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Barça Beats Up Málaga: Can Afellay Get In Tata's Regular Rotation & Contribute?

FC Barcelona returned to the Camp Nou and defeated Málaga 3-0 on Sunday night. Goals from Gerard Piqué, Pedro, and Alexis Sanchez help El Blaugrana stay on top of La Liga. In this article, Xoel Càrdenas gives you his take on the win, Best & Worst, and can Ibrahim Afellay contribute to this team.

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso

FC Barcelona returned to the Camp Nou and kept the wins and lead in La Liga going as El Blaugrana beat Málaga 3-0 on Sunday.

Barça had many great opportunities in the first half, but Willy Caballero was a beast in the first half, making great saves. But Gerard Piqué got the scoring started in the 40th minute, as a Piqué was able to control the ball via a corner kick and put it past Willy for the 1-0 lead. Gerard has now scored in two consecutive Liga games. In the second half, Pedro made it 2-0 in the 55th minute thanks to a great run by Dani Alves who then found Lionel Messi who lastly gave it to Pedro who put the ball to the far post and in. Alexis made it 3-0 in the 61st minute as again, Messi set up Pedro, but the Canarian didn't shoot, instead, he found his teammate Alexis who got the third and final goal on the night.

Let's get to the Best, Worst, and What We Learned from the game.

The Best: Jordi Alba, Alexis Sanchez, Lionel Messi, and Willy Caballero

Jordi Alba was fantastic on the night. "The Flying Squirrel", as I call him, was great on the night, and in my opinion, was the man of the match. He made great runs forward all game. Alba made two solid defensive plays that if he did, Málaga could have scored. Alba chased down a Málaga break in the first half, and a save by the Barcelona net in the second half, supporting Victor Valdes. When Jordi Alba is on top of his game: lookout, world! Alexis Sanchez had a nice game as well. The Chilean was making plays all game, and it was nice to see his hard work pay off with his goal in the second half. Although Lionel Messi did not score a goal, he did set up his teammates to get goals. Please, let's not panic and say Messi is in a "crisis." He'll get goals soon enough. In the meantime, he's playmaking. Finally, I must put Willy Caballero in the "Best" category of the game. He had a solid game. Willy is a terrific goalkeeper, and quite frankly, it would be a shame if he doesn't get called up to the Argentine national team for the World Cup.

The Worst Great to see: Ibrahim Afellay's return

It was terrific to see Ibrahim Afellay return to the pitch against Málaga on Sunday. The Dutch international hadn't played for Barcelona since 2012 due to injuries and to being loaned out. Afellay has been working hard to get back to playing, and it's great that all his hard work paid off.

What We Learned Question to ponder: Can Afellay's adjust to and/or get in Tata Martino's rotation and contribute?

With the schedule being so busy in the second half of the season, Barcelona can use Ibrahim Afellay to give some of the regular starters some much-needed rest. But the question that will be asked by many will be can and/or if Ibrahim Afellay can adjust to and/or get in Tata's rotation? One thing we know about Tata is that he gives all of his players a fair chance to contribute to the team. We've seen this with Marc Bartra, Alex Song as well as the youngsters Jean-Marie Dongou and Adama. Now with Afellay, Tata will certain call the Dutchman's name off the bench. Why am I so certain? Because Tata has no choice but to play Afellay. The schedule is too busy to not rotate and give the regular starters some rest. And with the La Liga title race being as tight as it is and will be, Ibrahim will have to play and play well for El Blaugrana. Ibi plays at the wing position regularly, but he can play midfield as well, so Afellay could help give teammates Xavi, Andres Iniesta or Cesc Fabregas some needed rest.

There are rumors that Afellay is wanted by other teams, in particular, Tottenham. But I hope Barça does not loan out Afellay. He is capable of contributing to this team, and could be a nice "fichaje" for the team heading into the latter part of the season.

What's Next?: Wednesday vs. Levante

Barcelona will look to move one step closer to a Copa del Rey title as they will host Levante in the second leg of their semifinal matchup. With a 4-1 lead on aggregate, look for a few changes in the starting XI. Sergi Roberto deserves to start. Tata Martino should consider starting Ibrahim Afellay as well in order to give him some much needed game minutes in those legs. Marc Bartra did not play against Málaga, and will more than likely start against Levante.

Xoel's Final Word

It was a solid FC Barcelona win on Sunday as El Blaugrana took down Málaga with a 3-0 win at the Camp Nou on Sunday night. With the win, Barcelona remains on top of La Liga.

Congrats to Xavi, as he was honored by the Camp Nou faithful as he recently made his 700th appearance for Barça, as well as celebrating his 34th birthday on Saturday. Congrats to Josep Maria Bartomeu, as he sat in the president's chair at the Camp Nou for the first time and saw his team win.

But especially, congrats to Ibrahim Afellay on returning to the pitch. Let's hope you get to play against Levante in Copa action.

Vamos Ibi! Vamos Barça!

Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona

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