Pique plays a blinder as Barcelona stars win big at poker tournament

By Sports Desk August 27, 2019

There were cards of a different kind for Gerard Pique and Arturo Vidal when the Barcelona team-mates won almost €500,000 at a European Poker Tour event on Monday.

World Cup winner Pique placed second in the Single-Day High Roller category at Casino Barcelona the day after helping his club to a 5-2 victory over Real Betis in LaLiga.

The former Spain international pocketed €352,950 as he finished runner-up to countryman Juan Pardo from a field of 70 entrants.

Event sponsor PokerStars revealed "poker aficionado" Pique has now collected more than half a million euros from his involvement in high-level tournaments.

Vidal also performed well, winning €134,460 to claim fifth spot.

The cash contributed to a memorable two days for the midfielder, who netted the final goal as his side secured three points at Camp Nou on Sunday.

Pique made his 500th appearance for Barca in the match.

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    Lionel Messi gets better with each passing day as head coach Ernesto Valverde heaped praise on Barcelona's record-breaking superstar following Wednesday's Champions League victory.

    Messi set a new Champions League record with his goalscoring display in Barca's unconvincing 2-1 victory away to Slavia Prague in Group F midweek.

    The Barca captain's third-minute goal saw him become the first player to score in the Champions League for 15 consecutive seasons, while he also matched Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid great Raul in having netted against 33 different opponents in Europe's premier club competition.

    Valverde hailed Messi post-match, telling reporters: "He's the player who can decide any game. Every day we see him he's even better.

    "One more record for the incredible Leo. They are easy to say, it seems natural, but it is very difficult to achieve."

    After Messi's opener, Slavia managed to restore parity via Jan Boril five minutes into the second half but a huge slice of luck benefited Barca, who saw Peter Olayinka deflected in Luis Suarez's effort.

    The win saw Barca improve to seven points from three games, three points ahead of Inter and Borussia Dortmund.

    On Messi, Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets added: "He's had a tough start to the season because of injuries. He's fundamental to the way we play and a lot goes through him.

    "He's getting his rhythm back but it won't take him long because he's the best in the world." 

  • They were like wolves – Valverde hails Slavia Prague but urges Barcelona to take control They were like wolves – Valverde hails Slavia Prague but urges Barcelona to take control

    Ernesto Valverde has praised the display of Slavia Prague after his Barcelona side came away with a fortuitous 2-1 win in the Champions League.

    Barca were well below par in Wednesday's Group F encounter, but clinched the points thanks to Peter Olayinka's own goal.

    Lionel Messi had put Barca ahead early on, but Slavia deservedly fought back through Jan Boril's equaliser before Olayinka deflected in Luis Suarez's effort.

    The visitors had to survive a late onslaught in order to move three points clear at the top of Group F and Valverde acknowledged his side must learn to manage games in a more orderly fashion.

    "That was exactly the Slavia performance we expected," Valverde told a news conference.

    "These games, we have to know how to play them. We have lacked peace of mind. We had clearer chances than they did, but their pushing could hurt us. They were like wolves.

    "When we lost the ball they threw people forward and by the end they took so many risks it was like defending against an avalanche of attacks."

    Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a string of stops to keep Slavia down to one goal, but the Germany international insisted Barca must improve tactically.

    "We didn't play at the level we need to be at," Ter Stegen told reporters. "Luckily we got all three points, which is the most important thing.

    "There are things we must improve but we'll talk about them within the training ground, not here.

    "This is a tactical thing. These are things that happen during a game.

    "On a personal level I always want to be there and if I can help the team, that's better."

  • Slavia Prague 1-2 Barcelona: Messi sets Champions League record in fortuitous Blaugrana win Slavia Prague 1-2 Barcelona: Messi sets Champions League record in fortuitous Blaugrana win

    Lionel Messi set a new Champions League record as Barcelona laboured to a fortunate 2-1 victory over Slavia Prague in Group F.

    Messi's third-minute goal saw him become the first player to score in the Champions League in 15 consecutive seasons, but it did not pave the way for a convincing performance from Ernesto Valverde's side.

    Indeed, Barca relied on a huge slice of luck to retake the lead following Jan Boril's equaliser, with Peter Olayinka deflecting in Luis Suarez's effort from a Messi free-kick.

    Though Suarez and Messi subsequently squandered gilt-edged chances to wrap up the points, Olayinka's own goal proved enough to take the wind out of Slavia's sails as Barca moved three points clear at the top of the group.

    With the help of some dismal Slavia defending, Barca wasted little time in hitting their stride – Messi tucking home after exchanging passes with Arthur.

    Marc-Andre ter Stegen reacted brilliantly to keep out Jaroslav Zeleny's close-range effort as the hosts responded well, yet Suarez should have extended Barca's lead before the half-hour mark.

    With Ter Stegen having pulled off two fine saves prior to half-time, Slavia got the equaliser their display merited after the break as left-back Boril charged into the area and prodded in.

    But Slavia's hard work was undone seven minutes later – Suarez bundling home from an improbable angle via Olayinka's deflection.

    Messi would have doubled his tally soon after if not for Ondrej Kolar, before Suarez fired wide when one-on-one with Slavia's goalkeeper.

    Suarez's blushes looked set to be spared when Messi met Jordi Alba's cross, only for the captain to inexplicably slice over from point-blank range, though Barca were ultimately not made to pay for their deficiencies in front of goal despite a late Slavia onslaught.
     

    What does it mean? Barca have breathing room

    With Inter overcoming Borussia Dortmund in Group F's other fixture, Barca sit on top with seven points from their opening three matches and now have some breathing space heading into the return leg against Slavia.

    It was a resilient display from Jindrich Trpisovsky's side, though, and Barca must be far better at Camp Nou as they look to keep themselves clear of the group's other big hitters.

    Miraculous Messi into the record books... again

    Not only did Messi become the first player to score in 15 successive Champions League campaigns, but the 32-year-old – who has four goals from seven appearances in all competitions this season – also matched Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid great Raul in having netted against 33 different opponents in Europe's premier club tournament.

    Barca's defence fail to impress

    For all the attacking talent Barca possess, their defence still looks far from convincing at times. Wednesday's fixture was one of those occasions, with Pique, Clement Lenglet and – in front of them – Sergio Busquets particularly lacklustre up against some brave Slavia attacks.

    What's next? 

    With the Camp Nou Clasico postponed until December due to political tensions in Catalonia, Barca have six days off until their next LaLiga outing, which comes in the form of a home meeting with Real Vallodolid. Slavia, meanwhile, face Viktoria Plzen on Sunday.

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