Malcom justifies selection, Coutinho still struggling
Malcom was the surprise name on the team-sheet to face Real Madrid, and he looked set for another tough night after wasting an early chance by shooting straight at Keylor Navas when clean through.
The Brazilian has been guilty of wasting similar chances in previous matches but did not let it affect him and went on to have one of his best games in a Barcelona shirt.
Malcom linked well with Semedo down the right, caused all sort of problems, produced some good delivery into the box from free-kicks and also capped it off with a fine strike.
Malcom's game by numbers vs. Real Madrid:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 6, 2019
4 fouls won
3 chances created
A Clásico he'll remember. pic.twitter.com/Id42kHtiRa
His performance thoroughly vindicated Valverde’s decision to throw him in and was in sharp contrast to Philippe Coutinho on the opposite flank.
Once again the former Liverpool man was guilty of giving the ball away in dangerous areas and offered very little going forwards.
Coutinho has shown glimpses of form in recent games but this was a backwards step, and he can expect to return to the bench when Ousmane Dembele is fit and available.
Semedo ends full-back debate
Ernesto Valverde has swapped between Nelson Semedo and Sergi Roberto at right-back all season, but on Wednesday it was the Portuguese star who was given the nod once again.
Semedo put in an eye-catching performance Real Madrid, as he showed once again that he deserves to be the club’s first choice full-back going forwards.
He has his hands full with Vinícius Júnior defensively but linked really well with Malcom and all Barca’s best play came down the right flank.
Semedo also showed some great touches, including sending Sergio Ramos sliding off the pitch with a lovely piece of footwork as he cut the ball back on the byline.
Pique still one of Europe’s best defenders
Gerard Pique attracted plenty of criticism at the start of the season for a series of below-par performance, but he’s found his form in recent weeks and was excellent against Real Madrid.
The centre-back helped Barcelona recover from a rocky start, blocked everything that came his way and produced a dominant display in defence.
| #BarcaMadrid | Pique stats against Madrid:— BarçaTimes (@BarcaTimes) February 6, 2019
2 blocked shots
94.8 % pass accuracy
3 Long balls completed
7 Duels won
1 Fouls won
Absolute rock at the back. pic.twitter.com/8BXOYVSwf0
The defender is hopeful his team can now progress after coming back from a goal down to secure a 1-1 draw.
“It was an important result for us because it ensures we are alive for the second leg,” he said.
“We needed to keep this game open because we will never rule ourselves out and we believe we can always win, or so we hope.”
Source | Marca
Pique doesn’t always get the credit he deserves, but he should get plenty for Wednesday’s showing when he was one of Barca’s best performers.