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Almeria 1-0 Barcelona: Match Review



Photo by JORGE GUERRERO/AFP via Getty Images

Days after their defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford, Barcelona travelled to take on Almeria with a chance to extend their lead atop the league standings to ten points. With the Catalans’ wounds from Europe still fresh, it remained to be seen as to how they responded after the painful result.

Keeping the upcoming Clasico in mind, Xavi made several changes to his starting lineup on the night, starting from the defence. Ronald Araujo and Jules Kounde started on the bench with Eric Garcia and Andreas Christensen taking over duties in central defence.

Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto completed the defence as the full-backs. The midfield was composed of Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong, and Franck Kessie while Robert Lewandowski, Ferran Torres, and Gavi completed the lineup.

The initial moments of the game were balanced with both sides sharing the possession and creating a flurry of opening half-chances. Despite the large difference in points between the two teams, there was not much between them in terms of performance.

Almeria took the lead in the 24th minute against all-odds, breaking Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s La Liga clean sheet record. The goal was made possible by Luis Suarez’s astonishing lobbed pass over the Catalan defence to find Toure. The striker timed his run perfectly, took on the German goalkeeper and slammed the ball into the top of the netting.

Almost immediately after scoring the opener, the hosts came close to doubling their lead. Baptistao’s strike threatened the Blaugrana shot-stopper at his near post but Ter Stegen made the vital save.

Until the half-time whistle, Barcelona created barely any chances. It was quite comfortably the Azulgranas’ worst half of the season, and the lack of intent was evident. Seemingly, Xavi’s men were still reeling from the wounds of Old Trafford and far from their frightening best.

Xavi withdrew Franck Kessie for Raphinha at half-time to spark a turnaround. Barcelona began the second half with more hunger and steam, looking more confident in possession. Yet, it was difficult to create concrete chances against Almeria’s comfortable low block.

Raphinha opened up the hosts’ defence with a great cross from the right side at the hour mark. Frenkie de Jong could not make the most of it while Gavi’s eventual volley went wayward.

The manager brought on Araujo and Marcos Alonso for Garcia and Alba in the 67th minute in the hope of regaining defensive stability.

Barcelona’s biggest chance came in the 70th minute when Ferran Torres’ cross fell at Raphinha’s feet. However, the Brazilian could not capitalise.

From that point on, the visitors pushed forward and gunned for an equaliser. At times, Xavi’s men had up to six players in the Almeria area looking for solutions.

Meanwhile, Pablo Torre and Angel Alarcon came on for Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto with 15 minutes to go.

The visitors again upped the ante after the 80th minute but to no benefit. Araujo’s headed chance went wide of goal while Alarcon’s volley was comfortably saved by Fernando Martinez.

Chance after chance fell Barcelona’s way in the final minutes, with Araujo coming the closest to scoring even in the penultimate minute of action. At the other end, Almeria missed a golden chance to put the game to bed, with Ter Stegen making the save.

It was not meant to be for the league leaders on the night as they fell to their second defeat in as many games. Clearly, their slump in form could not come at a worse time as they face Real Madrid next in the Copa del Rey.

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