Malaga challenges for La Copa; Guardiola to Bayern

Posted by Francesc Tomas

Barcelona managed a disappointing 2-2 draw against Malaga at the Camp Nou in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Lionel Messi and Carles Puyol scored the goals for the Blaugrana, who enjoyed 70 percent of possession and attempted 14 shots, six of them on target.

- Malaga stuns Barcelona with late equalizer

This result leaves the Blaugrana in desperate need of an away win at the difficult La Rosaleda next week in order to progress into the semifinals of the competition. While such feat will undoubtedly be a challenge, there is no reason to doubt a team which has excelled so far this season.

Player Ratings (0-10; 10=best)

Pinto (5) -- An irregular performance, combined moments of brilliance with careless mistakes. Partially responsible for Malaga's first goal after passing an incredibly dangerous ball to Thiago when the youngster was being closed down by up to three opponents.

Adriano (6) -- Returned to the team as starting right-back, joining attack by overlapping when possible. Often challenged, was forced to track back much more than usual due to Malaga's desire to press across the whole pitch.

Martin Montoya (6) -- Another professional display. Efficient when defending, supporting the creative play when needed. I just love his consistency; the fact that you know that he will perform to a high standard whatever the circumstances.

Carles Puyol (7) -- Scored with a difficult header at a crucial moment, which is exactly what the team needed at that stage. His leadership and winning attitude, as usual, pulled the team together.

Javier Mascherano (6) -- Solved most dangerous situations with his strong tackling and clever positioning. I must admit he didn't look as confident today as he does when sharing the defensive responsibilities with Gerard Pique.

Alex Song (6) -- Efficient defending and clever when selecting the best passing options around him. Will be delighted to have added another full match to his season; having proved himself worthy of a spot in this squad once again.

Andres Iniesta (8) -- Man of the Match -- The pale maestro never ceases to amaze me. His technical ability, innate vision and mesmerising dribbling skills are second-to-none in the modern game. The way he dropped into midfield to build, threw diagonal slaloms from the wings and rotated across the final third of the pitch were impressive to say the least.

Thiago Alcantara (5) -- After a confident start, went on to make a huge blunder by being dispossessed far too easily while trying to build a play from the back-line. Fortunately for him, the youngster partially redeemed himself with an accurate cross which enabled Puyol's goal. Making mistakes is part of learning: Managing to recover from them is what ultimately makes you stronger. The fact that he has featured for 12 consecutive matches after recovering from injury is a clear sign of the faith coach Tito Vilanova has in him -- and rightly so.

Lionel Messi (8) -- Offered his impressive collection of four consecutive Ballon d'Ors to the adoring Camp Nou crowd before the match, who unsurprisingly responded with a resounding ovation. Came to the rescue when Barcelona fell one goal behind by scoring when he beat numerous defenders with an impressive individual effort. Despite the fact that he continued trying to break the rival defence for the rest of the match, it is fair to say that his efforts were contained well by Malaga.

Cristian Tello (7) -- His incredible acceleration allowed him to beat his marker repeatedly and cross several dangerous balls as a result. His speed, confidence and overall freshness were a necessary breath of fresh air for the Barcelona attack.

Alexis Sanchez (3) -- As usual in recent times, started the match by missing a clamorous chance and was booked for diving unnecessarily inside the rival's area. Went on to display his usual high-tempo defending and tried to open up the pitch before, once again, blowing yet another obvious tap-in opportunity. While I fully understand the need to support players who struggle to find their form, this was a truly forgettable performance which impeded the team from winning.

Substitutes: Cesc Fabregas (6), Pedro Rodriguez (6), Xavi Hernandez (6)

Pep Guardiola chooses Bayern

Pep Guardiola's agent has officially confirmed that the former Barcelona coach will be joining Bayern Munich next season: "Pep chose them because of their organisation, their potential and their footballers. We went over all the offers he received and made a decision. Bayern are not the team which offered the most money. The contract has been signed since the 20th of December, but when a lot of people start to know, it's impossible to keep up with it."

I must admit I am incredibly happy about the fact that all the speculation about Guardiola's future will now stop. Don't get me wrong, rumours about the future of the most desired coach in world football may have been entertaining in the past, but seriously, Cules have been talking about this very same topic for at least four years now, ever since he took charge at the Camp Nou.

The fact that Bayern Munich have secured the Catalan manager's services for at least three seasons amazes me the most, as he continuously refused contracts longer than 12 months while at the Camp Nou. It looks as if all of those relaxing walks around Central Park have made him reconsider his previously strong views on the matter.

While Guardiola will always remain in Blaugrana hearts as the manager who took the club to the most successful period in history, the blatant truth is that he is now a formidable rival who will certainly be an obstacle to beat in the way to European glory.

Welcome back, Pep -- Looking forward to facing your new team in the future.

Have your say

What did you think of Barcelona's performance vs. Malaga?

Who was your Man of the Match? What are your player ratings?

I welcome and appreciate all respectful feedback.

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