Barca beat Celta but lose Valdes

Barcelona kept up their title challenge with a 3-0 win over Celta Vigo but may have lost Victor Valdes to a serious injury.

Two goals from Neymar and one from Lionel Messi gave Barca a straightforward win at a sparsely-populated Camp Nou but there is concern over the condition of the goalkeeper.

Early reports from Spain say Valdes has torn his cruciate ligament and will need six months to recover.

He twisted his knee saving a first half Celta free-kick after Neymar opened the scoring.

Andres Iniesta and Messi combined with Messi darting inside and releasing Alexis, who gave the Brazil international a tap-in.

Messi added the second two-thirds of the way through the first half, escaping the Celta defence and slotting past Yoel.

Neymar added his second and Barca’s third after latching on to Alexis Sanchez’s diagonal ball as Barca broke from a Celta corner.

Tata Martino made four changes from the Clasico XI – Adriano, Marc Bartra, Alex Song and Alexis Sanchez in for Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Xavi Hernandez.

Celta without on-loan Barca forward Rafinha through injury and Nolito and Charles, benched, with 18-year-old Santi Mina starting.

Luis Enrique named a back five on his return to Barca, Celta wilfully conceding possession in the first half and being punished for it.

Messi had the first chance of the game but was rightly flagged offside. Two minutes later he created the opening goal, playing in Alexis who squared to give Neymar an easy finish.

Celta thought they had a way back into the game when Ayza Gamez signalled for a penalty after a handball by Adriano, but the infringement was well outside the area and the official relented and gave a free-kick.

But Valdes landed awkwardly saving the resulting set-piece and had to be stretchered off, Jose Pinto coming on in his place.

Celta lost Gustavo Cabral to an ankle injury but before the change was made the score was doubled, Messi accelerating away from the Celta defence and rounding Yoel.

Pinto was the first goalkeeper called into action after the break, producing an excellent double save to maintain Barca’s two-goal lead.

Barca were regularly caught offside and had three goals ruled out after straying beyond the last defender, Cesc Fabregas’ header from Messi’s free-kick among them.

It was a rare chance in the early stages of the second half as Barca’s tempo dipped. When a chance did arise, Neymar finished it off with a smart display of control and the help of a deflection.

Celta had shown signs of getting back into the game but Barca’s rapid-fire third snuffed out any small hopes of a comeback.

Pedro and Alexis almost combined to make a fourth while Celta went close to a consolation when Bermejo charged down Pinto’s clearance.

Pinto’s left kneecap banged into the goalpost as he attempted to recover the ball and there was doubt as to whether he would continue, but the veteran gritted his teeth and stayed on.

He produced two more fine stops inside the final 10 minutes while Sergi Roberto tested Yoel at the other end.

Celta’s second half performance was a vast improvement on the first but the destination of the points was never really in doubt as Barca kept the pressure on the Madrid clubs at the top of the table.

Barcelona 3-0 Celta

Neymar 5 67, Messi 30 (FCB)

Barcelona: Valdes (Pinto 25); Adriano, Mascherano, Bartra, Alba; Song, Cesc, Iniesta (Roberto 46); Alexis, Messi, Neymar (Pedro 72)

Celta: Yoel, Mallo, Cabral (I Lopez 38), Fontas (Oubina 73), Aurtenetxe, Jonny; Madinda, A Lopez. Fernandez; Orellena (Bermejo 64), Mina

Tags Lionel Messi Neymar Victor Valdes