The Catalans produced one of their finest performances of the season to make light of a tough week and move back to the top of La Liga after beating Malaga 3-0
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
Crisis? What crisis? Barcelona endured turbulent times in a week that saw Sandro Rosell step down as president and the club reveal the figures behind the controversial deal to sign Neymar last summer. Off the pitch, things were looking bleak. But back on it, the outlook already appears much more rosy.
There were plenty of question marks ahead of Sunday's visit of Malaga: How would Rosell's resignation affect the players? How much would the revelations of the real cost of Neymar's transfer impact on the rest of the squad? And how would all the upheaval at boardroom level influence the team with Real Madrid and Atletico breathing down their necks in the race for La Liga?
The answer to all of the above, however: not at all. Barca took the lead in the Camp Nou clash at home to Bernd Schuster's side after 40 minutes through Gerard Pique, but the Catalans created numerous chances prior to the defender's opener, with Alexis Sanchez striking the post, Cesc Fabregas firing wide, Lionel Messi missing the target from an acute angle and the visitors keeping the home side at bay with some desperate defending, which included several cynical challenges.
Messi, dropping deeper than usual in more of a creative midfield role at times, set up Pedro for 2-0 early in the second half and also started the move which saw Alexis add another. Three and easy: what had looked like a tricky test and even a potential banana-skin for the Blaugrana following events at boardroom level leading up to this match, ended up as a Sunday stroll. And it could have been many more.
|BARCA BACK ON TOP AFTER TOUGH WEEK
"It has been a very difficult week and they showed great professionalism," said coach Gerardo Martino of his side afterwards. And he added, in reference to the illnesses suffered by both previous coach Tito Vilanova and former defender Eric Abidal: "These players have faced much more serious problems that have nothing to do with institutional issues. There have been health problems with team-mates and coaches - and they have always come through. They understand that they have to do their talking on the pitch."
Pique echoed those thoughts. "On the field of play it won't affect us," he said after the game. "We'll keep competing as we always do. A change of president is something that is commented on, but on the pitch itself we are just out there trying to win titles."
New Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu had hinted as much on Thursday as he officially took over from Rosell: "The team are in great shape in La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League," he said. "Our objective is to win as many titles as we can this season."
Initially, at least, the change in president indeed seems to have had little effect - and perhaps even a positive one as the Catalans set out to prove a point on Sunday. As Martino pointed out, these players are made of stronger stuff and after what was one of the team's most positive performances of the entire season, Barca are back on top of La Liga for a 59th consecutive week.
Crisis? What crisis?
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