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May 12, 2014

Barca and Elche match ended scoreless

in the match between two teams who were fighting for their lives in the league, one has to admit both came unhurt thanks to other results across the League. The match started with three teams technically fighting for the league, but Real Madrid dropped off the race after going down 2-0 against Celta de Vigo. So next week clash at Camp Nou is the La Liga final with Atletico holding a huge advantage. With a three point lead Atletico wouldn't have to force a winner whereas FC Barcelona boys need to go full throttle for the title. Barca definitely had the chance to negate Atletico's advantage when they went down 1-0 against Malaga at the Vicente Calderon. But we couldn't find a goal and but once they equalized, we were definite that we will start the next week encounter on the back foot. The Atletico game will definitely take the aura of a cup tie, this is reflected in the betting too with odds reflecting a knockout phase bet rather than a league game. So after twists and turns of the season, it will all be decided in a single match; here Atletico definitely have the advantage.

It was a nervous night, especially knowing that a late goal from Atletico would have destroyed any of our La Liga hope. This match was a fight for survival - one team fighting to stay in the league and the other trying to win it. In the end Elche's defensive display was too brilliant for Barca and we now need an almighty effort at the Camp Nou to win this League. In a "Win if you wanna stay alive" match, Martino decided to start Xavi from the bench. Xavi was having fitness issues coming in to the match and that looks to have made Martino make that decision. With Xavi missing, Cesc, Iniesta and Busquets made up the midfield. The front trio was the usual Pedro, Messi and Sanchez. The defense had Alves, Bartra, Mascherano and Adriano in front of Pinto. Oier, Montoya, Song, Xavi, Sergi Roberto, Afellay and Tello started from the bench.

As expected Barca started putting pressure on the Elche defense from the start. The majority of the possession were with Barca and they were going all out on the day, but sadly Elche was packing the defense well and was becoming very tough to break down. For all of our early pressure, we only were creating a couple of half chances - with Alexis and Iniesta come close to testing the keeper. In the 14thn minute Iniesta came close to giving barca the lead but his brilliant volley was tipped off to the post by the Elche keeper. In the 25th minute Messi showed his pace getting past two defenders, but Elche keeper, Manu deflected his final effort. From the resulting corner Sanchez had a decent chance, but his header was too soft to test anyone. In the 34th minute Pedro saw his header from an unmarked position going wide off the post. In the 42nd minute Alexis tried his luck from outside the box, but Manu was up to the task. The half ended with the score at 0-0. Atletico's match against Malaga also was at 0-0 at the end of the first half. That news should only encourage our players in second half.

Just after the restart Messi had a great chance to put us ahead, but the Argentinian shot straight at the keeper. Regardless of the enormous pressure we were putting on Elche, they were creating a couple of half chances. Luckily for us none of them were deadly, but it clearly demonstrated the danger Elche could create. Around 66th minute the atmosphere in the stadium changed with the Barca fans creating all the noise after the news about the Malaga's goal at the Vicente Calderon. The visiting fans were doing their best to force their team to find a winner. In the 68th minute Alves had the greatest chance of the night after he failed to direct a beautifully weighted cross into the box from Pedro. Martino immediately brought in Tello for Pedro to introduce some pace into the attack. In the 73rd minute Tello squared the ball into Iniesta in the box, but Elche defense did well to close down before the Spanish World cup winner execute his shot. In the 78th minute Fabregas sent in a great cross trying to find Messi in the box, but once again the Elche defense stole the ball before it reached Messi. In the 80 the minute we had a huge scare when Rodriguez shot high from a promising position. Every Cules almost dies there. In the 84th minute Adriano tried a curler from outside the box, which went agonizingly close to the post. In the 87th minute Tello won a free kick on the elft side of the penalty box. Xavi sent in a great cross but Manu once again did well to clear it. In the 92nd minute Messi fired a free kick straight at Manu.

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