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Barcelona 1-2 Valencia, 2016 La Liga: 3 Things We Learned

David Ramos/Getty Images

Barcelona have lost three straight La Liga matches after a painful 2-1 defeat at the hands of Valencia on Sunday at Camp Nou. Here is a few takeaways from what we saw in the Catalan capital.

1. Forget the context, Barça played very well

Let's get this out of the way: this was a very good performance. There were those who played badly (we'll get to that), but the overall team game was way better than what we saw in the last two weeks. The smart use of possession, the incisive off-ball movements and the chance creation were all there, and it didn't look like the 'MSN' trio was in charge of everything, instead they benefited from a good game from the guys around them. If it wasn't for Diego Alves and bad luck, this would have been an easy, comfortable 3-0 or 4-1 victory with very little trouble.

Neymar, Sergi Roberto, Ivan Rakitic and Jordi Alba stood out as the ones who weren't as good as the rest, but everybody else compensated by having a strong game. But because of the poor form and the unbelievable night from the keeper, that strong game didn't translate into a victory. Had this loss happened back in January when everything was perfect, we wouldn't worry as much and would just say "eh, that's football sometimes". But now that things aren't working, it seemed like a terrible performance. No, it was not. It was very good.

2. Javier Mascherano is a monster

This may sound crazy if you aren't watching Barça play lately, but the center-back pairing has absolutely no fault in the team's defensive problems. Especially Mascherano has been maybe the best player on the team in the month of April, even with four losses in five games. He just will not make any mistakes and will get every tackle, every challenge, everything right. His awareness and positioning are absolutely incredible, and his speed and ability to cover space are the reason why Barça has conceded only seven goals in the four recent losses instead of 13 or 14.

And remember, he is the defender with the most minutes AND most distance covered this season. And he is close to 32 years of age. Yup.

3. Jordi Alba cannot be a starter anymore

From the moment he took over from Eric Abidal up until last season, there was no left-back outside of David Alaba who could compare to Alba. He was a machine, on offense AND defense, who stood out for his speed and ability to overlap going forward, and awareness to cover spaces and make last-second tackles going back.

But now, Alba just runs. That's all he does. Run (no, there isn't a Forrest Gump joke coming). On offense, he will run like crazy to overlap, then receive the ball and play a short grounded cross that's easily cleared. On defense, he is so obsessed with "I'M REALLY GOOD AT RUNNING, YOU CAN'T BEAT MY PACE!!!!!" that his opponent with the ball just dribbles to the other side and beats him without having to run. It's bad to watch.

And this has been Jordi for all this season. He wasn't at his best, not even during the streak. He had a few games here and there where we would see the old Alba, but for the most part he just runs with no purpose and that hurts the team.

Since Barça has apparently forgotten to sign a true backup left-back and we're stuck with Adriano for another season, Alba will stay untouched as the starter. And that is not good. Unless this is just a bad season and he returns to his best in the next campaign, Jordi will continue to hurt his team.

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