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It’s wins like this that win league titles. Eibar are one of the most in-form sides in La Liga right now and for long stretches of this game had Barça against the ropes.
But football is about taking your chances, and that’s what the blaugrana did to continue their 100% record against Eibar and ensure that they will stay at least seven points clear at the top of the league table (Atlético Madrid visit Bilbao on Sunday at 4.15pm CET).
The result extends Barça’s club record unbeaten start to a league campaign, now 24 games, and also matches the 31-match unbeaten streak under Pep Guardiola.
Eibar can always be relied on to put on an entertaining show, and not even with the runaway leaders lining up against them at Ipurua were there any signs of stage fright among their ranks against.
When Ernesto Valverde said that this was only game that matters for now, he meant it. None of the big guns were rested with the midweek trip to Chelsea in mind and a lively game saw both sides ready to go at each other from the start.
But it was Eibar who had had the best chances before Barça broke the deadlock on 16 minutes.
Leo Messi extended his lead at the top of the assist charts with a diagonal through ball to Luis Suárez, and the Uruguayan slipped the ball past the keeper and into the net.
Eibar’s approach had never been cautious, and the goal forced them to be more daring than ever. The Barça defence was kept very busy indeed, and were very nearly beaten when Fabian Orellana struck onto the bar.
The Catalans were not governing this game the way they liked. Indeed, Eibar had twice as many shots on goal in the first half (8-4). Even so, FCB could have been two-up at the break had Messi not hit the woodwork for an extraordinary 14th time this league season.
After the restart, most of the big plays continued to be in the direction of Ter Stegen’s goal. But Eibar squandered their chances to capitalise on that pressure.
However, much of the wind was knocked out of the home side’s spirited challenge when their best player, Orellana, was ordered off for a second bookable offence.
Alba doubles lead
Against ten men, Barça finally started coming into their own and Eibar keeper Marko Dmitrovic was truly brought into the action – his finest intervention being to deny Aleix Vidal.
The Barça full back was also involved in the goal that finally settled the win with two minutes left on the clock. His cross to Messi against brought the best out in the Serbian stopper, but this time Jordi Alba was on hand to slot away the rebound and that was three crucial points in the bag.
Barça could finally relax – and switch their minds to the no-small matter of Stamford Bridge on Tuesday. Força Barça!
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