Barcelona could not extend their lead at the top of the La Liga table and wasted the chance to end the title race thanks to a bad 2-1 loss to Rayo Vallecano in Madrid on Wednesday night. Barça were never in the game and deservedly lost to an excellent Rayo side, and the only good news for the night are that the Blaugrana remain 11 points clear with seven games to go.
Here are the winners and losers from Wednesday’s action.
Note: Applying the labels “winners” and “losers” is not intended to be a judgment on the talent or character of any of these players. It’s just a simple way to grade their performance in a single game. No disrespect is intended.
Rayo Vallecano left-back Fran García: Because the entire Barça team was terrible on the night, the only winner is a player from the opposition. Fran García has been one of Rayo’s best players all season and is only 23 years old, and his stock was raised tremendously with this performance. He was dominant defensively, completely shutting down Raphinha with tight, physical defense and used his pace and strength to always be an option going forward, and it was his desire and intensity that led to him winning the ball from Frenkie De Jong and scoring the game-winning goal on the night. A fantastic performance from a very underrated player, who might have caught the eye of some big teams as we enter transfer season.
Raphinha: As a fellow Brazilian who loved watching him at Bordeaux and especially Leeds United, I had big hopes for Raphinha and had been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in his first season playing for the club of his dreams. But the season is very close to its completion and there is just no path for Raphinha to become a truly reliable option for his team.
Xavi Hernández’s tactics don’t exactly help a Barcelona wing player who is entirely responsible for dribbling past multiple defenders with little to no help for 90 minutes, but Raphinha doesn’t help his own cause with zero effectiveness with his dribbles and one bad decision after another when it comes to end product. Compare that to Ousmane Dembélé, who under Xavi has consistently won his matchups and been a real threat for the majority of the time, and it’s clear that Raphinha isn’t in the same class as his teammate.
The excellent performance against Atlético Madrid was one of the very few good games he’s had for Barça, and the bad nights are way more constant than even the solid ones. Big investment was made and Raphinha has simply not lived up to it. He still has a market in England, and I honestly would not be opposed at all to him being sold after one season.
Gavi: This was one of those nights when Gavi truly looks like a kid, making way too many bad decisions and being way too physical and almost baiting the referee into sending him off with unnecessary hard fouls and tackles. He was nearly invisible in attack along with all of his other teammates, but his outbursts really shine brightly when he can’t play well to balance out the craziness. I’m still a huge fan and think he’ll eventually figure everything out, but this was a bad night.
Honorable “loser” mentions: Xavi, Jules Kounde, Ferran Torres.