Huesca 0-1 Barcelona: Messi marks 500th LaLiga game with victory

By Sports Desk January 03, 2021

Barcelona moved into LaLiga's top five after Frenkie de Jong's goal clinched a 1-0 victory over bottom club Huesca in Lionel Messi's 500th league appearance for the club.

Blaugrana boss Ronald Koeman, who warned before the game that defeat would all but end his side's title challenge, saw a much-improved Barcelona performance as he earned back-to-back LaLiga away wins for the first time in his tenure.

Messi came back into the side after missing Barca's disappointing 1-1 draw with Eibar due to an ankle injury and was at his talismanic best, deftly assisting De Jong's volleyed goal after just before the half-hour mark.

Huesca did open the visitors up on occasion and it remains to be seen whether Koeman can restore some consistency and style to this team, but they did enough here to climb above Sevilla in the table.

Barcelona's early pressure paid off after 27 minutes when Messi played an exquisite chipped pass into the box, where De Jong evaded two defenders and guided the ball into the corner of the net from six yards on the volley.

Messi would have capped a fine first-half performance with a superb goal five minutes from the interval had Alvaro Fernandez not pulled off a spectacular save, palming his dipping 20-yard free-kick over the crossbar.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner flashed a fierce effort narrowly wide from the edge of the box early in the second period, before Marc-Andre ter Stegen got down well to prevent Rafa Mir's close-range shot from becoming the equaliser.

Ousmane Dembele should have put the game beyond doubt when he went one-on-one with Fernandez 13 minutes from time, but the Huesca goalkeeper saved at his feet and then denied Messi again before full-time.

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    FIFA president Gianni Infantino condemned the European Super League as he warned clubs involved they "cannot be half in or half out" and must fully commit to the breakaway competition.

    Twelve elite clubs announced on Sunday their plans to launch a tournament to rival the Champions League in which they would be assured of qualification.

    Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United, among others, would compete in the Super League every season without risk of demotion.

    The news has prompted a strong reaction throughout the football world, with governing bodies, rivals clubs, players, coaches and fans critical of the idea and its anti-competitive format.

    An initial FIFA statement on Sunday read: "FIFA can only express its disapproval to a 'closed European breakaway league' outside of the international football structures."

    Infantino, FIFA president since 2016, had not subsequently discussed the Super League in public until Tuesday's UEFA Congress, however.

    But he made clear in Montreux, Switzerland, that the clubs involved could not continue in their domestic leagues, as proposed, while bans from international football for players at those clubs have been threatened.

    "At FIFA, we can only strongly disapprove the creation of the Super League, which is a closed shop, which is a breakaway from the current institutions, from the leagues, from the associations, from UEFA, and from FIFA," Infantino said.

    "There is a lot to throw away for maybe a short-term financial gain of some. People need to think very carefully. They need to reflect and they need to assume responsibility.

    "If some elect to go their own way, then they must live with the consequences of their choice. They are responsible for their choice.

    "Concretely, this means either you are in or you are out. You cannot be half in or half out."

  • European Super League: Comparing all 12 clubs in planned breakaway competition European Super League: Comparing all 12 clubs in planned breakaway competition

    If you are a football fan there is simply no escaping the controversy caused by the announcement 12 teams have signed up to form a breakaway European Super League.

    Talk of such a competition is nothing new, rumours have been swirling for years, but the furore caused has still been widespread with pundits, players and fans alike united in their disapproval.

    UEFA and the major European governing bodies and leagues have vowed to do all they can to kill the proposals and huge sanctions have been threatened if the teams go ahead with the league.

    But part of the debate has also centred around the credentials of some of the teams who have been invited to participate, with six from the Premier League, three from LaLiga and three from Serie A agreeing to join. Below we have reviewed each of the 12 clubs involved.

    THE 'BIG SIX' FROM THE PREMIER LEAGUE

    Arsenal

    Arsenal's place on the list comes with the club having failed to qualify for the Champions League since the 2016-17 season, the penultimate year of Arsene Wenger's long reign. The Gunners appear unlikely to make a return via the domestic route this season, as they sit well adrift of the top four in the Premier League. However, they are still in the Europa League, with a semi-final tie against Spanish side Villarreal – coached by former Arsenal boss Unai Emery, no less – to come.

    Founded: October 1886 (initially as Dial Square)

    Trophies won: 
    First Division/Premier League: 13 times (last time was in 2003-04)
    FA Cup: 14 times
    EFL Cup: 2 times
    UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: Once

    Social media following: 
    Twitter: 17.3m
    Instagram: 19.2m
    Facebook: 38.3m

    Chelsea

    The outlook for Chelsea changed dramatically in 2003, when Roman Abramovich became the new owner. Prior to the Russian's arrival, the Blues had one the top-flight title just once. They have been crowned Premier League champions five times since, however, and also enjoyed Champions League success in 2012. In overcoming Porto across two legs, they have reached the semi-finals of the competition this term for the first time since 2014.

    Founded: March 1905

    Trophies won:
    First Division/Premier League: Six times 
    FA Cup: Eight times
    League Cup: Five times
    Champions League: Once
    Europa League: Twice 
    UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: Twice
    UEFA Super Cup: Once

    Social media following: 
    Twitter - 16.6m
    Instagram - 25.9m
    Facebook - 49.4m

    Liverpool 

    The Reds have a storied history, but there has been success in recent seasons under the guidance of Jurgen Klopp. No British club has won Europe's premier club competition more times than Liverpool, while the 2019-20 Premier League title triumph finally ended a 30-year wait to get back on their perch at home. However, they only featured in the Champions League once between the 2009-10 and 2017-18 campaigns, while their hopes of repeating their success of 2019 since lifting the trophy in Madrid have resulted in exits to Spanish opponents who also involved in the Super League. 

    Founded: June 1892

    Trophies won:
    First Division/Premier League: 19 times
    FA Cup: Seven times
    League Cup: Eight times
    Champions League: Six times
    UEFA Cup: Three times
    UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: Twice
    UEFA Super Cup: Four times
    FIFA Club World Cup: Once

    Social media following: 
    Twitter - 17m
    Instagram - 30.5m
    Facebook - 39.1m

    Manchester City

    The Premier League champions in waiting are on course to claim a third title with Pep Guardiola at the helm. However, City slipped down to the third tier of the English football pyramid as recently as 1998, while only became one of the powerhouses of the domestic game following the arrival of a new owner in Sheikh Mansour. They first appeared in the Champions League in 2011-12 and are yet to get beyond the semi-final stage, meaning the Cup Winners' Cup success in 1970 remains the club's only European trophy.

    Founded: April 1894

    Trophies won:
    First Division/Premier League: Six times
    FA Cup: Six times
    League Cup: Seven times
    European Cup Winners' Cup: Once

    Social media following:
    Twitter - 9.5m
    Instagram - 23.3m
    Facebook - 40.2m 

    Manchester United

    United were the dominant force in the Premier League era under Alex Ferguson, winning the title 13 times to overtake Liverpool's record tally. However, since their legendary manager departed, the Red Devils have not managed to add to their overall tally as 20-time top-flight champions. There was FA Cup success under Louis van Gaal - who was then sacked - and an EFL-Europa League double during Jose Mourinho's time in charge at Old Trafford. In the Champions League, United have only gone as far as the last eight since losing the 2011 final to a Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona.

    Founded: 1902

    Trophies won:
    First Division/Premier League - 20 times
    FA Cup - 12 times
    League Cup - Five times
    European Cup/Champions League - Three times
    Europa League - Once
    European Cup Winners' Cup - Once
    European Super Cup - Once
    FIFA Club World Cup - Once

    Social media following:
    Twitter - 25.1m
    Instagram - 40.1m
    Facebook - 73.2m

    Tottenham

    Now searching for a new manager following the dismissal of Jose Mourinho less than 24 hours after confirming their Super League involvement, Spurs' best-ever finish in a Premier League season came in 2016-17 when second behind champions Chelsea. There was a Champions League final appearance in 2019 too, though they missed out on glory when losing 1-0 to Liverpool. Indeed, Tottenham have not secured silverware since the League Cup triumph in 2008, while the most recent of their two top-flight league titles was way back in 1960-61.

    Founded: 1882

    Trophies won:
    First Division - twice
    FA Cup - eight times
    League Cup - four times
    UEFA Cup - twice
    European Cup Winners' Cup - once

    Social media following:
    Twitter - 5.8m
    Instagram - 10.2m
    Facebook - 22.5m

    THE REMAINING CLUBS INVOLVED

    Atletico Madrid

    A huge club in their own right, of that there is no doubt. But the last of Atleti's LaLiga title wins came in 2014, and that was only their second since 1977. Three times runners-up for Europe's greatest continental prize but as yet there has been no Champions League triumph for Atletico Madrid. While Diego Simeone has overseen a great period at Atleti, and the club has muscled into the fight with their more illustrious Clasico rivals, it should certainly be no shoo-in that Atleti deserve an automatic spot at this table.

    Founded: April 1903

    Trophies won:
    LaLiga: 10 times
    Copa del Rey: 10 times
    Supercopa de Espana: Twice
    Europa League: Three times
    UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: Once
    UEFA Super Cup: Three times

    Social media following:
    Twitter – 4.9m (Spanish account)
    Instagram – 11.1m
    Facebook - 13m

    Barcelona

    Another LaLiga heavyweight, boasting the talents of Lionel Messi of course, that would certainly not be out of place in a Super League, both in terms of history and trophies won. Barcelona's well-documented financial issues off the pitch may also offer a further explanation for the desire for a mind-boggling windfall. While Barca were beaten to LaLiga by Clasico rivals Madrid last term, they have already collected silverware this time around in the form of the Copa del Rey. Champions League success has not arrived since 2015 but Barca's credentials stand up to scrutiny.

    Founded: March 1899

    Trophies won:
    LaLiga: 26 times
    Copa del Rey: 31 times
    Supercopa de Espana: 13 times
    Champions League/European Cup: Five times
    UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: Four times
    UEFA Super Cup: Five times
    Club World Cup: Three times

    Social media following:
    Twitter – 15m (Spanish account)
    Instagram – 95.9m
    Facebook - 103m

    Inter

    The Milan giants are a club rich in history, who have scaled the heights in European football.  But also another who have struggled to reach such past glories until this term – with Antonio Conte's side appearing primed to win a first Serie A title since 2010, the year Jose Mourinho oversaw a famous treble also comprising the Coppa Italia and Champions League. While some would dispute Inter's place in a Super League, the signs are the Nerazzurri are on the way back to consistently challenging among the elite.

    Founded: March 1908

    Trophies won:
    Serie A: 18 times
    Coppa Italia: Seven times
    Supercoppa Italiana: Seven times
    Champions League/European Cup: Three times
    UEFA Cup: Three times
    Club World Cup: Once

    Social media following:
    Twitter – 2.3m (Italian account)
    Instagram – 6.5m
    Facebook – 28m

    Juventus

    The Old Lady of Italian football. With 36 Serie A titles to their name, Juventus are the most successful club in the history of the Italian top flight. While the Bianconeri have not won the Champions League since 1996, they have been runners-up in 2015 and 2017 and no one can doubt the grandeur of this historic club. The past decade in Italy has been dominated by Juventus who have won nine titles in a row, but their quest for 10 has hit a bump as a side spearheaded by the evergreen Cristiano Ronaldo sits fourth in the maiden campaign of Andrea Pirlo.

    Founded: November 1897

    Trophies won:
    Serie A: 36 times
    Coppa Italia: 13 times
    Supercoppa Italiana: Nine times
    Champions League/European Cup: Twice
    UEFA Cup/Europa League: Three times
    UEFA Super Cup: Twice

    Social media following:
    Twitter – 9.1m (Italian account)
    Instagram – 48.2m
    Facebook – 45m

    Milan

    Once of the most revered and loved teams across the globe, the Rossoneri have fallen on hard times in recent years. Only Madrid can boast more than Milan's seven European/Champions League victories, while many of the all-time greats have donned the famous red and black jersey. But you have to go back to 2007 for the last time Milan were crowned champions of Europe, while 10 years have past since they lifted the Serie A title. Indeed, they have not even played in the Champions League since the 2013-14 campaign – albeit Stefano Pioli's men appeared destined to return to the competition this term.

    Founded: 1899

    Trophies won:
    Serie A: 18 times
    Coppa Italia: Five times
    Supercoppa Italiana: Seven times
    Champions League/European Cup: Seven times
    European Cup Winners' Cup: Twice
    UEFA Super Cup: Five times
    Club World Cup: Once

    Social media following:
    Twitter – 7.7m
    Instagram – 9.7m
    Facebook – 24m

    Real Madrid

    While some of the teams in this controversial process may raise a few eyebrows, there is little doubt a club with the prestige of Real Madrid would not be involved. Record winners of the European Cup/Champions League on 13 occasions (the last of which coming as recently as 2018, the third in succession under Zinedine Zidane), and 34 times winners of LaLiga (including last season) there is little doubt Los Blancos are an established part of the European elite. This term, they are into the semi-finals of the Champions League and sit second in a tight race for the top flight title in Spain.

    Founded: March 1902 (initially as Madrid football club)

    Trophies won:
    LaLiga: 34 times
    Copa del Rey: 19 times
    Supercopa de Espana: 11 times
    Champions League/European Cup: 13 times
    UEFA Cup: Twice
    UEFA Super Cup: Four times
    Club World Cup: Four times

    Social media following:
    Twitter – 36.8m (Spanish account)
    Instagram – 97.1m
    Facebook – 110m

  • Curry going 'above and beyond' with 'mind-boggling' form – Warriors coach Kerr Curry going 'above and beyond' with 'mind-boggling' form – Warriors coach Kerr

    Stephen Curry is going "above and beyond" even his own "mind-boggling" standards after another record-breaking outing for the Golden State Warriors, says head coach Steve Kerr.

    Superstar Curry drained 49 points, including 20 in the last quarter, as the Warriors defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 197-96 on Monday.

    He hit 10 three-pointers and is now the first player to make 70-plus threes in a 10-game span, while he has more games with 40-plus points and 10-plus threes over the last eight days (four) than any other NBA player has had over their entire career.

    On top of that, Curry is the first player in the league's history aged 33 or older to have 11 consecutive 30-plus point games, surpassing the legendary Kobe Bryant (10 straight in 2012), while his 47 and 49 points in the past two outings means he is the first player aged 33 or over with back-to-back 45-plus games since Hall of Famer Michael Jordan scored 51 and 45 in 2001.

    Kerr was almost at a loss to explain Curry's exploits.

    "I've seen Kobe Bryant early in his career, had a stretch where he went nuts," Kerr said. 

    "Obviously, Michael Jordan had some stretches where he just scored like crazy, but obviously nobody's ever shot the ball like this in the history of the game. Even by Steph's own lofty standards, this is above and beyond.

    "Twenty-one career games with 10 or more. And Klay [Thompson] is second with five. And Steph's had four in the last five [games]. Mind-boggling. Mind-boggling stuff.

    "I don't know what else to say. You guys ask me after every game what I think of Steph and his performance, whatever I said last game, just use that tonight. 

    "Because it's the same thing after every game, it's just utter amazement at this guy's skill level, heart, mind, focus, it's just amazing to watch."

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