17 April 2011

Carles Puyol: "A final is always different"

Carles Puyol, who played a match again after almost two and a half months injured, believes the trajectories and precedents of Barça and Madrid will have no influence on how the Spanish Cup Final will go on Wednesday.

The presence of the captain Carles Puyol, on Saturday, in the starting line-up, was a big surprise. A pleasant surprise, although in the 58th minute he had to leave the pitch injured. Puyol hadn’t played a game since the 22nd of January, against Racing Santander, two and a half months that seemed like an eternity to the player. This Sunday, around mid-day, Carles Puyol spoke about his recovery, the league game against Madrid, and the Spanish Cup Final next Wednesday, at a press conference at the Joan Gamper training ground.

The four games against Real Madrid appear to be the main focus in the Barça camp these last few days. Puyol acknowledges that games against Mourinho's team “are a real challenge because they are games against our biggest rival". Given that, the captain stated that the team is "really looking forward to it all".

However, Puyol, who has already spent 12 years in Barça’s first team and knows all about clashes with Real Madrid, believes that you shouldn’t look at the recent games with Madrid to analyse the Cup Final on Wednesday, "A final is always different.......it has nothing to do with previous games or either club’s current trajectory”, he said.

As for Saturday's game against Real Madrid and the 8 point lead that Barça still maintain, Puyol says that "the title is a bit closer, . but we mustn’t be overconfident”. Although he thinks the team could have got a better result on Saturday, the captain said "the general feeling is that we played a god game".

As far as Mourinho’s game plan went, Puyol said that "everybody plays as they see fit and use the weapons they have". However, Puyol talked about the matches to come, saying "we have a philosophy, a way of playing, and we’ll respect that to the end”.

On his return to the team after injury Puyol stated that "I felt very good, with loads of enthusiasm and excitement. It’s been three hard months that were very tough for me". Despite having hamstring problems during the game, and having to leave the field early, the captain explained that "it was the perfect place to make my comeback. In the first half I felt really good until I started having some problems”. He denied that the hamstring strain on his left thigh was due to perhaps coming back too early: "We made the decision and it was the right one”.

In terms of whether he’ll be Ok for the Cup Final, Puyol is not sure if he’ll play, but "I’ll definitely be there, playing or not, I don’t know”.

Puyol talked about the last few months of recovery when he didn’t know when he might be able to return to the first team."Every day I kept trying. There were days when it all went well and others where we went back to the beginning. That was the hardest part” he said, but he’s confident he won’t have a recurrence of the injury. (via FCBarcelona.cat)

21 players in the Ciudad Deportiva

FC Barcelona has exercised this Sunday morning at the Ciudad Deportiva. The owners have done work and Oier recovery, and Thiago Dos Santos, Barça B have also been trained with the first team.

A day after the first derby ( 1-1 ), the set of Josep Guardiola has done the usual recovery session in which Post-holders have exercised Bernabeu more smoothly than other peers. This session also participated Puyol and Adriano , who on Saturday were withdrawn early with discomfort.

Bojan and Abidal, still injured, are the only players who have not exercised on the lawn . Both make treatment and specific job. In total, then, 21 players (18 first team and three of B) have been exercised at the Sports City three days before the Cup final

The first team will now enjoy a holiday and not return to work until Tuesday, at 11 am , which will be the last session before the second Classic, to be played on Wednesday at 21.30 pm in Mestalla.

Cup: clásicos happy ending (I)

On July 11th1968 Barça beat Madrid for the first time in a Spanish Cup Final The game, played in the Bernabéu and remembered for the throwing of bottles at the end of the match, was decided by an own goal by Zunzunegui.

From this Sunday until Tuesday, we’ll review each of the three Cup finals, out of the five disputed, that Barça has beaten Madrid. The first was in 1968, the 16th Cup trophy in FC Barcelona history, who came to the Bernabeu in a final full of controversy and that was resolved with an early own goal by Zunzunegui, in the 6th minute, following a Rifé cross. After that game, glass bottles were banned in all grounds.

Carles Rexach, in the Barça TV program 'Cup Stories', also with the participation of Guillermo Amor, Julio Alberto and Andoni Zubizarreta, acknowledged that "it was a dull game with lots of fouls....the best thing was the result, which allowed us to save the season," said Rexach, who was 21 years old at that time.

He was right. That season, Barcelona finished second in the league with 39 points, 3 behind Madrid, champions for the second consecutive year. Barça, however, had not won the League since the 1959/60 season and they needed the Cup to save their season. "At that time it was really hard for Barça to win the league, and the Cup was our salvation, the quickest way to win a trophy," said Rexach.

For Carles Rexach it was a very special Final. "I had only played the first round of the Cup against Sporting. Then I went to do my military service and came back for the final. It was a pleasure that they came to get me for the match. Nowadays it would be unthinkable" Rexach said. He emphasised the type of game played in Finals in those days, when "teams played to the limit of the rules, often ending with serious injuries, and there was extremely intense man marking". (via FCBarcelona.cat)

Guardiola undefeated against Madrid

After the draw on Saturday reached the Bernabeu, Josep Guardiola continues without defeat in direct duels against Real Madrid since he is the head coach of Barcelona.

Five wins and a draw. 17 goals scored and only three against. This is more than positive assessment of results against that of the whole white Santpedor has since became the first team coach. Guardiola's Barca then continues undefeated in fighting against Real Madrid.

The following are other details of a party after which the situation at the head of the classification remains the same.

- With this draw, Barca chains since 30 matches without losing . Thus, all directed by Josep Guardiola is just two matches unbeaten record in the regular competition, currently in the hands of the Royal Society from the 1979/1980 season. The Barça could match the Basques Real Sociedad, within two days.

- A day later, and after the classic at the Bernabeu, Barca still eight points above its immediate rival in the standings in the league. There are 18 points to play in this competition.

- The dominance of possession of the group led by Josep Guardiola was overwhelming, with 72% for a 28% of Real Madrid .

- With the goal from a penalty against the team that became the first white against a team led by Mourinho - Messi became the player that has scored more goals at this stage, a total of four, leaving behind his Zaldúa, Asensi, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Henry , all three.

- Carles Puyol reappeared in the starting lineup after not having done so since 23 January for some pain in the knee. Unfortunately, it had to be substituted as a precaution.

- Raul Albiol , who was ejected with a straight red as a result of the criminal who committed over Villa will miss the final of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday that the two teams played in Mestalla.

- With the goal at the Bernabeu Messi, FC Barcelona has scored so many goals away from home , a total of 44 , as did the 2008/2009 season , the league record. Therefore, it could surpass his own record on the next shift, which will be against Real Sociedad.

- Counting the 1-1 on Saturday in the computer field blank, it is the 31st time that Barca and Real Madrid tie in the history of the competition regularly. (via FCBarcelona.cat)

Messi, record goalscorer at the Bernabeu

Barca drew 1-1 with Real Madrid with a goal from Leo Messi, who became the Barça player who has scored most goals (4) at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The 23 year old Messi scored the fourth goal of his career, a penalty, in Madrid surpassing other Barça players, who had managed 3 goals in the Bernabéu: Zaldúa, Asensi, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Henry.

In fact, the Santiago Bernabéu is a ground that Leo seems to like, as he’s scored in the last three games in Madrid, in the 6-2 win, the 2-0 win last year and the 1-1 draw on Saturday.

His goal, which came in the 53rd minute from a penalty, after a foul on David Villa by Raul Albiol, was his 30th in the league. For the second consecutive season, Messi has passed the barrier of 30 goals in the Spanish League, something nobody had done before. Messi has scored 49 goals in all competitions in the current season.

Messi finally scored a goal against a team managed by José Mourinho, something that had eluded him for a long time, In fact, his goal came in his 9th match against Mourinho, counting the games against Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid. (via FCBarcelona.cat)

Barca looks to open store in New York and Beijing

The good results obtained by the team in recent years have given to football Guardiola an international to the club begins to benefit. And is that Barca studies alongside Nike to open new stores abroad.

According to the website of financial newspaper 'Expansion', the Catalan club have begun talks with Nike, the sports brand worn by the entity to open two stores in Beijing and New York. Establishments that would see the light within two or three years and initiate a project to expand the Barcelona brand into China, USA, Mexico, South Korea and Turkey.

Recall that the club currently has a network of stores focused exclusively in Catalonia, where there are currently 12 establishments. In addition, there is a point of sale of the entity at the mall Barca Las Arenas de Gran Canaria. (via SPORT)

Mourinho to pre-enroll their children in his old school in Milan

Rumors put to Mourinho out of Madrid next season to pick up strength again this Sunday in Italy. And is that according to the newspaper 'La Gazzetta dello Sport', the Portuguese coach has pre-registered their children at his old school in Lugano.

Although only a season ago who came to the bench for Real Madrid and despite having chances to win two titles in Italy insist on seeing Mourinho out of the Bernabeu. The continuing controversy that shook the Portuguese coach in the capital, where he maintains a delicate relationship with Valdano, head coach of white, and the media have not gone unnoticed by the Italian press, which dreams of returning to see ' Mou "sitting on the bench for Inter.

In addition, 'La Gazzetta dello Sport' published on Sunday a fact that fuels more rumors. And according to the Italian newspaper, the white coach has pre-registered for their sons and International Lugado school, institute where the two children studied Mourinho during his time as coach of calcium. (via SPORT)

Mourinho abused at the Bernabeu turf to stop Barca

The dirty strategies Madrid coach did not give the Real Madrid result and said goodbye to the league title.

Bojan Krkic made a joke at the start of the meeting to take a little water on the lawn of the Santiago Bernabeu. The Linyola, who accompanied the team along with Mascherano and Abidal, also absent, laughed at the way Jose Mourinho's strategy to halt the club. Aware that the Portuguese football team did not allow for more superior to a rival, used what he had in his hand to avoid another ridiculous as the 5-0 first-leg.

And he did, although it was not enough to keep fighting for the league. The Portuguese, in addition to complain until the pointer and let the sellers of scarves from the traffic lights out of stock, forbade the turf club to provide a fit for a game of this nature. The millions of global viewers could see how the carpet at Santiago Bernabeu was more like a park malcuidado of the Spanish capital at a prestigious football field. So Mourinho wanted him and what he says Mourinho in Madrid is law. It is not the first time that the Portuguese used this dirty strategy to try to overcome Barca. In fact, Mou and became famous in his day 'London Stamford Beach ", to convert a special stage in a potato field.

Nor at that time came up effect. Quite the contrary. Barca beat Chelsea 1-2 and was eliminated at the hands of a Blaugrana has been used to playing where you are told without ever losing its essence.

Yesterday was no exception. It took into the game and missed more passes than normal. Which makes sense considering that between the orders of the almighty Mourinho was to not take even a drop of water on the lawn. Dry and long, the camp became an ally of Real Madrid and an enemy of free-flowing football and colorful Barça. But the Catalans, led by Xavi, tanning in a thousand battles, became accustomed to the passage of minutes. It helped to get, while still not reached half of the first half, 80% possession. The ball should move fast or slow, was the club. And with something as little can the Portuguese tactician.

Real Madrid coach showed that he was not all him not only with its treatment of the pitch at the Santiago Bernabeu, but also giving precise instructions to the ball boys as the game progressed. The inhabitants of the band got tired of running and delivering balls to the players of either team so fast. Never had the opportunity to do so with calm and tranquility. Quite the contrary. The penalty goal from Leo Messi, who attacked him the green lasers from the stands as his coach excited for a ball boy, they multiplied to try that time does not run. The rush is not good and when to run, it is recommended that the lawn is in good condition. Mourinho was not because I wanted to, giving, again, the image of club small, tiny, and his players also suffered, not only for Barça. The Portuguese did not invent anything new at Real Madrid. Not long dry grass, or the continued crying or anything. But above all, has turned white institution in a small club, complaining like a small club that plays like a small club that has a coach that many small clubs would not want. The sprinklers came with the teams in the shower. Sad. (via SPORT)

The Clásico with more than 100 million viewers

Madrid-Barcelona paralyzed the world for 90 minutes and made a spectacular television ratings.

The Clásico with peaks of more than 100 million viewers. A Madrid-Barça historic broadcast. These are the first conclusions of the meeting yesterday, all a television phenomenon. For the first time up to 10 countries broadcast the game in 3D with a spectacular display, huge, with over 300 professionals who guarantee the best signal transmission worldwide.

The international signal was produced by Mediapro and the meeting could be followed in Canal + France, JCF Israel, Sky Italia, Canal + Poland, England, Sky, Canal + Sweden, BETV Belgium, which opened yesterday the first channel 3D. The meeting also saw in this format in the cinemas of Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the agreement with Chello, which provides network in these countries.

Mediapro turned upward in a format that was yesterday with many adhesions. The specific device to perform 3D signal had more than 40 professionals and a total of seven double camera positions robot installed on five rigs (two of three settings mirror and side-by-side) plus a fixed rig a stand alone camera, all of its technological partner Kronomav.

The meeting will also be able to continue in the best cinemas in HD and Dolby Surround sound. Up to 12 screens in Spain were enabled to follow a sporting event. And in recent years has become one more option to continue the great games of the league. Yesterday's was not the first time that more than a dozen theaters around the country projected the clásico for hundreds of followers. The HD broadcast on a large screen, allowed to enjoy the excitement of a clásico. (via SPORT)

[Rating] Real Madrid CF - FC Barcelona (1-1)


Valdés: "It's not our style review of the referee"

Victor Valdes, Barcelona goalkeeper, would not comment on the controversy and said the classic is not the "style" of his club "review of the referee or find excuses."

Victor Valdes, Barcelona goalkeeper, would not comment on the controversy and said the classic is not the "style" of his club "review of the referee or find excuses." "There have been controversial moves that better not say. The arbitrator's role is not easy in that game. It is not the way we think about these things or make excuses. It is best to watch the remaining matches," he said in the mixed zone the Santiago Bernabeu.

Despite the outcome, which keeps the distance of eight points with Real Madrid with six days, the Barcelona goalkeeper assumes not yet won the league. "We are not champions because mathematically it is not made and we must maintain respect. We have taken an important step because we maintain the same distance with a time less than league," she added.

"The ride that we're good. We must draw positive conclusions. The team has come to give the face a very difficult stage, we have come up and have the ball. We have encountered difficulties but do not value but look ahead and make positive conclusions, "he added.

Finally, he spoke about the Cup final next Wednesday at the Mestalla, again against Real Madrid. "A final is always different than anything, we can not compare to the league championship. Coming of confronting today reinforces the group." (via AS)

Busquets: "We could win and leave it buttoned"

"We're happy with the point, since we stayed at the same distance in the absence of a game, but it is clear that when they were ten could have won."

FC Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said after the draw made in Santiago Bernabéu (1-1) is about is good but could have left all "buttoned up" if they had been able to win the feud merengue. "We're happy with the points earned, and we stayed at the same distance in the absence of a game, but it is clear that when they were ten could have won and leave everything buttoned up," he said.

Busquets complained much of the state of the turf, which in his opinion "was not as fast" to develop the game that "likes." "The grass was not as fast as we would like to implement football we like to do," he said. "We had to play many more times than if it were faster, but be positive and think that we are at the same points as before and is a game in," complained the international player.

Finally, Catalan made it clear that the team tried to end "and not let go. "We had more possession saliesen to keep them on the counter, which is its most important feature. We're happy and now it prepare to win the Cup final," he concluded. (via AS)

Xavi: "We have been higher"

The brain has declared Barcelona Barca players have gone with "good feelings" and they've done a little step "towards the league title.

After the draw at the Bernabeu, Xavi Hernandez has shown clear: "In any case, the Madrid strengthen it. We have been higher, faithful to us and we leave with good feelings despite not get the three points." He added: "We had control, with patience, we defended very well and we have escaped the end." In this sense, Xavi has shown surprised by the approach of rival. "It gave us the entire domain. We did not expect, we thought we would press up," he said.

"One step further"

'6 'Barca believes that the tie, which holds an eight-point gap between Catalans and' meringues', "is a little step, but not done yet." Like all the Barcelona players Xavi has bitten his tongue when talking about the arbitration and has not wanted to comment much the height of the grass pitch. "Here they send them," he said simply.

The second of the four classic will be Wednesday in the Cup final "We will seek to have the domain, to show our personality and from there try to win," he said.

The following is the testimony of other players:

Dani Alves:

"I do not share the arbitrator's decision because I play the ball clean and not touch it. In addition, Marcelo told me that he had to shoot."

"Better not say anything more than arbitration, they try to do their job."

"It's positive that we can win, we must continue because we have a party on Wednesday superimportant. Let's see if we have more wealth."

"We must continue this line, keep adding points and try to keep the lead until the end."

"We are very motivated for the Cup, especially after the game. We deserved more, and football always provides a new opportunity and will be on Wednesday."

"We are equal and with a day less and is super-positive."

"Everyone played their weapons and ultimately they have been an undeserved prize I think."

Pedro Rodriguez:

"We had a great game. A draw is a good result because we continue with the same advantage."

"We do not know how we raise the final, we know it will be very difficult and very hard, but try to win."

"The final will be totally different. Do not give importance to what has happened here."

Seydou Keita:

"After the goal, we played and played, we played well."

"I do not want to talk about the arbitration, but is a bit difficult."


"We could have taken all three points, but we have one and the assessment should be positive."

"We have to leave happy. The party is over and now we must think of Wednesday, we'll play a title."

"The decision of the tall grass is Madrid. They have the best stadium and believe."

"We controlled the game very well and the penalty is a shame."


"We are proud that the captain has played. There is nothing important."

"We're happy, we like to win but a good result for us." (via FCBarcelona.cat)

[Barça B] Luis Enrique: "The point is worth the effort of the players"

Barça B coach is satisfied with the draw obtained in Huelva, against an opponent that did not make things easy for the Catalans.

Luis Enrique considered to the extent that the equipment was in Huelva reflects what was seen on the pitch as the club took the weight of the game, but Recreativo had numerous occasions. In fact, the locals were the first to open the can: "From my point of view, the party has been matched in terms of actions that have been endangered. I think it's a fair result."

The Spaniard was glad of the outcome by his men, who nine days ago and they do not know the defeat: "I'm happy for the team, and to continue with this good dynamics. The effort of the players is offset by this point."

Luis Enrique also had words of praise for Recreativo de Huelva: "It's a team I really like and that is very well worked. Despite the heavy casualties that they have maintained the level of play. I think it was the team who has best defense against us. " (via FCBarcelona.cat)

[Youth] More joy and celebration with the title of Infantil A (8-0)

Fran Sanchez's team has thrashed Sant Cugat in a game that has resulted in a mathematical way to get the league title. The Only Infantil A has yielded three draws ensures the championship two days before the end.

Fran Sanchez boys were aware that a win against the proclaimed Sant Cugat Champions League and have gone all out in field number 7 of the Ciudad Deportiva Joan Gamper.

The striker Rafa Mir has signed the first two goals of the game with two big plays that the group has managed to transform Cartagena. 2 to zero after the first period. Ayoub Abou, an inspired throughout the morning and extended Canós differences and placed a strong 4 to zero at the break.

Ayoub on a fielder's central master and Ivan Rodriguez to the exit of a corner sealed two more goals in the third period. In the last 18 minutes have been responsible for marking Cristian Sanz, who made his debut as a scorer and Alexis Meva who signed his 51 th goal of the season.

Daniel Garcia when the referee has blown for the end of the game has sparked joy among players who have celebrated with great joy the title. They blanketed the coach, have launched 'the pool' and in the locker room jumped, screamed and showered with euphoria own age.

Barca's victory amounted to 78 points Saturday and left and no chance to Damm that could reach a maximum of 77 points. After 28 days, the boys of Fran Sanchez and Xavi Franquesa have added 25 wins and three draws. The balance of goals could not be more favorable, with 141 goals scored and only 11 conceded.

Guillermo Amor welcomed one by one all the components of the Infantil A to the Club. Director of football at Barcelona's training has not joined today Albert Puig recently become a father. (via FCBarcelona.cat)

Mou: "I'm tired of playing against Barca with ten"

"It is almost impossible to play on equal terms. Alves should see the second yellow card. They dominate the situation," said Jose Mourinho, very angry with Muñiz Fernández.

Jose Mourinho complained about the arbitration Muñiz Fernandez, who drove Albiol: "It was a very balanced game when we were eleven against eleven. It was a clash of teams own respect, they know that the opponent is strong and that made no had great scoring opportunities. And then, as happens many times, we were ten and then it was mission impossible. "

"Barça is the world's best possession. With eleven against eleven got into difficulties. With eleven against ten was able to do what he likes. Again, difference of opinion was amazing because I do not understand why that Alves did not see the second yellow. If such failure is 50 meters and is card and if done in the area, more. The fourth official told me they do not took the card because it is a defensive end, "he added .

"We played well with ten because we are prepared to do it with ten. I tried to play more direct. Adebayor was the exit we needed one less. The crowd was fantastic and we managed a draw. I like to play with eleven against eleven but both Spain in Europe is impossible. I'm tired of games against Barcelona prepare to ten. In every talk I do. "

Mourinho insisted the injury by the expulsion of Albiol: "The consequences of this match on Wednesday is that we played 45 minutes with ten. The people were worn with one less. The second conclusion is that with eleven against eleven have conditions to compete ".

And returned to the charge when asked about the Cup final: "We in the hope of finding a referee who has the same criteria for both teams, although we know we played against an opponent who has a stunning position control. A them nothing happens. His aides come and go and sit fourth official sent us to us. "

And finally talking about Cristiano Ronaldo: "For me it is important to mark his first goal against Barca. He has cold blood and courage to face a decisive penalty in the dying minutes. With one less has had to play differently and it has well. All we leave with positive feelings, we tried to do things right and have the recognition of our people. " (via AS)

Guardiola: "We will try to go on to be champions"

Pep Guardiola retained the spirit that always shows respect to Real Madrid, said he was pleased with the draw and refused to talk about the referee's performance.

"Coming to the Bernabeu and tie is a very good result. The Madrid is a master computer. With the 0-1 we lacked look a little more Casillas' goal. Coming here and not lose is always a good result because Real Madrid I insist, is a man team, "said Guardiola, who declined to comment on the disposition and alignment that took Jose Mourinho. "Missing only give advice to Mr Mourinho. Only missing. I have enough to take care of mine, of ours," said Guardiola, who noted the presence of Pepe in the midfield, he was not surprised. "Pepe is a player with great presence. They have individual marks. We expected something like this. The point was to create superiority by Busquets, and search space with the above. Pepe is strong. We'll see on Wednesday to see how it goes end, "said Barcelona coach, who declined to draw conclusions in relation to the Cup final

"I do not know what will happen. Whenever you come here a lot can happen. We have lost and also win the final. Eight points on goal difference in six days. Try to go on to be champions," said the coach, who declined talk about the referee or specific actions of the party. "It's your job. I have not seen anything," he said.

Guardiola revealed that Carles Puyol is suffering from a hamstring injury, nothing to do with what he has had three months off the pitch. "He made a great effort. I think it's a small contracture due to inactivity, the grass, the tension. I think it is serious and seek for the future," said Guardiola, who stressed how difficult it is to "get a tie at the Santiago Bernabeu. " (via SPORT)

Albiol is lost final

On the other side Real Madrid, Raul Albiol will miss the final after a straight red card he has seen in the action of the penalty on David Villa.

Puyol, with a contraction, changed as a precaution

Carles Puyol has suffered a hamstring contracture of the left leg and then was replaced by caution Keita.

The captain, who had not played since Jan. 23 by a sore knee, had been the main novelty of the Barca starting XI. After a comprehensive performance, along with Pique in central defense, has called for change at minute 58.

In the press conference following the classic, Pep Guardiola has explained: "He made a great effort and has been charged with a little hamstring. There is a serious injury and we will try to face the future."

Moreover, Adriano Correia has suffered a contraction in the soleus of the left leg and has been changed by Maxwell, on 80 minutes. (via FCBarcelona,cat)

[La Liga -Liga BBVA - 32] Real Madrid CF 0 - 1 FC Barcelona

FC Barcelona have taken a point from their trip to the Santiago Bernabéu and maintain their eight-point lead on Madrid with just 18 left to play for. Messi and Ronaldo scored the goals, both from the penalty spot.
The first clásico of the series of four has ended in a draw, which included two penalties, one red card and plenty of tension in game that leaves FC Barcelona in a wonderful position in the league table. It was an intense game from the kick off, with the two teams employing very different game plans: while Guardiola sent out his strongest attacking formation with Puyol back in the side but unable to complete the 90 minutes through injury, Mourinho’s plan was more about breaking down the Barça machine, with Özil on the bench and Pepe running the midfield.

And so Barça dominated the possession, while Madrid based their game on counter attacks, and that led to chances for both sides. Barça went ahead with a penalty converted by Leo Messi but Cristiano Ronaldo replied in similar fashion shortly before the final whistle. Ultimately, Barça have kept their eight-point lead intact, and the players celebrated a result that serves their cause very well indeed.

The game started just as it suited Barça best, with the Catalans able to pass the ball around and dictate the pace of the action. Madrid took a more passive role, and waited at the back rather than apply any major pressure in midfield. The home side’s idea was to neutralise the Barça attack, and incredibly, after the first half hour, Madrid had only had 19% of the possession. With the bone dry grass not helping matters, it was a slow and often dull start to the game.

Barça finally started turning their possession into chances, and from then on the game grew more and more interesting. Messi almost put his side ahead with a chip that Casillas deftly collected in the air. Moments later there were claims for a penalty on Villa, but the referee didn’t want to know. Madrid also started playing more ambitious football, with most of their danger coming from dead ball situations, and Adriano was called upon to head a Cristiano Ronaldo effort off the line. The first half ended scoreless.

The second half was much faster and produced plenty to talk about. Cristiano Ronaldo powered the ball onto the woodwork, and Barça responded with a long ball to Villa, who was brought down in the area by Albiol. This time the referee did point at the spot and also sent the centre back off, meaning he will miss the cup final. Messi made no mistake with the penalty, and Barça were one-up.

Oddly, it was after going a goal and a man down that Madrid started producing their best football. With Puyol withdrawn with a groin injury, Busquets moved back into defence, and FC Barcelona handed much of the control of the game to their rivals. The last quarter of an hour saw the kind of end-to-end football that the all-whites enjoy so much, and in one of their attacks, the referee deemed an Alves tackle on Marcelo worthy of a penalty. Ronaldo stepped up, and equalised the game, but the 1-1 result still leaves Barça in a fantastic position as far as their title hopes are concerned.

[Technical Data]

Real Madrid: Iker Casillas; Sergio Ramos, Raúl Albiol, Carvalho, Marcelo; Pepe, Khedira, Xabi Alonso (Adebayor, m.66); Di María (Arbeloa, m.66), Cristiano Ronaldo y Benzema (Özil, m.57).

Barcelona: Valdés; Alves, Puyol (Keita, m.57), Piqué, Adriano (Maxwell, m.80); Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro (Afellay, m.66); Messi y Villa.

Goals: 0-1, m.53: Messi penalty. 1-1, m.82: Cristiano, penalty.

Referee: Muñoz Fernandez (Asturias school). Admonished Marcelo (31), Arbeloa (76) by Real Madrid, and Adriano (9), Pique (26), Alves (78), Valdes (81) and Xavi (90) by Barcelona. He drove a red card on 52 minutes with Raul Albiol.

Incidents: meeting for the 32nd day of the season played at the Bernabeu before 79,500 spectators.