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Deportivo La Coruña
11 January 2014
• Estadio Vicente Calderón, Madrid
Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz
• Attendance: 54800
That's my cue, it's been a pleasure. Bye for now.
Not the classic that one might have hoped for. Tenacious defending rather than transcendent attacking was the order of the day, but the game was not any less captivating for it. Every player on the pitch gave it their all, and in the end, it's a hard earned point for both sides. With half a season now played, they both are locked on a half a century of points at the top of the table.
90' + 4'
90' + 2'
Neymar dances past two challenges at the top of the box, but just cannot latch onto Messi's return!
Three minutes to be added...
Not too much happening in terms of goalmouth action as the game trudges towards the finish. You can't begrudge either side a point, really.
You get the feeling, from the way that Barca have been playing for the last few minutes, that they are quite happy to take a point back to Catalonia.
A one-touch pass from Koke somehow flashes through the area without any takers! Chances and time running out!
Yellow Card Daniel Alves
MESSI...DENIED BY COURTOIS! He uses every inch of his six foot six frame to leg away a blistering low shot from the Argentine, as Barca nearly score on the counter attack!
VALDES MAKES A GOOD SAVE! Turan goes through the ball with a great half volley, but it's within saveable distance of the Barca keeper, who makes no mistake!
COSTA SENDS IT WIDE! He's a magnet for the ball inside the area, but this time, gets his radar wrong and cannot steer his header in the direction of Valdes!
Costa takes a hit from Mascherano, but the referee has his eyes on a scythe on Turan from Neymar, who somehow escapes a booking.
After a long buildup for a 25-yard Messi free kick, the Argentine fires right into the wall. Another anti climatic moment.
Neymar bursts forward towards the byeline, and picks out a pass towards the centre of the box...that finds only the Atletico defence. Disappointing end to a promising move.
Yellow Card Javier Mascherano
The give and go from Villa and Costa is magnificent, and Mascherano knows exactly what he is doing, barging into the latter to prevent the break. Yellow for the Argentine.
STUPENDOUS ball into the box from Arda Turan, and it beats the first defender, but is asking just, just a little too much from Koke, whose despairing dive fails to construe contact on the ball!
MESSI...OH SO CLOSE! The Argentine bursts into life for the first time, starting and nearly finishing a killer move. He releases Alba on the left, and the left back clips it back into him for the header, which flashes the wrong side of the post!
This game has been wonderfully refreshing for those who have become jaded with the duopoly of La Liga in recent years. Atletico have more than matched Barca, they've had them on the ropes for certain spells. With Real Madrid also lurking in wait in third place, this season will go the distance.
Time starting to turn sour in terms of our hopes of a goal. You'd probably expect Atletico to be the more eager side to snatch a winner as we enter the closing stages of the game.
Mascherano goes in full blooded on Turan, and absolutely clatters the Turk right in front of the referee. The Argentine was caught in his face on the way down, and seems to have come off worse for wear. He's slow to get up.
The ref plays the advantage excellently, and Atletico break! Turan slips in Costa at the top of the box, and he takes it flush on his left foot...but lasers it just wide of the far post! Great chance!
Speaking of which, Costa has been toothless himself since around the half hour mark. Credit must go to both pairs of central defenders. The Pique-Mascherano and Godin-Miranda combos have worked a treat for both managers.
Yellow Card Jordi Alba
Juanfran skips over an Alba challenge and goes down a tad too easily. Still, it was a foul, and a yellow card for the Barca fullback.
We haven't seen much from Messi since he's come on as, not for the first time in history, he and Fabregas seem to be encroaching on each others' space.
FABULOUS ball from Dani Alves seems to have freed Sanchez for the finish, but unbeknownst to him, the defence had stepped up, leaving him hopelessly mired in an offside position.
Kick save by Valdes from Koke, but it's offside! Still, narrow escape for Barca from a corner kick!
Xavi slips it wide to Alexis, and the Chilean attempts to play it back into the midfielder's stride, but angles it too close to Courtois, who smothers.
Pique wins the ball in the air off a corner, but rather than head it, he tries to bring it down onto his chest for the shot. Not the best idea in a crowded box, and he loses out soon enough.
Messi will assume his usual false nine role, while the previous incumbent, Fabregas, will adopt a slightly deeper midfield position that was recently vacated by one Iniesta.
Yellow Card Diego Godín
Andrés Iniesta Luján
Iniesta out...and Messi is in for the second half!
Here we go again!
A pulsating contest from start to finish. No goals as yet, but that has not dampened the entertainment on show. The top two teams in La Liga have served up a competitive feast right from the first whistle, and with Messi and Neymer on the bench, sparks are sure to fly even more after the restart. Stay tuned.
45' + 4'
Half time and still goalless!
45' + 3'
Luis makes a VITAL tackle on Fabregas to prevent the former Arsenal man from streaking through on goal down the right, after a rapier-like counter attack from the visitors.
45' + 1'
Into the first of two added minutes, as Pedro just about runs out of room to get a cross in from the left.
Yellow Card Gabi
Gabi just reaches in behind Iniesta, and catches the midfielder, earning the first booking of the game.
Have to say that we haven't seen much from Atletico in the last ten minutes or so. Barca have done excellently to take the sting out of their tail, and assert their own pattern on the game. Make no mistake, a 0-0 would not be a bad result at all for the Catalans.
Another testing cross from Pedro on the left flank is attacked by Xavi, but he embarrasses himself with an uncharacteristically amateurish swing at the ball that barely makes contact in the end.
Iniesta with a fabulous ball into the box for Sanchez, but he's not fooling anyone, the Chilean. Godin steps up in time to catch him offside, and earns a roar of approval from his coach.
Pique, of all people, slices one towards goal from the edge of the box, and it's a tricky one for Courtois to deal with. The on-loan Chelsea man does manage to make the stop though.
Barca again relieving a serious spell of Rojiblancos pressure, and are forcing the home side to defend now. Not many options for the Catalans though, as numbers pack into the box.
Simeone looking very much like a villain in a spaghetti western, all in black, massive belt buckle, slicked back hair and spraying gobs of saliva everywhere as he barks orders at his team. What a legend.
Pedro pumps a deep cross towards the far post towards Sanchez, who seems as surprised as any that the ball found its way to him. He executes good chest control on the turn, but cannot complete the pirouette in time to tee up the onrushing Xavi from 12 yards.
Nasty piece of play from Turan, who completely misses the ball and stamps on Alves' foot. The referee allows play on, and though it looks painful, Alves doesn't milk it any more than necessary. Could and should have been a yellow for the Turk.
Koke's corner is won and flicked on the near post towards Costa at the far, and the striker peels away from Mascherano, but cannot make contact! It's like a shark circling a boat, Costa keeps getting closer and closer!
And again! Like lightning, the home side get the ball back and pump forward to their hitman once again, but he's again thwarted at the last by a Catalan defender. This time, it's Pique who gets a vital boot in the way!
Costa with a splendid turn, and seems set to break on the counter, but Mascherano slides in with a crucial tackle!
OFFSIDE...JUST! Mascherano is a lucky duck, as replays suggest he had played Villa precisely onside. Had the flag stayed down, Spain's all time top scorer would have had only Valdes between him and the goal.
Some concern here for Iniesta, who seemed to have twisted it awkwardly with a rough landing following a challenge. He's walking off to the sidelines at least, but Barca will still be down to ten men as he receives treatment.
Seems like Barca has weathered that early hailstorm, and are now starting to hoist their sails. Atletico warily keep numbers at the back to prevent the metronomic passing of their opponents from finding a way through.
Wonderful football from the Catalans carves a gap for Pedro to shoot at the top of the box, but Courtois is positioned well at his near post to smother the ball.
Pedro upended in a collision with Arda Turan, and Barca are slowly climbing back into contention.
Remember, La Liga prioritizes head to head record over goal difference if two teams are level on points. This is essentially Atletico's home leg vs Barca, and they need to make it count. Why, you ask? Because, on May 18, they visit Camp Nou on the final day of the season. Imagine if it all comes down to that...
Barca could do with a spell of possession like salt could use pepper. I think the most important thing for them is to take this crowd out of the game a tad. The constant baying against anything Barca is clearly rattling them a little.
Fury rains down from this rabid crowd as Costa is barged off the ball at the top of the box. Crucially, the striker does not offer much in the way of an appeal for a foul, and the referee obliges by waving play on.
After staring down the hangman's noose in the opening exchanges, Barca manage to cultivate a period of possession in the opposition half. But Atletico keep their shape and keep their senses, and prevent the Catalans from finding any kind of gap.
Buttery ball from Villa picks out Costa at the top of the box, and he holds off his (former) compatriot Alves, before slicing a half volley...right into the arms of Valdes. Still, the home side gunning for it from the get go!
A lovely interception from Gabi on Xavi sets Turan on his bike. He makes Alba look the dummy on the byeline, and spies Costa angling for the tap in centrally. Only the head of Pique prevents the ball from finding its target!
Awe inspiring atmosphere inside the Vicente Calderon tonight. With Neymar and Messi on the bench, Atletico may well fancy their chances to lay down an early marker. Hold onto your hats folks.
We are underway!
So will the Catalan giants put the upstarts in their place? Or will Atletico make a grand statement on their home turf? Kickoff is just about here, so let's get to it.
Tata Martino can equal Pep Guardiola's best-ever points haul of 52 after the first half of the season should his team win today. Despite the mixed reviews of his tiki-taka fusion style, the league table tells no lies.
Both sides are locked on 49 points at the summit of La Liga. Atletico have been unbeaten in 16 games - their last loss coming at the hands of their opponents today - who have also won in their last three visits to the Vicente Calderon.
The big news from the Barca camp inevitably surrounds their talismanic Argentine. Messi again starts from the bench, and is joined on the pine by Neymar. The Barca superstar scored twice in his cameo return from injury against Betis last week, and will surely be drafted into action should the starting front three of Pedro, Sanchez and Fabregas fail to fire.
Diego Simeone pulls no rabbits out of his hat when it comes to the starting lineup. Gabi and Koke are joined by Tiago in midfield, while Turan and Villa man the frontline alongside the scorching hot Costa. It's hardly a secret that a host of clubs are monitoring the striker, and with the January transfer window in full flow, there's no better stage than tonight to show what he can do.
BARCELONA SUBS: Pinto, Adriano, Song, Bartra, Messi, Neymar, Sergi Roberto.
BARCELONA (4-3-3): Valdes; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta; Pedro, Fabregas, Sanchez.
ATLETICO SUBS: Aranzubia, Raul Garcia, C Rodriguez, Alderweireld, Guilavogui, Insua, Sosa.
ATLETICO MADRID (4-3-3): Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Luis; Tiago, Gabi, Koke; Turan, Costa, Villa.
Let's take a look at our teams, shall we?
Greetings, and welcome to what's sure to be a magnificent clash between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona. I'm Keeghann Sinanan, your guide for all the action.
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