The combination of FC Barcelona’s victory (5-1) over Levante this evening at the Camp Nou and Real Madrid’s 1-0 home defeat against Getafe has pushed the blaugrana side within two points of the Spanish league top.

Barça showed their clear superiority over Levante, the last team on the table. Lionel Messi’s contribution was once again one of the keys to his side’s victory. The Argentinian forward gave Barcelona a comforting 2-1 lead right before the break after picking up a back heel pass from Xavi (who had scored the opening goal) and taking a left-foot shot to beat the keeper near the left post. It was Lionel’s ninth goal in the competition. In the second period, Messi used his right foot to produce two passes that were converted into goals by Samuel Eto’o. The Cameroonian striker went on to score a hat-trick, wrapping up the win with Barça’s fifth goal three minutes from time.

The results of this 25th league date will surely provide a morale boost to Barcelona, who will now have to face the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals against Valencia at the Camp Nou on Wednesday.

Lionel Messi’s two goals against Celtic, first leg of the UEFA Champions League first knock-out round, 2007/08.

Date: 20/02/2008
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FC Barcelona got an important win (3-2) from the first leg of their UEFA Champions League’s round-of-sixteen tie against Celtic tonight in Glasgow. Lionel Messi was an instrumental asset for the team, scoring two of the goals.

Barça controlled the game completely from the first minute of play. Frank Rijkaard’s men kept the ball the vast majority of the time and the three forwards (Ronaldinho, Messi and Henry) created constant danger. Leo Messi scored the only goal for the visiting side in the first period after playing a one-two with Deco; however, Celtic caught the blaugranas off guard at the back twice and headed goals from Hesselink and Robson saw the local side surprisingly finish the first half 2-1 up.

The flow of the game did not change in the second period, but this time Barça managed to produce the goals to show for their wide superiority. Thierry Henry scored with a beautiful right-foot strike in the 53rd minute, and the winning goal came thanks again to Leo Messi, who brilliantly tricked a defender and found the net with a crossed shot in the 78th minute. It was Lionel’s sixth goal in this season’s Champions League.

This result puts Barcelona in a very good position to reach the quarterfinals of Europe’s prime football competition. The return leg of the tie will be played at the Camp Nou in two weeks.

I got used to being Lionel Messi, and I’m cool about it. When I’m off the football pitch I try to live a normal life. It may not be always possible, but I try to keep doing the same things I’ve always done, like going out with my friends and my family.

I would like to experience what Argentinian football is like, to feel the atmosphere around it. I would love to play in Argentina some day.

I want to stay in Barcelona for a long time. You never know what may happen in the future, but it is my wish to stay with Barça. That would be a way to return all that I owe to this club.

-Lionel Messi, in an interview (spanish) with Diario Olé

Barcelona won 2-1 at Zaragoza’s La Romareda stadium yesterday in a clash belonging to the Spanish league’s 24th date. This victory left the blaugranas five points behind leaders Real Madrid, who lost their game against Real Betis.

It was an intense game in which Barcelona had most of the possession but Zaragoza created the best chances on the counterattack. The local attacking pair of Diego Milito and Oliveira proved hard to deal with for Barça’s defence while the three forwards lined up by Frank Rijkaard (Messi, Henry and Giovani) had also had a couple of good chances before the French striker picked up a pass from Deco and scored the opening goal in the 34th minute.

Diego Milito missed a penalty near the end of the first half, but that didn’t lower the local team’s spirit: after the break Zaragoza started to push forward strongly and soon got their reward through a goal scored by Oliveira in the 52nd minute. Barcelona lost the control of the game in the second period but found their chance to get the three points seven minutes from time, when a penalty was awarded for handball by local defender Juanfran. Ronaldinho, who had come on as a substitute few minutes earlier, converted the winning goal.

The Champions League is returning this next week and Barça will be travelling to Glasgow to face Celtic in the first leg of their round-of-sixteen tie on Wednesday.

I would ask the fans to keep the faith in us. There are many games left and the situation can change at any time. We cannot give up. We still have chances and we must keep fighting. I am sure we can turn this around.

Real Madrid will have bad games, like the one they played at Almería, and we can take advantage of that if we win all of our matches. We are aware that every game will be like a final for us from now on.

I feel fine playing with Ronnie. We both feel we can create good moves and that’s why we try to link up with each other so often on the pitch.

I don’t care about the position I’m played in. I like all the attacking positions, both in the center and on the sides. It’s true that I didn’t feel comfortable in the game against Sevilla, but you just can’t play well every time.

-Lionel Messi
22.00 CET – Sevilla vs. Barcelona
Sánchez Pizjuán stadium, Sevilla

FC Barcelona are facing a crucial game tonight at Sevilla’s Sánchez Pizjuán stadium. The blaugranas need the three points in order to stay in this year’s Spanish league title race.

Barça’s head coach Frank Rijkaard will have to do without a good number of important players: Deco, Puyol, Zambrotta and Bojan are all out through physical problems while Samuel Eto’o and Yaya Toure have not yet returned from the African Cup. Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry will most surely start in the attack, joined by Ronaldinho, Iniesta or Giovani.

Sevilla are having an uneven season but remain a very difficult side to play against, especially at their home ground. A win over Barcelona would send Manolo Jiménez’s men close to the league’s european qualification positions.

A goal scored by Xavi in the 87th minute gave Barcelona the three points against Osasuna in a Spanish league game played yesterday at the Camp Nou. This win allowed the blaugrana side to cut down Real Madrid’s lead at the top of the table to six points, following the white-clad team’s defeat at Almería on Saturday.

Most of the game was played under a heavy rain as a well organized Osasuna side made things difficult for Barcelona’s creative players. Still, the local side had some good chances, particularly in the first half. Eventually the crowd had to wait until the last minutes of the match to see their team find the net through Xavi’s volley.

Following his outstanding performance in the midweek Copa del Rey match against Villarreal, Lionel Messi had a quieter game yesterday and was substituted by Ronaldinho after 67 minutes.

Barcelona will face Sevilla at the Sánchez Pizjuán stadium on Saturday in the next Spanish league date.

Barcelona beat Villarreal (1-0) yesterday at the Camp Nou in the return leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. This result was enough to put the local side through to the semifinals, as the first match of the tie had finished in a goalless draw.

The match was completely dominated by Barça, and only their lack of effectiveness in front of goal prevented them from getting a wider victory. Leo Messi had a brilliant game and created most of his team’s best plays. A free kick after a foul on the Argentinian forward saw Thierry Henry score the only goal of the night in the 41st minute. Two minutes later, Villarreal’s centre back Cygan saw his second yellow card for a foul on Messi and got sent off.

After the break Barcelona’s control of the game became even more intense as ten-man Villarreal failed to generate any danger offensively. The blaugranas found their best chance to increase their lead when the referee awarded a penalty for a foul on Bojan, but Lionel Messi’s shot from the spot was saved by keeper Diego López, who had a very good night.

Racing Santander, Valencia and Getafe are the other three teams still alive in this year’s Copa del Rey. The draw to determine the two semifinal ties will be held today.

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