0-1, Eto'o (3)
0-2, Zambrotta (39)
0-3, Eto'o (41)
0-4, Messi (86)
Barca showed no compassion in their victory against Recreativo, the goals coming from Eto'o, 2, Zambrotta and Messi. Rijkaard's team have taken a step in the right direction ending the run of no away wins.
Practical, effective, authoritative and hard-working. Barca came away from Recre's ground with an
extrememly valuable 4-0 win. 2 goals by Eto'o, 1 from Zambrotta and another by Messi left no doubt
over Barca's superiority. Rijkaard's men have ended their negative run of games without a win away
from home, on-going since November the 19th. On that occasion they also scored 4, in a 4- 1 win in
Mallorca. Barca can now look forward to the next two weeks, before their next league game, as solid
Out of the blocks
Rijkaard picked an eleven that went back to the 4-3-3 formation, with Syvinho and Zambrotta as attacking full backs. Xavi, Deco and Iniesta were the engine room, moving the ball around and setting up the first goal before Recreativo had hardly got a touch. Eto'o picked the ball up in midfield and took a speculative long shot. His dipping, well hit effort not only surprised the goalkeeper Lopez Vallejo but also most of the crowd. One up after only 3 minutes. Marcelino's team didn't want this early setback to undermine their initial system and stuck to the idea that the pace of their forwards Sinama Pongole and Uche could cause some damage. However, Thuram and Puyol had things under control at the back. Barca were back to their best with Ronaldinho going close with a header and Messi and his darting runs from the right, while Xavi and Iniesta kept things going in midfield.
Recre started to get back into the game and had their best chances. In the 23rd minute Barber really ought to have equalized and almost straight after Valdes made a sharp save from Juanma. From the a subsequent corner Jesús Vázquez hit the post with a low shot. Recre ahd had their chances but hadn't taken them, a crucial error against a team of Barca's class. The blaugranas weren't in any way intimidated and Eto'o, Ronaldinho and Messi started to swap positions, creating spaces for the midfielder like Deco to drift through.
In the blink of an eye Barca took total contol of the game. Firstly Zambrotta finished off a classy passing move started by Xavi and Iniesta. It was the Italian's first goal for Barca, beautifully taken with a subtle chip over Lopez Vallejo. Two – nil. And only two minutes later Eto'o finished at the far post, the cross coming from Sylvinho. Three – nil. Half-time and the game all but decided.
A change of pace.
As might be expected, the two teams came out for the second half with completely different agendas. Recre wanted and needed to pick up the pace, while Barça wanted to maintain the status quo and control the game. The Andaluz team needed to turn things around miraculously and to do so had to score early. Valdés made good saves from Aitor and Uche. Especially from Uche , when the Nigerian powered a header which tested the Barca keeper's reflexes. Barca in the meantime looked to surprise Recre by a constant switching of positions between Ronaldinho, Messi and Eto'o. But a shot from Eto'o in the 57th minute was the best they could muster. Worse was to come on 66 when Deco, after fouling Aitor and getting booked, also picked up an injury to his right hand. Gio came on to replace him.
A happy ending
Despite Marcelino's attacking changes, especially with the speedy Rosu coming on , Barça controled the game without too much problem. Eto'o, Messi and Ronaldinho were constantly testing the defence, but needed to create more chances. Uche and Cheli could have got one back for the Andaluces, but as the minutes went by the game got easier for Barca. To finish things off, the fourth goal after Messi went on one of his diagonal runs with the ball stuck to his feet, and finished it off with a cross-shot leaving López no chance. Four – nil. Barça get another win and like a champion team, without compassion.
FC Barcelona have visited Recreativo Huelva’s stadium on two occasions – both when
Recreativo were in the Primera Division. The first meeting was in the season 1978-79 when the
result was 0-0. The second meeting just four years ago ended in a 1-3 triumph for Barcelona
courtesy of goals from Saviola, Kluivert and Riquelme.
Barça begin the final run-in of 12 league games when they visit Recreativo Huelva. Rikjaard, who has not called up Marquez for this game, hopes that his team can hold on to top spot for another week.
In a weekend of matches that on paper is favourable to Barça’s rivals – all play at
home against sides in the bottom half of the table-, Barcelona will be aiming to consolidate their
lead at the top of the table with a win in Huelva (20h00 Barça TV). FC Barcelona with all their
stars available once again may revert back to the 4-3-3 formation used up until the match with
The doubt over 4-3-3: Everything points to the likelihood that, barring any last minute surprises, Frank Rikjaard with revert to the classic 4-3-3 formation used all through the first part of the season and not the 3-4-4 used recently against Zaragoza, Liverpool, Sevilla and Real Madrid. The inclusion of four fullbacks in the squad (Gio, Sylvinho, Belletti and Zambrotta) would suggest that Rikjaard will go with a four-man defence using two fullbacks.
The absence of Marquez: As was the case v Athletic Bilbao, Marquez has been left out of the squad. The absence of the Mexican (who had been a starter in the four games mentioned above) did not prevent Barça from easing to a 3-0 win. On that occasion Edmilson took over the role of defensive pivot and may do so again this evening. In that case either Xavi, Deco or Iniesta would have to start on the bench.
Uche and Pongolle, the dangers: The hosts for their part have the attack as their strong point. Their front two of Nigerian Uche and Frenchman Sinama Pongolle has amassed 15 goals between them this season. The two attackers pose the principal threat for the Barcelona defence. Barça will at least be happy that Cazorla – another key player in the Recreativo attack – will not be playing.
The challenge of winning away: The fact that Barça have been without an away league win since beating Mallorca (1-4) is an added motivation for FC Barcelona. The Barça players have demonstrated in recent weeks their ability to beat top class opposition in their own stadium (Zaragoza in the cup and Liverpool in the Champions League).