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In one of the more comfortable of Barcelona's matches in 2017, Los Cules ran out 4-0 winners yet Luis Enrique still maintained that his team are falling short of what they need to produce.

Real Madrid continue to lead LaLiga and sit two points ahead of the Catalan giants albeit with a game in hand meaning Barcelona have to keep putting the pressure on with positive results.

Luis Enrique was satisfied with the result and performance but in his post-match press conference made clear that the team was still falling short.

"I've been happy with what my team has done tonight, good results make everything flow better and the players are gaining confidence but we're still far from what we need in order to reach our goals," he explained.

Whilst the result was comfortable in the end the beginning of the match was by no means routine with Eibar flying out of the blocks.

The Asturian coach complemented the hosts' energy at the start of the game and noted how it made things difficult for his own players.

"For 20 to 25 minutes we struggled to compete with Eibar's pressure, in general we played a good match but we must also give credit to the attributes of our opponent."

The one sour point of the evening will undoubtedly be the injury to Sergio Busquets with the holding midfielder forced to leave the match inside the opening 10 minutes.

The 46-year-old coach did however state that the injury was not as bad as first feared, a welcome piece of good news for Barcelona supporters.

"After seeing how Sergio was injured the good news is that it doesn't seem as serious as we had expected, it will be a big problem without him but we have solutions and resources to cope," he added.

Magical Messi bashes Basques

Once again Barcelona have Lionel Messi to thank for taking maximum points in a game, this time a tricky assignment in the Basque Country against plucky Eibar.

The Argentinian, captain on a bitterly cold night at the Estadio Ipurua, was at his impudent best and as so often in the past, the Catalan's opponents had no answer to his wizardry.

That said, until Denis Suarez had expertly drilled the visitors into the lead, Eibar were good value and surprisingly had the lion's share of possession.

The centre-back pairing of Samuel Umtiti and Jeremy Mathieu looked uncomfortable at best, but once Messi was in the mood the danger to Barcelona's back four largely disappeared.

Even the injury to Sergio Busquets and Neymar's under-par showing had little effect on proceedings, so efficient was the No.10 in his work.

Where Jose Luis Mendilibar's side were initially compact and calm, they soon became mere bystanders in his thrall, moribund in all but the basic elements.

Team shape became non-existent as these plucky professionals were pulled apart by La Pulga.

He had Luis Suarez to thank for a delicious inch-perfect return pass that allowed him to expertly extend his lead in the Pichichi race, and the Uruguayan also deserves a share of the plaudits for a third which was all his own work.

But to take the focus away from Messi on this occasion would be to downplay just how influential a performance this was.

LaLiga minnows Eibar may be, but it wasn't too long ago when they held Real Madrid at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu and in the last eight games before Barcelona strolled into town, they'd lost only two - both to Atletico Madrid.

The smallest team ever to make the Spanish top flight are on the rise, improving year on year with a miniscule budget, yet they were undone by a player who's yearly salary is bigger than their total sporting budget.

Other-worldly figures for an exponent who often plays football from another planet.

Messi-dependence is a phrase that's been in vogue for some while now and it's generally verbalised to belittle the Blaugrana's efforts elsewhere on the pitch.

With performances like this, Luis Enrique and Co. won't be losing sleep over the perceived criticism.

Zidane holds team meeting after Malaga match

Not long after the match against Malaga had finished, Zinedine Zidane gathered all of his players and staff together for a team meeting.

The Frenchman was looking for a solution to something that had happened a few minutes before while his players sought to return winning ways after the defeats against Sevilla and Celta.

He wanted to know what his players thought and, especially, to put everyone in agreement on the message to send to the supporters about the relationship with those in the stands at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

Zidane himself was clear.

"We must convey that we need the support of the people, of our followers," he said.

The coach didn't understand the motives of those whistling when two weeks ago everything was rosy, but perfectly well understood that every part of Real must be more united than ever in this difficult moment.

Pulling in the same direction, starting with the supporters.

During the talk it wasn't just Zidane giving his point of view, Sergio Ramos also passed his teammates the message that needed transmitting.

The group wants to feel loved and it's something that, to the surprise of coaches and players, they don't find in their own stadium.

There have been many negative responses but this story is not new; during Jose Mourinho's reign, the coach and players spoke about the character and the demand of the Bernabeu public.

On Saturday, Cristiano Ronaldo was at the centre of their ire but because the Portuguese wants to be the centre of attention in everything that happens in Real Madrid, when things go wrong it generates more tension toward him.

Now Zidane wants to put a stop to the situation because the team need their encouragement and support, especially as the injuries are racking up.

Lucas Vazquez, Pepe, James, Isco, Carvajal, Marcelo and Modric have all suffered since the Club World Cup, and this could also begin to take a mental toll on the squad as a whole.

Dismissed Wenger apologises for clash with official

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger could face an FA charge after he was sent off and then clashed with fourth official Anthony Taylor in an astonishing finale to the Gunners' 2-1 Premier League victory over Burnley at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Wenger, who became infuriated after the award of a 93rd minute penalty to Burnley, later apologised for his actions amid a frantic period of stoppage time.

Arsenal, reduced to 10 men following the 65th-minute sending off of Granit Xhaka, saw Andre Gray equalise from the spot kick only to be awarded a penalty of their own that Alexis Sanchez converted for a 98th-minute winner.

Wenger had reacted furiously to the first penalty, awarded after Francis Coquelin challenged Ashley Barnes in the box, leaving referee Jon Moss to send Arsenal's manager down the tunnel where he appeared to clash with the fourth official.

Afterwards Wenger told the BBC: "I didn't see any penalty from outside but I should have shut up and I apologise, even if I was frustrated."

Yet Wenger denied there was any physical altercation with Taylor. "It was not physical. I just thought I could stand in the tunnel," he said.

"Every week and every game is an unbelievable fight for everybody.

"We finally got the win but of course it was very difficult for us. We couldn't get the second goal, we played with 10 men and they played well as well. In the end, we got the three points we wanted."

Burnley manager Sean Dyche, in charge for the 200th time, was equally unhappy at the award of Arsenal's decisive penalty when Ben Mee raised a foot at the advancing Laurent Koscielny.

Dyche claimed the Frenchman was offside.

"It's a tough day for us in the end," he said. "To lose a game in that fashion, with an offside not given, is tough, particularly when you come to tough places like this.

"We have never taken anything for granted. We know how tough this division is but you need officials to make the right decisions and that is the shame today."

Simeone: Atletico have had an inconsistent first half of the season

Atletico Madrid rounded off the first half of the 2016/17 LaLiga season with a 2-2 draw against Athletic Club, one which pleased Diego Simeone even if he considered Los Rojiblancos' first half of the campaign to be inconsistent on the whole.

An early Koke goal looked to have sent Los Colchoneros on their way to victory, but the Basques pulled two back, forcing Antoine Griezmann to conjure up an excellent equaliser.

"We're seven points away from [Sevilla] after what has been an inconsistent first half of the season for us," Simeone said after the match at San Mames.

"They have an important advantage to qualify for the Champions League.

"I am pleased with this [draw] as we are improving."

Specially, the coach was impressed with how his side started and ended the encounter, with the goals arriving in the third and 80th minutes.

"I think the first 30 minutes and the final stretch of the match were good for us," he told reporters.

"It was a passionate game and a very back-and-forth one, as it always is.

"We could have done more damage to them after going 1-0 up, but bit-by-bit it was clear that they were attacking us.

"With Griezmann's goal, I think we took charge of the game again."

Atletico return to the Basque Country twice within the next week, taking on Eibar in their Copa del Rey second leg in midweek, before kicking off the second round of LaLiga fixtures with a trip to Alaves next weekend.

 

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