Barcelona win at Eibar 2-0 before trip to Chelsea in CL
BARCELONA: Lionel Messi looks ready for London.
Barcelona's star helped to set up two goals to beat 10-man Eibar 2-0 on Saturday as the Spanish leaders warmed up for their visit to Chelsea in the Champions League.
Barcelona broke its mini-slump of back-to-back draws to remain unbeaten through 24 rounds and extend its advantage over second-place Atletico Madrid to 10 points.
Barcelona visits Stamford Bridge on Tuesday in the opening leg of the round of 16.
"We will head to the match with confidence," Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said about Chelsea. "We are having a good season, but that won't mean anything now. We are facing a tie against a great team that won its league last season. We know it will be difficult and that we have to play smart for 180 minutes."
Eibar showed why it is one of the surprises of the season in Spain by taking the initiative first at Barcelona. But a moment of brilliance by Messi was all it took to swing the match Barcelona's way.
Messi's weight-perfect pass threaded past three defenders left Luis Suarez all alone in the 16th minute.
Suarez used a feint to bring goalkeeper Marco Dmitrovic to the turf before netting his 17th goal in the competition. Only Messi, with 20, has more.
Messi played a big part in Jordi Alba's goal in the 88th, when he forced a save from Dmitrovic and Alba was free to finish it off.
Suarez's goal came against the flow of the match. Pressing up the pitch and setting a fast pace, Eibar forwards Fabian Orellana, Takashi Inui and midfielder Joan Jordan threatened the visitors.
Orellana damaged his team's chances of a comeback when he earned bookings in the 57th and 66th. The first card was for a a needless tackle that cut down Andres Iniesta. Orellana compounded that mistake when he batted a ball into the air with play stopped and the referee waiting for Eibar to return the ball to Barcelona to take a free kick.
Eibar coach Jose Luis Mendilibar was also sent off minutes later for protesting when the referee did not book Suarez for lightly kicking the ball after play stopped for an offside call.
Despite playing a man down, Eibar still managed to make Barcelona work. Inui had two attempts that required saves from goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen until Alba secured the three points.
"Losing a player hurt them. It came at a moment when the game was tightly contested," Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde said. "It was important to win after the past two matches and knowing how difficult it would be against an Eibar that is having a great season."
The loss was only the second for Eibar in its last 13 matches. It remained in seventh place.
Atletico hosts Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
SEVILLA AWAITS UNITED
Sevilla also won before its Champions League meeting with Manchester United, beating Las Palmas 2-1 in the Canary Islands to move into fifth place.
Sevilla hosts United on Wednesday to start their Champions League final-16 tie.
Valencia scored two late goals to snatch a 2-1 win at bottom side Malaga, which was left seven points from safety.
Dani Parejo hit the winner with five minutes remaining when he converted a penalty kick after Ignasi Miguel earned a direct red card for pulling down Rodrigo Moreno with only the goalie to beat.
Valencia, in third place, moved four points clear of Real Madrid before it visits Real Betis on Sunday.
Deportivo lost its second straight match under new coach Clarence Seedorf after falling at Alaves 1-0.
Deportivo remained in the relegation zone as its winless streak reached nine rounds.