Monday, October 23, 2017

Barcelona v Almeria: Sergi set for daunting first game in charge

SoccerNews in La Liga 6 Apr 2015

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Former Barcelona defender Sergi faces a baptism of fire when he takes charge of struggling Almeria for the first time against La Liga leaders at Camp Nou on Wednesday.

The ex-Spain left-back, winner of three league titles and the Copa del Rey twice in his playing days at Barca, was on Monday installed as successor to Juan Ignacio Martinez at the relegation-threatened Andalusian club until the end of the season.

Sergi, who began his coaching career at Barca, takes charge of a side languishing in the relegation zone after a run of seven matches without a win.

Almeria were hammered 4-1 at home by Levante on Saturday and Sergi will not be expecting any favours from his former employers in midweek.

While Almeria wonder where their next victory is coming from, Barca have won all but one of their last 20 games and are in the hunt to win the treble in Luis Enrique’s first season at the helm.

Jeremy Mathieu was an unlikely Barca goalscorer for the second successive game on Sunday, securing a slender 1-0 victory at Celta Vigo to keep his side four points clear of Real Madrid.

Mathieu has formed an impressive partnership with Gerard Pique at the heart of the Barca defence and the France defender is relishing playing alongside the World Cup and European Championship winner.

He said: “Playing with Pique is very simple; he’s outstanding. It’s amazing to play with him.”

Mathieu is also savouring the quest for honours on three fronts in his first season at the club.

He added: “It was important to start well after the break, and at Celta we knew it wouldn’t be easy.

“In the first half we couldn’t find any outlets and they were better. In the second half we figured it out and were much better.

“These three points are very important because there are fewer and fewer matches left until the end of La Liga.

“The coming week is very difficult. We have a tough schedule but we can’t complain. We’re alive in the Champions League, we lead the league and we’re in the Spanish Cup final.”

Javier Mascherano is set to return from suspension, while Jordi Alba is battling to be fit after missing out against Celta due to a hamstring injury.

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