Sergi Roberto

Barcelona
Photo by Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Images

With Messi’s set pieces, Barcelona finds a way to get back on track

Leave a comment

MADRID — Under pressure and needing a victory, Barcelona didn’t mind leaving aside its ball-possession game for a while.

It was with set pieces that the team salvaged a crucial win this weekend to get back on track after a turbulent start to the year under coach Quique Setién.

Lionel Messi had three assists – two from free kicks – as Barcelona twice came from behind to defeat Real Betis 3-2 in Seville on Sunday. The victory kept the Catalan club three points behind Spanish league leader Real Madrid, which earlier had won 4-1 at Osasuna.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Barcelona didn’t fully abandon its traditional passing game, but it only got the goals it needed at Benito Villamarín Stadium thanks to the set pieces. The team was losing 2-1 when Messi found Sergio Busquets inside the area for the equalizer just before halftime, and after the break it was a header from Clement Lenglet off another cross from Messi that gave Barcelona the win.

“What hurts the most is that their team can score a thousand different ways but we conceded two goals from free kicks far from the area,” Real Betis coach Rubi said.

Barcelona continued to improve despite the narrow victory, relieving some of the pressure over Setién since he replaced Ernesto Valverde at the beginning of the year.

“We’ve played more games and had more time to practice under him,” Barcelona midfielder Sergi Roberto said. “After a change, you always need some time to adapt, but it’s a lot easier to work after victories.”

Next for Barcelona will be a league game at home against third-place Getafe, which has been playing some of the best soccer in Spain recently.

GETAFE’S RUN

Getafe again has become the sensation of the Spanish league.

For the second straight season, the modest club from southern Madrid is hanging around near the top of the standings, contending for a Champions League spot and outplaying some more traditional Spanish teams.

Getafe is in third place after 23 matches, ahead of Atlético Madrid, Sevilla and Valencia. It trails second-place Barcelona by seven points and Real Madrid by 10.

“It’s a tough team to beat,” Valencia coach Albert Celades said. “It plays very solidly on defense and it doesn’t concede many goals. When a team is in third place like that, it’s because it does a lot of things well, there is no doubt about that.”

Valencia was Getafe’s latest victim on Saturday, routed 3-0. In the previous round, Getafe had won 2-0 at Athletic Bilbao.

Getafe was in contention for a Champions League spot until the end of last season, holding on to fourth place until being overcome by Valencia with two rounds to go. It will face Ajax in the round of 32 of this season’s Europa League.

EFFECTIVE STRIKERS

Real Sociedad’s Alexander Isak and Espanyol’s Raúl de Tomás have been among the hottest strikers in Europe.

Isak has scored eight goals in his last six games, including one in Sociedad’s 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Basque Country derby in the Spanish league on Sunday. A few days earlier he had scored twice in the team’s stunning 4-3 win at Real Madrid in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

The 20-year-old Isak, who already plays for Sweden’s national team, joined Sociedad from Borussia Dortmund last year.

De Tomás, Espanyol’s most expensive transfer after joining from Benfica in January, has scored in each of his first five matches with the Barcelona club. His latest goal was a 58th-minute winner against Granada on Sunday, giving his team its first home victory in the Spanish league this season.

He was signed for a reported 20 million euros ($21.9 million) plus add-ons, surpassing the nearly 10 million euros ($10.9 million) the Spanish club had paid for Matías Vargas last year.

The 25-year-old de Tomás has a contract with Espanyol until 2026. He used to play in the youth squads of Real Madrid before joining second-division club Rayo Vallecano on a loan. He was eventually sold to Benfica for 20 million euros ($21.9 million).

Messi scores 50th Copa del Rey goal as Barca advances

AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
Leave a comment

Nearly every time Barcelona shows a bit of vulnerability, it beats the very notion back in a big way.

It was no different Wednesday, when the Blaugranas responded to a second successive first leg deficit in the Copa Del Rey by clobbering Sevilla 6-1.

Yes, that Sevilla. La Liga’s regular Top Four challengers, the ones who shut out Barca in the first leg and have allowed just 14 goals in 21 league matches.

[ RECAP: Liverpool 1-1 Leicester ]

Down 2-0 after one leg in Seville, Barca piledrove the visitors at the Camp Nou in the home leg. After Ever Banega saw a first half penalty kick saved by Jesper Cillesen, denying Sevilla an equalizer, Barca broke loose.

Lionel Messi was again the catalyst. In the Round of 16, he sat out the first leg against Levante and recorded a goal and an assist in the second leg.

This time, he again returned after sitting out the first leg. Messi drew the penalty that led to Philippe Coutinho‘s opener, set up Sergi Roberto for the goal that made it 4-0, then capped off the scoring in stoppage time.

It was his 50th goal in the tournament, breaking a tie for fifth all-time with legendary Ferenc Puskas. He needs 31 to catch Telmo Zarra’s improbable record set in 1957.

Coutinho scored twice, Luis Suarez had a goal and an assist, and Jordi Alba recorded two assists. Arthur assisted a goal by Ivan Rakitic.

Barcelona ships four goals in loss to Real Betis

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The top of the La Liga table is nowhere near straightforward this season.

Barcelona failed to build a gap at the summit as they fall 4-3 at home against Real Betis on Sunday. Lionel Messi scored twice in his return from a broken arm, but was unable to overcome a multitude of defensive mistakes.

Junior Firpo, Joaquin, Giovani Lo Celso, and Sergio Canales all found the scoresheet for the visitors at the Camp Nou as they routed the Barcelona back line.

The first came from 22-year-old Firpo in the 20th minute who finished with his right foot one-on-one against Sergi Roberto after a brilliant long-distance feed from William Carvalho. Barcelona would fall 2-0 behind before halftime as Clément Lenglet whiffed attempting to clear a cross that skittered across the face of goal, and with the defenders all sucked towards net by the fast paced counter-attack, Cristian Tello cut the ball back into the middle where Joaquin was waiting to finish with a nifty little flick. Messi brought Barcelona a goal back from the penalty spot past the hour mark, but Giovani Lo Celso found space in the box just three minutes later and powered it home past Marc-Andre ter Stegen who got a touch.

Arturo Vidal again drew Barcelona within one before Betis would find the ultimate winning goal in the 83rd minute in a vicious flurry. Betis forced ter Stegen to come off his line and make a smothering save near the left post, which he did before booting the chance clear. It came right back at the Barcelona defense, however, as a streaking Junior Firpo cannoned the ball across the face of goal where Sergio Canales split Lenglet and Roberto with a sliding finish.

Barcelona’s defense has suffered greatly in the absence of Samuel Umtiti, who was unable to return from his knee injury in time to be fit for the match against Real Betis, having missed nearly six weeks. Lenglet has filled in during Umtiti’s absence, and Barcelona has conceded nine goals over the last four matches with the understudy in the lineup. Thomas Vermaelen has also been absent with a hamstring injury suffered after he played 90 minutes against Valencia in early October.

With the loss, Barcelona holds just a one-point lead over Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, and Alaves at the top of the La Liga table, with Espanyol three points back and Real Madrid still seven points behind.

AT THE HALF: Barcelona down to 10 men, tied 1-1 with Real Madrid

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sergi Roberto was the most involved player on the field during the first half of Sunday’s El Clasico clash between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou.

[ MORE: Wenger speaks, bids farewell to Emirates after final home game ]

The 26-year-old whipped in a delightful cross for Luis Suarez to hammer home the game’s opening goal in the 10th minute, before seeing a straight red card for a slap to the face of Marcelo during first-half stoppage time.

[ MORE: Klopp admits Champions League run taking toll on Liverpool ]

In between Roberto’s assist and red card, only five minutes after the opening goal, Cristiano Ronaldo drew Madrid level with a tap-in to finish a beautiful crafted sequence inside Barca’s penalty area.

With 45 minutes left to play, Los Blancos represent the Blaugrana‘s final major hurdle of the season as the latter closes in on the first-ever unbeaten, 38-game La Liga season.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Coutinho to Barcelona, Roberto to Man United

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With Barcelona frantically looking to replace Neymar before the window closes, Philippe Coutinho remains their top priority, and while it still seems unlikely, they are taking a “never say never” stance, according to Spanish journalist Guillem Balague.

According to Balague’s reports on Twitter, Liverpool is still refusing to sell at any price, having already officially rejected an offer of $94 million in as little as 45 minutes after it was received. Barcelona knows that the best way to push Liverpool to act is player pressure, and Balague reports they already have a deal hammered out with Coutinho, although that seems hard to believe because it would almost certainly have enraged the Reds for tapping up.

It seems likely that the only way Barcelona can get Liverpool to sell is if Coutinho were to ask for the transfer himself, because the Reds are holding their ground to keep their best player.


According to a report by The Sun, Bayern Munich is hoping to test Tottenham Hotspur over the availability of midfielder Eric Dier.

It’s hard to see Spurs chairman Daniel Levy allowing Dier to leave after cashing in on Kyle Walker, especially after the club already rebuffed Manchester United for Dier earlier in the summer. Bayern apparently hopes that Spurs turned United down after not wanting to sell to a league rival, and that they’d have a better chance of securing the England international with a move out of the Premier League.

Spurs have been criticized this summer for failing to bring in reinforcements, with in-house replacement Kieran Trippier set to replace Walker. Therefore, it’s tough to envision Dier being successfully pried away.


With Manchester United unable to grab Dier from Spurs, they seem to be targeting another midfielder in Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto. According to Spanish outlet Don Balon, the Red Devils are considering triggering Roberto’s release clause of $47 million.

United is hoping to cash in on the chance that Barcelona could bump Roberto down the depth chart if they replace Neymar with another midfielder. In addition, Roberto was often a scapegoat for some of Barcelona’s failures last season, and he might be available for departure should a team want to pay up.

The 25-year-old is under contract at Barcelona until 2019, but should Manchester United trigger the release clause, that would not matter, as they found out in the Neymar saga. The Red Devils reportedly would face competition from Chelsea and Roma.


Chelsea have been told there is “no chance” they will sign Juventus full-back Alex Sandro.

Old Lady boss Massimiliano Allegri said after a friendly in London against Tottenham, that, “Alex Sandro is a Juventus player and he will stay one.” When asked again, he said “no chance.”

Sandro was linked with Chelsea after a stellar season at Juventus where he helped the club reach the Champions League final. The Blues seemed like a perfect landing spot with Sandro excelling in a three-CB system at Juventus, the same system that Conte plays at Stamford Bridge.