Madrid: If Saturday's La Liga match at home to Real Mallorca was a test to see if Barcelona could cope without Lionel Messi, they passed it with flying colours. The World Player of the Year was ruled out with a damaged hamstring, the first league game he has missed through injury since the 2010-11 season, but Barca made light of his absence with a crushing 5-0 victory that maintained their 13-point lead over second-placed Real Madrid with eight games left.
The performance was all the more impressive given that coach Tito Vilanova rested several key players, including midfielder Sergio Busquets, ahead of Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final, second leg at home to Paris St Germain. Mallorca, who are bottom of the table, are battling to maintain their top-flight status but were swept aside by a masterly Barca performance with Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez and Andres Iniesta in inspired form.
Fabregas, operating in Messi's roving forward role, scored his first hat-trick since returning to his boyhood club from Arsenal in 2011 and Alexis netted twice and set up two goals. Alex Song, who has struggled to settle since joining from Arsenal, was solid in Busquets's holding midfield position, while centre back Marc Bartra played well enough to suggest he might be an effective replacement for the injured Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano alongside Gerard Pique.
"When you don't have a player like Messi available there's no doubt that you have a problem," assistant coach Jordi Roura told a post-match
02:28 PM, Apr 07, 2013
The Argentine superstar netted a double, the second of which killed off a potential comeback from the hosts, to break Brazilian icon Pele's record of 75 goals in a calendar year. Despite taking a three-goal lead into half time, Barcelona survived a second-half scare from Mallorca to win 4-2 at Iberostar Stadium. Xavi put the Blaugrana on the path to recovering from their shock midweek Champions League defeat to Celtic...
12:28 AM, Nov 12, 2012
Madrid: The latest injury to Real Madrid's German midfielder Sami Khedira comes at a tricky time for the La Liga champions with a potential banana skin awaiting at Real Mallorca on Sunday. Khedira was forced off in the 20th minute of Wednesday's 2-1 Champions League defeat at Borussia Dortmund when he aggravated a leg muscle problem and his replacement, Luka Modric, is not as accomplished in the central holding role...
02:40 PM, Oct 25, 2012