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Alavés 0-2 Barcelona, La Liga: Match Review

Deportivo Alaves v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Winning ways continued for FC Barcelona as they disposed of Alaves with two goals in the second half to take another step in the right direction to retaining the La Liga crown. The hosts put up a good fight against their Catalan counterparts, but goals from Carles Alena and Luis Suarez were enough to add three more points to their total.

Rotation continued for Barcelona as they were looking to edge closer to making their La Liga title official. Clement Lenglet, Arthur, Jordi Alba and Lionel Messi were all left out of the starting eleven. Even without all their regulars, Barcelona pinned Alaves deep from the opening whistle and just five minutes in, the visitors created a very good opportunity, but first Luis Suarez’s try was saved by the keeper, while Philippe Coutinho’s attempt on the rebound was blocked.

With ten minutes of play in the books, the statisticians clocked Barcelona at 88% possession, a stat that clearly showcased Barcelona’s early dominance, but scoring chances, apart from the aforementioned one, were lacking. Alaves created a half-chance in the 15th minute from a free kick from the sideline, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen calmly collected the cross.

Whenever Alaves regained possession, Barcelona were quick to cause a turnover, and return on the offensive. Despite Barcelona’s dominance on the pitch, scoring chances were few far between. After 23 minutes, Barcelona did create a half chance on the left side, with the ball quickly moving from the right wing, through Suarez in the middle to Sergi Roberto on the left, but the winger-turn-full-back missed high and wide.

Abelardo had his side set up very defensively which limited Barcelona in attack – a problem which was compounded by Ousmane Dembele’s lack of form since his latest injury and Lionel Messi being left on the bench. In the 29th minute, seemingly out of nowhere, Dembele nicely set up Suarez in the rush, but the Uruguayan’s low drive was saved by Fernando Pacheco. From the following corner kick Barcelona threatened again, but Arturo Vidal couldn’t direct Dembele’s cross on goal.

After a Gerard Pique foul on the right side of the defense, Alaves threaten again, but once again ter Stegen wrestled his was to Rodrigo Ely’s shot/pass header into the six-yard box to collect. With the first half running its course, Barcelona’s play dropped significantly and Alaves were showing more life. In the 40th minute Ely escaped his marker once again, winning another header inside the area, but his try went over the crossbar. The final minutes of the half were highly unentertaining, with the only noteworthy occasion coming when Diego Rolán pulled up lame at the very end of the opening 45 minutes.

The second half began with Rolán, expectedly, staying in the locker room. With Barcelona showing little imagination in attack, Messi quickly started to warm up. In the 48th minute the visitors won a free kick in the “Messi-area”, but with Messi on the bench, Suarez stepped up, but hit the wall. In the 50th minute Alaves took their first shot on goal, but ter Stegen was there to make the save on the near post.

Barcelona finally broke the deadlock in the 54th minute. Roberto, who switched sides with Nelson Semedo in the second half, played the crucial ball to Alena who broke through the middle – with a quarter of an assist going to Suarez who brilliantly jumped over the ball to allow the ball to reach Alena. Alena showed excellent composure and calmness to beat Pacheco and put Barcelona in front.

In the 57th minute Barcelona appeared to have added another, but VAR ruled Pique’s/Umtiti’s goal out, instead awarding a penalty kick for a handball by Tomás Pina. Suarez took responsibility, but even though Pacheco got his fingertips on the ball, the goal never seemed in danger and Barcelona doubled their lead. With 30 minutes left to play, Messi joined play to maintain his rhythm as he took Dembele’s spot.

The Argentine didn’t need a lot of time to make his mark and in the 69th minute Messi weaved his way into the danger area and fired on goal, but Pacheco got just enough of it to steer the ball into the post and prevent another goal. Moments later Jordi Alba replaced the largely anonymous Semedo.

With the game all but decided, the tempo dropped significantly, but an errant pass from Arturo Vidal in the 75th minute gifted a chance to the hosts, but Jony just missed ter Stegen’s right post. Seconds later Barcelona went on a counter attack, but Vidal couldn’t bury Suarez’s good cross. In the dying minutes of the match, Arthur also added a few sprints as he replaced Alena. Barcelona were able to showcase a couple excellent moves in attack, but the Catalans wouldn’t add anything to the scoreboard, howeover, they would reduce their magic number to three with the win.

Barcelona could officially celebrate their 26th La Liga title as early as later on Wednesday if Atletico Madrid fail to earn a single point, but even if the Madrid-based club don’t lose against Valencia, a Barcelona win against Levante on Saturday would make it official.

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