La Liga: Big Guns Arrive To Deliver For Barca

Barcelona 3-1 Leganes

Barcelona went five points clear at the top of La Liga after a second-half double substitution saw off a brave resistance from Leganes.

Ernesto Valverde brought on Lionel Messi and Ivan Rakitic with the score at 1-1, and they did the trick, Messi scoring the third as Barca picked up three more big points.
The hosts had a score to settle having suffered a shock defeat to Leganes earlier in the season and they did just that, but Leganes can be proud of their efforts in a hard-fought game.

The pick of the La Liga 2019 results in the run-up to this match was a win for both Madrid giants, who hoped their tiny neighbour, Leganes could do them massive favour. With us odds on a home win at 1.14, this looked like a nailed on the result but Mauricio Pellegrino’s Leganes put up a good fight.

Highlights of the game

Messi, fresh from scoring his 400th La Liga goal last week against Eibar was given a breather for this one, starting on the bench as Valverde shuffled his pack with a couple of tough away games coming up. Philippe Coutinho made a start and he had Barca’s first effort which was blocked by Leganes’ packed defence.

Leganes’ Martin Braithwaite has made a bright impact since his arrival on loan from Middlesbrough, and he made his mark on this game, and on Gerard Pique, with a nasty foul which earned him a yellow card. Then Barca’s Sergio Busquets joined him in the ref’s notebook to make it two yellows in the opening 12 minutes. And Braithwaite was walking on thin ice, taking down Sergi Roberto on the right wing soon after.

The Leganes players continued to harry and hassle their hosts and shots on goal were few an far between in the early stages, Luis Suarez firing one over the bar on 24 minutes, and then two minutes later forcing a good save from Ivan Cuellar with a low shot aimed at the bottom left corner. As the half wore on Barca began to get into their stride and it was Suarez again who came close after being put through on goal by Ousmane Dembele.

La Liga: Ousmane Dembele scored the opening goal in Barcelona's 3-1 win versus Leganes

Ousmane Dembele high-fives with Gerard Pique after scoring Barcelona’s first goal against Leganes

Then came the breakthrough, and it was Dembele who opened the scoring with a smart low finish after collecting a pass from Jordi Alba. And the Camp Nou could start to relax a little.

Coutinho almost doubled the lead on the stroke of half time but his shot from the centre of the penalty area flashed inches wide of the right post. And he had the first effort of the second half, shooting high and wide with a half chance. The ex-Liverpool star has been lacking in confidence recently but he was in the thick of the action tonight.

But the next man to hit centre stage was Braithwaite who got on the end of a Youssef En-Nesyri cross to slot home from close range to send the travelling band of Leganes fans wild. The rest of the Camp Nou looked edgy again.

The equaliser gave the visitors some confidence and Oscar Rodriguez had a shot saved, before setting up En-Nesyri who had his effort blocked.

Valverde had seen enough and with 25 minutes left on the clock he brought Messi on to replace Carles Alena. Ivan Rakitic joined him, replacing Arthur in a clear sign of Valverde’s intention to get the points wrapped up quickly.

Within minutes Messi brought another good save from Cuellar with a shot heading for the top left corner but the home fans didn’t have to wait long for Barca to restore their lead as Suarez tapped in from close range.

And who else but Messi made the points safe in injury time, taking a pass from Jordi Alba and shooting high into the net.

La Liga: Leganes' loanee Martin Braithewaite scored his first goal in La Liga

Leganes forward Martin Braithwaite celebrates after scoring an equaliser versus Barcelona

Key Statistics

Barca’s lead at the top of the table had been trimmed to two points by Atletico Madrid, who won 3-0 away to bottom club Huesca on Saturday but they rose to the challenge after the cavalry arrived and Messi scored his 18th goal of the season.

The Catalans are hot favourites to retain their crown according to La Liga 2019 betting odds and this result has put distance between them and the chasing pack.

This was only Leganes second defeat in seven, but the visitors remain in a relegation battle, just two points above the drop zone.

What’s next?

After a hard fought win there’s a tough week ahead for Barcelona. Valverde’s men head to Seville for the Copa del Rey tie of the round against Pablo Machin’s Sevilla, and then the league leaders are away to Girona in La Liga.

Leganes is out of the Copa, despite beating Real Madrid in their second leg of the last round, and returns to league action at home to Eibar next weekend in a survival six-pointer.



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La Liga: Barca Have a Score to Settle

Barcelona vs Leganes

When little Leganes make the trip from Madrid to take on league leaders Barcelona, they can expect a warm welcome, but no mercy.

After all, when the two sides met in La Liga back in September, Leganes gave their esteemed opponents a bloody nose and sent them packing back to Catalonia with nothing. In sporting terms, this is a David-versus-Goliath fixture with arguably the best team in Europe; with some of the best players in the world welcoming a small suburb of Madrid whose home is a 12,500-capacity stadium, extended to that figure on promotion to the top division in 2016.

This weekend, Mauricio Pellegrino will bring Leganes to play in front of over 70,000 at the Camp Nou, knowing full well that other than in biblical legend, Goliath invariably wins on these occasions. Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona can strengthen their lead at the top of La Liga. While second-placed Atletico are expected to win at Huesca, Real Madrid play Sevilla and so one of the chasers is likely to fall by the wayside.

It’s not quite El Clasico, but this Barcelona/Madrid clash is well worth a watch with the underdogs in decent form and points vital at both ends of the table. The La Liga 2019 betting odds suggest Barca has the title in their grasp, but fail to beat Leganes and that grip could easily slip.

Talking Points

Messi the greatest but Copa is in doubt

Lionel Messi became the first player in the history of La Liga to reach 400 goals last week with his strike in a 3-0 win over Eibar. And, alongside Luis Suarez, he seems to be getting better and better in his and Barca’s relentless pursuit of greatness.

Barca are fighting on three fronts but may be prioritising La Liga and Europe over the Copa. Having beaten Levante 3-0 in the second leg of the Copa on Thursday, there is still a little doubt whether the Catalans will be able to complete their cup campaign. Levante claim that Barca defender Juan Brandariz played illegally in the first leg: he received a ban after collecting a yellow card in the Segunda B. There is some doubt whether the suspension carries over into the Copa, but we’ll find out soon enough.

In the meantime, all attention is on La Liga where Barca aim to make seven wins on the run.

Leganes aware that Barca remain extremely tough to beat in front of their own La Liga fans

Leganes players vs Lionel Messi during a La Liga soccer match

Seventeenth Place will do just fine for Leganes

Reaching the top division in 2016 was some achievement for Real Madrid’s tiny neighbours, but successfully fighting to retain their place, twice already, is doubly impressive. Two 17th-place finishes have been measured as success for Leganes, but those don’t tell the whole story.

This team has become a well-organised unit with the capability to play nice football and strike at the heart of opposition defences, and they haven’t looked in difficulty for much of their tenure in the Primera Division. A hard-fought 1-0 win over bottom club Huesca, just before the winter break, is what Leganes is all about, as was a 1-1 draw at home to high flying Sevilla who only equalised, courtesy of Wissam Ben Yedder, in injury time.

Skipper Unai Bustinza on the right and Jonathan Silva on the left are two of the visitors’ most consistent performers in defence, and they won’t be fazed by the task of facing Messi and Suarez.

Goals have been difficult to come by. The Madrid minnows have managed just 17 so far this season, the same as Barca’s top scorer Messi. It’s fair to say that Messi’s right foot is probably insured for more than the entire Leganes squad, but that won’t deter the underdogs from putting up a fight.

And they may have bagged a gem in loan signing Martin Braithwaite who has arrived from Championship club Middlesbrough. Pellegrino has described the 27-year-old Danish player as a clever striker, and he showed up well in the Copa tie against Los Blancos by scoring the winner in the second leg.

Leganes are up to 13th after a run of one defeat in six, but Pellegrino’s team is just three points above the drop zone. He will be determined to keep this run going against huge odds.


Barcelona did the double over Leganes in both of the last two seasons, but the underdogs sprung a major surprise with a 2-1 win over the champions back in September, thanks to two goals in as many minutes from Oscar and Nabil El Zhar.

The hosts have lost a game at the Camp Nou already, with a home record of seven wins, two draws and one defeat.

While Messi is Barcelona’s top scorer with 17 goals, Leganes’ Guido Carrillo has scored five times for Leganes.

Betting Tip

Barcelona vs Leganes Leganes +2.50 @ 1.83
January 21, 03:45 (GMT+8)

Barca fans will be tracking the La Liga 2019 results on Saturday, knowing that their lead may be cut to two points, and the task for their team is to stretch it out to five again.

The us odds at 1.14 for a home win lead us to look elsewhere. Okay, it would be a shock if a draw at 6.80 came up or even that away win at 21.00. This is the type of game that Asian Handicap Betting was made for, and while I can’t see anything other than a home win, I don’t expect a rout against a team which has conceded only 21 goals in 19 league games.

?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.




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La Liga: Messi Milestone As Barca Flex Their Muscles

Barcelona 3-0 Eibar

And they say Barcelona need a striker!

Yes, they do as their squad remains a little lightweight should injuries/suspensions kick in.

However, whether Alvaro Morata, Fernando Llorente or another target end up moving to the Nou Camp, they will be joining a squad already installed as the firm favourite to retain La Liga and any incoming arrival will likely spend quite some time on the bench when coach Ernesto Valverde has a full squad to pick from.

us followers will have noticed almost as much as the Eibar players that the heavyweights were back for this, this after a second-string side were beaten in the first leg of their Copa del Rey tie three days earlier.

It showed as the game was won within the hour.

Highlights of the game

In contrast, Jose Luis Mendilibar and his team’s chances of springing a surprise at the Camp Nou was made even more difficult by their absentees.

As Barca were welcoming back Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and Jordi Alba, Eibar were lacking some punch without both Charles Dias, their focal point in attack and influential centre back Ivan Ramis.

The omens weren’t good.

The Basque outfit had only lost two league games this season in which the centre-back had figured.

Worse still, Eibar’s total of five away goals going into this one was the lowest in the division. Moreover, since gaining promotion to the top flight for the first time in their history in 2014, their trips to the Camp Nou had resulted in heavy losses: they were defeated 3-0, 3-1, 4-2 and, most recently, 6-1.

Despite the cards being stacked against them and despite the difficulty of the task, Mendilibar was faithful to his daring style of play and they were spirited, perhaps encouraged by promising displays against Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid earlier in the campaign.

Had Anaitz Arbilla not headed wide after 16 minutes, perhaps a surprise would have been on the cards, but there is a reason they have not won since November.

Three minutes later Philippe Coutinho found Suarez and the returning Uruguayan did the rest.

Sergi Enrich and Sergi Roberto traded headers that were close and the contest also remained close as the sides went in at the break.

Messi had been kept extremely quiet by the visitors but eight minutes after the break came the moment which will grab all the headlines over the days ahead.

La Liga: Barcelona extend their lead to 5 points after the 3-0 win against Eibar at the Camp Nou

Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona during their La Liga match versus Eibar

Suarez provided the assist and the diminutive number 10 fired into the bottom right-hand corner to become the first player to score 400 goals in La Liga.

The landmark figure for a landmark player – what would the betting odds have been on that happening at the start of his career?

It also extended his record as La Liga’s all-time leading record scorer ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo (now at Juventus) – 311 goals in 292 games at Real Madrid – and Telmo Zarra, who scored 251 La Liga goals.

As statisticians got to work on one of the 2019 La Liga news stories, Suarez applied the finishing touch to victory with a shot from a difficult angle after good work from Roberto.

Game over and Eibar were unable to muster a consolation, despite presentable chances for Enrich and Gonzalo Escalante, while Pablo de Blasis and Kike Garcia called Marc-Andre ter Stegen into action.

However, this was the day of the headline maker.

Messi is Barcelona’s greatest star and, just as he did in the first game of the year a week ago, here he produced even more of the La Liga 2019 highlights.

Key Statistics

Messi has become the second player to reach 400+ goals in the history of Europe’s top five leagues after Ronaldo (409) reached the milestone.

The Argentina captain has now scored 13 goals in nine matches against the Basque side.

Messi (17) and Suarez (14) have scored 31 La Liga goals this term, no team has scored more. Sevilla and Celta Vigo have 31 each.

Messi has scored against 37 different teams in La Liga, the most by a player in the competition history.

What’s next?

This was the first of four successive home games for Barcelona.

Next up is the second leg of the Copa del Rey tie against Levante, followed by a home match against Leganes a week today (January 20).

It’s then off to Girona on January 27.

Eibar host Espanyol a week tomorrow (January 21) in La Liga and travel to Leganes in the league five days later.



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La Liga: Can Barca Expect a Goal Bonanza?

Barcelona vs Eibar

Barcelona have not been at their best this season.

In fact, in other seasons they may have struggled to be at the summit at the halfway stage with 12 wins, four draws and two defeats from their opening 18 games.

Yet, as far as the Catalans are concerned, they remain the undisputed number one in La Liga.

They are favourites to retain the title with arch-rivals Real Madrid well off the pace and struggling in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo era and Atletico Madrid still lacking the consistency needed for a full title tilt.

Add in the fact that third-place Sevilla are separating the Madrid rivals but not expected to last the pace, it means Barcelona remain overwhelming favourites to win the top domestic prize.

Talking Points

That is not to knock Barca’s first half of the campaign, us fans.

Barca seem intent on continuing their domestic domination. They hold a five-point advantage at the top and have a goal difference more than double of anyone else.

The Copa del Rey midweek defeat was a setback but no more, and key players are set to return for this encounter and, possibly, the second leg of the cup tie.

Perhaps, coach Ernesto Valverde took advice from former skipper Carles Puyol who suggested Europe should be more of a priority than the Copa.

Winners of the competition for the past four years, Puyol suggested they consider sacrificing their progress knowing they have failed to impress in the Champions League in recent seasons and with a last 16 tie against Lyon on the horizon.

Many players considered to be in the first-choice starting XI are set to return for this game, although whether Munir El Haddadi is included in the squad remains to be seen as he seems set to move to Sevilla during this month’s transfer window where reportedly a three- or four-year contract awaits.

Barcelona sell Munir El Haddadi to Sevilla

Barcelona sell Munir El Haddadi to Sevilla

A year after joining the club for big money, Philippe Coutinho remains on the fringes and has recently lost his place in the team to Arturo Vidal and Arthur Melo. He last started a league game against Villarreal at the start of December.

Yet he remains a genuine top talent on his day and, who knows, perhaps his late goal in the Copa del Rey defeat to Levante will act as the pick-me-up for the second half of the season.

This is the first of three home games in eight days, two in the league and one in the cup, which means the fans will have ample opportunities to show the support necessary to help Barça remain league leaders and maintain their challenge for a fifth Copa del Rey in a row.

This should be a routine victory.

Although Eibar should never be written off as they regularly continue to punch above their weight, it must be remembered they have not won a game since beating Real Madrid at the end of November. In fact, they have picked up just four points from a possible 15 and have been drawn into the relegation battle.

They are also struggling without the influential Ivan Ramis who is unavailable with a muscle problem. The Basque outfit has only lost two league games this season in which the centre-back has figured.

Worse still, Eibar’s total of five away goals so far this term is the lowest in the division. Moreover, their trips to the Camp Nou have resulted in heavy losses since gaining promotion to the top flight for the first time in their history in 2014: they were defeated 3-0, 3-1, 4-2 and, most recently, 6-1.

If goals are your currency, this encounter will be one to watch in La Liga 2019 highlights.


Barcelona have won all eight of their meetings since Eibar were promoted four and a half years ago.

Last season’s 6-1 success, in which Lionel Messi scored four of the goals, was followed up by a hard-fought 2-0 away success, courtesy of goals from Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba.

Betting Tip

Barcelona vs Eibar Total Goal 2-3 @ 2.59
January 14, 01:30 (GMT+8)

That there are very one-sided La Liga 2019 betting odds will come as no surprise.

1X2 Barcelona come out @ 1.15 with Eibar a massively distant @ 17.00 and the draw @ 7.00.

Asian Handicap odds show Barcelona -2.75 @ 2.31 and Eibar + 2.50 @ 1.84.

Given the recent records of both sides, you won’t get great odds on a goal fest.

Even over 4.00 goals will only offer @ 2.16.

Eibar are on a dreadful run and conceding plenty; Barca are on a good run and scoring lots.

?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.




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Emery: Gunners ‘cannot sign permanently’

Unai Emery has suggested that Arsenal are only in the market for loan moves during this transfer window, the Gunners boss having stated the club 'cannot sign permanently'.

The Londoners have been strongly linked with a move for Barcelona midfielder Denis Suarez but, according to Emery, any potential deal will be a short-term one – at least for now.

Arsenal spent around £70m on four players last summer, barely six months after former Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang arrived for a club-record fee of £56m in January last.

Emery, who replaced the departed Arsene Wenger in the summer, says such deals are not possible for Arsenal during this transfer window, admitting he must instead look to secure loan deals if he wants to strengthen his hand.

"I don't know now his [Suarez's] situation but we can only sign on a loan," Emery said.

"We cannot sign permanently. We can only loan players."

Arsenal's longest-serving player Aaron Ramsey is now into the final six months of his contract and, with the club having withdrawn a contract offer in September for football and financial reasons, the 28-year-old Welshman has been linked with a number of leading European clubs.

Ramsey may well sign a pre-contract agreement this month to secure his future elsewhere but Emery has praised his attitude and commitment to Arsenal.

"I say to him every day, is that we need his performance for us," Emery said.

"In the last match I was very happy with him. I asked in the last match at Blackpool if he is OK to help us play and he said, 'Yeah, coach, I want to play' and he played with a very big behaviour and commitment to us.

"After, his future belongs to him, his family and agent. Every day he's here with us, he's working very well."

Arsenal are 1/1 to win at West Ham in Saturday's lunchtime kick-off. The Hammers are 12/5 while the draw is 11/4 at the London Stadium.

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La Liga: Spanish Superiority For Brilliant Barcelona!

Getafe 1-2 Barcelona

Barcelona couldn’t wish for a better day than this!

The reigning La Liga champions headed into the game against Getafe knowing that a win would see them move five points clear at the top—with Atletico Madrid dropping points in a draw against Sevilla and Real Madrid losing to Real Sociedad—and they didn’t disappoint as they rolled to a convincing victory at the Alfonso Perez ground.

Sure enough, it wasn’t an easy victory for the Catalans. The Azulones fought well and were a little bit unlucky not to score more, but Barcelona showed they are simply a cut above the rest…literally and figuratively.

Highlights of the game

Three first-half goals decided the match, and ultimately, it came down to the missed chances both teams had in the second half.

Lionel Messi didn’t have a vintage performance (by his standards), but he showed the skills that make him the best player in the world.

Messi scored the opener for Barca on 20 minutes, beating two Getafe defenders and goalkeeper David Soria for an epic finish.

The ball looped into the Getafe area, looking like that it would fall on the spot between Leandro Cabrera and Djene Dakonam. Soria also ran into the ball to ensure that they have the ball in control. However, the little daredevil that he is, Messi burst into the scene to get the ball and almost made the three Getafe players crash.

Messi’s initial shot was deflected by Soria, but his second effort from a tight angle went in to give Barcelona the lead.

Gerard Pique almost made it 2-0 for Barcelona six minutes later. Arthur found Pique unmarked from seven yards, but the 31-year-old defender shot too close to Soria who parried the ball away.

Ernesto Valverde’s men won’t be denied of a second, though. Dakonam tried to clear the ball from a Messi free-kick, but it landed directly on Suarez who was waiting at the edge of the box.

The Uruguayan striker then positioned his body perfectly and volleyed the ball into the bottom right corner, leaving Soria helpless.

Luis Suarez has hit a goal to pave Barcelona's way to victory against Getafe in the latest La Liga gameweek

Luis Suarez in action during Barcelona’s La Liga battle against Getafe at Alfonso Perez stadium

Getafe saw a sliver of hope when Jaime Mata cut the lead before the break, but the home team couldn’t muster another goal to salvage even one point.

Angel Rodriguez almost levelled for Getafe early in the second half after Dimitri Foulquier put him through.  However, while his shot beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen, it ended up missing the goal by an inch.

Jorge Molina, on the other hand, flopped in front of the goal after overcoming the Barca defence and Ter Stegen. Molina went through on goal and fooled Ter Stegen to have a clear shot, but the 36-year-old let the pressure take the best of him and sent the ball high and wide.

Barcelona did well to hold on amid the increased pressure from Getafe. Nonetheless, they would also rue the fact that they had plenty of wasted opportunities, with Pique denied from point-blank range and Messi rejected twice by Soria.

Key statistics

The pre-match La Liga 2019 odds at us pointed to an easy win for Barca, but that wasn’t exactly the case.

While Barcelona did dominate possession with 75.9 percent, Getafe made use of the little time they had with the ball and had a total of 10 shots. The Catalans had 12 shots, eight of which were on target.

Another notable stat in the game was the number of fouls committed by Getafe. The home team knew what they were up against and played more physical to catch up with Barcelona.

Getafe ended the game with 23 fouls (Barcelona only had 12) and four yellow cards.

Here are some more interesting stats about Barcelona’s win:

  • Barca’s latest victory extended their winning streak to five straight league games. They beat Celta Vigo two weeks ago before the break.
  • Interestingly, through their winning streak, Barcelona only conceded against Getafe.
  • Messi’s goal is his 399th in La Liga. He could have surpassed the 400-goal mark, though.
  • Messi (16) and Suarez (12) now have 28 league goals combined, more than 16 other teams in La Liga. Atletico Madrid, in fact, have only scored 26 markers overall.
  • Barcelona and fourth-placed Alaves are the only top seven teams to win this Matchday 18. As mentioned, Atletico (2nd) drew with Sevilla (3rd), while Real Madrid (5th), Real Betis (6th) and Getafe (7th) lost.
  • With the latest La Liga 2019 results, Barcelona now have 40 points after 18 matches.


What’s next?

Ernesto Valverde hopes to re-do Barcelona's La Liga form when they battle Levante in the Copa del Rey

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde looks focused during his side’s La Liga match against Getafe

Barcelona have a Copa del Rey match against Levante this week before returning to La Liga to take on Eibar at Camp Nou.

Meanwhile, Getafe also head to the Spanish Cup to play Real Valladolid. After that, they play Villarreal in the top flight.




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Modric seeks more goals

Luka Modric says he wants to add more goals to his game as he reflects on an "unforgettable" 2018.

The Real Madrid star scored in his side's 4-1 over Al Ain in the Club World Cup final as they won the trophy for the third year in a row.

His 25-yard finish opened the scoring for Santiago Solari's side, his first goal for the club since January.

However, despite not scoring as often as he would like, the midfielder was able to reflect on an eventful and successful year for club and country.

The year has seen Modric win the Ballon d’Or, the World Cup Golden Ball and FIFA's The Best Men's Player prize.

He says that he would still like to score more regularly in 2019, telling Real Madrid TV: "Everyone tells me I have to shoot more, although I usually prefer to pass, I should shoot more, it's true.

"It is an unforgettable year for me, a perfect year, winning the Champions League, then Croatia had a spectacular World Cup and then all these prizes arrived, now another trophy with Madrid.

"A dream year, really. I can't ask more."

The final against Al Ain was 1-0 at half-time but Real made sure of keeping the trophy with three more goals in the second period through Marcos Llorente, Sergio Ramos and a late own goal.

The win perhaps diverts attention away from Real's domestic struggles so far this season. They currently sit fourth in La Liga eight points adrift of leaders Barcelona.

They are next in action in January with two La Liga games in four days, travelling to face Villarreal on the 3rd before taking on Real Sociedad at home on the 6th.

Real Madrid have won the Champions League for the last three years and next year are 12/1 to make it four in a row, Barcelona are 9/2 with Manchester City 3/1.

Croatia are 25/1 to win Euro 2020.

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La Liga Review: Barca End Year in Familiar Surroundings

Barcelona 2-0 Celta Vigo

This was Au Revoir 2018 in La Liga and the year will end as it began – with Barcelona on top.

The reigning champions didn’t have it all their own way against Celta Vigo in the Nou Camp but ultimately did enough and it means Ernesto Valverde’s men head into the winter break with a three-point lead at the summit.

Highlights of the game

As if to outline his attacking intentions, Ousmane Dembele had been caught offside inside the first minute and had the ball in the net a mere eight minutes later.

Lionel Messi’s shot was saved by Ruben Blanco but Dembele pounced and the hosts were ahead.

It was a blow to Vigo who had threatened early on themselves through Sofiane Boufal, whose shot was blocked, and Nestor Araujo.

This was considered by many as the battle of sharpshooters and us fans certainly expected goals with Messi, Luis Suarez, Dembele, Iago Aspas and Gomez et al all on the pitch.

Chances were few but both sides were certainly focused on the attack as Jordi Alba saw an effort blocked and Maxi Gomez tested Marc-Andre Ter Stegenwhose record in this fixture is one he’d rather forget.

Some of Barca’s play was a joy to watch – a must for any La Liga 2018 highlights –yet Vigo continued to pose a danger and Hugo Mallo had time to fire a shot wide.

The second goal the home side needed arrived on the stroke of half-time and ended the match as a contest.

Alba’s fine pass found Messi in space and the Argentine maestro continued his red-hot form by sublimely finishing from the edge of the box.

Into the second half and, while Vigo did little wrong, Barca had a clear edge.

The lively Boufal, on loan at the club from English Premier League side Southampton, saw another effort blocked as the visitors tried to gain a foothold back into the match but the loss of Aspas to injury moments later was a clear blow and, as the 10-goal danger man went off, so did their best chance of a goal.

Brais Mendez went close with a curling shot as the spirited Galicians continued to battle but there was a feeling their efforts were in vain.

Suarez’s shot then went wide after another fine ball from Alba as Barca went in search of a third goal.

Nelson Semedo, returning to the team following an injury, called Ruben into action, while the sight of Phillipe Coutinho warming up would have done little to lift spirits in the away ranks.

Still, Vigo battled as Robert Mazanand then Fran Beltran saw shots blocked and Beltran kept Ter Stegen alert with another left-footed shot.

Coutinho, on for Dembele, and Messi both had shots as the home side finished strongly and, while a third goal would have been harsh on the visitors, the best team clearly won the day.

La Liga: Barcelona defeat Celta Vigo at home with a 2-0 scoreline

Barcelona players celebrate after Ousmane Dembele scored their first goal against Celta Vigo

Celta Vigo remain relatively comfortable in mid-table, closer to sixth spot and a European place than they are to the drop zone, but will need an improved second half of the campaign if they are to return to the Europa League next season.

They reached the semi-finals of the competition in 2017.

Key Statistics

The opener was Barcelona’s 101st league goal of 2018 – more than any other team in Europe’s big major leagues.

Messi, who added the 102nd, has now scored 15 goals in La Liga and is the division’s top scorer.

Messi is the only player from the top five European leagues to score 15 league goals or more in each of the last 11 seasons.

It takes his tally of career goals for Barcelona to 572.

Barcelona have now scored 19 more league goals (48) than the side nearest to them Sevilla (29) and twice as many as arch-rivals Real Madrid (24) – albeit having played one league fixture more than the Madrid giants.

Barcelona have now four league clean sheets in a row. They last conceded a goal against Atletico Madrid on November 24.

What’s next?

La Liga 2018 betting odds may change little during the winter break.

Barcelona are next in action against Getafe on January 6 and then travel to Levante four days later in the first leg of their last 16 match in the Copa del Rey.

The reigning champions then entertain Eibar on January 13.

Celta Vigo host Athletic Bilbao when they return to action on January 7 followed by another league clash, at Rayo Vallecano, four days later.



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La Liga: Can Celta Dampen Champions’ Christmas?

Barcelona vs Celta Vigo

The reigning champions sign off for Christmas at the Nou Camp with top spot in La Liga all but guaranteed.

However, us fans expect them to maintain their three point advantage at the summit with victory in this one.

Indeed, one suspects coach Ernesto Valverde would be disappointed himself if the club’s lead over Sevilla and the Madrid clubs is any less going into the winter break.

Talking Points

Last time out the league leaders ran riot which simply cemented why they are title favourites with La Liga 2018 betting odds.

Unsurprisingly, the main man in their 5-0 victory over Levante was the diminutive Lionel Messi.

That game, in which he netted a hat-trick and set up two, took his tally for the season to 14 goals and 10 assists.

No wonder the Argentine magician is considered the man who produces the most La Liga 2018 highlights single-handedly.

At the other end, Barcelona have also been productive this week.

The signing, on loan, of Valencia centre back Jeison Murillo (announced now, although he is ineligible to play until January) will strengthen a squad weakened by an injury to Samuel Umtiti and which, uncharacteristically, has conceded 19 goals in its first 16 league games this season.

The rear guard will certainly have to be alert against opponents who have the third best attacking record this season in La Liga with 28 goals – albeit some 18 goals fewer than the Catalan club.

Iago Aspas hopes to stand a chance against Lionel Messi and make it into La Liga 2018 highlights

Iago Aspas is expected to lead Celta Vigo in winning against Barcelona

Although in ninth spot, Celta are only four points off sixth place which is a guaranteed European spot, while in 10-goal Iago Aspas they have a genuine danger man.

He and Maxi Gomez have scored 18 of Celta’s 28 league goals this term and those two will be key to the away side’s chances of success this weekend.

Their problem has been at the back though where they have conceded 24 – only Huesca, Rayo Vallecano and Levante have conceded more.

They struggled last time out too as they were held at home by Leganes which left the Galicians, who had dominated long spells of the game, particularly frustrated.

It extended Vigo’s unbeaten run to three matches but, during the same period, Barcelona have won three in a row, scoring 11 goals without conceding any.

All in the all, the stats suggest we could be in for a pre-Christmas cracker with goals galore.


When you look at the recent history you can see why Barcelona are overwhelming favourites.

In 11 of the last 20 meetings, Barca have come out on top, drawing five and losing four.

From the last 10 matches played at the Nou Camp, Celta have managed to win only once while Barcelona have been successful on seven occasions.

More still, Barca have scored 18 times in their last five homes games against Celta, averaging more than three goals a game.

The last two La Liga matches between Barcelona and Celta have actually finished level, including a 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp last season.

On that occasion Messi and Luis Suarez were on target but their goals were cancelled out by Aspas and Gomez Gonzalez.

The rematch last April also finished 2-2 with Aspas rescuing a point for Vigo, albeit against a weakened Barcelona who rested players with the title all but won and the Copa del Rey Final just days later.

They twice fought back with Jonny Castro also scoring after Barca had twice been in front through Osumane Dembele and Paco Alcacer, now banging in the goals for Borussia Dortmund.

Celta have actually won three and drawn two of their last eight La Liga games with Barcelona.

But they were thumped two seasons ago, going down 5-0 in the Nou Camp.

Betting Tip

Barcelona vs Celta Vigo Total Goal 2-3 @ 3.05
December 23, 01:30 (GMT+8)

Celta Vigo put up a spirited showing against Real Madrid last month but still lost and I expect them to lose this one too.

The odds naturally are weighted in the champion’s favour.

So much so, in fact, that 1X2 odds offer Barca @ 1.12 with Celta Vigo a gulf apart, rather than distant, @ 18.50.

The draw @ 8.25 even seems unlikely with these odds.

Asian Handicap odds are equally adamant that a home victory is the most likely result.

You can get odds of Barcelona -2.50 @ 1.81 and -2.75 @ 2.01.

In contrast, how about Vigo + 2.50 @ 2.13?

Even over 4.25 goals will only pay out @ 1.89 and total goal 4-6 @ 1.71.

?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.




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La Liga: Messi’s the Main Man in Valencia!

Levante 0-5 Barcelona

Barcelona ran riot at the Ciutat de Valencia tonight as Lionel Messi scored yet another hat-trick to fire the Champions three points clear at the top of La Liga.

Luis Suarez opened the scoring against an in-form Levante side, and then the man from Argentina simply destroyed his hosts, scoring three and making two assists as Gerard Pique added a late fifth.

The biggest La Liga 2018 news on Saturday was that Atletico had drawn level at the top with Barca thanks to a man-of-the-match performance from Antoine Griezmann, scoring twice and making the third in a 2-3 win away to Real Valladolid. Then Sevilla joined the leaders on 31 points after a 2-0 win over Girona, with Real Madrid ominously just a couple of points behind.

Despite things bunching up at the top of the league, the La Liga 2018 betting markets still have Ernesto Valverde’s team as odds-on favourites to lift the title again, with Los Blancos sneaking into second place in the running.

And a thumping win like this just goes to show the market knows what it’s doing!

Highlights of the game

Paco Lopez has Levante to eighth in the table, and Barca realised they were in for a game when Emmanuel Boateng forced Ter Stegen to make a good save low to his right.

But the champions soon got into their stride. Barca’s second string bossed the Champions League tie with Spurs in midweek but the big hitters were recalled for this key La Liga match in Valencia. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez started the game with 21 league goals between them, and Valverde put his faith in them to stretch the Levante defence. And the two combined well for Messi to fire in a shot which whistled just past the post on ten minutes.

Jason was a creative force for Levante and he produced a chance for Ruben Rochina but he had his effort blocked. Then Messi fired a shot towards the top right corner which was expertly tipped away by Oier. But there was little the Levante keeper could do on 35 minutes when Messi slid a ball to Suarez and the Uruguayan smashed it high into the top left corner.

La Liga: Barcelona defeat Levante 5-0 with Luis Suarez scoring the first goal

Luis Suarez celebrate after scoring Barcelona’s first goal against Levante

Then, just before the break, Messi was on the end of a quick breakaway and put Barca 2-0 up with a cool finish past Oier.

The hosts could feel a little hard done to by the halftime scoreline, having had a good share of the ball and the shots on goal. But if they felt like they had an uphill battle during the break, it suddenly became a mountainous task just a couple of minutes into the second half when Messi was given too much space and slotted his second, and Barca’s third, low into the corner.

The little genius’ hat-trick came exactly on the hour and this time it was put on a plate for him. The industrious Arturo Vidal fired a ball across the six-yard box and Messi poked home from point-blank range.

There wasn’t a lot Levante could do about the scoreline, but Erick Cabaco lost his head and his place on the pitch, seeing red for a nasty assault on Ousmane Dembele to make it a night to forget for the hosts. Even more forgettable in the dying minutes when Messi set up Gerard Pique to fire home the fifth.

Key Statistics

Levante was well in the game in the first half hour and finished the opening 45 with a level shot count of seven each. But Barcelona’s world-class strikers were clinical when the chances presented themselves and the champions went in two up at the break.

And while Levante still had plenty of the ball in the second half, the same pattern continued. Barca hit the target while the hosts fired blanks to make it three wins in three for Valverde’s men and a first defeat in four for Levante.

What’s next?

A four-game winless streak in the autumn stopped Barca from pulling away at the top of La Liga and that made it a more entertaining prospect for us football fans.

But Valverde’s men have shown they are the real deal yet again with this resounding win in Valencia. Barcelona faces another form side next weekend, when Celta Vigo visits the Camp Nou, up to ninth having taken seven points from the last three games.

Meanwhile, Levante visits Rayo Vallecano; and that’s a good chance for Lopez’ side to get back to winning ways against the 19th placed club, which has just suffered back-to-back defeats. They just need to forget about this game and move on.



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