On-song Barça go nine clear
Barcelona maintained their march towards the La Liga title, opening up a nine-point gap over Real Madrid at the summit with a 2-0 home win over Recreativo Huelva. Spanish international Andres Iniesta scored after just 46 seconds and then created the second goal with a 67th-minute cross, which was deflected in by the unfortunate Nasief Morris.
It was always going to be difficult for Barça to match Wednesday's 4-0 UEFA Champions League defeat of Bayern Munich, but Pep Guardiola's team notched up another three points to put pressure on Real. Los Merengues host Valladolid, who beat them 1-0 earlier in the season, tomorrow.
Barcelona's next game is the second leg of their European quarter-final with Bayern on Tuesday, and it is hard to see them failing to progress with their commanding cushion. Captain Carles Puyol, Xavi and Samuel Eto'o were all rested with Guardiola keen to keep his stars fresh as they go for an historic treble. Uruguayan Martin Caceres started in defence against his old club, while Bojan Krkic replaced the Cameroonian in attack.
After watching Barça smash four goals past Bayern in the first half, Huelva, third from bottom, would have wanted to keep things tight, but it did not work out that way. Thierry Henry used his pace to get in behind the defence and his cut-back was slotted in by Iniesta with just 46 seconds on the clock.
Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes was then called upon to make a great save to foil Sebastian Nayar in the sixth minute. However, Guardiola's side were controlling proceedings and Lionel Messi thought he had doubled the lead minutes before the interval, only for Morris to block his goal-bound shot.
An own-goal provided Barcelona with the second goal they craved as the sliding Morris diverted Iniesta's cross into his own net. Messi missed a penalty late on but it proved irrelevant.
Barcelona's dazzling displays have certainly cast a shadow over Real this season, but their coach Juande Ramos insists their arch-rivals are not the perfect team as some people are claiming. "I am not envious of Barcelona," he said.
"They are not perfect. No team is perfect and I am sure Pep Guardiola would tell you the same. Barça have weaknesses like every team does. They have more strengths than weaknesses and that is why they win matches so convincingly."
Real have won 13 out of their 15 league games under Ramos, but are running out of time to overhaul the leaders.