Cesc: “Winning the three points was the most important thing”

Cesc Fàbregas i Messi han estat protagonistes a Riazor / FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
The midfielder, who gave three assists, was one of the best players on the pitch in Barça’s 4-5 victory over Deportivo

Messi scored another hat-trick and he broke his personal goal-scoring record in a calendar year (set in 2010), which now stands at 59 goals: “Statistics are only numbers. I’m only concerned with winning the three points whenever possible”

Celtic FC clash on the horizon

Barça will start preparing for this Tuesday’s Champions League match against Celtic FC after the team returns from La Coruña. On Sunday, at 12.00, the first team will train at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper.

Cesc Fábregas was one of the standout players on the pitch against Deportivo de la Coruña last night. Playing in the midfield, the Catalan put in a solid performance and gave three assists. After going up 0-3, Barça saw its lead cut down to two after a penalty was awarded to the home side, but Cesc said that “in general our first half was excellent. With the exception of a couple of plays, we dominated and we were the superior side.”

“I’ve always been confident in my ability and I’ve been working really hard. Since the start of the season I’ve been very comfortable with the system,” said Cesc. When asked about the controversial calls, the midfielder only said that “these things are a part of football.”

The Catalan commented that “we won the three points, and it was very hard, but it’s clear that we have to analyse the four goals that they scored on us.” In the second half Tito Vilanova brought in Xavi for Cesc to give the midfield more continuity. On the manager’s decision to sub him off, Cesc said: “When Xavi comes in for you, you can only sit and enjoy his football.”

Messi’s three decisive goals

Leo Messi once again played a crucial role in Barça’s victory. Beyond securing the three points with his hat-trick, he also set another personal record. With 59 goals scored in so far in 2012 for Barça, the Argentine has beat the record he set in 2010, when he scored 58. The new mark, however, isn’t important for Barça’s hero: “Statistics are only numbers. I’m only concerned with winning the three points whenever possible.”

The match at Riazor came after the international break, a precursor that the Argentine was well aware of: “It’s always important to win after international breaks because we come back tired and it’s difficult to win the three points.” When asked about the referee’s performance, Messi simply said: “The referee’s job is extremely difficult. I’m told that the two yellow cards [for Mascherano] could very well have not been called, but we shouldn’t spend time thinking about it.”

Here are the statements made by FC Barcelona players after the 4-5 victory over Deportivo de la Coruña:

Cristian Tello:

“We jumped to a big lead really early but after two isolated plays we were in trouble again”

“I’m very pleased that I scored and for the confidence the manager has in me. I like to help the team and I hope I can continue doing it for years to come”

“It’s always more difficult to win the three points after international breaks, we have to be positive about our victory”

Andrés Iniesta:

“We could have killed the game off in the first half, but Deport are dangerous and they caused us a lot of problems on defence”

“We’re leaving with the sensation that we won a very difficult match”

“We have to learn a lot of things from this match”

Jordi Alba:

“It was a very hard-fought victory, but it was very important. The important thing is that we won the game and that we’re returning with the three points”

“At 2-3, the game was fairly even and it ended up being a crazy game”

“My own goal was bad luck. I didn’t want to pass the ball to Valdés”

“The team played an excellent match but we conceded four goals”

“Leo is the best player in the world at the moment”

Tito Vilanova praises his players for exhibiting a “desire to keep on winning”

Tito Vilanova, en el transcurs del partit contra el Deportivo/ FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
The manager praised his players for the attitude and the fighting spirit they displayed after Mascherano was sent off early in the second half

“I’m very pleased with their desire to win when everything was going against us”, said Tito Vilanova

“Víctor is a high-quality player, he’s been performing at a high level for years, there is no doubt about how good he is”
“I’m sticking with how hard Messi worked, after playing for his country, and how hard his team-mates worked”

After the victory at Riazor by 4 to 5, Tito Vilanova was satisfied with the attitude his players displayed on the pitch, especially after Mascherano was given his marching orders at the start of the second half, when the score was 3-4: “These players, after everything that they’ve won, coming back from playing for their countries, and with 10 men on the pitch, they showed that they are eager to keep on winning. They showed their desire when everything was going against us, playing a man down for so many minutes.” He added: “I’m sticking with how hard Messi worked, after playing for his country, and how hard his team-mates worked.”

“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Barça play this way”

Despite admitting that he would have preferred to “not concede so many goals,” Vilanova praised his men for how they played in the first 20 minutes of the match: “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Barça play like this. Our opening 20 minutes were spectacular. We had the game controlled and we were playing at a very high level. We even had the chance to make it 0-4, but then the penalty was called. From that point on, the game got a bit crazy.”

When asked about Víctor Valdés’ performance against Deportivo, the manager could only praised his keeper: “Víctor is a high-quality player, he’s been performing at a high level for years, there is no doubt about how good he is.”

The substitutions

Vilanova explained why he subbed off Cesc Fàbregas for Xavi Hernández: “Cesc, with the desire he has to play, kept on pushing forward when we were down to 10 men. He played an excellent match. We needed someone to help Sergio, and the man for the job was Xavi. We was fresher and he was able to help us.” After Mascherano was given his second yellow, the first two players to be subbed in were Pedro and Adriano: “I sent Pedro in because he allows us to play on the wing, and Adriano because we were down a man on defence and Xavi because he has more ball control.”

Deportivo – FC Barcelona: Monument to football (4-5)

FC Barcelona won 4-5 at the Riazor with a brilliant performance of attacking football crowned by a Messi hat trick and strikes from Alba and Tello

In an astonishing game in La Coruña, Barça took three points after nine goals, a red card, a post, yet another exhibition from Messi and a series of gaffes that kept Deportivo in with a chance right until the end of an exhilarating 90 minutes. After leading 0-3 and then 2-4 at the break, Tito Vilanova’s side overcame Mascherano’s red card and some bad luck in their own box as the leaders came away with the points with a Messi hat trick to remain unbeaten so far this season.

Brilliant start

Barça came out on fire and were three up after just 17 minutes, with goals from Jordi Alba, Tello and Messi. The first, after just three minutes, came when Cesc set up Alba who showed his attacking instincts from the off and the second saw Tello skilfully leave two defenders flailing to fire low past Aranzubía, whilst Messi got the third with a powerful strike from the edge of the box after a clever one-two with Cesc. After just over a quarter of an hour the game looked to be done and dusted with Barça looking comfortably in control and finding acres of space in the hosts defence.

Deportivo hit back

With the home fans beginning to show their dissatisfaction, Deportivo hit back on 25 minutes when the ref reckoned Mascherano’s foul on Riki was in the box and Pizzi gratefully stepped up to score from the spot. That gave the hosts a boost and they upped their game and grabbed a second when Álex Bergantiños pounced on a loose ball in the box after a corner.

2-4 at the break

From 0-3 to 2-3 and Barça had to get their game back into gear if they wanted the points and that’s when two of the stars of the night –Cesc Fabregas and Leo Messi – linked up again to give the Argentinean his second of the game and re-establish the two goal cushion at the break.

Mascherano red card

However, things just got worse for Barça at the start of the second half, when Pizzi hit home a great free kick to make it 3-4 after just a minute and moments later Mascherano saw his second yellow. Tito Vilanova was quick to react though, bringing on Adriano to play alongside Song at the heart of defence, as well as Pedro and Xavi to try and wrest back control.

Excitement till the end

With Xavi, Busquets and Iniesta in the middle, Barça calmed the game down and Messi hit the woodwork before making it five after a brilliant jinking run. Surely the points were safe now? No – Jordi Alba ended up putting a goal through his own net and with ten minutes to go Deportivo threw everything – including keeper Aranzubía -at the Barça goal in search of the draw that wouldn’t come and Barça came away with the points after 90 minutes of incredible football.

Spanish League Preview, Week 8

Alexis vs. Granada / PHOTO: Miguel Ruiz - FCB
La Liga returns with a full programme this weekend, with Real Madrid and Barça both facing Galician opposition, Atlético Madrid in Donosti and Espanyol after their first win of the season

Málaga kick off the action

All four La Liga teams involved in the Champions League next week play on Saturday, with Málaga kicking off the action at four o’clock with a home game against Valladolid. Málaga’s last gasp defeat at the Vicente Calderón was their first of the season and they remain in third spot, five points adrift of the front two, as well as top of their Champions League group ahead of Wednesday’s visit of Milan, whilst newly promoted Valladolid have had a topsy-turvy return to the top flight with three wins, three defeats and a draw so far, leaving them in a relatively comfortable mid table berth.

Madrid hit by “FIFA virus”

Real Madrid are next up, at six, when they entertain Celta at the Bernabéu. Mourinho’s side have been hit by the “FIFA virus”, with Marcelo out for three months and Coentrao and Arbeola also missing after picking up injuries with Portugal and Spain.  Khedira is doubtful too and Pepe, Ronaldo, Higuain and Benzema all returned from international duty with knocks. At eight, Valencia are at home to Athletic Bilbao and with both teams having taken just eight points so far this season, Pellegrino and Bielsa will be equally desperate for the points. Valencia welcome back Banega after an eight month layoff, whilst Gurpegui is suspended for the Basques.

Tough trip for Atlético

Atlético Madrid also face Basque opponents, travelling to Donosti late on Sunday night to face Real Sociedad, who have won all three of their home games so far this campaign, whilst the visitors have won two and drawn one on the road. One of those away wins for Atlético was at Betis, who are currently fourth and on Sunday travel to Pamplona, where second from bottom Osasuna desperately need a repeat of the big win over Llevant in their last home game as they fight to get out of the relegation places. Only Espanyol have fewer points than Osasuna and they will be looking for their first win of the season when they host Rayo on Sunday.

In the weekend’s other games, Getafe are at home to Levante, whilst there looks to be a prospective six-pointer in Granada, who face fourth from bottom Zaragoza. Monday night sees Sevilla and Mallorca in action at the Sánchez Pijuán, where Michel will be without the suspended Chilean Gary “pitbull” Medel, who was also held for a few hours by police after he was involved in a scuffle with reporters in Santiago in midweek.

Demanding return after internationals

22 hores, Canal+: Barça are back in league action after the international break with a ten o’clock kick off against Deportivo at the always tough Riazor tonight

Squad without a number of injured players – particularly in defence

With the second international break of the season over and done with, La Liga returns with the leaders in La Coruña to visit the recently promoted Deportivo. Although Barça have been very successful at Riazor over the last nine seasons (Deportivo were in the second division for a single campaign last year), the overall balance is not so favourable, reflecting the traditionally tough character of a visit to the beachfront stadium.

Selection options more limited

After the last international break, Tito Vilanova was able to rest some of his stars – such as Leo Messi – in the first game back, but with Piqué, Puyol, Thiago, Alves, Abidal Cuenca and Muniesa all out injured, the coach’s options are more limited this time around.

The only out and out defenders available for the game are Montoya, Bartra and Jordi Alba, but with the versatility of Mascherano, Song and Adriano – who played as the left sided centre back against Madrid, as well as Sergi Busquets who featured at centre half for Spain in midweek, Villanova can widen his options at the back. Jonathan Dos Santos is also in the squad for the first time this season, as well as B team youngster Tello.

Deportivo in the drop zone

Deportivo come into the game on a bad run, having gone six games without a win, losing their last three. Their only win so far this season was in the opening game against Osasuna (2-0) and they have since slipped down to third from bottom, with only the Pamplona outfit and Espanyol below them. Deportivo boss – well known for his bravery – has stuck with the same squad who went down 2-1 away to Rayo in the last game, with veteran full back Manuel Pablo still out injured.