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Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona: Messi And Pedro Return Blaugrana To La Liga Summit

Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona - Lineups/Stats
La Liga - Fixtures/Results/Table

Barcelona have returned to the top of La Liga after having the better of the Clasico in the Santiago Bernabeu. A first half strike from Lionel Messi and an early second half finish from Pedro punished Los Blancos who were inferior to the league champions throughout.

Pep Guardiola elected to slot Carlos Puyol in at right back with Dani Alves
playing further advanced to try and prevent the influence of Cristiano Ronaldo.
For the hosts Manuel Pellegrini drafted in Fernando Gago at the expense of Lass Diarra with the Argentinian given the task of stopping his fellow countryman Lionel Messi.

Real started the more assertive bossing the contest in the final third. There
was some early drama as Gerard Pique picked up a booking for a handball, which was later rescinded, to give Los Blancos a free-kick in a promising position. However, it was chalked off as Cristiano Ronaldo had sneaked into an offside position.

Moments later as we approached the quarter of an hour mark there were appeals for a penalty at the other end. Leo Messi had managed to evade Raul Albiol for a moment and as he cut into danger area there appeared to be a tug from the Real defender but the spot-kick wasn't given. Cristiano Ronaldo had his own appeals for a penalty shortly afterward after a light touch from his former Manchester United team-mate Gerard Pique.

Barcelona started to dominate the possession stakes but for all the latent
tension of the opening half an hour there was precious little in terms of a
killer final ball to present a genuine chance for either side.

There was concern on the Real bench when Cristiano Ronaldo starting limping
after falling awkwardly after a challenge on Carlos Puyol. The Portuguese star
continued to be his side's most potent threat running at will targeting Pique in
particular.

As for Leo Messi, he was shackled for the majority of the first half with Raul
Albiol and Fernando Gago shadowing him throughout. The former picked up a
booking for a foul on the in-form Barca number 10 while Messi himself went into a book himself for an early handball.

Despite being ganged up on Barca's opener inevitably came from the little genius as he linked up with Xavi Hernandez for a delightful opener. Messi picked the ball up deep in the Barca half, played a neat one-two with Xavi who clipped a delicious ball into the box for Messi who took it on his chest and held off Albiol to slot home from close range for his fifth goal in a week and seventh in seven games against Los Blancos. 

Pellegrini's charges were unable to recover for the remainder of the half with
only Gonzalo Higuain mustering a poor shot over the bar. The Champions were on top and looked the more likely to score as the first-half drew to a close.

Neither coach made any swaps at half-time as Real looked to get back into the
contest with Marcelo forcing Valdes into an good stop with a strike from
distance. Barca were a tad careless after the break conceding possession as the hosts tried to turn the screw.

In the event the screw was twisted by the Blaugrana and once again it was the peerless Xavi Hernandez who was at the hub of things. The Spanish midfielder bisected the Real Madrid defense with a killer pass to feed Pedro who broke the offside trap to race clear of Alvara Arebeloa to confidently strike the ball past Iker Casillas to make it two and create an uphill task for Real and the shell-shocked home support.

With some anxious looks up in the stands Manuel Pellegrini immediately threw on Guti for Marcelo. Having hinted it's his last Clasico the Real veteran was
involved straight away playing a lovely pass to Rafael van der Vaart who eluded the offside trap but with just Valdes to beat he fired tamely at the shot-
stopper.

Real started to apply more pressure but were thwarted by the excellent Victor
Valdes between the sticks. He gobbled up a weak Ronaldo free-kick and denied the same player from close range with a better effort as Pellegrini went for broke bringing on Raul for Van der Vaart for the last 20 minutes while Andres Iniesta replaced Maxwell for the visitors.

Pushing forward and losing their discipline Real should have been punished
further by Messi as he forced Casillas into two saves in quick succession with
the second being a carbon copy of the Argentinian's opener. But for the heroics
of the Spanish number one it could well have been another hat-trick for the Fifa World Player of the Year.

Real looked a beaten side with Ferndano Gago launching into several reckless
challenges which amazingly didn't earn him a booking. With the home fans leaving in disgust Pellegrini brought on Karim Benzema but his introduction brought little apart from a handball which ruled out Raul's late strike.

As the final whistle sounded Real were roundly jeered while the Barcelona
players celebrated as though they had just won the title. With a three point
lead and a 100% record in the Clasico matches they could afford to be jovial and will be already eying up a return to the Spanish capital for the Champions
League final next month. 

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