Barca-Chelsea claim wins ahead of UCL clash

Barca-Chelsea claim wins ahead of UCL clash

Lionel Messi was away attending the birth of his son but Barcelona still had more than enough to beat 10-man Malaga 2-0 and move 11 points clear at the top of La Liga.

Messi was watching the game on a television in hospital as Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho put his team two up inside half an hour at La Rosaleda Stadium on Saturday, before Samuel Garcia was sent off in the 30th minute for a dangerous tackle on Jordi Alba.

With a man down and without a win in 12 matches, Malaga might have feared a rout but Barca settled for a straightforward victory, perhaps with one eye on Wednesday's Champions League last-16 clash against Chelsea.

Messi is expected back at the Camp Nou, where the score is 1-1 from the first leg, but Ernesto Valverde will have been delighted with how his attackers filled the void, as Suarez, Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele all delivered excellent displays.

Barca’s first goal came in the 15th minute when Jordi Alba was given far too much  space and time on the left to puick out Luis Suarez with a perfect pass. The Uruguayan forward leapt and nodded the ball into the near post to give the home side an early lead.

The next major highlight followed with Ousmane Dembele's brilliant turn and pass in the 28th minute which was bettered only by Coutinho's flicked finish for what was a superb second goal.

Just two minutes after Barcelona doubled their lead, Malaga went down to 10 men as the referee brandished a direct red card to midfielder Samuel Garcia for a dangerous tackle on Jordi Alba, catching the Spanish left back on the ankle.

Malaga forward Youssef En-Nesyri missed an absolute sitter of a chance when he headed wide off an open goal after connecting with a lovely cross from Iturra.

Malaga came close to pull one back  once again  as En- Nesyri tore through the Barcelona defence to roll a pass across for Lacen, who ultimately shot high to give away the a goal-kick to the hosts.

The win means that  Barca have now extended their advantage over second-placed Atletico Madrid, who can pull the deficit back to eight points with a win over Celta Vigo on Sunday.

Malaga, meanwhile, remain rooted to the bottom of the table.

Chelsea win 2-1

London: Chelsea prepared for their Champions League trip to Barcelona by beating Crystal Palace 2-1 on Saturday to close the gap on the English Premier League top four to two points.

Palace defender Martin Kelly had an inadvertent hand in both goals.

Willian's opener in the 25th minute took a deflection off Kelly. The Brazilian was provided with enough room to shoot and break the deadlock.

 Chelsea doubled their lead when an attempt to clear Davide Zappacosta's shot in the 32nd minute hit goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and came off Kelly again before going over the line.

Former Chelsea academy graduate Patrick van Aanholt pulled one back in the 90th after Palace infiltrated Chelsea’s defence with a neat and quick build-up in the final third, but it was too late for Palace to stave off a fourth successive loss.

The south London club remains winless in its last seven games and lodged in the relegation zone.

The struggle for Chelsea is to secure one of the four Champions League places. Tottenham, which plays Bournemouth on Sunday, is two points ahead of Chelsea in fourth place.

Chelsea's hopes of qualifying for the Champions League could rest on winning the competition for a second time. Antonio Conte's side is locked with Barcelona at  1-1 heading into the second leg on Wednesday.



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