Rival Watch: Real Madrid top Málaga, Paris Saint-Germain win at Nice

Paris Saint Germain won their third straight Ligue 1 match by beating Nice on Saturday. / PSG.FR
Barça’s eternal rivals keep pace in La Liga; Parisians reclaim top spot in Ligue 1

Spanish Cup final opponents Athletic Club Bilbao rout Getafe at San Mamés

FC Barcelona are sitting pretty at the moment following a week of outstanding performances, including their exhilarating 2–0 victory over Valencia at Camp Nou on Saturday afternoon and Wednesday night’s gargantuan 3–1 win over Paris Saint Germain in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. The Catalans currently sit atop the table in La Liga and have one foot in the Champions League semi-finals as they patiently await the final of the Spanish Cup, to be played on Saturday 30 May at Camp Nou.

Barça’s three rivals in the three competitions — Real Madrid in La Liga, PSG in the Champions League, and Athletic Club Bilbao in the Spanish Cup — all won over the weekend.

Real Madrid keep pace

Second-place Real Madrid avoided a setback with a 3–1 win over Málaga on Saturday evening at the Santiago Bernabéu, maintaining a two-point deficit behind FC Barcelona in La Liga. Madrid went up 1–0 on 24 minutes thanks to a goal from defender Sergio Ramos. Cristiano Ronaldo hit the post on a penalty kick in the 66th, but James Rodríguez picked up Ronaldo with a goal just one minute later.

Juanmi struck right back in the 69th and Málaga were threatening to draw even when Ronaldo — who had been imprecise all evening — tapped in to make it 3–1 in the first minute of injury time.

PSG back on top

Paris Saint-Germain bounced back from Wednesday’s painful 3–1 home defeat to FC Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals by reciprocating that score in a big road win at Nice on Saturday afternoon. The victory puts the Parisians back into first place in Ligue 1 after they temporarily ceded the top spot to Lyon, who had beaten Bastia on Wednesday night in midweek French League action. 

PSG’s Javier Pastore opened the scoring on 39 minutes but Nice’s Mathieu Bodmer struck back six minutes later. Pastore secured a brace with his second goal of the day at the 63 minute mark and Edinson Cavani set the final 3–1 score in stone by converting a penalty kick with just over 20 minutes left to play.

Athletic Club win in rout

Currently eighth in La Liga and with a Spanish Cup final matchup versus FC Barcelona in the back of their minds, Ernesto Valverde’s squad shutout Getafe at San Mamés on Saturday by a score of 4–0. The Basques still have an outside shot at a berth in the UEFA Europa League next season, although this season’s success looks like it may hinge on what happens when they face the Catalans at Camp Nou on 30 May.

Striker Aritz Aduriz scored on a penalty kick just before halftime and then netted his second goal two minutes after the intermission to pace Athletic Club. Midfielder Ibai Gómez added another in the 79th and Markel Susaeta rounded out the scoring in the 87th.  Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz only faced one shot on goal.

By the numbers: FC Barcelona's 2–0 victory over Valencia

Luis Suárez celebrates his first-minute goal against Valencia at Camp Nou on Saturday 18 April 2015. / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
Whenever Luis Suárez scores a goal, Barça win. That and other interesting facts surrounding Saturday’s win

  • Luis Suárez has scored 19 goals in 15 different games. FC Barcelona have won all of them.
  • The Uruguayan specialises in games against big teams, having scored against Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid, Valencia, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, among others.
  • Only six starters against PSG also started against Valencia: Ter Stegen, Montoya, Alba, Rakitic, and Iniesta did not start on Saturday.
  • Camp Nou had its second best crowd of the season, with 92,915 spectators. Only the 98,760 who came to El Clásico were higher.
  • Jordi Alba did not play a single minute. The wing-back hadn’t been kept out due to coach’s decision since Barça‘s 5–0 win over Levante on 15 February. He did, however, miss matches versus Celta and Almeria due to injury and was suspended for Eibar.
  • The team now have 34 points in the second half of the season. In the first half, through the same number of games they had just 31.
  • Despite the evenly-matched encounter, FC Barcelona doubled Valencia in passes, 698331.
  • Dani Alves was one of the main protagonists on Saturday. He led Barça with 89 touches, 12 recovered balls, and, less fortunately, 17 turnovers.

    Completed passes are in green; turnovers are in red; recovered balls are in yellow.

Andrés Iniesta trains with the group

Andrés Iniesta works out earlier this season at the Ciutat Esportiva in Sant Joan Despí. / FCB ARCHIVE
The midfielder worked out with his teammates for the first time since suffering a contusion versus PSG

Gerard Piqué and Jérémy Mathieu did side work just two days ahead of the team’s next match

FC Barcelona midfielder Andrés Iniesta worked out with the group on Sunday morning, the first time he has done so after suffering a severe back contusion during Wednesday’s 3–1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain. The full squad trained on Camp Tito Vilanova. Thomas Vermaelen joined them without medical clearance.

Meanwhiledefenders Gerard Piqué and Jérémy Mathieu worked out on the side.

The team will return to training on Monday at 11.00am CET hours at the Ciutat Esportiva.