Once again, Victor Valdés had a quiet game in goal for the Blaugrana, with Granada barely venturing out of their half, let alone registering many shots on goal. However, when called upon Valdés was excellent, and his one-on-one save against Youssef El-Arabi was absolutely vital. Forget Barcelona’s troubles in front of goal, they owe the three points to Valdés as much as they do to Xavi.
Note: Valdés’ rating for the match against Spartak Moscow was 5.3
Dani Alves played well on Saturday night, recovering from a shaky start to really influence the match from the right-hand side. In the absence of a true right-winger (someone like Isaac Cuenca or Pedro), Alves surged up and down the right-flank, supplying a few good crosses including an early pass to Lionel Messi, although he was off-target with a number of attempts.
Note: Dani Alves’ rating for the Spartak Moscow match was 4.7
First off, let me say that Alex Song played well. He played very well in fact, but let’s not carried away here. On Saturday, he faced off against Granada’s attack – an attack that has only scored twice in five league matches. Granted, a clean sheet is a clean sheet and Song played an instrumental part in that, but let’s be honest here: what did Song actually have to do? Granada put eleven men behind the ball and hoped for the best, committing very few players to attack. As a result, attackers such as Antonio Floro Flores found themselves isolated against the summer signing, and as one might expect from a £15 million player, he stopped the majority of attacks. Yes, that takes skill, but how difficult was his night compared to that of Lionel Messi (who came in for heavy criticism from some fans) who had to contend with a wall of Granada defenders? A promising performance nonetheless.
A solid performance from El Jefecito, who demonstrated good leadership skills in the absence of Gerard Piqué and Carles Puyol. Mascherano dropped a little deeper to compensate for Alex Song’s lack of experience at the back which limited his game a little – Mascherano played very few diagonal passes on Saturday for example – but if anything, it made him better defensively.
Note: Mascherano's rating for the match against Spartak Moscow was 6.1
Shots/Shots on Target0/0
Adriano had scored in his last two La Liga appearances, although that run came to an abrupt (and expected end) on Saturday. With David Villa occupying the left-wing berth for the first half, Adriano was the one responsible for providing the width down the left-hand side and in general, he did a good job. However, thanks to a lack of supply (Barcelona neglected their left-hand side until Cristian Tello and Pedro were introduced to the fray), he couldn’t influence the game as much as he may have wished to.
Note: Adriano’s rating for the match against Spartak Moscow was 6.1
Sergio Busquets did well on Saturday, dropping deep when necessary to cover for Alex Song and making a number of crucial interventions to stop any potential Granada attacks. His passing accuracy was an improvement on previous matches, although we have come to expect as much from Busi.
Note: Busquets’ rating for the match against Spartak was 6.8
Shots/Shots on Target2/2
Clearly the community is still feeling a little unkind towards Cesc Fàbregas, I certainly disagree with the low rating handed to him. Cesc wasn’t at his best, but on another night and against another keeper, he could have had a brace. Maybe he should have done better with his first chance, firing straight at Tono, but he did all he could with the second and it took a world-class save to deny him a goal.
Note: Cesc’s rating for the Spartak match was 6.8
Shots/Shots on Target2/0
After last week’s spectacular return, Thiago came back down to earth with a quiet performance on Saturday. I remember him drastically misplacing a couple of passes, but as the stats show, Thiago was accurate with the ball for the most part. Starved of space by the Granada defense, Thiago also operated slightly further back without Xavi on the field which undoubtedly affected his game.
Shots/Shots on Target3/2
Alexis was a surprise inclusion in Wednesday’s teamsheet, but the Chilean went on to change the game in that instance. Personally, I think he played well on Saturday as well, setting up Xavi for the opener but he only started to come into his own when the Blaugrana switched to a four-man attack. Obviously, that needs to change, but it’s a good starting point for Sanchez.
Note: Sanchez' rating against Spartak was 7.3
Shots/Shots on Target7/3
Lionel Messi is an excellent player. He scores a lot of goals, and even when he doesn’t score, he’s still a good player. There, I said it; let’s get on with his performance against Granada. Messi was good – by no means excellent – but let’s take into consideration how difficult it must be to break down such a disciplined defense. Sure, he makes it look easy some weeks, but how exactly do you get past five or six players with enough regularity to test a keeper and score goals? Well, Messi knows the answer and got a few shots off at goal, but this weekend, he couldn’t score. I guess that’s just how it goes sometimes.
Note: Messi’s rating for the Spartak match was 8.7
Shots/Shots on Target2/1
Poor David Villa. He’s only been back for a few weeks; this was his first start since 2011, he barely touched the ball and still got shouted at by Lionel Messi. Well, we already know it was meaningless, but also take into consideration that shouting is the only way to communicate when you play in front of 65,000 fans. Regardless, I was a little disappointed by Villa, purely because he didn’t go looking for the ball very often.
Note: Villa’s rating for the Spartak match was 6.7
Pedro was brought on with 37 minutes left and I think he changed the game. Perhaps not through goals, or assists but he did create space which aided the attack. Pedro also occupied the Granada defense with intelligent runs, and was accurate with his passes.
Note: Pedro’s rating for the Spartak match was 6.7
Shots/Shots on Target2/2
What would we do without Xavi? The Spaniard started on the bench, replacing Thiago with 36 minutes remaining and he completely dominated the match. His passing was excellent, his movement was superb and what about that goal? An absolutely fabulous strike from a fantastic player.
Note: Xavi’s rating for the Spartak match was 7.9
Tello came on with under 20 minutes left and he didn't really have much of the ball, but did worry the Granada defense.
Shots/Shots on Target20/11
Aerial Battles Won70%
They got the three points, which is all that matters at the end of the day. On another day, they could have scored more, but thanks to Tono and some miraculous blocking they had to settle for the two goals.
Tito made the right changes at the right time, bringing on Xavi and Pedro to change the game. Starting Song was another good decision.
|MOTM - Tono
Common sense prevailed! Tono was the most influential player on the field in Saturday's match and without him, Granada would have been staring at a Manita. Xavi came close with 38%, but Tono is a deserved winner.