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La Liga: Barca equal best start with homegrown team

Last updated on: November 26, 2012 10:42 IST

La Liga: Barca equal best start with homegrown team

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Leaders Barcelona and second-placed Atletico Madrid took full advantage of Real Madrid's stumble on Sunday, Barca winning 4-0 at Levante and Atletico thumping visiting Sevilla by the same scoreline at the Calderon.

Champions Real slipped further off the pace when they were upset 1-0 at Real Betis on Saturday, a third defeat of the campaign for Jose Mourinho's stuttering side.

With 13 matches played, Barca have 37 points, Atletico 34 and Real 26. Malaga are fourth on 22 after they thrashed Valencia 4-0 on Saturday, level with fifth-placed Betis and two ahead of Levante in sixth.

As well as equalling the best start to La Liga, Barcelona's 4-0 win at Levante on Sunday was an extra source of pride for the Catalan club as it was achieved playing with an entire team of players developed through their academy for most of the match.

After Martin Montoya replaced injured Brazil fullback Daniel Alves in the 14th minute in Valencia, all 11 team members on the pitch were products of Barca's famed 'La Masia' youth academy.

Image: David Navarro (left) of Levante and Lionel Messi of Barcelona vie for possession during their la Liga match on Sunday
Photographs: Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

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Sparkling performance by Iniesta

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Pearls of the current crop include Argentine World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, Spain playmaker Andres Iniesta and midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who left for a stint at Arsenal before returning to his boyhood club.

Iniesta turned in a sparkling performance, twice setting up Messi, creating another goal for Fabregas and scoring a brilliant effort of his own as the league leaders racked up 37 points from 13 matches this season.

Their tally equalled the record for the best start to a campaign set by Real Madrid in the 1991-92 season.

"It's a fact that should make us proud," Barca coach Tito Vilanova, himself a product of 'La Masia, said, when asked about the 11 academy players in the side on Sunday.

"Because what's more seven or eight of them are from Catalonia," he added.


Image: Barcelona's Andres Iniesta celebrates with teammate Pedro Rodriguez (right), Jordi Alba (left) and Xavi Hernandez after scoring against Levante on Sunday
Photographs: Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

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Barca fulfill Van Gaal's dream of seeing all La Masia play together

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By contrast, only two of the regular starters in the current Real team are from the club's academy, goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas and fullback Alvaro Arbeloa.

They are coached by Portuguese Jose Mourinho, a former Barca assistant who has been criticised for not giving more playing time to graduates from Real's youth school.

"It's extraordinary, and all the more so for those of us who were trained at the Masia," midfielder Xavi, widely regarded as the finest playmaker of his generation, said.

"It's more proof of the good work that has been done for many years," he added.

"(Former Barca coach Louis) van Gaal said once that his dream was to see 11 academy players together on the pitch and today it became reality."

Defender Gerard Pique, a contemporary of Fabregas and Messi who returned to Barca after a spell at Manchester United, added: "It's a source of pride for all Barca fans that 11 home players were together on the pitch because it shows the academy is in good shape and we are working well."

Image: Barcelona's Cesc Fabregas (centre) celebrates with teammates after he scoring against Levante on Sunday
Photographs: Heino Kalis/Reuters

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