Lack of Alba back-up is a problem
Ernesto Valverde opted to give Jordi Alba a rest for this one which only served to highlight how Barcelona really lack an able deputy at left-back.
Sergi Roberto filled in during the first half against Valencia and looked uncomfortable throughout. He moved back to right-back at half-time with Alba coming on for Nelson Semedo.
Of course it’s not too much of a problem with Jordi Alba having been in brilliant form, but he can’t play every match and when he doesn’t Barca have a bit of a problem.
Barcelona B’s Juan Miranda has been used this season but in his four appearances so far it has looked as if he’s not quite ready for the first team.
And Barcelona will have to cope without Alba again next Sunday at San Mames after he picked up his fifth booking of the season late on.
It remains to be seen who Valverde will go for against Athletic Bilbao. Miranda, Roberto, Semedo and Thomas Vermaelen could all feature but the team really lack a natural replacement.
Barca shouldn’t risk Messi against Real Madrid
The Camp Nou went incredibly quiet in the second half when Messi went over to the touchline and had some treatment on his thigh.
The Barcelona captain was able to continue but the concern was palpable, and Ernesto Valverde admitted after the match he has a slight issue.
It remains to be seen how serious the problem is, but what is certain is that if there’s any risk at all Barcelona should not play Messi against Real Madrid.
Barcelona can’t run the risk of Messi exacerbating the problem with the Champions League set to resume this month, he’s simply too important.
Messi’s two goals against Valencia showed again how utterly crucial he is, he now has 21 in La Liga and 29 for the season.
Barca have already shown this season they can beat Real Madrid without Messi, but they won’t win the Champions League without him.
Copa del Rey may affect title race
Ernesto Valverde was already without Sergio Busquets for this one due to suspension but opted to rotate with one eye on Wednesday’s Copa del Rey Clasico against Real Madrid.
Jordi Alba, Arthur and Clement Lenglet all dropped to the bench, and Barca’s much-changed defence conceded twice and were also saved by the woodwork once.
The two matches against Real Madrid are likely to have an impact on the title race as they come in a packed schedule.
Barça's February fixtures:— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelonaHQ) February 1, 2019
• Valencia (H)
• Real Madrid (H)
• Bilbao (A)
• Valladolid (H)
• Lyon (A)
• Sevilla (A)
• Real Madrid (A)
• Real Madrid (A) (3rd March)
That certainly does not look easy.
Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid no longer have to worry about the Copa del Rey after being knocked out in the quarter-finals by Girona.
Victory over Real Betis on Sunday will see Diego Simeone’s side close to within three points of Barcelona, and breathe new life into the title race.
Atletico will face Juventus in the Champions League, and defeat at the hands of the Serie A champions would leave the Rojiblancos with just the league to focus on.
The games are coming thick and fast over the next weeks and could have a big impact on where the title finishes up at the end of the season.