Another week another chance to shine for Barça players around the world. Here is a glance at Barça main prospects (on-loan players and buy-back transfer options) and at how they performed this weekend.
Alen Halilovic – Sporting Gijón – On Loan
Liga BBVA - Day 36 - Sporting 2-0 Eibar (29/4)
Played 64 minutes
La Liga BBVA is one of the tightest leagues in Europe this season, whether it is for the title, or in the race against relegation. In the latter, Sporting have now been struggling for months. Spanish football is unanimous: they're playing well and Abelardo's work is remarkable. But it might not be enough to remain in the first division next season. The Asturians would probably be opened to the idea of erasing the two last fixtures and stopping the season after the 36th match day. Right now, they're out of the relegation zone, but levelled on points (35) with 18th Granada and 19th Rayo Vallecano. The game against newly promoted side Eibar was vital to preserve their chances. And they did well. Thanks to a late first-half goal by Carmona (43rd) and a second goal by Jony (82nd), Abelardo's men took 3 more points and therefore haven't given up on salvation. Next game against Getafe appears as a final in this competition inside the competition. Especially given that Sporting will have to host Villarreal in the last fixture. The perfect occasion for Halilovic to leave Gijón on a high.
Adama Traoré - Aston Villa - Buy-Back Transfer
Did not play
Premier League - Day 36 - Watford 3-2 Aston Villa (30/4)
When times are hard and you hit the bottom, it seems like the only way is up. But fate has taken a cruel pleasure to torture Aston Villa once again. Or was it Watford's heart that eventually got the best of the Villains. Already condemened to go down at the end of the season, Eric Black's men went through a terrible time at Vicarage Road. It all seemed promising for Villa as they were leading 1-2 just moments before entering the stoppage time, after Jordan Ayew scored the second goal after half-time (48th minute). Ciaran Clark had scored the opener (28th minute) and Abdi had equalised in the stoppage time - already - of the first half. These additional minutes have completely lost the Villains, who suffered one of the most impressive come-backs of the season, as Deeney equalised for Watford in the 90th minute. A little less than 3 minutes later, the English striker was giving the win to Watford. Aston Villa were down to 10 men since the 75th minute and Cissokho's red card. There was no stakes other than pride in this game, and it seems that Villa lost theirs as well as their place in the first division. The summer will be somewhat agitated in Birmingham...
Gerard Deulofeu - Everton - Buy-Back Transfer
Played 63 minutes
Premier League - Day 36 - Everton 2-1 Bournemouth (30/4)
It had been over a month. A full month without any wins for Roberto Martinez and Everton. A desert the Toffees finally got out of. Used to giving a hard time to big teams, Everton had lost or drawn all their previous tough games (0-2 against Arsenal, 1-0 at Manchester United, 1-1 against Southampton, 4-0 at Liverpool and 1-2 against Manchester United again in the Cup semi-finals). They were expecting Bournemouth's visit, to finally break the spell and take the three points. Although he wasn't decisive, Albert Deulofeu did play and participated in this 2-1 win for the Tofees. They quickly took the lead thanks to Tom Cleverley (7th minute), assisted by Ross Barkley. Unfortunately for Martinez, his players were surprised just moments after as Marc Pugh equalised for the Cherries (9th minute). The game was more balanced from then on and nothing more was scored until the second half. It was the moment chosen by Leighton Baines to score his first goal of the season, assisted by Tom Cleverley (64th minute). With only 3 shots (3 on target), the Toffees have been very efficient to offer a 5th win to the public of Goodison Park. A very average season for Everton.
Alex Song - West Ham - On Loan
Did not play
Premier League - Day 36 - West Bromwich 0-3 West Ham (30/4)
For the big game against Manchester United to be a decisive one, West Ham United have to win the other remaining Premier League games. They got the message and did well on the weekend to come back just one point behind the Red Devils, since Louis Van Gaal's men drew against soon-to-be champions Leicester. In The Hawthorns, the Hammers never shivered. They very efficiently took their chances and led 0-2 at half-time thanks to Kouyaté (34th minute, assisted by Payet) and Mark Noble (45+2th minute, assisted by Kouyaté). Still without Alex Song, completely ignored by his coaching staff, Payet's teammate added a third goal during the second half (Noble again, 74th minute) to decide the game and leave the Birmingham area with three points. With 59 points in total, West Ham are technically still in the race for the fourth place, but with 6 points less than Manchester City, it seems impossible for them to achieve it. They will have to focus on the neighbour United, whose 5th place is more than ever in jeopardy.
Martín Montoya - Real Betis - On Loan
Liga BBVA - Day 33 - Celta Vigo 1-1 Real Betis (16/4)
Played 90 minutes
He knew he would have a hard time guarding the best player in the world. Martín Montoya was absolutely right. Even though Barça didn't give their best version, the Catalans left the Benito Villamarín stadium with the three points, after a very energetic speech from Luis Enrique at half-time. 0-2, two assists from genius Leo Messi and two goals from Ivan Rakitic (50th minute) and Luis Suárez (81st minute, his 35th goal of the season in La Liga) and a clean sheet for Claudio Bravo - subsituted by Marc-André ter Stegen a few minutes before the end of the game. Betis had already secured their place in first division therefore this loss seemed predictible, especially as Barça are fighting to keep the first place and their title. Two more games to go for the Andalusians: at Eibar and against Getafe.
Cristian Tello – Fiorentina – On Loan
Played 58 minutes
Serie A - Day 36 - Chievo 0-0 Fiorentina (30/4)
Between a team that is having their best season in Serie A, Chievo, and another that is struggling to keep up with positive results (only 1 win out of the last 11 games), Fiorentina, the game was far from being the great duel we could have expected. Instead it was un indigestible draw 0-0 in what was not the most exciting game of the season. Chievo, playing at home, did not really do their best to get more than a point, as they were utterly dominated by Cristian Tello and his teammates. But the confidence hasn't completely come back in Fiorentina despite their 3-1 win against Sassuolo two weeks ago. In the meantime, they lost two more games (2-1 at Udinese and 1-2 against Champions Juventus) and couldn't get out of the slump they seemed to be in. In spite of 10 shots (5 on target), Paulo Souza's men couldn't score and had to settle for a single point. Out of the race for the Champion's League, Fiorentina had better take at least one more point in one of their two games (against Palermo and at Lazio) because Sassuolo are 5 points behind. However, La Viola should be able to compete in the Europa League next season. A reward for their fantastic first half of a season, a relief given their very pale second part.
Denis Suárez - Villarreal CF - Buy-Back Transfer
Played 90 + 0 minutes
Europa League - Semi-finals 1st leg - Villarreal 1-0 Liverpool (28/4) & Liga BBVA - Day 36 - Valencia 0-2 Villarreal (1/5)
It is the big game of these Europa League semi-finals. One of the teams of this season on the one side, Villarreal, and a very surprising team led by the unpredictable Jürgen Klopp on the other, Liverpool. The first part of this thrilling duel took place at El Madrigal and contained all the tension we might expect from such a high-level clash at that stage of the competition. Although it seemed like a goalless draw was satisfying enough for both team, for Villarreal because they had not conceded the terrible away goal, and for Liverpool because everyting was still to be done in the second leg at Anfield Road. The perfect moment to strike, probably thought Adrián López. Former Atlético Madrid striker got out of his box and converted Denis Suárez's pass into an assist, to score the only goal of the game, in the stoppage time (1-0, 90+2nd minute). Villarreal are ahead, they've been comfortable away from home and their defence has proven to be close to unsinkable. The Yellow Submarine is in good position for the final, but beware of the Reds, they never walk alone but, more importantly, they never die.
Marcelino's men had another tough game in the weekend as they had to visit Mestalla and Valencia to assure their 4th spot and definitively get their ticket for next season's Champion's League playoffs, given Celta's loss against a direct opponent, Athletic Club. Capable of the most surprising performances (like the 1-2 win at Camp Nou) as well as the most disappointing defeats, Valencia is a very unstable opponent this season. Villarreal didn't took the time to doubt as they quickly took a comfortable lead thanks to Samu Castillejo (14th minute, 0-1) and Adrián López (33rd minute, 0-2), on two Soldado assists. Dominated in the ball possession (57% in favour of Valencia), Suárez's teammates waited patiently and hit hard on the break. Nothing more was scored and Villarreal's mission was completed: 3 points, a secure spot in the Champion's League playoffs and an exciting end of the season with the Europa League's semi-finals second leg to come.
Special Mention: Guillermo Amor wins the Australian A-League
Although it genrally refers to Europe, Barça's exportation is worldwide. One of the latest proofs of this winning model out of Catalonia was seen on the other side of the planet, in Australia. Indeed, Adelaide United won their first ever trophy in the competition, after a thrilling final, rich in goals (3-1) against Western Sydney. Bruce Kamau opened the score for Adelaide in the 22nd minute, before Isaiàs, the Catalan midfielder, made it 2-0. After half-time, Western Sydney's right-back Scott Neville got his team back in the game (58th minute). But Pablo Sánchez killed the suspense in the last minutes (90th minute) to make it 3-1 for Adelaïde United and validate the title, after an almost flawless season, during which Amor's men finished first in the regular season. Then they went on to beat Melbourne City FC in the semi-finals (4-1), and Western Sydney in the final.
Last season, Adelaide had reached the semi-finals before to be smashed 4-1 by Sydney FC, who would lose in the final against Melbourne FC. This season, the Reds finished at first place with 6 losses, 7 draws and 14 wins. The main responsible for this excellent run is Guillermo Amor. The former Barça midfielder was facing his first challenge as a football coach, and he did very well. Fed with Barça's style of play as he went through the various stages at La Masia, he applied it with a lot of success to achieve the first ever title for Adelaide United in the A-League. Kudos to Guillermo.