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Barca are runaway La Liga leaders, out of Champions League

Barcelona on record-breaking La Liga winning streak, knocked out of Champions League in Quarter-finals

Barcelona update

Spanish titan club Barcelona Fc are poised to win La Liga by a landslide this season, but were knocked out in the world-class UEFA Champions League when they were defeated by Italy Serie A giant club Roma to cries of "historical debacle", "another ridicule", "The Fall of Barca's Empire", “they deserved to loose”, “Roma wanted it more”, “Barcelona got what they deserved in Rome” and "without football or fight", and “'Barca were out for an early-evening stroll' by the upset media and some fans. Lionel Messi's hat-trick (27' minutes, 32' minutes, 87' minutes) was key to Barca's victory against Leganes as runaway leaders Barca equaled the Spanish La Liga’s record of 38 games unbeaten. Messi curled home an amazing 30-yard free-kick before scoring the second goal from Philippe Coutinho's through ball to make it 2-0. Nabil el Zhar pulled one back for Leganes,but Messi scored from Ousmane Dembele's pass to complete his 45th career hat-trick. Barca are only seven games from an unbeaten La Liga season. The giant Spanish club currently are 12 points above 2nd place Atletico Madrid. Barca equaled Real Sociedad's record of 38 matches unbeaten across 1978-79 and 1979-80. Currently, Barcelona are on the road to becoming the first Spanish club to go unbeaten in a 38-game season in La Liga’s top flight. Barcelona will have a chance to secure a domestic double on Saturday when they face out-of-form Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final in Madrid. Barca lost to Roma 3-0 Barcelona (Agg: 4-4) to be knocked out of the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League on Tuesday in the quarter-final second leg, defending a 4-1 advantage from the first leg at the Nou Camp.

Barcelona suffered elimination from the Champions League at the quarter-final stage for the third consecutive season after a surprisingly poor performance. Having a 4-1 first-leg lead overturned by a Roma team that is currently 21 points off the top spot on the Italian Serie A Table was not what Barca expected, as the Catalan giants strive to come to terms with the reality of one of the famous side’s most shocking results. The main difference between the two teams was intensity and tempo. Roma were revved up and all over the pitch, “flying into challenges, pouncing on loose balls, pressing high up the pitch with fierce aggression to stop Barca's build-up play and getting the ball into dangerous positions as quickly as possible” according to pundits. Barca appeared to be more casual in their play. In the first few minutes, Barca were excellent, with a couple of early chances to score with Sergi Roberto’s shot straight at home goalkeeper Alisson. Lionel Messi missed his shot on goal. However in the sixth minute, when a routine long ball was missed by Jordi Alba and Samuel Umtiti, then Marc-Andre ter Stegen stayed rooted to his line and Edin Dzeko took full advantage by sending home the opening goal of the game. The Roma fans at Stadio Olimpico went wild.

Roma were buoyed by the effort and Barca retreated into their shell and appeared to lose energy. From that point in the match Roma played in high gear, but Barca relaxed giving their opponents too much time and space to create danger with a barrage of crosses into the box. Roma’s Juan Jesus was fortunate to only receive a yellow card for a bad foul on Lionel Messi – bad call. Fazio was fortunate to escape a second caution after bringing down Andres Iniesta. Barca’s performance seemed similar to their crucial losses at PSG and Juve in last season's Champions League. Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde did not make a change in his squad until the 80th minute. Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde is facing severe criticism for his handling of the fixture and the season. Selecting Sergio Busquets, who has played only an hour in the last month after suffering a foot injury against Chelsea, backfired on Valverde. Busquets was outplayed in midfield, unable to exert his usual expert control over possession, and he really needed to be supported or replaced. And Valverde did have other options including powerful Paulinho or winger Ousmane Dembele, Denis Suarez or Andre Gomes. Another option would have been bringing in Thomas Vermaelen as a third center-back. However, Valverde refused to make any substitutions until the 80th minute and his inaction caused a lot of criticism.

Getting European dominance away from Real Madrid by winning the 2018 UEFA Champions League title has been a big priority for Valverde and his side, who were on track to land the treble. Perhaps Valverde did not make any substitutions because he did not like his bench options. He has not rotated his squad much in the past few weeks, leaving Pique, Iniesta, Alba and Luis Suarez weary at this late stage of the season. Valverde's squad depth will be automatically strengthened next season by the availability of Philippe Coutinho, who was cup-tied against Roma after representing Liverpool in earlier rounds. Another big-money signing, Dembele, should also be better integrated, and the anticipated signing of Atletico star striker Antoine Griezmann would provide variety in attack. Iniesta may accept an offer to move to China, so expect to see a radicall altered Barcelona side next season whether or not Valverde retains his job.

Squads

Roma
Becker; Jesus, Fazio, Manolas; Kolarov, Strootman, De Rossi, Nainggolan, Florenzi; Schick, Dzeko. Subs: Skorupski, Pellegrini, Under, Gonalons, Peres, Gerson, El Shaarawy.

Barcelona
Ter Stegen; Semedo, Piqué, Umtiti, Alba; Sergi Roberto, Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez. Subs: Cillessen, D Duarez, Dembélé, Paulinho, Alacer, Gomes, Vermaelen

Referee: C Turpin (France)

Barca have already got the Spanish league title wrapped up, holding an 11-point lead over second place Atletico Madrid. In addition, Barcelona have the chance to secure a domestic double a week on Saturday, when they face out-of-form Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final in Madrid. Buy Barcelona tickets for La Liga and the Copa del Rey Final now securely online from 1st4FootballTickets.com.

Real Madrid update

Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 10 Champions League goals against Italian giant club Juventus - the most by one player against one opponent in the UCL tournament. On Wednesday, Ronaldo's injury-time penalty put holders Real Madrid through again to the UEFA Champions League Semi-finals after holding off a powerful Juventus comeback. Goals: Ronaldo (Real Madrid: 90'+7 minutes pen); Juve: Mandzukic (2' minutes, 37' minutes), Matuidi (60' minutes), Buffon (Dismissed at 90'+3 minutes). Ronaldo's coolly taken 97th-minute penalty into the top corner came after Medhi Benatia brought down Lucas Vazquez in the box. Legendary Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, in what probably was his last Champions League appearance, was sent off by English referee Michael Oliver after awarding the spot-kick, for obnoxious behavior including foul and abusive language. Real Madrid who were Champions League winners in 3 of the last 4 seasons, went into the Last 8-second leg leading 3-0, due in part to Ronaldo's brilliant bicycle kick in the first leg of the tie.

The Serie A leaders got off to a perfect start when Mario Mandzukic headed in from Sami Khedira's cross at 2 minutes and Mandzukic earned a second goal before the break. Blaise Matuidi made the most of Keylor Navas' fumble to level the tie on aggregate before the dramatic ending with a late goal by Real Madrid hero and man of the match Cristiano Ronaldo. The game seemed to be heading for extra time before the chaotic final last minutes caused some of the football players to lose control. Ronaldo has scored 27 goals in his past 14 games. Real are sitting fourth on the La Liga Table, 15 points adrift of leaders Barca, who lost on Tuesday night to fall out of the Champions League. Real's only hope of a major trophy this season is to win the Champions League again this year after going through to the last four for the eighth consecutive season. Ronaldo, the Ballon d'Or holder, proved himself to be the best once again, stepping up under extreme and intense pressure to score and send his side through. His penalty extended his incredible goalscoring from this campaign. The 120th goal in 150 Champions League appearances. CR7 has netted in 11 games in a row for Real, taking his tally to 27 in his past 14 games for club and country with 41 strikes overall in 38 games this season.

Cristiano Ronaldo has scored in every Real Madrid match since 3 February. Ronaldo scored in a 10th straight game for Real Madrid but were held to a Madrid Derby draw by Atletico Madrid. Real had the better chances and Marco Asensio and Marcelo hit the woodwork at 0-0. Ronaldo sent home Wales’ superstar Gareth Bale's left-wing cross for his 20th goal in 10 club appearances. Atletico star striker Antoine Griezmann equalized on the rebound after Vitolo's shot was saved by Keylor Navas. The result keeps second-placed Atletico four points above Real and 11 points behind La Liga leaders Barca, who beat Leganes 3-1 on Saturday. Portuguese Ronaldo was replaced by Karim Benzema for the final 26 minutes of the match, with Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final second leg against Juve as a consideration. Real Madrid won the first leg 3-0 in Turin, with Ronaldo scoring twice, including a stunning bicycle kick in the high tempo game. Ronaldo has scored 26 goals in his past 14 games for Real Madrid and Portugal, and 40 for Real Madrid this season in 37 matches.

Juventus goalkeeper Gigi Buffon bluntly criticized the English referee Michael Oliver, saying he has a “rubbish bin” where his heart should be and accused him of condemning the Italians to Champions League elimination after giving Real Madrid a penalty in the third minute of added time that Cristiano Ronaldo scored to book Real’s spot in the semis. Oliver gave the penalty for a foul on Lucas Vázquez late in the match. Oliver sent off Buffon with a red card for protesting, his last European game ending with him departing to applause from the home fans. Gianluigi Buffon was making his 650th appearance for Juventus. Legendary goalkeeper Buffon ended the match, and possibly his European career, in an ugly conflict. Italy's most-capped international Buffon has always enjoyed much respect throughout his successful career. However, Buffon let his emotions overcome him and was dismissed on his 650th appearance for Juve. Buffon had stated in October that this would be his last Champions League campaign unless his side won the final, after which he had intended to play in the Club World Cup. Buffon was enjoying a brilliant game, saving low from Welshman Gareth Bale and reacting quickly to keep out efforts from Isco and Ronaldo. Buffon will, however, miss out on claiming the only major trophy which has evaded him in his career.

"We've got a lot of games and from time to time he has to rest," said Real Madrid’s manager Zidane. "He's clever and there are times when you have to rest. Nowadays he needs it and every time it does him good. I'm happy with the match and how we performed because we clearly deserved more. It was a shame we didn't get more from it but we could have even lost the game at the end." Gigi Buffon talked about the penalty after the game. “To award such a doubtful, or super doubtful, penalty just ahead of the final whistle and destroy the work of a team who gave absolutely everything you have to have a rubbish bin instead of your heart,” Buffon said. “A human being cannot decide the elimination of a team with such decision. When I don’t feel I’m good enough, I put myself in a corner. He should do the same. It’s a matter of sensibility. It means you don’t know where you are, which teams are playing, you don’t know shit. You need to be prepared for a game like this. You have to watch the first leg and see that a similar foul was not punished with a penalty for Juventus in Turin. And especially you need personality to referee a game like this. If you don’t have personality, you better watch the game from the stands with your wife and your kids while eating fries. What did I say to him while I was protesting? I could say everything in that moment because when you take such decision in a certain moment of the game it means you don’t know what sport is. We had done something which seemed impossible. It’s a pity it ended like this, unjustly. It was one tenth of a penalty. But life goes on.”

Max Allegri, the Juventus manager talked about Buffon’s reaction saying it was “understandable” and also admitted he had exchanged words with the suspended Sergio Ramos as they crossed paths in the mouth of the tunnel where the Real defender had watched the second half. “It was a moment of confusion,” Allegri said. “Gigi had that reaction but that’s understandable. I don’t know if that has been his last game, there were three seconds left and the result would have been historic, super important, and he had a human reaction. The referee got out the red card and sent him off. As for the penalty, the referee said it was and he whistled it and there’s nothing else we can say but we’re left with a bitter taste.” Allegri said “crying is useless now”. As he left he passed Ramos in the tunnel “he told me it was a clear penalty”, Allegri revealed. “I said: ‘Clear? Grey, at least.’”

Squads

Vallejo comes in for the suspended Sergio Ramos, while Gareth Bale gets a start ahead of Benzema. Ronaldo apparently didn’t fancy being rested. as for Juve, with Dybala out because of last weeks red card, Mandzukic comes in.

Real Madrid
Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Vallejo, Marcelo; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric, Isco; Ronaldo, Bale. Subs: Casilla, Benzema, Hernandez, Vazquez, Llorente, Asensio, Kovacic.

Juventus
Buffon; De Sciglio, Benatia, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Khedira, Pjanic, Matuidi; Costa, Higuain, Mandzukic. Subs: Szczesny, Cuadrado, Marchisio, Asamoah, Rugani, Lichtsteiner, Stuaro.

Referee: M Oliver (Northumberland)

Next Real Madrid join Liverpool, Roma and Bayern Munich in the last-four UEFA Champions League Semi-finals draw which takes place in Nyon on Friday at Bedlam at the Bernabeu. Check back for Champions League tickets for Real Madrid, Liverpool, Roma, and Bayern Munich.

2017-18 Spanish La Liga table

As of April 11, 2018 Barcelona sits atop the Spain La Liga with 79 points, followed by Atletico Madrid with 68 points, Valencia in third with 65 points, and Real Madrid in fourth with 64 points.

1 Barcelona 79
2 Atletico Madrid 68
3 Valencia 65
4 Real Madrid 64
5 Real Betis 49
6 Villarreal 47
7 Sevilla 46
8 Girona 44
9 Celta Vigo 43
10 Eibar 40
11 Getafe 39
12 Real Sociedad 37
13 Ath Bilbao 36
14 Espanyol 36
15 Leganés 36
16 Alavés 35
17 Levante 31
18 Dep La Coruña 23
19 Las Palmas 21
20 Malaga17

Spanish La Liga April fixtures

Buy all Spain La Liga tickets for Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid as well as Real Madrid Champions League tickets securely now online from www.1st4FootballTickets.com.

Friday 13th April
Girona v Real Betis

Saturday 14th April
Sevilla v Villarreal
Barcelona v Valencia
Las Palmas V Real Sociedad
Leganés V Celtic Vigo
Athletic Bilbao V Deportivo La Coruña

Sunsday 15th April
Eibar v Alavés
Atlético Madrid v levante
Getafe v Espanyol
Malaga v Real Madrid

Tuesday 17th April
Deportivo La Coruña V Seville
Celtic Vigo V Barcelona
Villarreal v leganés

Wednesday 18th April
Espanyol v Eibar
Valencia v getafe
Real Madrid v Athletic Bilbao

Thursday 19th April
Alavés v Girona
Real Sociedad V Atlético Madrid
Levante v Malaga
Real Betis v Las Palmas

Friday 20th April
Leganés V Deportivo La Coruña

Saturday 21st April
Eibar v Getafe
Celtic Vigo V Valencia

Sunday 22nd April
Girona V Spanish
Malaga V Real Sociedad
Las Palmas v alavés
Atlético Madrid V Real Betis
Monday 23rd April
Athletic Bilbao v Levante

Sunday 29th April
Alavés V Atlético Madrid
Deportivo La Coruña v Barcelona
Espanyol V Las Palmas
Getafe v Girona
Seville Seville
Real Betis v Malaga
Real Madrid v leganés
Royal Society v Athletic Bilbao
Valencia v Eibar
Villarreal v Celtic Vigo

*All times are UK and subject to change.

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