Good evening! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole
for tonight's La Liga showdown between Alaves
at the Estadio de Mendizorroza!
The end of the campaign is in sight now and surprise package Alaves still have the prospect of European football to fight for, although to achieve that they will need to end a run of form which has seen them fail to win any of their last five games. Barcelona, by contrast, would move to the brink of another La Liga title should they win tonight and could have it sewn up by tomorrow night should they win and Atletico then lose to Valencia.
Kickoff is only five minutes away, so let's have a look at the team news before we get started...
ALAVES STARTING XI:
Pacheco; Vigaray, Navarro, Laguardia, Ely, Duarte; Rolan, Wakaso, Pina, Jony; Baston
SUBS: Garcia, Twumasi, Martin, Guidetti, Sivera, Brasanac, Marin
BARCELONA STARTING XI:
Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Umtiti, Roberto; Vidal, Busquets, Alena; Dembele, Suarez, Coutinho
SUBS: Cillessen, Arthur, Messi, Vermaelen, Lenglet, Alba, Malcom
KICKOFF: Here we go! Alaves get us underway!
Dembele goes weaving past one challenge to reach the edge of the box, but he ends up trying a bit too much and is dispossessed before he can get a shot away. Barca have taken early control of the possession here.
CHANCE! It really should be 1-0 to Barcelona here! Alaves give the ball straight to Coutinho, who quickly releases Suarez through on goal. Suarez only has the keeper to beat but is forced onto his left foot and is denied by Pacheco before Coutinho's follow-up effort is blocked by Ely.
CHANCE! Another big chance for the visitors in these opening exchanges as this time Coutinho is released in behind before pulling the ball back for Suarez. This time Suarez goes for goal first time, but Ely is in the way once again to make the block.
It is all Barcelona in these early stages. Alaves have barely been able to string three or four passes together and it is one-way traffic so far. Barcelona have made 94 passes so far, whereas Alaves have attempted 18 and completed just five.
Barca have enjoyed almost 90% possession in the opening 10 minutes, which is a good indication of how dominant they have been so far. A goal seems inevitable right now.
Another lovely move from Barcelona as Alena threads a pass inside the full-back for the overlapping Roberto, whose low cross is left by Suarez for Coutinho. The midfielder tries to beat one defender inside the box, but is tackled before he can get a shot away.
Alaves win a free kick in a good crossing position which Jony swings into a decent area, but it is just too high for the runners and Ter Stegen gathers it gratefully.
More nice football from Barcelona with Vidal, Alena and Roberto all involved, but once again it is the final ball which lets them down. The visitors are still knocking on the door, but Alaves are soaking up the pressure at the moment.
It is very patient football from Barcelona at the moment. They are seeing all of the ball, and the vast majority of it is coming inside the Alaves half too, but they cannot find their way through right now.
will be pretty pleased with how his side are coping with Barcelona's pressure right now, particularly following the opening 10 minutes when the visitors got in behind twice. The hosts need to do more going forward, though.
SAVE! Barcelona settle for a shot from range on this occasion as Coutinho cuts into his right foot and tries one of his trademark strikes, but he doesn't connect with it properly and it is an easy save for the keeper in the end.
CHANCE! Another chance for Barcelona as Suarez chips the ball out to Roberto, who seems to be caught in two minds and ends up floating a shot/cross wide of the far post.
Vidal tries to use the pace of Dembele with a clipped ball in behind the defence, but it skips off the surface and the French winger cannot reach it before it goes behind for a goal kick.
Almost half an hour gone now and still Alaves continue to hold out. It is not a thriller so far, but Barcelona are in complete control and just need a goal to make that show on the scoreboard.
SAVE! Suarez tries to get that goal with some good movement to latch on to Dembele's through-ball, but the angle is against him and his low strike is put behind for a corner by Pacheco.
CHANCE! The resulting corner eventually leads to a half-chance for Vidal, but he cannot get over the ball and sends his header well off target when he might have been better served leaving it for Pique behind him.
Barcelona should have enough to see them past Alaves tonight even without Lionel Messi, but it is clear that his individual genius is missing from this one so far. It may be what Barcelona need to unlock this defence.
YELLOW CARD! Jony picks up the first yellow card of the night for dissent after the referee rejected his appeals for a foul against Vidal.
Painful one for Pique here as he goes sliding into a challenge on Jony, who can't help but fall on the defender's head. No foul, but it looks like a sore one for Pique.
Important contribution from Ter Stegen as he collects the ball inside his own six-yard box with Baston lurking after the ball had been flicked on at the near post.
Barcelona need to show a bit more urgency if they are to break the deadlock here and get the win they need to wrap the title up before next week's Champions League semi-final with Liverpool.
CHANCE! This is the danger for Barcelona if they can't take advantage of their dominance! Alaves win a free kick in a crossing position and Ely climbs highest to meet it, but can only nod his effort over the crossbar.
The clock continues to tick down towards half time and Alaves remain very much in this game. Barcelona have enjoyed the lion's share of the possession, but haven't really done enough with it yet.
It may be an occasion for patience tonight for Barcelona. Alaves are sure to tire as they continue to chase the ball, and more holes could open up in their defence as that happens in the second half.
There will be one minute of added time at the end of this first half.
HALF TIME: ALAVES 0-0 BARCELONA
The first half comes to an end at the Estadio de Mendizorroza, then, and it has not exactly been a classic so far.
Alaves and Barcelona remain goalless, with the visitors enjoying 77% possession but failing to make the breakthrough yet. Barca's best moments came in the opening 10 minutes, but since then they have struggled to break down the Alaves defence.
has wasted the best chances of the match so far, first being denied by the keeper after being played through on goal by Coutinho and then seeing another effort blocked by Ely.
Aside from that there have only really been half-chances for Barcelona from Suarez, Vidal and Coutinho, and the visitors do seem to be missing the individual magic of Messi.
Alaves have offered very little going forward themselves, but they did fire a warning to Barca towards the end of the first half when Ely rose highest inside the area to nod a free kick over the crossbar.
As long as the scoreline remains 0-0 the hosts are very much in this game and it only takes one set piece or one chance for them to set up a shock against the champions-elect.
KICKOFF: Barcelona get us back underway for the second half, and Alaves have been forced into a change at the break with the injured Rolan being replaced by Darko Brasanac.
Free kick to Barcelona right outside the box as Dembele cuts inside before going down and tumbling into Suarez, who was just lining up a shot after collecting the loose ball...
Suarez takes the free kick, but the wall does its job as Borja Baston nods it behind for a corner.
Alaves have a great chance to break from that corner, but Borja slows it down too much before giving it out wide to Jony, who gets his cross all wrong. Waste of a really good attacking platform for Alaves there.
Routine save for Ter Stegen to make as he gathers the ball at his near post.
GOAL! ALAVES 0-1 BARCELONA (CARLES ALENA)
Barcelona have the breakthrough as Alena opens the scoring!
Roberto plays a one-two on his way in from the right flank before feeding a pass into the box. Suarez cleverly dummies it to let it run through to Alena, who makes no mistake to tuck his finish into the bottom corner.
YELLOW CARD! Navarro picks up a yellow for a really poor challenge from behind on Suarez, whose fall was delayed but it was a definite foul.
DISALLOWED GOAL! Barcelona have the ball in the back of the net as a mixture of Pique and Umtiti put it in from point-blank range after a brief scramble. The offside flag is raised, but this one will go to VAR. The replay seems to show a handball in there, which would mean a penalty, before Umtiti is offside.
PENALTY! The referee goes over to check the monitor himself and awards a penalty for a handball against Pina!
GOAL! ALAVES 0-2 BARCELONA (LUIS SUAREZ, PENALTY)
GOAL! Pacheco goes the right way and gets a hand to the ball, but there is just enough on Suarez's penalty to squeeze it past the keeper and double their lead.
BARCELONA SUB: As if those two quickfire goals weren't bad enough, on comes Lionel Messi for Dembele.
Here is the opening goal which set Barcelona on course for what looks like being another win on their way to the title...
Handbags here as Pique and Duarte square up following a clash between the two. Both keep themselves restrained, though, and just a talking-to from the referee suffices.
Valverde is now readying Alba to come on too, so two of the biggest names rested tonight will get cameos after all.
OFF THE POST! Messi almost provides his customary bit of magic, skipping away from one marker before driving into the box and working space to shoot despite momentarily getting the ball caught under his feet. His strike towards the near post is tipped against the post by the keeper.
BARCELONA SUB: Change for Barcelona here as Jordi Alba replaces Semedo.
ALAVES SUB: The hosts also make a change, with Patrick Twumasi replacing Ely.
CHANCE! Half a chance for Alaves to pull a goal back as Jony's long throw is flicked on into a dangerous area. Brasanac reacts quickest to get to the ball, but his shot on the half-volley rises well over the crossbar.
Just over 15 minutes remaining in this one now and it is hard to see Barcelona throwing it away from here. Alaves have offered very little in attack tonight and can have no complaints at coming away with nothing.
CLOSE! Just as I say that, the hosts almost pull a goal back! Jony collects a loose Vidal pass before dribbling the ball towards goal and taking a shot early which drifts narrowly wide with Ter Stegen beaten.
CHANCE! Barcelona break straight up the other end and create a chance of their own as Messi funds Suarez, who stands the ball up to the far post. Vidal rises above his marker, but cannot keep his header down.
Alaves are beginning to see a bit more of the ball in the final 15 minutes, but Barcelona seem content with that. The three points should be in the bag now, meaning that the champions could retain their title as early as tomorrow.
ALAVES SUB: Another change for the hosts as John Guidetti replaces Jony.
Philippe Coutinho has had another patchy game tonight, giving the ball away on a few occasions and running into too much traffic on others too. He continues to struggle in this Barcelona system.
Brilliant challenge from Pique as he strides across before sliding in and stopping an attack in its tracks right on the edge of his own box. He needed to get that right, and it was perfectly timed.
A bit of late pressure from Alaves here as they throw a few crosses into the box, but the visitors deal with it fairly comfortably.
BARCELONA SUB: A third and final change for Barcelona here as Arthur replaces Alena.
CHANCE! Chance for Barcelona to add a third late on as Messi lays the ball into the path of Coutinho, but he slices his left-footed strike well wide of the near post when he should have done better.
There will be four minutes of added time at the end of this match.
CHANCE! You don't often see Messi get it this wrong! The ball runs all the way through to the Argentine, who cuts back onto his left foot but then skies his finish well over!
YELLOW CARD! Pina picks up a late challenge for a crunching challenge on Coutinho.
FULL TIME: ALAVES 0-2 BARCELONA
By no means a classic win for Barcelona nor a vintage performance, but they barely had to get out of second gear to move to the brink of an eighth La Liga title in the last 11 years.
Goals from Carles Alena and Luis Suarez were enough for Barcelona to beat Alaves this evening, and if Atletico Madrid lose to Valencia tomorrow then the title is Barca's - if not then a home win against Levante on Saturday will wrap it up for Valverde's side.
Right, that is all we have time for this evening!
Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for tonight's La Liga contest as Barcelona move to within one result of the La Liga title courtesy of victory over Alaves. I will leave you with our match report, and be sure to stick around for reaction too.
From me, though, it is goodbye for now!