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Celta de Vigo
February 26, 2012
• Estadio Vicente Calderón, Madrid
Referee: Miguel Pérez Lasa
• Attendance: 40000
FULL-TIME! Messi's stunning free-kick gives Barcelona the win they needed. Alves had given the visitors a half-time lead before Falcao equalised just after the break. The Catalan giants close the gap on Real Madrid at the top of Liga to 10 points again, keeping their slim title hopes alive. That's all from me, Luke Matthews tonight. Buenas Noches!
90' + 1'
Courtois is up for a corner and nearly causes havoc in the box, putting Valdes under pressure. However, the Spanish keeper manages to keep hold of the ball.
Yellow Card Busquets
Another smart save from Valdes who parries Adrian's volley from range. The keeper is in inspired form.
Brilliant save from Valdes who reacts well to get off his line and block Juanfran's effort. Messi may get the headlines yet Valdes has been top notch tonight.
Atleti are pressing for another equaliser yet it looks unlikely at the moment, especially with Barca dangerous on the break.
Yellow Card Radamel Falcao
No reaction as of yet from Atletico who are probably shell-shocked after that Messi strike. Who would argue with him being the best player in the world after goals like that?
What a goal that was. Pehaps Messi's best and most important of the season. Can Barca hold on?
Yellow Card Miranda
2-1 BARCELONA! SUPERB GOAL BY MESSI! The Argentine curls a left-footed free-kick from the left-side of the pitch into the top corner with Courtois helpless - his 28th Liga goal of the season.
No chances of late as we approach the final 10 minutes. If Barca fail to score a winner, is there Liga campaign over for this season?
Yellow Card Alexis Sánchez
Barcelona have the ball in the net yet it is ruled out for a handball. The ball hits Alexis' arm after a cross before Puyol bundles it over the line. However, no goal.
Barcelona really have been poor in the second half tonight, struggling to create any notable chance apart from Alexis' header.
Yellow Card Koke
The hot-headed Alves is now replaced by Cuenca as Barca look to pick up a winner in this game. 18 minutes left with added time to play.
Atleti players are screaming for the referee to show a red card to Alves for pulling back Filipe. However, there wishes are ungranted as the ref rightfully gives a yellow card instead.
Yellow Card Daniel Alves
Great anticipation by Valdes who closes down Falcao who was put through one-on-one with the keeper, with an important block. The home team really are walking a tightrope at the moment.
CLOSE FROM BARCA! Alves' inviting cross is narrowly missed by Messi as Alexis puts his header at the backpost over the bar from close range.
Miranda leaps and gets his head to Gabi's corner yet the unmarked Brazilian puts the ball over the bar, a poor miss.
It has to be said, Barcelona have been second best since the restart as Atleti have looked hungry for the ball. Will either side be able to nick a winner?
Alves is marauding down the wing yet Arda makes a superb sliding challenge. The Turkish attacker and Adrian have been particularly impressive for the home team tonight, always looking to get back and defend.
Yellow Card Tiago
Tiago is lucky not to pick up a booking for clattering into Messi. Deliberate foul there from the Portuguese midfielder.
Adrian's ball into the box is only half cleared by Abidal with Koke waiting. Valdes eventually ends up claiming the ball yet the visitors looked very nervy there.
Little bit better from Barcelona now who are seeing more of the ball. However, there doesn't seem to be much fluency to their game which will worry Guardiola.
The Atletico supporters are extremely lively now as they look to spur their team forward to win this game as they search for Champions League football.
No response for Barcelona so far who look a little shell-shocked after Atleti's equaliser. Can the reigning Liga champions find the goal to give themselves the lead once again.
Brilliant start to the second period from the home team who will now feel they carry the momentum in the game going forward.
Goal Radamel Falcao
1-1! ATLETICO EQUALISE! Gabis corner is inadvertantly flicked on by Busquets to an unmarked Falcao at the back post who calmly volleys the ball past Valdes for his 20th goal of the season. Smart finish.
Atleti are sitting pretty deep in the second half with their wingers very close to their full-backs. The last thing Simeone's men will want is to concede a second early on.
Atletico get us back underway in the second period and are straight on the attack yet Arda is dispossessed by Alves in the penalty area.
HALF-TIME! Barcelona lead 1-0 at the Calderon at the break through Alves' close range effort in the 36th minute. It has been a close encounter yet the visitors have perhaps been the better team. However, there is plenty to play for in the second-half so make sure you rejoin us in 15 minutes!
45' + 1'
Yellow Card Cesc Fàbregas
Fabregas is the next player to earn a booking for a crunching late tackle on Juanfran.
By the way, Messi's booking for the disallowed goal means the Argentine now has five yellow cards in La Liga this season, and will miss the team's next game against Sporting Gijon.
Alexis is barged off the ball on the wing by Filipe with his team being awarded a free-kick. Can Guardiola's men make it 2-0 before the break?
Barcelona have enjoyed 76 per cent of the possession tonight compared to Atletico's 24. Astonishing statistics especially considering the Catalans are away from home and up against a decent side.
Professional performance from the Catalans so far. Atleti have looked bright yet their opponents are coping well with their counter-attacks as they continue to press forward when possible.
GREAT GOALKEEPING BY VALDES! After some sloppy defensive play by Barca, Arda is allowed into the box and slides the ball across the six-yard line yet Valdes is alert to block the it with Falcao lurking.
How will the home team respond to going a goal down to Alves' second league strike of the season? They have played fairly well so far but they may need to adapt their gameplan now.
Assist Cesc Fàbregas
Goal Daniel Alves
1-0 BARCELONA! Messi and then Fabregas link up well with the former Arsenal man sliding the ball across the six-yard line for Alves to slide it into an empty net. Superb team move there as the visitors open the scoring.
On Twitter, Captain Singh and The Football Store are both predicting 1-0 wins for Barca this evening. That scoreline is looking fairly likely at the moment. It's a tight game at the moment yet Barcelona are probably just edging it.
Arda's corner is a decent one yet Godin's header is wide of Valdes' goal. The Uruguayan would have been better off heading the ball across goal there.
Yellow Card Arda Turan
Another booking for the home side as Arda is guilty of a late lunge on Fabregas. Atleti need to calm down a little here as a sending off could prove a nightmare for their hopes of picking something up in this fixture.
Busquets is rolling around the floor after becoming victim of a late challenge from Koke. The young midfielder manages to avoid a booking.
Falcao attempts his luck from 25 metres out yet his attempt is weak as Valdes claims the ball with relative ease.
Yellow Card Juanfran
What are your predicitions for the game? Let me know your thoughts on Twitter @LukasMaf.
Yellow Card Diego Godín
Guardiola's side are controlling the game at the moment but are still to create a real opportunity at goal with Atletico looking well organised.
Top save from Courtois! The Belgian keeper does brilliantly to tip Xavi's well-struck free-kick around the post for a corner.
Busquets is brought down by Gabi 30 metres from goal here. Could we see the opening strike of the game?
Despite Barca's prolifency in front of goal, it is worth noting that Atletico's two strikers this evening, Adrian and Falcao have 32 goals between them this term in all competitions.
As is usually the case when Barcelona play on the road, Guardiola's men have looked like the home side so far, dominating possession as Atleti look to hit their opponents on the counter.
No major chances in the opening 15 minutes, although Messi did have a strike ruled out for a handball early on. Who will grab the first goal tonight?
Yellow Card Messi
Falcao is played through on goal by Adrian yet the Colombian is ruled offside. Tight decision that against the former Porto man.
In the early stages of this game Barcelona are looking stronger at the moment, although Atleti have appeard bright on the counterattack.
Fabregas nearly finds himself in on goal yet the former Arsenal man is adjudged to have fouled Miranda in the build-up.
DISALLOWED GOAL FOR MESSI. The attacker is ruled to have used his hand to control Alexis' pass as he makes his way through the Atletico defence before striking it past Courtois. Looked the correct decision.
Let off for Valdes. The goalkeeeper drops Filipe's cross but narrowly clears the ball with his legs as Juanfran approaches.
Barcelona have settled well early on as the reigning champions use the ball well, giving all of their 11 moments in possession.
First opportunity for the visitors as Messi tees up Xavi who sees his effort bobble harmlessly wide of the goal. The experienced midfielder argues his team should be given a corner, claiming a deflection, yet the referee awards a goal kick.
Barcelona get us underway in their change kit of all black. Atletico on the other hand are wearing their traditional red and blue shirts with blue shorts.
Both sets of players are now on the pitch as we approach kick-off. The two captains, Puyol and Gabi, are going through the formalities in the centre-circle.
Just a reminder, Real Madrid defeated Rayo Vallecano 1-0 earlier today courtesy of Ronaldo's cheeky back-heel so Los Blancos are 13 points clear in La Liga. It is difficult to imagine anything other than Madrid winning the league this season but if Barcelona are to keep their slim title hopes alive, three points this evening are imperative.
Remember you can let me know your thoughts and opinions on the game via Twitter @LukasMaf. Big team news for Barcelona is the fact that Pique has been dropped with Mascherano replacing the Spain international. Is this the right decision by Guardiola?
Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Alves, Mascherano, Puyol, Abidal; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Fabregas, Sanchez Subs: Pinto, Adriano, Pique, Keita, Thiago, Pedro, Cuenca
Atletico Madrid (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Filipe; Tiago, Gabi; Arda, Adrian, Koke; Falcao Subs: Asenjo, Silvio, Dominguez, Perea, Salvio, Mario, Assuncao
Here come the teams...
Hello and welcome to Goal.com's coverage of Atletico Madrid and Barcelona from the Vicente Calderon. I'm Luke Matthews and I'll be guiding you through tonight's action. Pep Guardiola's men find themselves 13 points behind rivals Real Madrid at the top of La Liga and will be desperate for a win this evening. However, standing in their way will be Diego Simeone's side who have been unbeaten since the Argentine replaced Gregorio Manzano at the tail end of 2011. Tough times for the Catalans.
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