed nine La Liga games with various injuries this season.

Pjanic would certainly fit the bill of a Barca quality player but Juventus would make out like a bandit here, as Arthur has barely begun an already impressive career.

In the same report, Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici said he expects very few clubs will be able to afford Paul Pogba after the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and that Gianluigi Buffalo and Giorgio Chiellini will spend another year with The Old Lady.

Rakitic hits out at Barcelona for trying to force him out

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Ivan Rakitic has joined the quickly growing chorus of critics to hit out at Barcelona over a perceived lack of institutional control and direction.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Saturday ]

The crux of Rakitic’s gripe is the manner in which he felt he was nearly forced out of the club last summer. When Neymar made it clear he would like to leave Paris Saint-Germain and return to Catalonia, the Barca brass were quick to toss Rakitic’s name into a potential swap deal, though the 32-year-old Croat has now made it abundantly clear he would have never signed off on such a deal — quotes from the Guardian:

“I understand the situation but I’m not a sack of potatoes who you can do anything with. I want to be somewhere I feel wanted and respected. If that’s here then I’ll be delighted, but if it’s somewhere else then I’ll be the one who decides where, not anyone else.”

“Last year was the best of the six I’ve had here and I was annoyed with how I was treated. I was very surprised and I didn’t understand it. The results have not been the best and I haven’t played much, that is why I felt hurt.

“I had a very strange first half of the season, it was very uncomfortable and surprising for me. But I hope I can finish this last year of my contract.”

With just one year left on his contract, Rakitic will be 33 when he can move anywhere on a free transfer in the summer of 2021. Following the arrival of Frenkie de Jong from Ajax last summer, Rakitic’s playing time has plummeted from nearly an every-game starter to now starting only 10 of 27 La Liga matches this season.

El Clasico: Barcelona triumphant at Real Madrid’s Bernabeu (again)

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Barcelona heaped more shame and embarrassment upon Real Mardid on Saturday, beating Los Blancos at the Santiago Bernabeu for the second time in four days.

[ MORE: Man City win, lose KDB | Man United come back, beat Southampton ]

In doing so, Barca became the first side to ever win four straight league games over Madrid at the Bernabeu (last home win over Barca: Oct. 25, 2014). Saturday’s result makes it six straight league meetings without a victory for Madrid (last win: April 2, 2016).

Ivan Rakitic scored the only goal of the game (WATCH HERE), assisted by Sergi Roberto, chipping the ball over a hopeless Thibaut Courtois in the 26th minute.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview: Merseyside, west London derbies on tap ]

Wednesday’s 3-0 victory in the Spanish capital sent the Blaugrana through to a seventh straight appearance in the Copa del Rey final, and even more satisfyingly came at the expense of their bitter rivals.

Barcelona look almost certain to go on and win a second straight La Liga title (and fourth in five seasons), as they now lead second-place Atletico Madrid, who play on Sunday, by 10 points. Meanwhile, the gap between El Clasico rivals is now a dozen points.

Messi’s fantastic side-volley keys 50th hat trick, Barca comeback (video)

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There is only one Lionel Messi, which in itself is a rare argument in favor of cloning.

Barcelona twice trailed Sevilla on Saturday in one of its last real tests of the league season, and Messi scored thrice and assisted Luis Suarez in a 4-2 comeback win that stretched its table lead to 10 points.

[ MORE: Almiron stars for Newcastle ]

The hat trick? No. 50 for his career.

Nbd.

Six of those three-goal days came with Argentina, while the other 44 arrived with Messi in a blaugrana shirt. He’s also now scored 650 career goals for club and country.

The best, and a pretty good cross from Ivan Rakitic. It’s nice to have someone of his ilk as a playmaker.