Barcelona have won three games in a row in La Liga and will be just one point behind leaders Real Madrid for a few hours thanks to a hard-fought 1-0 win away to Real Valladolid on Saturday. The Blaugrana changed formations again and played very well in the first half, but disappeared in the second and had a few scares at the end. But a win is a win, and the title race isn’t officially over yet.
Quique Setién made a formation change for this game, reverting back to his favorite 3-5-2 system looking for loads of possession and attacking runs from midfield, and that’s exactly what Barça did: the Blaugrana dominated the entire first period and were always dangerous on the right side with Nélson Semedo and Arturo Vidal making run after run to create problems.
Barça scored quickly, with Vidal finishing a great move down the right and Messi’s 20th assist of the season. The visitors kept attacking and created two great chances: first Semedo found himself in front of the keeper but couldn’t beat him with a poor shot, and Antoine Griezmann somehow missed a golden chance, all alone in front of goal, completely missing the ball with his right foot.
At halftime, Barça were dominating and playing well, but they wasted big chances that could have proven costly.
This has been a tough schedule since the restart and the team hasn’t been rotated much, and it was clear to see how tired the players were in the second half. They were misplacing easy passes, not pressing as hard and losing easy balls in midfield that led to some dangerous counter attacks for Valladolid.
The final few minutes were extremely nervous as the home team pushed for an equalizer and Barça couldn’t produce a decisive second goal. Former Blaugrana Sandro Ramírez came on as a sub hungry to score, and Ter Stegen was called into action a few times in stoppage time.
But Valladolid couldn’t find the equalizer, and the final whistle came to give Barça three big points and put pressure on Real Madrid who play Monday. The problem is the performance: it was very good for 45 minutes and very bad for the other 45, and you can’t beat Bayern Munich with half of a good game. You need to be like cold pizza: consistently great.
Valladolid: Masip; Moyano, Olivas, Sánchez, Carnero; San Emeterio, Fernández (Hervías 46’), Alcaraz (Ünal 46’); Kike; Guardiola (Sandro 61’), Plano (Waldo 80’)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Piqué, Lenglet (Araujo 57’); Busquets (Firpo 74’); Semedo, Vidal, Puig (Rakitic 57’), Alba; Messi, Griezmann (Suárez 46’)
Goals: Vidal (15’)