Perhaps the game-changer in Barcelona's 2-0 win over Valencia, Ivan Rakitic was fundamental to yesterday's hard-fought victory. Brought in at halftime by coach Luis Enrique to substitute Adriano, the Croatian provided exactly what lacked in the first half: midfield play.
Rakitic controlled the game almost by himself, calming the team down and keeping the possession in Barça's side. That, combined with his never-stopping-in-any-circumstance demeanor, ignited the Blaugrana, that collectively played a dominant second half. Not so much in chances created, but as the clear best team on the field. All that because of the Best Hair On Earth.
More important than ever to Barça's scheme, Rakitic was humble as always, never taking the credit for changing the game. Talking to Barça TV after the match, he pointed out the importance of the first-minute goal by Luis Suárez, congratulated the team on the victory and maintained his eye on the big picture, his goals for the end of the season.
"We are very happy about the big win and the game, but we still have six games and we have to work a lot. It isn't easy to beat Valencia. It was very important to score first because it helped us calm down.
"[Valencia] are a team that has gotten stronger throughout this season and have a very detail-oriented coach. We dominated more in the second half and deserved the victory.
"We are where we wanted to be — leading the league with a good advantage in the Champions League quarter-finals and already in the Spanish Cup final."
Rakitic also said he's extremely happy with Barcelona and wants to end his first season on a high note. We all do, Ivan. We love you.