Ernesto Valverde has Liverpool on his mind
Ernesto Valverde is getting used to this whole rotation thing. He left Ivan Rakitic out of the squad altogether, while Lionel Messi, Clement Lenglet, Jordi Alba and Arthur were all named on the bench.
Meanwhile, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho were both handed the chance to impress and try to nail down a place in the starting XI for the Champions League semi-final.
Of the two it’s not clear which will have impressed Valverde the most. Dembele still looks a bit rusty, while Coutinho faded after a bright start.
Meanwhile, Barcelona coped pretty well without their main men. Carles Alena finished off a fine move for a great opening goal, before Luis Suarez made it 2-0 from the penalty spot.
Yet with the game pretty much wrapped up Valverde still opted to bring Lionel Messi on for the final 30 minutes and then Jordi Alba and Arthur rather than give them the whole night off.
Valverde explained his decision after the match saying “it’s good for players to stay involved and active” but it still seemed an unnecessary move.
Luis Suarez takes charge in Messi’s absence
Messi’s absence saw Luis Suarez lead the attack alongside Coutinho and Dembele, and the Uruguayan did a fine job as Barcelona ran out comfortable winners.
The Uruguayan played a key role in the first goal, producing a lovely dummy to allow Alena to run on and fire past Fernando Pacheco.
The striker then had to take over spot-kick duties, as Messi wasn’t on the pitch when Barcelona were awarded a penalty for a Tomas Pina handball.
Messi’s penalty record has been frequently scrutinised, and he missed against Real Valladolid in February, but Suarez has had no such problems from the spot recently.
Alena making the most of his chances
First-team chances can be hard to come by at Barcelona, just ask Malcom, but Carles Alena continues to make the most of his opportunities whenever they are offered.
The midfielder was making just his fifth La Liga start of the season against Alaves, but he produced a display that showed just how much he has to offer.
The highlight was undoubtedly his goal which finally broke Alaves’ resistance. The midfielder kept his composure brilliantly to finish a well-worked move clinically.
Yet it wasn’t just his goal that impressed, his positioning, passing and movement also caught the eye and helped Barca dominate the game.
Carles Aleñá vs Alaves— FootballTalentScout (@FtblTalentScout) April 23, 2019
92% pass accuracy
1 key pass
1 dribble won
1 tackle won
1 aerial won
Wonderful player. The future of Barca & Spanish football. pic.twitter.com/MaiEfT5fnc
The arrival of Frenkie de Jong means competition for places in the Barcelona midfield will be particularly fierce next season, but Alena can be confident he has a place in this team.