Spartak Moskva vs. Barcelona  0 - 3

Article

Alves hails Barca backline

21 November 2012 13:57

Dani Alves praised Barcelona's defensive performance following their 3-0 Champions League win over Spartak Moscow on Tuesday.

The right-back opened the scoring in the 16th minute before Lionel Messi put the match to bed with two more goals, but Alves was particularly pleased with his side's first clean sheet since their 1-0 victory over Valencia on September 2.

"Sometimes we're exposed at the back when we all attack at the same time, but we defended their counterattacks well. We did a pretty good job," the Brazil international told the official Barcelona website.

"It had been a while since we'd kept a clean sheet and we're happy that we managed to do that against Spartak. I'm especially pleased for Víctor (Valdes).

"We played really well going forward and we put in a good defensive performance, but the important thing is how the whole team played."

The Blaugrana sit atop of Champions League Group G with 12 points from five games, and have a five-point lead over Celtic and Benfica, who are level on points in second and third spot.

Article

Pique hails Messi magic

21 November 2012 09:54

Gerard Pique hailed Lionel Messi's brilliance in the wake of his two-goal display in Barcelona's 3-0 Champions League win on Tuesday.

The Argentina international helped the Spanish outfit seal top spot in Group G - and qualification to the knockout stages - with the victory over Spartak Moscow.

And Pique was impressed with the forward's impressive showing.

"Messi was fantastic, like he always is. I think he is the best player in the world," the defender said.

"When you have this type of player you have to use him and this is what we do. We play for him because he knows how to score and how to play and how to win and today it was the same."

The Catalan club struggled in the home match against Spartak, but cruised to a comfortable away win on Tuesday, much to the surprise of Pique.

"I didn't think it would be as easy as it was, but we played a really good game. We were lucky that we managed to score three goals in the first-half and we controlled the game quite easily," he said.

"But there's no denying that they are a really good team, because at Camp Nou they had us in a bit of trouble."

Barcelona resume La Liga action on Sunday when they travel to Levante.

Article

Vilanova delights in Barca display

21 November 2012 01:41

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova was thrilled his side could graft out a win in Russia against Spartak Moscow on Tuesday.

The Spanish giants sealed top spot in Champions League Group G with the 3-0 win that included another brace for Lionel Messi and the Argentine's 80th goal in 2012.

Vilanova credited his star man as well his team's overall performance on an artificial pitch in freezing conditions.

"We respected Spartak. It is never easy to win here because of the time change, the low temperatures and the artificial grass," Vilanova said.

"We managed to beat them at the Nou Camp (in September), I watched the game twice and they played quite will on our pitch.

"They had fast people up front so winning here in Moscow was even more of a credit to our players, because they came here to control the ball, and to attack despite knowing a draw was enough.

"The result was more down to our players than mistakes by Spartak players, they played well."

On Messi, Vilanova said it was the Argentine's team-first approach that has ensured his constant record-breaking feats.

"Lionel Messi doesn't play to beat records. He just plays football to help the team," Vilanova said.

"The fact he has scored 80 goals so far in 2012 is not an easy thing to do, it is an incredible achievement from a young player.

"He achieved this record because of his ambition to win every game."

Spartak coach Unai Emery praised his players' performance despite the defeat, which eliminated the Russian side from the competition.

"We played well especially in the first half and after we went 3-0 down in the second half," Emery said.

"But in the first half the game was more or less as we had established, we had several chances to score but we haven't been successful.

"Barcelona also managed to create a lot of chances and they were more effective.

"I am not unhappy with the team, the team has struggled and the team has had options but has been overrun by a great team like the Barcelona.

"For us it was a good performance and we can build from it."

Article

UEFA Champions League Group G wrap: Barca take top honours

20 November 2012 22:54

Barcelona qualified for the Champions League Round of 16 with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Spartak Moscow on Tuesday.

Brazilian defender Dani Alves opened the scoring at the Luzhniki Stadium in the 16th minute with a well-taken half-volley as the visitors asserted their authority early on.

Argentine superstar Lionel Messi netted the first of his two goals of the match 11 minutes later, showing predatory instincts to pounce on a rebound inside the penalty area.

Messi finished off a quintessential Barca passing move to complete his brace at the end of the first half, with only the heroics of Spartak goalkeeper Andriy Dykan preventing Tito Vilanova's side from adding to the scoreline after the interval.

The loss spelled the end of Spartak's Champions League campaign, while Barca move to an unassailable 12 points in Group G.

In the group's other match, Benfica recorded a 2-1 home win over Celtic.

Jorge Jesus' Benfica took the lead against the Scottish champions in the seventh minute through Ola John, with Oscar Cardozo getting the assist.

Greek striker Giorgos Samaras levelled proceedings in the 31st minute, but Benfica defender Ezequiel Garay netted what would prove to be the winner 20 minutes from time.

Benfica leapfrog Celtic into second place in the standings, though both teams sit on seven points and will vie for qualification in next month's final matchday.

Article

No excuses for Barcelona, says Fabregas

20 November 2012 02:35

Cesc Fabregas says that there are no excuses for Barcelona not to beat Spartak Moscow in their upcoming Champions League fixture.

The two sides will meet on Tuesday at the Luzhniki Stadium in Russia and, despite the strength of the opposition, the artificial pitch and the freezing temperature that the Catalan side will be up against, the Spain international is determined not to let it affect their performance.

"The artificial pitch and the cold will not be a problem, or an excuse," Fabregas said.

"It will be a hard game, but we are not thinking about holding out for a draw, although that will be enough to see us through.

"We want to win, we always play our way and we will just have to adapt that to whatever they do. Every team in the Champions League will always be dangerous but it is always a tough task to go to Russia."

When questioned if he expects to be in the starting line-up, Fabregas insisted that it is up to Camp Nou head coach Tito Vilanova to decide whether he should start.

"I always try to give my best and then the boss has to decide," he said. "I am playing a lot lately and I am happy about that.

"We have players who can compete and come in and freshen up the team, but this is always a good thing."

Article

Vilanova wary of Spartak threat

19 November 2012 21:55

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has told his side to expect a difficult match against Spartak Moscow in the Champions League on Tuesday.

The Catalans beat the Russian side 3-2 in the first meeting of the two sides at Camp Nou, and the 44-year-old is wary of the threat they pose, particularly with former Valencia boss Unai Emery in charge.

"Russian teams have made it difficult for us in the past," Vilanova told reporters.

"These days you can't beat anyone easily in the Champions League.

"There are no easy games. We have a lot of respect for Spartak and I believe that it will be a hard game just like the one at the Camp Nou.

"We know Unai Emery well and he has always caused us difficulties. He is a coach who always has a very organised defence and attack."

However, Vilanova said a loss in the Russia capital would not be the end of the world due to their remaining group fixture against Benfica at Camp Nou.

"Against Spartak we will try to win so that we can qualify, but if we don't, we still have a game at Camp Nou," he said.

Emery, meanwhile, is optimistic about Spartak Moscow's chances against Barcelona.

The fixture comes on the back of four wins from six for Emery's men and he believes that their good form could provide a springboard for them to claim victory, despite their opposition's intimidating stature.

"The fact that we are playing Barcelona means it will be a difficult game," he said.

"However, we have reason for optimism because we are also a strong team and have won two of our last three games. We will try to take any opportunities that we have and play our own game.

"Our goal is to get three points because are desperate to qualify and be playing in Europe in the spring.

"In recent times we have gone through a bad spell with injuries piling up but we have to deal with this. We know we will be without Artem Dzyuba and Aiden McGeady, which will make things harder."

Article

Zubizarreta eyes Spartak scalp

19 November 2012 10:18

Andoni Zubizarreta says Barcelona are determined to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League by beating Spartak Moscow on Tuesday.

Barcelona were surprisingly beaten 2-1 by Celtic on matchday four, but they remain well-placed to book a spot in the last 16 of the competition.

Sporting director Zubizarreta has insisted Barca want to seal qualification to the next stage with a win over Spartak.

"Our goal is to qualify for the next round as soon as possible. We must win on Tuesday for that to happen," Zubizarreta told the club's website.

"We weren't able to clinch qualification in Glasgow, but we are hopeful that we can do it in Moscow. We're aware of how difficult the match will be because Spartak are running out of options to get to the next round."

The club's director of football then went on to discuss Lionel Messi's form and hailed the Argentine's contribution to the team.

"He doesn't play to break individual records," Zubizarreta said.

"What he wants is to win with the team and contribute to the group with his work."

Messi has netted 22 goals in 18 official appearances for Barcelona this season.

Article

Emery salutes ´special´ Messi

16 November 2012 17:42

Spartak Moscow coach Unai Emery has hailed Barcelona star Lionel Messi prior to their Champions League showdown on Tuesday night.

The Ballon d'Or nominee, who recently broke Brazil legend Pele's record for scoring the most goals during one calendar year with his 76th strike against Mallorca, is now only nine behind Gerd Mueller's tally.

Having a tough meeting with Tito Vilanova's men ahead of him, Emery revealed his belief that the South American star is truly one of a kind.

"He has a special gene; it's unique." he said.

"It's the essence of the game. He does everything so naturally, that, when he scores three goals in a match, it seems normal to us."

However, the Spanish coach insisted that, although they are blessed with an outstanding individual player, it is the whole team which makes Barcelona dangerous opponents.

"Barcelona are still centred around Messi, but they give a lot of importance to the group and the contribution of all the players," the former Valencia coach said.

"It's a philosophy that has marked an age, that will stay with us but won't be repeated."

He then shared his view on his team's chances of beating the club that many consider Champions League favourites for this year, and after seeing his side come close to an upset in Camp Nou, he has refused to rely on Siberian conditions to get him an important victory.

"We shouldn't look to the weather to give us more of a chance. We had a good match in the away game," Emery said.

"It was Messi who decided things. We have to repeat what we did there, but playing as well in defence as in attack. If we do that we'll be close to winning."

Premier League table

# Team MP D P
3 26 +17 52
4 26 +15 46
5 26 +11 44
6 26 +7 43
7 26 +2 36

Primera División table

# Team MP D P
1 34 +52 85
2 34 +66 81
3 33 +62 79
4 34 +22 62
5 34 +18 59