Imperious Barca can't rest on laurels

Barcelona forward Paco Alcacer slotting past Sevilla goalkeeper David Soria for their opener. He has been an option off the bench since his move last summer from Valencia but his brace puts him in line for a starting place.
Barcelona forward Paco Alcacer slotting past Sevilla goalkeeper David Soria for their opener. He has been an option off the bench since his move last summer from Valencia but his brace puts him in line for a starting place.PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID • Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde believes the LaLiga title race remains wide open despite his side's imperious start to the season.

Their 2-1 victory over Sevilla on Saturday means they have taken 31 points from a possible 33 available this season, only failing to win when they drew 1-1 away to Atletico Madrid last month.

They had an 11-point advantage over rivals Real Madrid before the champions hosted Las Palmas yesterday, while Valencia, their nearest rivals, remain four points back.

"We go into the international break happy and after that, we have a very tough schedule," said Valverde, who will take his side to Valencia for a league clash on Nov 26, four days after a Champions League game at Juventus. "We need to continue strong as we are and not look back. We just need to focus on ourselves."

All eyes were on Lionel Messi as he made his 600th appearance for the club on Saturday. But it was Paco Alcacer, the surprise choice in Valverde's starting line-up, who netted twice.

Luis Suarez's cross-field pass was miscontrolled horribly by Sergio Escudero and fell perfectly for Alcacer to slot past the advancing David Soria in the 23rd minute.

  • 600

  • Lionel Messi appearances for Barcelona, but he drew a blank.

It was a deserving lead as the hosts could have scored three times in the opening 10 minutes. Clement Lenglet cleared off the line from Sergio Busquets, Soria denied Suarez and Ivan Rakitic fired a long-range effort inches wide.

Barely a threat before half-time, Sevilla came out a different side after the break and levelled just before the hour mark after Guido Pizarro's bullet header from Ever Banega's corner.

Barca responded with a winner just six minutes later when Alcacer turned home Rakitic's precise cross at the near post.

"You have to take the chance given to you by the coach," Alcacer told BeIN Sports Spain after scoring his first league goals of the season. "More than my game, you have to look at it from a team perspective and these games, where you are made to suffer, mean more."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2017, with the headline 'Imperious Barca can't rest on laurels'. Print Edition | Subscribe