BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 19: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Valencia CF at Camp Nou stadium on February 19, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

La Liga, Week 23: Lionel Messi Scores Four In Barcelona Romp

Pablo Piatti put Valencia up early at Camp Nou, but Barcelona would turn the game into a slaughter after that. Lionel Messi scored four of their five in a 5-1 win.

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La Liga Week 23, Weekend Wrap: Athletic Bilbao Slingshot To Fourth, Barcelona And Real Madrid Coast

Real Madrid and Barcelona cruised on the weekend, while Athletic Bilbao played themselves into fourth and the Levante miracle appeared to finally meet its end.


Barcelona Vs. Valencia, 2012 La Liga: Final Score, Lionel Messi Nets Four In 5-1 Victory

Pablo Piatti put Valencia ahead 1-0 in the ninth minute against Barcelona at Camp Nou. Los Che would not attempt another shot in the first half, and would only attempt two in the second half. After that goal, Lionel Messi and the rest of the Barcelona team decided to turn it on and scored twice in the first half, then three more times in the second half. Messi scored four of the goals in his team's massive 5-1 win. He now has 27 La Liga goals and 42 goals in all competitions following his four goal effort on Sunday.

The Barcelona back line was all over the place on Valencia's only goal. On a cross by Sofiane Feghouli, Piatti split Gerard Pique and Martin Montoya to get onto the ball, poking it into the back of the net with his left foot. It took just 13 minutes for Messi to strike back. He finished off a cross by Pedro, sliding the ball through the legs of Diego Alves in the 22nd minute to equalize. Five minutes later, he had a shot saved by Alves, but put the rebound into the roof of the net to give Barcelona a 2-1 lead.

The second half featured equal parts brilliant play and comedic errors. Though Diego Alves allowed five goals, he also made 10 fantastic saves on the night. Cesc Fabregas missed one absolute sitter, while substitute Christian Tello hilariously tripped over his own feet on one occasion after botching a stepover.

Messi made up for his teammates' incompetence with two second-half goals. The one that completed his hat trick was a simple finish on another rebound, following an Alves save on Tello. The fourth was a bit more skillful, with Messi running onto a Sergio Busquets through ball before chipping the ball over Alves and into the back of the net.

Xavi came on as a substitute and scored the fifth at the very end. The Blaugranas attempted 32 shots on the night, and if it weren't for some hilarious errors and some miraculous saves, they would have had somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 goals. Valencia should feel fortunate to have only lost by four.

For more on the Blaugranas, head over to FC Barcelona blog Barca Blaugranes.


Barcelona Vs. Valencia, 2012 La Liga: Halftime Score, Blaugranas Recover From Early Hiccup

The first 10 minutes didn't go well for Barcelona in their La Liga match against Valencia at Camp Nou, but the degree to which they dominated the following 35 minutes was staggering. Los Che got on the board with a surprising counter-attack goal in the early going, but Barcelona recovered brilliantly, and go into halftime leading Valencia 2-1.

They could easily have more than two goals, if it weren't for Diego Alves and the woodwork. Barcelona have forced three big saves out of the Valencia keeper and have hit the crossbar on one occasion. On both occasions where Barcelona found the back of the net, it was Lionel Messi who applied the finish.

Valencia's opener came through Pablo Piatt, assisted by Sofiane Feghouli. On the counter, Feghouli hit a great cross into the center of the box that Piatti ran onto, cutting in from the left. Martin Montoya and Carles Puyol failed to track him as he found space to get onto the cross, then placed it into the back of the net to give his team the lead.

That didn't seem to do much good for Valencia, and only made Barcelona determined to score, as opposed to the patient possession they often begin games with. Messi scored Barca's first in the 22nd minute on a cross by Pedro, then added the second in the 27th minute on a rebound after Diego Alves saved his initial shot.

Alves made saves on Andres Iniesta and Alexis Sanchez in the couple of minutes following the second goal, while Cesc Fabregas hit the crossbar with an audacious overhead kick. Barcelona could easily have four or five goals, and their supporters will hope that they don't end up regretting those missed chances.

For more on the Blaugranas, head over to FC Barcelona blog Barca Blaugranes.


Barcelona Vs. Valencia, 2012 La Liga: Lineups

Barcelona's title chase is all but over in La Liga, and they'll need to win every game from here on in to keep things interesting. They face a serious test in Valencia on Sunday night, though Los Che got some bad news just before the game. Ever Banega suffered a freak ankle injury while filling up his car at a petrol station and will be out for not only this game, but possibly the season. Tino Costa takes his place. Barcelona are missing Daniel Alves and Javier Mascherano through suspension. Xavi is recovering from injury and is on the bench.

FC Barcelona Lineup (4-3-3): Valdes; Abidal, Pique, Puyol, Montoya; Busquets, Fabregas, Iniesta; Sanchez, Messi, Pedro

Valencia Lineup (4-2-3-1): Alves; Mathieu, Ruiz, Rami, Miguel; Albelda, A. Costa; Feghouli, Jonas, Piatti; Soldado

Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. ET, 9:30 p.m. local time from Camp Nou in Barcelona. You can catch the game on both ESPN Deportes and ESPN3 in the USA, as well as Sky Sports 1 in the UK.

For more on the Blaugranas, head over to FC Barcelona blog Barca Blaugranes.


Barcelona Vs. Valencia, 2012 La Liga Week 24: Can Los Che Pull An Upset?

Barcelona host Valencia in Camp Nou in a big top three clash in La Liga.


Real Madrid Vs. Racing Santander, 2012 La Liga: Los Merengues Cruise

At no point on Saturday did Real Madrid have to give their best effort or make any kind of strategic adjustments. Cristiano Ronaldo scored for Los Merengues in the 6th minute, and from then until the end of their La Liga match against Racing Santander, they set the cruise control. The scoreboard showed 4-0 to Real Madrid at the end of 90 minutes, but had they been bothered, it could have been much worse.

Racing Santander drew three straight games against top half teams coming into this match, but they weren't able to make any more progress towards getting out of the relegation places on Saturday. Ronaldo's goal was a tap-in after a Kaka shot was saved, and the game was over at that point. In the 39th minute, Domingo picked up a red card. Shortly afterwards, Karim Benzema added Madrid's second to send them into halftime up 2-0.

Angel di Maria came off the bench in the second half and netted Madrid's third before Benzema added a fourth, completing a brace in the 89th minute.

For more on Los Merengues, check out Real Madrid blog Managing Madrid.


Getafe Vs. Espanyol, 2012 La Liga: Periquitos Throw Away Points

Espanyol were the better side in the first half against Getafe and scored the first goal, but threw away their lead and barely held on for a road point in the end. In La Liga's tight race for European places, they will likely see this as two needed points, needlessly dropped. Getafe put together a much better second half performance than first half, and earned their 1-1 draw in the end.

The visitors missed a number of chances early, while Miguel Moya was forced into a couple of big saves. Espanyol's best spell came around the 29th minute, when Moya made a great save on a chip by Philippe Coutinho. That was followed up by a couple of missed shots that Vladmir Weiss and Romaric should have done better with in the 30th minute.

Alvaro Vazquez, finally back from injury, came on for Kalu Uche at halftime and was the man who gave Espanyol their opening goal. He burned the defense to get to a ball over the top by Héctor Moreno before calmly placing a one-on-one finish into the back of the net in the 66th minute.

Getafe struck back quickly, though their goal was a gift. Striker Thievy Bifouma showed exactly why he is a striker when he brought down Miku in the box in the 69th minute. He stepped up and converted his penalty, leveling the score at 1-1.

Espanyol keeper Fransisco Castilla rescued his team in the 75th minute with an absolutely magnificent double save, denying Getafe their two best open play chances of the match in quick succession. After his save of a low shot by Daniel Güiza, the ball skipped up into the air. Jaime Gavilán appeared to have an easy header into an empty net, but Castilla got across his goal to make a brilliant save, crashing into the post in the process. Incredibly, he wasn't even the slightest bit injured.

In the 81st minute, Ernesto Galán picked up a red card, and Getafe were the better side from then until the end of the match. They couldn't turn their man advantage into a goal, though, and the match finished 1-1.


Real Madrid Vs. Racing Santander, 2012 La Liga Week 24: This Could Be A Beatdown

Real Madrid are heavy favorites on Saturday against Racing Santander.

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