Marc-Andre ter Stegen
Arguably the young German’s best game since joining Barcelona. Ter Stegen was tested early and often, being called into action an incredible 14 times, making 12 saves, the most in his Barcelona career. Among those 12 were beauties against Luka Modrić, Toni Kroos and Marco Asensio, but the best of all came on a close range Karim Benzema shot. He could do little on either of the goals he conceded, but he could’ve reacted better to the initial cross that led to Casemiro’s goal.
Roberto would’ve hardly garnered many positive votes for his performance had it not been for his last minute run that led to Messi’s winning goal. Oftentimes Roberto looked uncomfortable defensively, at times leaving Rakitić alone to deal with threats down the flank. But most of his mistakes were forgiven when he powered from deep through the middle to add to the legend that is Sergi Roberto.
Not one of Pique’s best games as he, as well as most of the Barcelona defenders, struggled to contain Real Madrid in attack. While many find it difficult to prevent Real from scoring, Barcelona and Pique should’ve done better as it was much too easy for the hosts to get to ter Stegen. The end of the match could’ve been much calmer had the center-back managed to find the back of the net from a golden scoring chance moments before James equalized the game at two.
Like Pique, Umtiti also didn’t have his best game, often having problems dealing with the movement of Cristiano Ronaldo and Benzema. Still, he made a number of important clearances as he regained composure after a rocky start to the game in which he could’ve given up a penalty kick for a trip on Ronaldo.
A quiet night for Alba, who has been seeing more of the pitch in recent games, and he proved his worth in the dying moments of the game with the assist on Messi’s winning goal. Apart from that, Alba’s attacking contributions weren’t aplenty as he didn’t make many runs forward, maybe because of his defensive responsibilities which he mostly handled with flying colors.
Busquets always seems to have his best games when he hardly gets noticed throughout the 90 minutes. It was a similar story in the El Clasico as he went calmly about the business of starting almost every Barcelona attack and was responsible defensively. However, he did not play a completely mistake-free game as he let James past him into open space for Real Madrid’s second of the game.
Rakitić scored a beauty of a goal in the second half, but despite the left-footed strike, his performance left much to be desired. The Croat was tasked with many defensive duties, most of which he dealt with admirably, but he looked lethargic in his attempt to close down Marcelo on the play that led to James’ equalizer. Wasn’t very active in attack, but still played an important part in play-build up on numerous attacks.
Not a classic Iniesta performance by any means, but he was given a lot of freedom on the pitch and he took advantage of that, doing a good job dictating play and distributing the ball. On a day with an in-form Luis Suarez and with better movement from Paco Alcacer, Iniesta’s contributions could’ve been highlighted more, but Iniesta will “settle” for a Clasico win over a good statistical night.
Paco has had good games on the left wing before, but this was not one of them. With Alba rarely offering support, the Spanish forward was often left on an island on his own, leading to numerous turnovers and few positives. The fact that he missed a fantastic opportunity early in the second half didn’t make his night any better. Paco was removed from the game midway through the second half.
Arguably the worst performer on the pitch for Barcelona as Suarez extended his goal-less run to five games. Due to Messi’s heroics it didn’t hurt Barcelona, but it is high time the Uruguayan starts scoring again. His poor run didn’t continue because of a lack of good looks on goal, but because he again missed a handful of great opportunities. Suarez’s movement and link-up with teammates also weren’t anything to write home about.
Man of the match and the greatest player of all time. Messi took Barcelona on his shoulders and reopened the La Liga title race with a pair of beautiful goals, including a last-second winner. Messi’s movement, dribbling and play creation was second to none. It wasn’t all rosy for Messi though as he was savagely elbowed early in the game which left him bloodied and playing with a gauze the entire first half, accomplishing a rare feat of scoring while holding a gauze. Messi was the difference maker and was not going to be denied.
Didn’t look completely out of place on the left wing, but didn’t make much of an impact either in 20 minutes on the pitch. But in the 21st minute Gomes made an important pass to spring Alba in the build-up to Messi’s winner.
Made the right choices regarding the starting XI, but it’s not like he had many options available to him. Made very little changes during the match, a fact the could’ve cost Barcelona dearly after not going for the jugular after Sergio Ramos’ dismissal and playing very carelessly in the later stages of the game which led to the equalizer.