opinions | 2017-02-05
Player Ratings - La Liga Round 21 - Barcelona 3:0 Athletic Bilbao
Neymar stars as Barça beats Athletic Bilbao in an eventful evening at the Camp Nou
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (7): Great, just like he was in Seville last week. He was on the ball a lot shown by the fact he attempted 49 passes, normally he barely makes 30 passes per game. He misplaced quite a few to the right side of the pitch, expectedly so as we lack height on that side. Regardless of this, his passing got us out of trouble quite a few times. Early on he made a great save to tip the ball onto the post which probably would’ve changed the whole game. He was called into action a fair amount but honestly they weren’t big chances unlike what happened against Betis last week. Stood up to everything Athletic threw at him and he was rewarded with a clean sheet.
Aleix Vidal (7.5): One of the best on the pitch. Got involved from the start, great through ball for Paco who passed it to Neymar, but the Brazilian wasted Barça’s first real chance of the game. Soon after that, he started a move for Barça’s 1st goal of the game with another fantastic pass, this time to Neymar who assisted Paco for 1-0. Misplaced some easy passes but he took risks and combined well with his teammates. Defensively, he didn’t have too much to do but he did well to stop Muniain who was quiet on that side for the most part in the final third of the pitch. However, Iñaki caused some problems but luckily it didn’t cost us. Later on in the 2nd half, he took up a more advanced position going forward when Messi was subbed off, and he scored his well deserved goal after a brilliant solo move. Had another great chance soon after that but his shot went straight at the keeper. Let’s hope he can continue playing on this level.
Gerard Piqué (6): Not the greatest of performances for Barça’s best defender. He didn’t look comfortable from the start, and Iñaki took advantage of this a few times. However, Athletic were wasteful in front of the goal, thankfully. Passed the ball well for the most part, but lost the ball once in a dangerous position on the edge of the box and had to foul to stop the danger, received the yellow card. He was lucky not to get sent off there in all honesty. Even though he only played for 45 minutes and it wasn’t the best performance for him, he managed to complete 5 clearances as Athletic were very dangerous in the 1st half. Subbed off due to precaution, fingers crossed it’s nothing serious and he’ll be back with the team soon.
Samuel Umtiti (6): Had a quiet game for the most part today. Only misplaced three passes which is usually lower than what the norm is. He did play less risky passes compared to other games. Won all his defensive actions, most of them were clearances however. At times he has been prone to overplaying rather than clearing the ball. He did it again but luckily we weren’t punished for it. He is young and will get better but this is a flaw in his game he needs to fix as soon as possible. Let’s hope he picks up again, one off game is fine especially since he’s been really good all season.
Jeremy Mathieu (6.5): Decent at times, especially going forward, but in our defensive third especially with the ball he’s been shaky. Stats say otherwise but he didn’t look comfortable when Athletic pressed. Loose passes here and there but wasn’t anything too damaging. Defended well for the most part but Leuke gave him some trouble in the first half since he isn’t too comfortable at LB. After the break he settled and looked pretty good it must be said. He only lost one of his nine defensive contributions which was great since it wasn’t the most comfortable game for us. Happy with him as of late, let's hope he carries this form on.
André Gomes (6): Played in a CDM position in Busquets’ absence. Started quite well early on and passed the ball with ease. However, defensively he could’ve done better in a couple of instances. On a chance when Athletic hit the post, he could’ve done better to prevent that shot. Completed 92% of his passes today which is a great stat. I feel he would’ve done even better on the ball if Iniesta had played, as the midfield 3 that played today didn’t play together much before and Barça struggled to gain control in midfield. He got dispossessed a few times under pressure but this was all expected as CDM isn’t his natural position. Nonetheless, he completed a few important tackles and interceptions defensively. So far, he has shown the most in CDM position, which is strange because he wasn’t signed to play there.
Rafinha (6): Started in midfield and wasn’t involved much in the buildup, attempted just 13 passes today in 54 minutes he spent on the pitch. However, he found himself in right positions and looked dangerous when he was on the ball. With Messi moving centrally, he often drifted wide. At times I felt like he was holding the ball for too long but didn’t have many options. Worked well without the ball. Early on in the 2nd half, he had a great chance to make it 3-0 after Arda’s cross but his header went wide from close range, perhaps should’ve done better on that occasion. Picked up a nasty injury when he went to defend one of the crosses. Raul Garcia pushed him right into ter Stegen who came flying by and hit the Brazilian in the head with his knee. Had to be subbed off right after that. Really unlucky with injuries as he just came back from one and now got injured again. Here’s hoping we’ll see him back soon.
Arda Turan (6.5): The Turk put in a wonderful defensive shift. It will go unnoticed for sure. For parts of the game he didn’t see the ball too much but still managed to create 5 chances which even surprised me. Won all his tackles and aerial duels which is not the norm since he seemed to be rather lazy when it comes to tracking back and getting “stuck in”. In customary Arda fashion, he managed to cause two fouls. No idea why he always does it luckily it wasn’t costly which has happened before. His work went under the radar. He wasn’t amazing but he didn’t put a foot wrong in this game. I’m still no fan of him in midfield but it is good to see him do well.
Lionel Messi (7): The best player in the world had a solid performance, not one of his best games but he again dropped deep and started the moves quite often. Created a good chance for Neymar but the Brazilian couldn’t finish. He again played more centrally which was needed in Iniesta’s absence and the lack of creativity in midfield. His defensive work was solid at times which was nice to see, just like in the Copa del Rey match midweek. Scored a great free kick from an angle that looked almost impossible to make it 2-0. The goalkeeper should’ve done better but it was a great effort. His 4th free-kick goal in the space of a month. That was also his only shot on target in this game. Subbed off after 64 minutes, which was weird to see as he rarely gets subbed off without getting injured but he deserves rest after a great start to 2017.
Paco Alcácer (7): Started instead of Suárez today which was a surprise for many, but he didn’t disappoint. Great from the start, good movement into space and his pass found Neymar who had a clear chance, but couldn’t finish it off. Soon after that, Neymar returned the favor and assisted the Spaniard whose movement inside the box and a finish were clinical to make it 1-0 to Barça. That was his first league goal for Barça in his 10th game. That was also his only shot on target in this match, as he didn’t find himself in many opportunities to score but he did well to combine with his teammates and didn’t look as isolated up front as he did in most of the games he took part earlier this season. It looks like he’s growing in confidence which is a great sign.
Neymar (8.5): Wonderful performance. His dribbling was great, though he managed to complete eight out of thirteen, they were very direct and caused Athletic plenty of problems. However, his finishing was dreadful, he could’ve easily scored two goals but it wasn’t to be. Though his finishing is not too good right now, the rest of his game has been very good. Decision making has been a lot better than what it was last year. Not pondering on the ball for too long these days. The assist for Paco’s first goal was great, his quick burst of pace left De Marcos for dead even though he isn’t slow himself. De Marcos had problems with him all game. Needs to not complicate it when he has the ball. Once again, he was superb defensively. The most improved part of his game over the past year. He is also efficient in his tackling too, winning all his duels. Athletic couldn’t deal with him. Sadly he won’t play against Atleti but it is a deserved rest for the Brazilian. We’ve got plenty of difficult games coming up.
Javier Mascherano (6.5): Replaced Piqué who was subbed off due to precaution at the start of the 2nd half. Usually plays in LCB position but in this match he played on the right side of the defense. This however didn’t affect him at all and he was solid throughout the 2nd half. It has to be said that the game was basically done at that point, especially after Barça’s 3rd goal, but the Argentinian had a couple of good defensive reactions that stopped Athletic’s counter attacks. Passing was great, completed 94% of his passes today and won every duel. Solid performance, continues to be a reliable option in defence. I personally prefer him in CB position compared to CDM.
Ivan Rakitić (6.5): Replaced the injured Rafinha early in the 2nd half and done his job well. Barça’s lead was secure but he did well defensively at times to help the team keep a clean sheet. Great pass in space to Vidal to start the move for Barça’s 3rd goal. Had a great chance to score when Vidal’s shot was saved and he was there on a rebound but his shot went wide. A shame because I feel like a goal would be a confidence booster for him after a slow start to the season. Nonetheless, he used his playing time well in this game and showed he can still help the team in the rest of the season, either as a starter or coming off the bench.
Sergi Roberto: Subbed on in the last 30 minutes of the game and didn’t have much to do defensively. Barça scored their 3rd goal right after he came on and Athletic have given up for the most part, making his job much easier defensively. He did manage to complete 2 clearances and passed the ball well for the most part.
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WRITTEN BY: Josip
23 years old, born in Split, Croatia. Football fanatic and a die-hard Barça fan. Currently studying tourism and communication.
WRITTEN BY: Sulaiman
Sulaiman is a Barcelona fan since 2005. He loves discussing anything related to the club. Sulaiman is currently studying Accounting and Finance and has a keen interest in Statistics.