Review: Barça charms against a dull Betis

SEVILLE, SPAIN - APRIL 30:  Ivan Rakitic (L) of FC Barcelona celebrates scoring their opening goal with teammate Jordi Alba (2ndL) during the La Liga match between Real Betis Balompie and FC Barcelona at Estadio Benito Villamarin on April 30, 2016 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Playing football against FC Barcelona is hard. Refusing to play against them, on the other hand, can look depressingly easy. On a spring evening in Sevilla, Real Betis Balompié greeted its visitors with the not very hospitable intention of boring them to sleep, and if only everyone had stuck to the plan not to try too hard they might have succeeded.

For most of the match, Betis resolutely rejected both pressing and possession. Juan Merino’s defensive approach was a formulaic flat 4-4-2 with a medium block, the choice of many less ambitious sides against Barça’s possession game—think Atlético Madrid without the spells of orchestrated pressure or the skillful counterattacks. If Betis ever had an offensive gameplan, it died at the halfway line, leaving the 34-year-old journeyman striker Rubén Castro to forge ahead like a solitary sniffer dog in a minefield of Javier Mascherano tackles. On the day, Barcelona’s official possession figure was 73%, but it felt more like 173%.


Match Review: Rampant Barça set the pace

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In the hours before FC Barcelona and Sporting Gijón kicked off at the Camp Nou on Saturday, both Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid won their fixtures, meaning Barça needed all three points to maintain their grip on the top slot. Against relegation-threatened Sporting – who have only ever won once at the Camp Nou – the task looked to be a relatively easy one, but Barcelona are not in a position to take any fixture for granted these days.


Match Review: Luck swings the other way


Poor Depor.

It’s tempting and convenient to view FC Barcelona’s demolition job on Deportivo de La Coruña as an abrupt explosion of pent up frustration, a kind of misplaced revenge on the part of the blaugrana. Barcelona, mired in the midst of the worst slump in years, took out all their anger on a team that might have given them a fair bit of trouble on a different day. In fact, Barça have drawn Depor twice since Luis Enrique took charge, both times at home. On Wednesday, though, whatever pluck the Galician side might have brought to the pitch was ruthlessly swept aside by the visitors.


Review: Crisis Mode

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Most Barcelona fans would’ve seen Sunday’s match as a chance to get back on track in the league, and they wouldn’t be stupid for thinking that. Valencia have had a very poor season, but under their third manager this year, Paco Ayestarán, they look a different team. Despite Valencia’s mini rejuvenation, Barcelona and Luis Enrique really didn’t help themselves.


Review: Another loss at the Anoeta

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It was an unlikely collapse. All of five minutes into FC Barcelona’s visit to Real Sociedad, the home side bundled a ball through the nervous Barça defense, past Sergi Busquets, who missed a tackle and toppled over, around the makeshift left back Sergi Roberto, who was a step slow getting to Xabi Prieto’s cross, over the head of a backpedaling Gerard Piqué, and smack dab onto the forehead of a leaping Mikel Oryazabal. The 18-year-old winger flicked a gorgeous, arcing header to Claudio Bravo’s far post, and just like that La Liga was back in play.