Vidal keeps Barca’s title hopes alive
Arturo Vidal’s goal in the eighth minute proved enough for Barcelona to claim all three points at the Jose Zorilla and just about remain in the hunt for the title.
It was another fine strike from the Chile midfielder that gave former Barcelona goalkeeper Jordi Masip absolutely no chance.
Vidal’s goal also keeps up his excellent form in front of goal and means that right now he has the best shot conversion rate in La Liga.
34.8% - Barcelona's Arturo Vidal has the best shot conversion rate in LaLiga this season (20+ shots total). Essential. pic.twitter.com/VZIG3UeADb— OptaJose (@OptaJose) July 11, 2020
Vidal also now has as many goals for Barca this season as Arthur, Ivan Rakitic, Frenkie De Jong and Sergio Busquets put together.
There’s still plenty of rumors about Vidal’s future and it’s not clear if he will remain at the Camp Nou next season. He has said several times he wants to feel important at Barcelona and his goals certainly have been this season.
Messi makes more history
The other bright spot of Saturday’s win was Messi picking up his 20th assist of the season to go with his 22 goals, something no player has ever done before in La Liga.
Indeed hitting 20:20 in goals and assists has only ever been done before by Thierry Henry with Arsenal.
Thierry Henry Lionel Messi— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 11, 2020
❍ 37 games ❍ 31 games
❍ 24 goals ❍ 22 goals
❍ 20 assists ❍ 20 assists
It was a clever little dink from the captain to put Vidal through on goal and means the’s the first Barca player since Xavi to pick up 20 assists in a season.
That’s now eight assists in nine games since La Liga resumed last month, although it’s worth noting he’s only scored three times in that same run.
Barcelona run out of steam again
It’s a cliche but it really was a game of two halves on Saturday. Barca were bright in the first half and were a little unlucky not to go in with a bigger lead.
Yet it was a completely different story after the break as the visitors lost control and once again needed Marc-Andre ter Stegen to make some important saves to seal the win.
Vidal spoke afterwards about the heat affecting the players, while Quique Setien admitted that fatigue had kicked in for some of his men.
“It was not a football problem, We’ve played a lot of games, there’s a lot of fatigue. We’ve got players that have played a lot of minutes. It wasn’t a football issue.”
Barcelona slowing up in the second half is becoming a bit of a theme for Barca. Signs of an ageing squad or a hectic schedule since the restart? Probably a bit of both but Barca do have a bit of time to rest now before Osasuna visit on Thursday.
Sergi Roberto is Mr Versatile
Sergi Roberto was back in the starting XI again for Barcelona and had a pretty eventful match where he demonstrated his versatility once again.
He started off on the right of a three-man central defence and then moved into midfield on the opposite flank and did pretty well in both positions.
The stats show Roberto completed more passes (98) than any other Barca player and also had the most touches.
Setien spoke before the match about how Roberto’s versatility was a big plus, and it looks as though the 28-year-old is becoming an important player for the new manager.
Will Messi get a rest?
Setien chose to rest Luis Suarez for this one, leaving the Uruguayan on the bench, although he was needed at half-time when Antoine Griezmann was taken off.
Setien admitted after the match that he’d asked to be subbed because of a problem, while RAC1 have reported he could miss Barca’s final two games.
The Barca boss also conceded that Messi needs a rest but he couldn’t take him off against Valladolid because “the score was too tight.” Martin Braithwaite was on the bench but stayed there and is struggling for minutes.
Setien now has plenty to think about ahead of Barca’s two games, and if Griezmann is forced onto the sidelines it seems even more unlikely that Messi will get the rest he needs.