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Barcelona grind out victory in Eibar before Chelsea trip

Madrid, Spain | AFP | Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba were on target as Barcelona saw off Eibar 2-0 on Saturday to continue their unbeaten record in La Liga and extend their lead at the top of the table.

Lionel Messi had a hand in both goals against an Eibar side who finished the match at tiny Ipurua with 10 men after the second-half sending-off of Fabian Orellana.

It was not a comfortable afternoon for Ernesto Valverde’s men on a rainy day in the Basque Country, and they had to wait until Alba’s goal two minutes from the end to put the match to bed.

Still unbeaten 24 games into the league campaign, Barca are now 10 points clear of Atletico Madrid at the top of the table, although the capital side can trim that lead when they host Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Barcelona will now turn their thoughts to the Champions League last 16, first leg against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, and Valverde said Eibar were ideal opponents ahead of that huge match.

“Eibar always put you under a lot of pressure, so it was a good test. We really suffered, because they are in great form,” said Valverde.

“It was a very difficult match just as we expected, and we will try and make sure it helps us, although the Champions League is another competition altogether.”

Valverde sent out a strong team, choosing to start Andres Iniesta and leave Philippe Coutinho on the bench, despite the Brazilian being ineligible for the Champions League. Coutinho replaced Iniesta for the final half-hour.

“Last week Coutinho started, and this week it was Iniesta,” the coach added. “It is true that we have another match on Tuesday, but for me the important thing was today (Saturday).”

Barca went ahead in the 16th minute, Messi’s superb pass releasing Suarez, who rounded goalkeeper Marco Dmitrovic to score.

But the visitors had a couple of let-offs in the first half, with Sergio Busquets lucky not to concede a penalty as he pulled back Kike Garcia in the box. Orellana then hit the bar with a fine strike from outside the area.

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