Barcelona 4 Goals to the Good Against Zaragoza
"What? Don't you want Messi to play? Is that what you want? If it is, then tell me. Won't you let me decide for myself?!".
The casually cool Pep Guardiola had his feathers ruffled earlier today in the pre-match press conference when pressed about the possible fatigue of his international players following 10-day international duty. However, the media were most intrigued to interrogate Guardiola on the fitness of the recently announced Time Magazine's Person of the Year nominee Leo Messi.
So with one eye on the mid-week trip to Milan, Guardiola welcomed Javier Aguirre's, Zaragoza for a game where nothing less than three points would suffice. On a more positive note, the big news heading into the game was the official declaration of Pedro Rodrigues being back to full fitness in time for the San Siro trip.
Barcelona's starting lineup: Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Fábregas, Puyol, Xavi, Alexis, Messi, Keita, Maxwell and Cuenca. And as the faithful welcomed back their heroes with rapturous rounds of applause, it wasn't long before the players set an ominous tone for the visitors.
Looking lively from the kick off and spraying the ball around comfortably, the first real chance for Barça fell to Alexis, whose shot was smothered by the well-regarded Zaragoza keeper Roberto. Before long, Puyol was pushing up the field and almost met a Xavi corner at 17 minutes, missing by inches and slapping the post in frustration.
However, he wouldn't be ruing the miss for long as the meticulous Xavi whipped in a free kick from outside the box to pick up the unmarked Piqué to head home cleanly. Aguirre cut a resigned expression; this was going to be a long night.
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The first caution of the game came at the 26th minute when Lanzaro brought down Cesc, and was swiftly followed with a yellow for the challenge on Alexis by Juárez. Roberto was soon called back into action, first from a flick by Messi and then a shot from Alexis.
Goal number two wasn't long in coming. A ball from Cesc found Messi, who calmly slipped the ball into the corner to make it 2-0. There was a little action before halftime with Maxwell's cross missing everyone and sailing away.
Aguirre opted to mix things up for the second half, bringing on Lafita and Micael for Barrera and Luis García, but there was to be no change in direction.
Keita's knockdown in the box fell to Puyol to get his name on the score sheet. The central defensive pairing were enjoying a fine night.
With three goals to the good and the game all but won, Guardiola took the opportunity to make some changes, bringing Xavi and Alexis off for Thiago and Iniesta.
Piqué picked up a yellow card for a hand ball before Iniesta sent a chance wide of Roberto's left post. Guardiola, with Milan in mind, decided to take off Cesc, allowing Villa a run out at the 67th minute. It wasn't long before the striker was on the score sheet, following a good run from Cuenca and a cross found his head to slot in for 4-0 and seal the points!
The victory takes Barcelona level with Real Madrid at the top of the table. Madrid is looking to restore their lead away at Valencia. With El Clásico inching ever closer, we look forward to the fireworks!
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