Alba really flourishing without Neymar
Jordi Alba put in another brilliant display on Thursday, setting up two for Lionel Messi and then adding the third for Barcelona.
A feature of Barcelona’s season has been the link-up play between Alba and Messi and it was on show yet again at Camp Nou.
7 - Jordi Alba has assisted Lionel Messi for seven goals this season in all competitions, more than any other Barcelona player. Magnet. pic.twitter.com/hwg3NHUtcv— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 11, 2018
The loss of Neymar undoubtedly hurt Barcelona, but one perhaps unexpected positive from the Brazilian’s exit has been the freedom it has given Alba, and which he is making the most of.
So where does Coutinho fit into this team?
New signing Philippe Coutinho was not involved as he will not be fit for another few weeks but he could be forgiven for wondering where he will play in this team.
A lot of talk has centred on whether Barca will return to 4-3-3 with Coutinho taking Neymar’s old position at the left-wing.
However, if Valverde does opt for that it may curtail Alba which is surely something he won’t want to do.
Barca’s best performance of the season?
After much criticism about being boring Barcelona have been excellent in recent weeks and this display may just be the best of the lot.
Of course the 3-0 win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu will take some beating, as will the win over Juventus in the Champions League, but Barca were special on Thursday.
Celta have already proved they are no pushovers but this was a night where Messi was unplayable and every single member of the team put in a fine shift.
Valverde gets his team selection right again
Valverde opted to take no risks with his line-up as he chose a very strong team, despite it ‘only’ being the Copa del Rey and with a tricky trip to Real Sociedad up next.
In came Messi and Suarez, Jose Arnaiz was benched, and Valverde was rewarded with Barca 4-0 up after 31 minutes and the tie won.
That also allowed the Barca coach to rest players in the second half with Pique, Messi and Iniesta all going off and they will hopefully be all the fresher for it.
Andre Gomes playing his way into contention?
Valverde also handed Andre Gomes another start and saw the Portugal international put in another decent showing.
Speculation still surrounds the midfielder, but it appears that Valverde is willing to give Gomes more time to prove himself.
“Gomes? There’s always a shadow of doubt about him, but it’s like the Vermaelen situation,” he said after the game.
“When he plays, he does so wonderfully. Andre knows how to play, he’s strong and he links up with his teammates.”
Barca want to trim the squad and several players could leave in January, but it would be a surprise now if Gomes was one of them.