SANTANDER, SPAIN - MARCH 11: Barcelona head coach Josep Guardiola of Barcelona catches the ball during the La Liga match between Real Racing Club and Barcelona at El Sardinero on March 11, 2012 in Santander, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
After you played a game in which you scored seven goals, you know that the only way to go is down because it’s difficult to maintain such a massive standard. I knew Messi wouldn’t score five in this one even though I was seriously hoping to be proven wrong. I am happy about the outcome of the game, in fact I’m happy about a lot of things; we won away from home, no injuries, we have a full week to rest, I get to read about Messi for the next few days at least and I’m happy about many other things too.
There is something strange about these ratings, it has never happen before but at least it is justified (I think). I normally indicate the choice for MOTM after reviewing all the players, but I couldn’t make a decision between Mascherano, Busquets and Messi. I still managed to review and quantify the players’ performances without a hustle though, and I’ll be happy to hear your views on who truly deserves the award.
The ratings are after the jump:
Victor Valdes 5.5
I’m not going to try and take any points from him as a ball player, because he was fantastic in that department. As a keeper though, I was not impressed by the Spaniard. He was not given a challenge by Racing for majority of the game, but the offside aside, he was easily beaten by Adrian after being caught out of position. A couple of times he drops the ball after making a save and it’s not only in this game; what’s happening to his superior handling? And yes before I forget, I’m one of those Cules who aren’t fond of him leaving his area to ‘negotiate’ with the ref on the halfway line, it ain’t cool.
Major Highlight: Great passing and distribution but he’ll be making a party to celebrate Adrian for having been offside for that goal.
Daniel Alves 6.5
He was his usual self both in attack and defence in this game. Everyone noticed how many times he bombed forward even though we were playing three at the back? At least we got to see more of Masch (More on that below). His interception on the 31st min was both brilliant and decisive and the way he won the ball on the 49th min just goes on to remind us how well he does in almost all of his 50/50 duels. He made one silly foul on the 52nd min and was lucky to have avoided a booking. Even though hehelped a lot in attack, he seemed to attempt too many difficult passes and crosses; ofcourse I get it that once in 10 tries he gets to assist but maybe he should try to keep things simple sometimes.
Major Highlight: That was a beast of an interception on the 31st min.
Most people call him a natural midfield-destroyer-turned-defender, I call him I natural defender who has been pretending to play midfield for a long time and now under Pep, he gets to do what he was born to do. He is not one to cover 100 metres in 9 seconds because he can’t, but does he need to? Look at his positioning whenever an attacker is running at him, he always makes sure to adjust himself so much so that pace won’t be the deciding factor for who gets the ball. He made one of his classic Mascherano-esque interceptions on the 46th min; it was very critical and Racing would have probably gotten an equaliser if it weren’t for him. If you have noticed his terrific tackles on the 65th and 71st, you will really appreciate the importance of having a man of his calibre in our team.
Major Highlight: He didn’t get a foot wrong, I loved his Interception on the 46th min and anyone of the tackles above can easily make it into this space so I won’t blame anyone for choosing them.
Man this guy is a beast. I was too busy collecting my jaw from the floor and forgot to take note of this one moment when he had to pull every muscle in his body to sprint to the ball against a Racing player who might be more than half a decade his junior. Puyi ran as fast as he possibly could and when the junior was about to win it, he made a clever trick of which only experience can take the credit of and resumed to clear the ball out for a throw in. Also notice as well that our captain only seems to concede throw-ins and corners as a last resort. Ofcouse I won’t be crediting him for his passing and superior build-up from the back, it’s expected of him.
Major Highlight: The moment I described above wins it for me. In fact if he keeps it up, he can play at this level for three more years at least.
This is the man who is on a quest of redefining what the Defensive midfield position is all about. He is a passer, a tackler, an interceptor, he helps to initiate attacks, steps into the defensive line when someone at the back is out of position and is literally the man who gets kicked and bullied the most on the pitch nowadays, not even Messi suffers that much. In case you forgot, we didn’t score our first goal until the 29th min meaning that the counter he stopped on the 20th min could have resulted into one of the difficult moments for Cules, if you know what I mean. And then on the 68th min, Racing were on a serious counter attack one more time after Messi’s pass in the 18 yard box could not get to Pedro, but Busi’s interception was that of an expert. I don’t think you want to waste any time talking about his ball distribution because that part about him is already assumed.
Major Highlight: His defensive displays were at their best and those interceptions are priceless.
Xavi Hernandes 6.5 Out 82’
He didn’t start the game as he/we would have liked as he uncharacteristically misplaced some passes failing to get the handle of the game. None the less, he combined well with Messi and Pedro around the 4th min in the game’s first beautiful attack and he was already pulling the strings and calling the shots around the 15th min mark. He distributed the ball well and made some brilliant, well-thought passes to his teammates but he was still not the Xavi we saw against Bayer, but who was? His free kick on the 48th min hit the wall and most if not all of the corners he took didn’t have a happy ending; although it’s difficult to lay the blame on him considering the average height of his teammates. He was applauded off the pitch on the 82nd minute to be replaced by Keita.
Major Highlight: We can’t claim that we would have won without him but he was far from his best.
There is a reason why it is scientifically incorrect to analyse just one point in an experimental investigation/research, let alone two, because you can never claim to see a recognisable pattern. In fact it is claimed that the more the points, the more the distribution tends to normal. This was a very positive game for Cesc in midfield as his combination with colleagues Xaviniestawas very goodcompared to what we’ve witnessed so many times before. But I’ll try and be the bad guy and warn everyone who is jumping into the conclusion that "everything ahead looks bright" to seriously reconsider, because it’s just one game. Let’s watch him do better a couple more times before we can get overly excited.
He was released by Messi on the 25th min but his powerful low drive from close range was saved by Mario. He assisted Messi for the first goal on the 29th min with a perfectly weighted low cross. He lost another duel against Mario on the 51st min as the Racing shot-stopper was not troubled by Fabregas’ powerful shot; Maybe it’s time he realised that it’s less about power and more about precision, no matter how powerful the shot is, the keeper will save if it’s directed at him. He won the Penalty that resulted in the second goal but since I already spotted a debate, I’ll fuel it and ask you folks; was the ref’s call harsh? Do you think Cesc milked it? Or we totally deserse that one particular spot kick?
Major Highlight: I’m not in love with any of the shots he took but his assist for Messi’s first, I like!
Andres Iniesta 7.0
Damn, this guy makes Xavi better and the opposite is true as well. He had a great game and he was very critical to the final score line. His long dribble-and-pass seems to be getting better every day and he’s not one to be easily dispossessed. His Messi-esque chip on the 22nd min hit the cross bar and he was unlucky not to have scored. Mario was brave enough to stand in the path of his powerful shot on the 44th min to deny him a goal.
Major Highlight: That chip people, that chip. It’s not every day that someone other than Messi does it and even though this one didn’t score, we still gotta appreciate the effort right?
He provided a dangerous cross around the 7th min but it was very close to the keeper who was smart enough to hold on and prevent any chances of a rebound. He tried to show flashes of his brilliance but he was expertly neutralised on his wing. After being released by Xavi and adding his fantastic solo effort, his powerful shot dealt well with Mario but could not get the better of the post (or crossbar?). He was substituted on the 72nd min to make way for Tello.
Major Highlight: Is heating the post a big deal? If no then I got nothing great to put here for Him.
Pedro Rodriguez 6.0 Out 87’
Ok I get it, He still sucks in front of goal, but his workrate, passing and trickery were enough to terrorise the defence deployed on his wing. In fact he had a better game than most if not all of his recent (struggling) matches. He had an early curled effort just inches wide after a fantastic build-up with Xavi and Messiaround the 6th minute mark. After another great build-up play by the team on the 30th min mark, Pedro decided to drill a disappointing shot wide off target, but he almost forced an own goal 8 min later after attempting to cross (fluke?). His cross on the 47th min was very close to the goal keeper. I was very happy with his defensive display on the 81st min but he decided to spoil it with yet another poor shot that was saved after he was cleanly released 1v1 with Mario. I don’t know what Pep’s intention was but he replaced him with Adriano with 3 min of normal time still to play, 3 minute?!
Major Highlight: Nope, I’m leaving this one to you ladies and Gentlemen, there’s just a lot to choose from.
He had a magical game by Torres standards, but by Messi’s… below average; unless if my judgement is still skewed by his recent Manita. He was fast to introduce himself into the game as he curled a powerful freekick on the 10th min that was unfortunately saved by the diving Mario. He did show a glimpse of his hunger for goals as he scored his first goal on the 29th min from sliding and redirecting Fabregas’ cross into the open net. He almost stole the ball from the keeper on the 42nd min before scoring a powerful right sided penalty on the 56th min for his second and last goal of the game. His shot on the 64th min was saved from close range by Mario and the rebound blocked. Alvaro came to the rescue as Messi was on his way to Mario (In hopes of making the classic chip)) after being released by Iniesta on the 80th min beating the offside trap and he was probably disappointed to not have registered an assist to his name after he released Pedro with one amazing through ball on the 85th min only for the Spaniard to hit it straight at Mario.
Major Highlight: His runs, mazy dribble-and -pass as well as his eye for goal were decisive in this game as he got himself his 50th goal after 43 competitive appearances.
Cristian Tello 6.0 In 72’
He came in late for Cuenca and probably didn’t see much of the ball to impress. He did manage to hit the side netting just 2 min after he came in and executed a poor attempt at goal deep in stoppage time from an effort I couldn’t help but feel Messi was better positioned.
Major Highlight: I think he’s selfish, unless if you think my conclusion is fast and uncalled for. His shot 2min after coming in proves he is still a dedicated supersub.
Came in late for Pedro and not even his offside was enough to get him a rating.
Even with rumours of the pitch being ‘not so good’, the team tried everything to settle into the normal rhythm and play their game. A couple of people won this game (Masch, Busi and Messi the top performers) and some wereunconsciously trying to lose it with their poor displays of finishing, passing/crossing, positioning and handling (Pedro, Cuenca and Valdes the worst performers). But overall it was still a Barcelona match and we could easily have gotten out with a Manita if we had some bit of luck in the final third. Considering that it was an away game (where we’ve been struggling this season, I can easily forgive any mistake made by anyone during the game and focus my energy into congratulating them for everything they did right.
I think he started the match well and chose a very good and unpredictable lineup. But considering how it turned out, I think he could have been better off starting Tello instead of Cuenca. I strongly support the inclusion of Pedro and I’m very sure that Pep will be the last person in the world to give up on him. I didn’t like his substitutions though, not the people he withdrew or the ones he brought in but I think they were a little late, especially the last two. Good job by him none the less for being the best coach in the world and making us be as proud as we can possibly be about our team. In him I trust!
Well it’s going to be a very long week on the Barca side of things; we have no game in midweek but then the advantage is a 7 days’ worth of rest for the boys meaning that they will be fresh for the complex fixture away to Sevilla on Sunday.
Remember to check out the review *here* if you haven’t already (or if you read the things you enjoy five times) and check later for the ‘Statistical Analysis’ of the match. As for your assignment for the week, you get a round of applause if you can correctly jinx one UCL team in midweek ;-). Until then, we’ll be in touch in the comments sections J