In summary, I can imagine that watching the game yesterday prompted some positive thoughts ahead of El Clasico. It was a great performance, one I truly believe heralds a return to form for the Blaugrana; put simply, it was football in its purest form and Levante just couldn’t cope. The movement was spectacular, each run was perfectly timed and the passes were usually weighted just right. The linesman couldn’t even keep up, what chance did Levante really have? Moreover, what chance will Real Madrid have?
It cannot be a coincidence that Barcelona looked much more fluid without David Villa, and that each offside call (I only remember two) were incorrect and could have led to goals for Alexis Sanchez and Andres Iniesta. While the naysayers will remark that it "was only Levante" this was the same side that defeated Real Madrid earlier in the season, and the exact same team that have climbed to fourth place in the La Liga table.
Levante have gained the majority of their points through valiantly defending for large portions of matches before sneaking a goal past the opposition via a perfectly executed set-piece. Each game followed the blueprint to the letter, until they rolled up to the Camp Nou. My only question is whether Barcelona can transfer this form to the Bernabeu next weekend. Not long until we find out now.
Victor Valdes 7.5
Valdes was a vital part of the team yesterday despite the lack of chances for the away side. When called upon he was excellent and his distribution was first class. A particular highlight was his diving save to deny Asier Del Horno around the 50 minute mark. However, he was booked late on, presumably for dissent linked to Iniesta’s (wrongly) disallowed goal.
Carles Puyol 7.0
It was great to see the captain starting with El Clasico in the near future, but it was a nervy half-hour or so when he was taken off. Complaining of blurred vision one thing popped into my head and that was the troubles of Rino Gattuso, but luckily his vision returned to normal later on in the game. Up until then, it was another all-action performance from Puyol, and in truth he could have scored if his first touch was better.
Yet again, Mascherano was rather quiet in the heart of defense, but that speaks volumes about his quality. He didn’t make a scene about his efforts, but went about the job quietly and efficiently no doubt pleasing Pep Guardiola en route.
Eric Abidal 7.5
I was impressed by Abidal’s match yesterday, as he managed to offer an attacking threat despite being one part of a three man defense. Up until the introduction of Dani Alves, he could venture forward on the left knowing that Sergio Busquets could cover him. Defensively he was not at his best, but judging by the scoreline, he didn’t have to be. Whether he starts El Clasico is hard to predict at the moment.
Sergio Busquets 8.0
This was the Busquets I remember from last season. This was the Busquets that earned himself a place among the FIFPro nominations for team of the year. Everything pass was immaculately timed and delivered with pinpoint accuracy. Not only that, but Busquets was passing the ball much quicker, and the team followed suit, so the tempo increased, hence more chances and more goals. Sorry to those who believe he should be sacrificed for El Clasico, but that is simply impossible to comprehend.
Xavi Hernandez 8.0
Xavi may not have personally posed as much threat as previous games, but taking a step back and keeping his head up saw him create a plethora of chances for his teammates. Just a normal day at the office then for our midfield metronome!
Andres Iniesta 8.5
If Lionel Messi did not exist, the world would likely cry for Cristiano Ronaldo to be crowned as the best player in the world, but I am sure it would go to Andres Iniesta. When he plays well, Barcelona are nigh on impossible to stop and yesterday was irrefutable proof. As his goal was incorrectly ruled out, my highlight was his cute little assist for Isaac Cuenca’s goal. Something tells me Ronaldo would have been a little more selfish in that situation...
Cesc Fabregas 9.5
Oh boy, Cesc Fabregas is some player. Sure, he was great for Arsenal, but did you ever see him play that well for the Gunners? Working with Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi has really brought out a whole new level in the Catalan’s game. Everything seems effortless for the midfielder at this given point, whether it is spraying passes to Cuenca on the wing or finishing off a cross or through ball. The finish for the first goal was as if David Villa had magically regained form, and his second was like Puyol moved into midfield. A sure-fire contender for second place in next year’s Ballon D’Or, words do not do him justice.
Isaac Cuenca 8.5
Who doesn’t like Cuenca? Well maybe David Villa, but that’s beside the point. Guardiola likes him, the fans like him and most of all the other players enjoy playing alongside him. He may not be the biggest name, but his reputation is increasing exponentially with each performance. I have no doubts that his mere presence on the right-wing and later on the left hand side contributed to the goals. On a wide pitch like the Camp Nou, he is simply irreplaceable; his goal was only possible because of his usual position, not to mention that it was expertly taken.
Alexis Sanchez 8.5
A little while ago, I was unhappy with the Chilean. I thought he was taking too long to fit in, and that he should have been benched in favour of Isaac Cuenca. Well, consider this performance as the one that made me eat humble pie...Alexis was superb and it gives me great pleasure to write that his partnership with Lionel Messi is blossoming as noted by many Barca fans. He MUST start El Clasico, and judging by current form, he could cause Madrid a whole bunch of problems, especially if Mourinho’s starts with Marcelo and Coentrao at full-back.
Lionel Messi 8.5
Not his best game, but certainly one of his better all-round performances. He passed the ball well, and almost every decision he made was the right one. As per usual, his runs caused havoc for the defense, his finishing was simply faultless and his ability to create a chance was in plain view. Madrid no doubt will claim to have a plan to stop him, but this man is physically unstoppable when he hits top gear, and judging by the Supercopa, they couldn’t even handle him in third...
Dani Alves 7.5
Go back and read what I said about Busquets, and merely substitute in Dani’s name. It all applies just the same; Alves is just like the rest of the team: hitting top gear at just the right time. His partnerships with Cuenca and Sanchez are improving by the game, and even as a part of the three-man defense, I regularly saw him overlapping the right-winger. The best part? It didn’t even cause any defensive problems!
Seydou Keita 6.5
Replacing Sergio Busquets is always difficult, but in this instance, Keita didn’t have much to do upon arrival. The game was already over, and his usual role as midfield destroyer was completely obsolete. I was disappointed that he didn’t offer himself as an attacking option, but clearly he was under instruction from Guardiola to just stay back and marshal things in the middle of the park.
At times, it is painful to watch Pedro. Yesterday could have been a much needed confidence booster to the Spaniard, with no pressure on him to score with the match already over, but he couldn’t escape his demons. It is clear that the drought is affecting his game, and it was emphasised with his hesitant attempt when one-on-one with Gustavo Munua. At this stage, he should not start El Clasico.