A crucial win with Suarez scoring the only goal on the night just edging out Barcelona against City rivals Espanyol who are mathematically relegated to the Segunda Division for the 5th time in their club’s history. With the first half being absolutely crappy to a much improved second half, Setien and the team raise a lot of questions among the fans regarding the team’s performance in upcoming fixtures. But for now, let’s shift to Barca player ratings and review.
Player Ratings with Reviews:
Marc Andre Ter Stegen(7.8/10):
I did have some doubts, but Ter Stegen is definitely the ‘joint man of the match’ tonight. The German yet again had a clean sheet to his name after such solid saves while keeping calm during crucial moments. Espanyol on the counter used all the spaces left in behind by Barcelona fullbacks, and with Centre-backs playing high, Ter Stegen was easily found in 1v1 situations. But he made some emphatic saves to keep the game alive and not drawing blood.
The Portuguese isn’t going out of luck it seems. He yet again started despite having horrendous performances, but this time he was taken out during the half-time break. Nelson as always failed to provide any width or runs in behind Espanyol defence thus halting any type of progression from the right side. He did combine well in some quick short passes, but that doesn’t add to his any positive.
When I said ‘joint man of the match,’ the obvious sign was Pique being level with MATS tonight with his spirited performance. Just like he swiftly rode a bicycle to the Camp Nou,
this evening, the Spaniard was absolutely vigilant with his play. He made seven clearance, one blocked shot, one interception tonight. Especially when he won that aerial duel against Campuzano when I thought the striker would score the header. It doesn’t surprise me that Pique just loves silencing Espanyol like he did tonight.
Despite a sluggish first half, Lenglet covered it all up in the second half of the play. In the first half, he seemed to be lost with not tracking back quickly during the transition to not focusing on positional awareness, but the second half was a game-changer for him. Truly a silent warrior for the team. What amuses me is his passing ability in the second phase of buildup. He loves to give a long vertical pass. The Frenchman ain’t losing his place to anyone.
It seems as if the opposition knows how to stop Alba. For the majority of the game, Alba was not allowed any space to penetrate into the channel. This majorly is due to the fact that Barcelona congests the central portion and relies too much on Alba’s run or creativity. This is exactly what happened tonight, Espanyol overloaded the left space whenever Barcelona shifted their game to the left, this way Alba was often caught in 2v1 situations.
It was an all-rounder performance from Sergi. Roberto’s natural game of running into depth and holding onto the ball was visible when he was shifted to right-back In the second half. When playing as the interior on the left, he was trying his best to dribble and attract Espanyol players to free Alba. What amused me was his excellent way of holding the width on the right to let Messi or Griezmann move inward to reach the 18-yard box. This was hugely beneficial when both the team were one man down each, and Espanyol shifted to 4 back.
The Maestro was positionally brilliant tonight by not moving out of his position off the ball and doing some dirty work to prevent any quick counters. He protected the huge Barcelona space at the back, which allowed the centre-backs to stay near or on the half-line for much time. Though the negative is his passing range. His biggest strength is becoming negative. Busquets seems to have lost the passing spark which he once ruled the whole game with. So many times during the game, he could have broken the line with his pass but was instead opting for lateral or safer options. This is where the Bosnian Pjanic can help Barcelona.
Rakitic has certainly improved a lot of his game. Like, he is now scanning more and then making good passes, holding onto his place well, better circulation, and much more. Tonight he was decent with his game, but he is actually proving his worth in the team. Slowly and slowly, he is becoming an essential player in the eleven, something he wasn’t able to do previously.
Certainly not the Leo Messi night. He was clearly struggling to break the five men defence and lost possession numerous times. It was evident that he wasn’t able to out-past physically or more men were in front of him, which he easily did when he was young. He did have one freekick, which just went over the bar. The magician still has three games at the helm to equal Xavi’s 20 assists in a season with the Argentine with just one assist away to equal the record.
Don’t let the goal deceive you into thinking that he performed well. Suarez gives every reason to think that he should be benched but just one goal he scores, and it guarantees him a start in at least 2-3 matches.
“We knew how difficult this game would be because of Espanyol’s situation and we were tired from Sunday’s game and we played with less intensity. But the important thing is that we won the game and picked up more points.”
Griezmann was very impressive tonight as he was dropping perfectly, making space for Messi to play between the lines. He tried to dribble but was getting dispossessed. Substituting him off was another poor decision from Setien as he was actually founding himself linking with Messi and Suarez with the quick interplay of passes.
Got a straight red just minutes into coming on the pitch.
It didn’t make sense why he was brought into the game. Ignoring that, the Chilean didn’t provide much of an impact on the pitch.
Barely played for 12 minutes
Mere 3 minutes
Manager Ratings with review(6.6/10):
I am not at all blaming Setien for the structure or the buildup, but he is to be blamed for substitutions. Bringing down Semedo for Ansu was the right call, but not bringing Puig into the game when the team actually needed his pace and energy to break the low block is the biggest mistake he made. This brings to the point of bringing in Vidal. Vidal does provide clutch goals, but without Puig on the ball, he doesn’t offer much nor off the ball for pressing. Braithwaite provides goals, but what’s the point of bringing him so late into the game? Setien did exactly the opposite of what he did against Villareal. There needs to be some explanation.
“We did not play well today. Their defensive shape made life very difficult for us as they were very tight and compact and we weren’t precise enough to find a way around it.”
– Quique Setien
This is a classic situation where from board to players to the manager, everyone is to be blamed(majorly the board). It was a win but not the performance against Espanyol, who doesn’t have Barcelona level quality but still gives a fight. This proves one thing that the team cant thrive against low blocks, and Napoli is the masters of it under Rino Gattuso. This tactic has won them Copa Italia against Juventus, and their win trajectory screams one thing that they at this point have a better chance of winning the tie in the second leg. As for the league, it all depends on Madrid. Do let us know in the comments on how you would rate Barca players differently and what the team should do to improve.
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