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Barcelona maintain unbeaten La Liga record

Barcelona maintained their unbeaten La Liga record this season.

Bengaluru, April 18: Leaders Barcelona maintained their unbeaten La Liga record this season after being held to draw 2-2 at Celta Vigo despite playing with an under strength side and having been reduced to ten men after Sergi Roberto was sent off late in the second half.

In the other matches, Sevilla were held to a 0-0 draw at relegation-threatened Deportivo while Villarreal beat Leganes 2-1.

Match Stats | Results | Points table

With the King's Cup final against Sevilla coming up on Saturday, Barca coach Ernesto Valverde made eight changes to the team that beat Valencia at the weekend, leaving out most of his regular starters including talisman Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique and captain Andres Iniesta.

The wholesale changes meant it was the first competitive game in 16 years in which Barca started without a player who had come through their academy and the lack of experienced personnel saw 24-year-old keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen named as captain.

Celta dominated the final part of the game, despite Messi having come on earlier in the second half, but Barca clung on for the draw, staying on course to become the only team to finish a Liga season without losing.

France forward Ousmane Dembele struck his first goal in the Spanish top flight to give Barca the lead against the run of play in the 36th minute but Celta got a deserved equaliser just before halftime when Jonny Castro struck from close range.

Paco Alcacer restored Barca's lead in the 64th minute but Celta, who had beaten the Catalans 4-3 and 4-1 at home in the previous two seasons, continued to pour forward and caused the visitors' inexperienced defence problems.

Substitute Roberto was given a straight red card in the 71st for halting a surging run from Iago Aspas and the Spain striker levelled in the 82nd minute, bundling the ball in with the help of his arm and scoring his 20th league goal this season.

Barca lead the standings on 83 points after 33 games, 12 ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid, who visit Real Sociedad on Thursday, while Real Madrid, a further four points back in third, host Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.

"I wanted to make changes bearing in mind where we have come from and that we'vea final coming up," said Barca coach Valverde, who was blamed after the shock exit to AS Roma in the Champions League quarterfinals for not rotating his squad more.

Valverde impressed with Aspas as Barca draw

"When you make many changes you're taking a lot of risks but tonight I thought it was the right moment to assume those risks," he said.

The point means Barca can guarantee lifting the title if they win their next games at Deportivo La Coruna and Real Madrid but they could wrap up a 25th Liga crown before then if Atletico Madrid lose their next two against Real Sociedad and Real Betis.

"We don't take this draw as a good thing as we always want to win but we have to accept what we have," Valverde added.

(With inputs from Agencies).

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Story first published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018, 10:06 [IST]
Other articles published on Apr 18, 2018
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