Champs Barca brush aside Bilbao to return to top | sports | Hindustan Times
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Champs Barca brush aside Bilbao to return to top

sports Updated: Apr 04, 2010 23:42 IST
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Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao 4-1 on Saturday to return to the top of La Liga and open a three-point gap on Real Madrid who they face next week in ‘El Clasico’.

Barcelona have a decisive week ahead of them with the Champions League quarter-final second leg at home to Arsenal on Tuesday and then a trip to Real four days later.

They got the perfect preparation on Saturday with three points and a convincing win that puts the pressure on Real Madrid to win at Racing Santander on Sunday.

The 22-year-old Jeffren Suarez opened the scoring with his first goal of the season on 26 minutes before the 19-year-old Bojan stole the show with a brace either side of the interval.

Lionel Messi scored his 26th goal of the campaign to make it four after 66 minutes and Bilbao, two points off the Champions League places, were desperate for the final whistle at Camp Nou.

With a testing week against Arsenal, against whom they are level 2-2, and Real Madrid to come, coach Pep Guardiola chose to rest Xavi and Thierry Henry while Dani Alves was suspended.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, scorer in each of his last four matches, picked up an injury in the warm-up so Bojan came in for only his third start of the season.

Barca went ahead on 26 minutes with Messi releasing Eric Abidal down the left and the Frenchman crossed across the face of goal where Jeffren slid the ball in for his first goal of the season.

Fernando Llorente had a great chance to equalise on 33 minutes but shot over from close range.

With four minutes until the break Barca struck again with a stray pass pounced on by Carles Puyol, who is suspended for the Arsenal game, and the captain set up Bojan who produced a cool finish at the near post.

Bilbao, who beat Real Madrid earlier this season, hit the post early in the second period while Javi Martinez screwed a shot wide when one-on-one with goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

Guardiola responded by throwing on playmaker Xavi and the hosts picked up the pace with Bojan curling in a fine effort on 58 minutes and eight minutes later substitute Pedro crossed for Messi to tap in.

Markel Susaeta pulled a goal back for Bilbao.