Barcelona’s win last night moved them to within five points of Real Madrid, albeit having played a match more than their eternal rivals. Real are in action tonight, against Villarreal, so be sure to check out Villarreal USA for all the coverage of the match. However, before you start dreaming about Villarreal holding on for a share of the points, here are my ratings for yesterday’s match. I don’t do this very often anymore, so I would love to see your ratings in the comments if you disagree with any of my thoughts.
Victor Valdes 6.0
Poor Valdes. Having kept two consecutive clean sheets away from home, the Catalan looked a little out of sorts on the Camp Nou pitch. It was the first time that Barcelona conceded three at home since a 3-3 draw with Villarreal in 2009, although if memory serves me correctly, The Yellow Submarine did not need two penalties. Valdes was not to blame for either penalty, and ultimately, you never truly expect a keeper to save them, so why is Barcelona’s keeper any different? However, I think he was susceptible for the first goal, as many keepers would have rushed from their goal to punch those crosses clear, but of course, Valdes is not your average keeper! Aside from that, I can’t remember him being called into action.
Dani Alves 7.0 Red
I understand that Dani gave away two penalties so was responsible for two goals, and was sent off as well, but I thought he played well. His link-up play with Lionel Messi was a major driving force behind the Blaugrana attack, whether the pair were exchanging lightning-quick passes in enclosed spaces, or whether Alves was feeding him with excellent through balls. I get the feeling that Pep Guardiola did not sign Alves to be a defender, but that side of his game is an added bonus, so I guess we got the bare minimum from Alves yesterday.
Carles Puyol 6.5
Puyol was very quiet, which is both a good and bad thing. Quite simply, for large portions of the match Granada were invisible offensively, and it is no surprise that their comeback came after Puyol was moved out of central defense and to left-back. Also note, that despite Puyol being a natural centre-back out of position on the left, Granada still sent the majority of their attacks down Barcelona’s right side. Each penalty and the free-kick which lead to their first were won on the right-hand side. Oh, and Gerard Pique made a mistake after Puyol was moved too. The captain may have had a quiet game, but his presence in the centre of defense remains a game-changer.
Adriano 6.0 Out 45’
What to say about Adriano? Much like Puyol found out, that left-back position was almost like a vacuum last night. I barely recall any moments when Adriano was in possession, so I’m sticking to an average 6/10 rating here. Shame he is injured, but I can’t help but think that both the club and the fans are beginning to lose patience with him anyway. What do you think?
Seydou Keita 6.5
Right then, whenever I used to do the ratings, Keita usually comes in for a bit of stick. However, I think I have finally realised that he is not a replacement for Sergio Busquets; rather an entirely different type of player altogether. However, what did he actually do yesterday? According to Whoscored, Keita only made a single tackle, so clearly he was not a destroyer. He only won a single foul, so didn’t really dwell on the ball like Busquets often does. Seemingly he just moved the ball onwards as quickly as he received it, and for that, I cannot criticise him. Although I do question why Pep isn’t letting Jonathan Dos Santos do exactly the same thing.
Xavi Hernandez 7.5
I like this new Xavi. The assists have started to dry up, but in their place are goals, goals and more goals. His volley after Messi’s cushioned header was his 14th of the season, and 10th in La Liga, making him the 4th highest scoring Spaniard in the division. As per usual, his passing was exemplary, distribution superb, and when required, he got back to do his share of defensive work.
Thiago Alcantara 6.5 Out 72’
Thiago is an infuriating player. You know that he is destined for greatness, that he has skill and talent in abundance, but when will he finally reach his potential, or even show a sustained glimpse of what lies ahead? Perhaps he needs a run of starts, which will be difficult given the squad depth in midfield, but it seems as though he peaked way back in pre-season. Dare I say we need to loan him out?
Isaac Cuenca 7.5
What a start by Cuenca. Back to his best, he delivered two top-class crosses that each led to goals. Curiously, both were to Lionel Messi, so could this be the start of a beautiful partnership? Whatever the case, his speed on foot and of mind is what sets him apart from the rest. A real old-school winger, who learnt his trade at La Masia; you just know that he must be difficult to mark. My only criticism is that he faded from the game after the hour mark, but with more starts will come better stamina and better consistency.
Alexis Sanchez 5.5 Out 72’
What a poor game for the Chilean. The only incident of note I saw him involved in was when he blazed over the bar from 18 yards out. Quite simply anonymous for large spells, he didn’t even stick on the right-wing. Hopefully this was just Sanchez getting back to fitness, otherwise his place that he worked so hard to secure will be under threat.
Lionel Messi 9.0 MOTM
We have all seen Messi play better, but this was a virtuoso performance from the defining player of our generation. He needed two goals to break Cesar’s record, Barcelona needed someone to restore the lead after a spirited comeback; look no further than Lionel Messi. His chip was superb, but is consigned to the history books as "just another Leo Messi goal", while the intelligence of his movement and finishing is getting better each passing week. He says he hasn’t hit his peak yet; Pep says he is the greatest of all-time; I just watch and scratch my head: how does he do it?
Not the best appearance for the Argentine, but he never has been one to make an impact off the bench. His influence on the defense is huge, but when he has to replace Puyol half-way through a game, it is clear who lacks in leadership skills. This isn’t a criticism of Masch per se, more of an acknowledgement towards Puyol’s importance (again).
Andres Iniesta 7.5
Andresito was only on the field for around 20 minutes, but his arrival secured the three points for the Blaugrana. Combining well with Messi, it was Iniesta who set-up Messi’s drive at goal, which in turn led to Tello’s goal. Considering that he got some rest at the start, it was a successful night for Iniesta.
Cristian Tello 7.0
I mentioned that Sanchez is in danger of losing his starting berth in the XI. Cristian Tello is the reason why. He is just so quick, so skilful and most importantly so ruthless in front of goal that his youthful energy could prove vital in the coming weeks as Barcelona look to claw their way back into the title race. His goal was reminiscent of Pedro’s first season with the first team, or even someone like Thierry Henry or David Villa. The future is bright.