Barcelona extended their unbeaten Primera Division home run to 31 games on Sunday afternoon as they eased past Athletic Club 2-0 inside an 83,000-strong Camp Nou.
Strikes from Paco Alcacer and Lionel Messi placed the hosts in a comfortable position during a sensational first half display which could have feasibly seen the Catalonians command a much greater advantage.
However, following a measured second 45, which saw the tempo sucked out of the contest, Barca were again unable to force the scoreline to truly reflect their supremacy, although the champions elect extended their points buffer over Atletico Madrid to 11 points – with Diego Simeone’s side visiting Villarreal later in the afternoon.
Ahead of the contest, B
A pedestrian-paced, but measured buildup eventually found its way to Jordi Alba on the left-hand side before the Spaniard slid in his low cross which the second-string frontman, in for the suspended Luis Suarez, latched onto with a simple side-foot from 12 yards to give Barca the advantage
Barcelona 2-0 Athletic Cub HT: #Barca sensational first half. Lead by two but could quite easily be 5/6. Coutinho hit the woodwork twice before Paulinho followed suit. Athletic haven’t offered much – as you would expect from a side who haven’t scored in La Liga this month.
— Joe Owens (@jwpowens) March 18, 2018
As the second half passed by, the hosts struggled to find their levels from the first, with Athletic seeing more of the ball in opposition territory; however, failing to test
The ?Barcelona community has shown its true colours this week with great support for Andre Gomes, the Portuguese midfielder who ?admitted last week that he has been struggling to cope with the weight of expectation at the Nou Camp.
Brought on against ?Chelsea in midweek as a substitute for Sergio Busquets, Gomes was greeted not with the hostile reaction which he has sometimes endured in recent weeks, but with a more welcoming reception that boosted his confidence and helped him to turn in a good performance.
Sports psychologist Oriole Mercade, speaking to ?Marca, sought to explain why Gomes was finding life so difficult at Barcelona.
“Gomes has been successful in the strategy of expressing his humanness,” explained Mercade.
“He has lost his flow. His movements have not been natural, they do not flow, and he is aware of what will happen if he does it badly, and he does not enjoy each moment.”
Gomes’ impressive performances for Valencia earned him a move to the Nou Camp in 2016, but that dream move has since turned into a nightmare which Gomes described as ‘hell’ in last week’s candid interview.
“He has lived his entire life with such talent,” Mercade continued.
“Right now, he cannot get away. So he has to start setting small targets, like entering the area or shooting at goal a certain number of times.”
?Barcelona confirmed that they had taken action in response to Gomes’ comments, while Busquets ?issued a rallying cry for his teammates to support the 21-year-old during his difficult times.
With Busquets sidelined for a few weeks, Gomes will get the opportunity to build on his encouraging midweek display, starting against Athletic Club on Sunday.
Paris Saint-Germain striker Neymar has demanded an increase to his already eye-watering wage at the Parc des Princes, as another report from Brazil claimed to highlight why he is so unsettled in the French capital.
Neymar joined PSG from ?Barcelona last summer for a world record fee of £198m, and was handed an incredibly lucrative deal guaranteeing him
Ernesto Valverde has admitted that Barcelona were hoping to avoid La Liga counterparts Real Madrid and Sevilla in the Champions League draw, yet doesn’t believe that La Blaugrana have been matched with easy opponents having done so, per Diario AS.
The Catalan side moved past Antonio Conte’s Chelsea on Wednesday, following up their 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge last month with a 3-0 victory to progress with a 4-1 aggregate scoreline. And they are now set to face Serie A side Roma, who have made it to the quarter-final as well, following an impressive European campaign.
The Italian outfit topped their group last year, despite being matched with both Chelsea and Atletico Madrid. And Valverde has urged his players to err on the side of caution when the sides meet in the first leg of the tie on April 4.
He insists that he was keen to avoid getting drawn with Madrid and Sevilla because the teams are familiar with each other. However, he does appreciate that Roma will pose a huge threat too.
“Saying that there are easy draws in the quarter-finals is dangerous,” the manager said in his press conference ahead of his side’s clash with Athletic Club on Sunday.
“We didn’t want to play against Real Madrid or Sevilla because we know each other well. Italian teams are always dangerous, and Roma beat Chelsea and finished ahead of Atlético in the group stage.
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“They have a lot of potential. There are many reasons why it won’t be easy: their progress, their trainer, Monchi. Many reasons.”
Barca will hope to extend on their eight-point lead atop the Primera Division table on Sunday, with second-placed Atletico Madrid set to face Villarreal away. A win for the leaders, coupled with an Atletico loss, could all but wrap up the title race in Spain before Monday.
?Barcelona return to league action for the first time after securing a place in the Champions League last eight on Sunday when they welcome Athletic Club to the Camp Nou.
The Catalonians will be looking to stretch their unbeaten league run to 37 games (including last season) when they face the visit of Ernesto Valverde’s former side this weekend, and continue to assert the dominance which has seen them evade defeat at home
On a night where the
Barcelona face Athletic Bilbao having won the last 8 La Liga games between these sides by an aggregate score of 22-3
Lionel Messi has scored in his last 4 apps v Athletic and needs 1 goal to reach 25 in La Liga for a 9th-straight season
Catch this from 3:10pm on Sky Sports Mix pic.twitter.com/Ghsm4wmCPi
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) March 16, 2018