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La Liga: UD Almeria 0-2 FC Barcelona: Match Review

A recap of Barcelona's 2-0 La Liga win over UD Almeria, as goals from Lionel Messi and Adriano Correia handed Barcelona their seventh successive La Liga victory

FC Barcelona cruised to a 2-0 away victory against Almeria on Saturday evening, as goals from Lionel Messi and Adriano Correia secured Barça’s seventh straight La Liga win. This streak represents Barcelona’s best-ever start to a La Liga season, but it will be somewhat overshadowed by news of Lionel Messi’s injury. As of yet, there is no suggestion as to the severity of the injury, but it will be a concern for Culés nonetheless.






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Argentine coach Gerardo Martino continued to make full-use of his star-studded squad, dropping regular starters Neymar and Xavi Hernández to the bench as Barcelona keep one eye on their pivotal UEFA Champions League clash with Celtic. Of course, the Scottish Premier League champions shocked the world with an incredible victory over the Blaugrana in last season’s group stage, so it isn’t surprising to see Martino prioritise that clash ahead of this match with lowly Almeria. After all, the starting line-up would surely secure the three points without Xavi and Neymar right?

As expected, Barcelona started the match strongly, forcing Almeria onto the back-foot early as they piled on the pressure in search of an opening goal. For the most part, that early pressure was a little chaotic – without Xavi on the field, this wasn’t your usual build-up; instead it was a little less predictable, and I mean that in a negative fashion. Predictable build-up play does have its downsides, but how can the attack take up the right positions if they don’t know how or where the ball is going to be played?

Cue a bunch of wild shots from Dani Alves, Pedro and Adriano. Not one of these shots was particularly dangerous, or even the right choice really – only Andrés Iniesta’s shot in the fifth minute caused the Almeria defense some bother. Iniesta might not be renowned for his shooting (despite his famous goals against Chelsea and Holland) but this was a great effort, as last season’s UEFA Best Player in Europe tested Esteban’s resolve with a swerving long-range strike.

Noticing that the frantic pressure wasn’t paying dividends, Barcelona switched up their approach just a little; their offensive strategy was now more controlled and Gerard Piqué was the first to reap the rewards. Escaping his marker with an intelligent run, Piqué created himself the best chance of the opening quarter-of-an-hour only to waste that opportunity with a misdirected header. The Catalan centre-half couldn’t believe that he missed the target, and neither could the Barcelna fans watching at home.

However, even if Barça were yet to put themselves on the scoresheet, there was no real cause for concern as Lionel Messi quickly corrected that wrong with a superb individual goal after 21 minutes. Receiving the ball from Pedro on the right wing, Messi cut inside, skipped past the challenges of the Almeria defense and curved the ball into the far top-corner of veteran keeper Esteban’s net, handing Barcelona a well-deserved lead. It was the Ballon d’Or holders’ eighth goal of the young La Liga season – but the Argentine superstar’s evening was cruelly cut short.

With less than an hour played, Messi hobbled off the field to be replaced by Xavi – Gerardo Martino was almost certainly playing it safe, but the substitution does cast doubts over Messi’s availability for Tuesday’s match with Celtic.

No Messi, no Neymar; no problem?

Would Barcelona still have enough firepower to secure the three points, or would Almeria grow in stature now that Barça’s main threat was off the field? Alexis Sánchez’ chance just moments after the substitution suggested that it would be business as usual for the Blaugrana, but as time passed in the remainder of the first-half, Almeria grew in confidence and arguably finished the stronger side.

Rodri’s powerful effort forced a save from Victor Valdés in the Barcelona goal on the stroke of half-time, but perhaps the former Barça B striker would have benefitted from a little less power and little more precision. Valdés didn’t even have to move to parry his shot away from danger and protect Barcelona’s slender lead as the two teams headed into the half-time break.

Neither manager made a substitution at the interval and who could blame them? With the score at 1-0, this match was relatively evenly-poised. The next goal was crucial and there really was no point in making a change this early, just in case you needed to throw the game-plan out the window at a later stage in the 90 minutes.

All Almeria needed for instance was one well-executed counter-attack and they were back in the game; we all know just how vulnerable this Barcelona defense is after all. Surprisingly enough, it was the inexperienced Marc Bartra who came to rescue early in the second-half, making a vital intervention to stop a promising Almeria attack.

Bartra’s excellent composure was infectious – Barcelona had no reason to feel anxious and could continue playing their usual game, resulting in a second goal after 56 minutes. With Messi sitting on the bench, maybe Cesc Fàbregas would grab a goal? Pedro perhaps? Alexis Sánchez?

Not quite – it was the full-back Adriano who put his name on the score-sheet, sliding home from close range following an excellent low cross from Barça’s new false nine, Cesc Fàbregas. It may have only been the slightest of touches, but it was enough – handing Adriano his second goal of the La Liga season, moving him back ahead of €57 million signing Neymar, who of course claimed his first La Liga goal on Tuesday against Real Sociedad.

At 1-0, Almeria still had a chance – now two goals behind, they had a mountain to climb – and only about half-an-hour to scale to the summit. Basically, it was mission impossible: so why even try, right? Almeria head coach, Francisco made a couple of changes, handing two of his most played players some rest, replacing both Fernado Soriano and Aleix Vidal with the slightly more defensive-minded Ramon Azeez and Sebastian Dubarbier.

The two substitutes combined to good effect on the 74 minute mark, only to see their rewards – a shot from Dubarbier – count for nothing thanks to a well-timed block. Barcelona’s second substitute, Cristian Tello nearly made an impact too, racing away in injury-time only to slide the ball wide in a one-on-one with Esteban.

Not that it mattered – Barcelona had done enough to secure the three points, ensuring that Martino’s 100% record stretched to seven successive La Liga victories. That’s a new club record in case anyone was wondering. Next up, Barcelona travel to Scotland to take on Celtic, but until then, Visca el Barça!

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