Barcelona set record for longest unbeaten run at home in the Champions League

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Lionel Messi

With their 5-1 win over Lyon, Barcelona created a new record for an unbeaten run at home in the Champions League. 

The Catalans are now on a 30-game unbeaten stretch at home in Europe. Their last defeat in this competition at the Camp Nou came at the hands of Bayern Munich in the semi-finals of the 2012-13 season. 

Coincidentally, Bayern Munich are the team that previously held this record. The German giants had endured 29 games without a loss at home in the Champions League between 1998 and 2002. 

Barcelona have won 27 of the 30 games and drew on three occasions. Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Tottenham are the three teams to have escaped the Camp Nou without a defeat in this period. 

The last six years have seen quite a few memorable performances by the Spanish giants at the Camp Nou. 

A 3-0 rout of Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in the 2014-15 was one of the most important wins for Barcelona. A 3-2 defeat at Allianz Arena meant that Luis Enrique’s men first-leg performance carried them to the finals and eventually won them a second European treble. 

In the 2016-17 season, Barcelona overcame a 4-0 first-leg deficit against Paris Saint-Germain by embarrassing the French team with a 6-1 score-line at home. 

Neymar

Neymar

Last year, Ernesto Valverde’s men defeated Chelsea 3-0 in the last-16 before bowing to Roma in the quarterfinals. A 3-0 win against a quality opponent backed by a tremendous first half performance surely calls for a mention here. 

The fortress at Barcelona has not been breached for 30 games now. Will one of Liverpool, Ajax, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham or Porto find a way to do so in the quarterfinals? 

The Champions League has been complex this season, especially for teams which were deemed favourites when the draw was out. 

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Barcelona defender Sergi Roberto 'surprised' by Zinedine Zidane return to Real Madrid

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Sergi Roberto

Barcelona defender Sergi Roberto admitted that Zinedine Zidane’s return to Real Madrid took him by surprise.

Los Blancos re-appointed the Frenchman after firing Santiago Solari for a dismal run that included two defeats to rivals Barcelona and one to Ajax in the Champions League.

The former Madrid midfielder has won a hat-trick of Champions League trophies as manager and is expected to pull them out from the mess.

Roberto feels that no one expected the Frenchman to return to Madrid.

Although, he did state that Barcelona are more focused on getting their job done and finishing the season on a high.

“His return surprised me,” the Catalan said at the inauguration of a Cruyff Court in Reus, according to Marca.

“I don’t think anybody expected it, but they’ve decided to make Zidane their coach.

“He has brought them many titles, but we have to focus on our own business and on finishing the season off well.”

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Real Betis v Barcelona key players as Philippe Coutinho looks to break shackles of mediocrity

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Coutinho needs to overcome his slump

When Barcelona and Real Betis locked horns earlier this season, the neutrals were treated to a footballing extravaganza in a game that finally ended 4-3 in favour of the latter.

Quique Setien tactically outclassed Ernesto Valverde in a manner Johan Cruyff would have been proud of.

Betis won the tie thanks to a total team effort, but Giovani Lo Celso and Junior Firpo were the two players who stood out.

The two teams face again on Sunday, with both teams carrying opposite momentum. The Catalan side has enjoyed a great 2019 so far, breezing past crunch fixtures involving the likes of Real Madrid and Lyon (Champions League).

Betis – on the other hand – are drifting away from the top four in the league and have been eliminated from the Europa League.

We take a look at some of the players who can make a difference in this big fixture.

Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)

The midfield battle will be extremely crucial in a game between two sides who like to keep the ball. While Sergio Busquets pulls strings from behind, Barcelona will need Ivan Rakitic to come clutch and aid Busquets and Arthur with his unprecedented work-rate. But the “Octopus of Badia” will be the most crucial player in midfield.

Lo Celso and Sergio Canales make a strong pair in midfield and can cause havoc if they are provided the liberty to take initiative. The Spaniard’s knack of breaking down attacks and converting defence into attack in a blink of an eye will be of great aid to the Catalans.

Sergio Busquets

Sergio Busquets

Busquets has rightly been accused of slacking and playing loose this season and he is now provided with an opportunity to right his wrongs. He will be tasked with silencing William Carvalho – a player of similar qualities – and shut down the Betis midfield.

Sergio Canales (Real Betis)

Canales was one of the best performers for Betis on that fateful night. The former Real Madrid midfielder will be looking to replicate his performance on Sunday and hand his team a much-needed win.

His main strength lies in carrying the ball across enemy lines and delivering that final ball.

Sergio Canales has been in good form for Real Betis

Sergio Canales has been in good form for Real Betis

He could exploit the space left by full-back Jordi Alba – who prefers to push up – and whip in a cross for Joaquin to head home. Canales will hence have a crucial role to play as he positions himself in the abandoned space on the right. The Spaniard will also be looking to show the world why he was called up to the Spain squad for the next set of friendlies.

Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona)

Philippe Coutinho coming clutch at this time could do a lot of good to Barcelona, especially with the Champions League ties around the corner. The Brazilian will be looking to build on his good shift against Lyon as he attempts to convince Barcelona that Ousmane Dembele’s injury is probably not a huge concern.

The former Liverpool man will be up against Aissa Mandi and Marc Bartra – two top defenders. With Alba pushing high on the pitch, Coutinho’s role will be more central and probably more direct.

Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho

His link-up with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi is gradually improving and a top performance against a team which maintains a good shape will boost his confidence ahead of the tough tests ahead. Also, despite playing a three-man defence, Betis are not as compact as other teams in the league. So, watch out for Coutinho’s trademark shot from distance.

Pau Lopez (Real Betis)

Barcelona are now making it a habit to shower the opposition with shots, which are rarely off-target. In such a game, the opposition custodian will have to be on top of his game to prevent a meltdown.

A couple of early goals can shatter the confidence of Setien’s men and set the game up for a one-sided finish, Lopez must remain calm and composed in order to prevent this.

Betis like to play a high line and are hence prone to getting hit on the counter. Therefore, Lopez must assume the role of a sweeper keeper and be careful with his decisions when he rushes to win the ball.

A team which has Messi is also threatening at set-pieces – especially direct free-kicks. Betis will need Lopez to not succumb to pressure and deliver a solid 10 to prevent the Argentine from taking the tie away from the hosts.

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