Barcelona vs. Granada  2 - 0

Article

Fabregas: Barca will miss Xavi

23 September 2012 12:03

Cesc Fabregas says he cannot imagine Barcelona being the same without Xavi after the veteran midfielder's match-winning turn on Saturday.

Barca were struggling to surpass Granada until the 32-year-old came off the bench to score the opener in their 2-0 win with just three minutes left on the clock.

Fabregas, who returned to the Liga giants last summer having left for Arsenal in 2006, believes the Spain international is irreplaceable at Camp Nou.

“I cannot imagine Barca without Xavi," he told reporters after the match. "Someday he will (no longer be here) as with all players ever but he is a fantastic player.

"He has spent decades here at the club and is the most capped player in the club's history."

Although Tito Vilanova’s men did not make the league clash easy for themselves - with a late own-goal swelling the scoreline in stoppage time - Fabregas insisted the team are pleased with their form regardless.

"It was difficult to defend well," the former Arsenal captain added. "We finished the game with professionalism and with patience, and we are very happy.

"We have struggled a little bit in some games, but the feelings are good."

Article

Vilanova plays down ´rift´ rumours

23 September 2012 04:41

Tito Vilanova insists too much has been made of a heated on-pitch discussion involving David Villa and Lionel Messi.

The incident took place during Barcelona's 2-0 victory over Granada in which the Catalan side were frustrated for large periods of the game and that appeared to boil over when Villa engaged in a heated debate with his team-mate after Messi failed to pass him the ball.

"There is nothing to gather (from what happened between Villa and Messi)," Vilanova said at his post-match press conference.

"Whoever plays football knows discussions are a normality, and part of the game.

"Such occurrences are common signs that a team is alive. Not exchanging views for betterment would honestly suggest worse."

Messi also appeared on Barca TV to refute suggestions of a bust-up: "Do not look for problems where there are none. Villa and I get along very well, it was just normal banter during games."

Barca's fifth league victory in a row, courtesy of a late Xavi strike and Borja Gomez own goal, puts them 11 points clear of reigning Liga champions Real Madrid, although Jose Mourinho's outfit are due to face Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.

"What was important was to make it 15 points out of 15," Vilanova said.

"I don't feel pressure, or any obligations. I knew what would be asked of me from the start, and I dared to try my hand.

"The key tonight was scoring the first goal, which helped open up their side. We put in a great performance tonight nevertheless."

Article

La Liga wrap: Barca struggle to late win

23 September 2012 01:23

A pair of late goals, including a cracking strike from Xavi, inspired Barcelona to a hard-fought 2-0 win over Granada in La Liga.

Xavi, who was brought on in the 54th minute on Saturday as Barcelona searched for their opening goal at home, kept his team's 100 percent record alive when he hit the back of the net in the 87th minute.

Barcelona had 20 shots for the game, including 11 on target, but they had to wait until Xavi collected the ball on the edge of the penalty area and then struck off the crossbar to take the lead.

In the 92nd minute, Lionel Messi created the clincher goal for Barcelona, getting free on the left-hand side of the box and then crossing into the middle where Granada defender Borja Gomez stuck out a foot and deflected the ball into his own net.

Barcelona remain top of La Liga with a perfect 15 points from five matches with Malaga, who have a game in hand, second on 10 and Real Betis sit third a further point behind.

Celta de Vigo claimed their second victory in three matches to move up to ninth on the La Liga table thanks to two assists from Danish winger Michael Krohn-Dehli in a 2-1 triumph over Getafe.

Krohn-Dehli, who joined Vigo from Danish club Brondby in August, set up his new club's first goal when he cut in from the left wing and then passed between two Getafe defenders to Augusto Fernandez, who sprinted into the box to score with a fine finish in the 57th minute.

Getafe hit back just two minutes later when Abdelaziz Barrada smashed Diego Castro's cross into the roof of the net but Vigo earned the victory in the 69th minute when Krohn-Dehli chipped a well-weighted pass to the back post and substitute Park Chu-Young leapt high to volley the ball home.

It was the Korean striker's first goal for Vigo since joining the Spanish club on loan from Arsenal.

Getafe's day got even worse in second-half injury time when their defender Alexis was sent off.

In other La Liga results, Real Zaragoza knocked off Osasuna 3-1, while Real Betis defeated Espanyol 1-0.

Article

Vilanova: Messi can be best ever

22 September 2012 05:41

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova says Lionel Messi is on the way to becoming the best player of all time.

And Vilanova, who has replaced Pep Guardiola in the Barca hot seat, has revealed that everyone at the club hopes he will end his career there.

Blaugrana president Sandro Rosell confirmed this week that the Catalan side are planning to offer the Argentina international a new contract, despite his current deal running until 2016.

And club trainer Vilanova has echoed the desire to keep Messi with the Liga giants for the foreseeable future.

"He is the best in the world. If he is not already the best in history, he will end up being so," the 44-year-old told a press conference.

"To all at Barca it would be a joy to have him end his career here. You will not see a player like Messi again."

The former Celta player also denied suggestions that he has one eye on the upcoming Clasico on October 7, saying Saturday's home clash with Granada is the only thing occupying his thoughts.

"I am not thinking about the Clasico," said the former Barcelona B midfielder.

"What concerns me is reaching 15 points from a possible 15 this weekend.

"It has not been done many times in history. In my head there is only Granada, Granada and Granada. It's like you (reporters) asking me about the game in Madrid in the second round of fixtures.

"Against Granada, the incentive is to win, not to think that we move 11 points ahead of Madrid. As it is not up to us, it is not worth wasting time.

"I have seen games of Granada's and they are organised and do very well on the counterattack."

Vilanova also intimated that he was undecided as to who would play in central defence in the clash, with Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique both absent through injury. Talented youngster Marc Bartra could instead get the nod, while Alex Song is also in consideration.

"Tomorrow I will decide who plays. If (Marc) Bartra is in the first team it is because he has the ability," said the Barca coach.

"Marc will get games, but the season has only just begun. Bartra is in the first team because he deserves it, not because his contract may say so.

"Song can also be brought in to play at centre-back. He has many levels. He fits perfectly and can also play in defence. I was surprised because he understands everything I explain to him first time," he added.

Article

La Liga preview: Barca primed to extend streak

21 September 2012 08:38

Barcelona could open up an 11-point advantage ahead of defending champions Real Madrid if results go their way on the weekend.

The 2010/11 champions have made blistering start to the season, winning all four of their opening matches and will look to maintain that perfect record when they host lowly Granada on Saturday.

And Barcelona's push to reclaim the La Liga title could be given a significant boost if 12th-placed Real taste defeat at Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.

But their depth will be tested after Spanish international defender Gerard Pique sprained his ankle in Tito Vilanova's first UEFA Champions match in charge of the club, which finished 3-2 at the expense of Spartak Moscow.

Pique is likely to miss three weeks of football and joins fellow defender Carles Puyol on the sidelines after he suffered knee ligament damage.

Real head to the Estadio del Rayo Vallecano on the back of a thrilling 3-2 victory over Manchester City but will be wary of Vallecano's recent form.

Jose Mourinho's men, who sit on four points, were beaten for a second time in the league after falling to a solitary strike from Sevilla midfielder Piotr Trochowski but returned to winning ways midweek against the reigning English champions.

However, Real will need to be at their best against a team who have lost just once in four league games.

Paco Jemez's troops tasted defeat for the first time on September 19, going down 4-3 in a thrilling encounter away to Atletico Madrid but were unbeaten in their opening three games prior to that loss.

Elsewhere, surprise-packets Malaga will aim to maintain their unbeaten start to the season when they make the trip to Athletic Bilbao.

Malaga, who were forced to sell prize assets Santi Cazorla (Arsenal) and Salomon Rondon (Rubin Kazan) to balance the books, occupy second position on the table and opened their Champions League campaign with a convincing 3-0 win at home to Zenit Saint Petersburg.

Valencia, La Liga champions on six occasions, travel to third-placed Mallorca, while Atletico Madrid, the 2012 Super Cup winners, play host to Real Valladolid as they look to keep pace with the league's top four.

In one of the weekend's toughest fixtures, Deportivo De La Coruna and Sevilla, both unbeaten to-date, meet at the Estadio Municipal de Riazor.

Meanwhile, Real Zaragoza entertain lowly Osasuna, struggling Espanyol do battle with Real Betis, Celta de Vigo face Getafe and Levante clash with Philippe Montanier's Real Sociedad.

Primera División table

# Team MP D P
1 38 +75 100
2 38 +61 85
3 38 +34 76
4 38 +21 66
5 38 +13 65
6 38 +3 57
7 38 +1 56
8 38 -16 53
9 38 +4 50
10 38 -14 47
11 38 -17 46
12 38 -21 45
13 38 -9 44
14 38 -9 43
15 38 -17 42
16 38 -17 39
17 38 -15 37
18 38 -29 36
19 38 -23 35
20 38 -25 34