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Barcelona 2 - 1 Alavés

Barcelona 2 - 1 Alavés: Messi and Suárez goals extend Liga lead

Alavés came to the Camp Nou and set about stopping the Coutinho-enriched Barça attacking line-up. Guidetti's goal put a shock on the cards, till the main men stepped up.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 28:  Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates after scoring his sides second goal during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Deportivo Alaves at Camp Nou on January 28, 2018 in Barcelona, .  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David RamosGetty Images

Barcelona vs Alavés: match report

In the end it's another three points for LaLiga's runaway leaders as Barcelona return their 11-point gap between them and Atlético Madrid atop the Spanish league. But the game was far from the comfortable victory that had been predicted. The Basque visitors came with a clear gameplan: defend deep, break up play whenever possible, and by restricting space to their illustrious attacking opponents in their final third, minimise the options to play the killer pass. Goals tend to come for Barça at home, and ultimately they did with their usual protagonists at the fore.

Coutinho starts, Guidetti finishes

Philippe Coutinho had stirred the excitement by making his starting debut and Valverde must have seen this game as the perfect chance to imbed his record signing into the winning habit. As it turned out, the goals didn't come until after the Brazilian had left the pitch. He linked up well with his new teammates but although three quarters of the possession was at the feet of the home side's players, clear-cut chances were at a premium. And it was Alavés who surprised the rather quiet Camp Nou by taking the lead.

Just minutes before John Guidetti's goal, a similar break should have alerted the Barça backline to their frailties. It didn't and straight from a home corner the Swede took off leaving the chasing Umtiti in his wake. The shot was aided with the striker slipping on the wet surface and Ter Stegen was left stranded. That goal came just after 20 minutes and it wasn't until 20 minutes from full time that Barça were able to level things up.

Guidetti slides his way to opening the scoring.
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Guidetti slides his way to opening the scoring.GORKA LEIZADIARIO AS

Suárez and Messi rescue Barça

When it did come it was from a familiar boot. Luis Suárez had been presented with December's top scorer award before kick-off and the Uruguyan volloyed home a deep Iniesta cross much to the relief of teammates and fans alike. Faint claims of a handball dissipated - the ball did clip the arm of Pique on the way in - and Barça now went looking for the winner. Step up talisman, Lionel Messi.

After testing Pacheco in the Alavés goal earlier, a free-kick on the edge of the area inside the final 10 minutes was always going to be dangerous. The Argentine's trademark curl and dip was close enough to the diving keeper to give him a chance but despite getting a hand to it, Pacheco couldn't prevent it from hitting the net. It was a shame for someone who had certainly played his part in keeping the hosts at bay.

Pacheco couldn't keep out Messi's late free-kick.
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Pacheco couldn't keep out Messi's late free-kick.FERRAN ZUERASDIARIO AS

Controversy but three points

Some controversy will be discussed after the game - Messi's winning free-kick should not have been awarded due to an offside immediately before the foul, and an Umtiti handball was not deemed a penalty - but Barça will not care. They go into February top by 11, in the semi-finals of the Copa and with a tasty Champions League tie to look forward to. Alavés can be proud of their efforts and can take that on to fight away from the relegation zone. Who says LaLiga is not competitive?

Barcelona vs Alavés: how it happened

Barcelona vs Alavés: match preview

Top dogs Barcelona welcome relegation-threatened Alavés to the Camp Nou in Week 21 of LaLiga looking, most would say 'expecting', to collect another three points and recoup their 11 point lead at the top. Nearest chaser Atlético Madrid did their job earlier in the day by beating Las Palmas 3-0 but few punters will be banking on the gap staying as it is.

Barcelona team news

The biggest news for the home side is that there could be a double starting debut with record-signing Philippe Coutinho and Yerry Mina in line to begin the game. The former Liverpool player came on as a second-half substitute against Espanyol in the Copa del Rey second leg and impressed with his cameo. Fans will be expecting plenty from one of their new idols. Defintely out of contention for the Blaugrana are Ousmane Dembélé, Thomas Vermaelen and André Gomes.

Alavés team news

Alavés arrive just a place and two points above the drop zone but know that these are the games that do not define their season's end. Any points collected on the road to the top teams are a bonus and holding out for a draw against this year's strongest unit will feel like a victory. The trouble they'll have is preventing Barça from scoring - Juventus were the last team to do that here in April 2017 - so trouble Ter Stegen will have to form part of Abelardo Fernández' plans. Héctor Hernández and Burgui will be missing through injury while Rodrigo Ely and Tomás Pina are suspended.


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