opinions | 2016-12-19
Player Ratings - La Liga Round 16 - Barcelona 4:1 Espanyol
Messi and Iniesta shine in a masterful performance
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (6): Don’t think he had a save to make. Espanyol couldn’t get into our box and barely touched the ball either so not much to say. Hard to say much about his performance as he was a bystander for the most part.
Sergi Roberto (6.5): Another solid performance. Defensively he was good throughout the game, even though Espanyol weren’t too dangerous going forward. Managed to keep Jurado quiet for the most part. Going forward he did well to combine with his teammates but his final pass and crosses could’ve been better. Did well to win the ball back and then play a fantastic pass to Messi to start the move for Barça’s fourth goal.
Gerard Piqué (7): Good defensive performance, even though Espanyol were poor going forward, to say the least. Great in the air against Caicedo, always did well when he was needed defensively. Passing was superb, especially his long passes. Completed 97% of his passes. Good to see his nice form continues, he’s been Barcelona’s leader in defence for quite some time now.
Javier Mascherano (7): The Argentine had a decent game today. Long passing was not as good as it normally is, but generally his passing was good, even it didn’t seem like it at the time, he made quite a few defensive actions which was odd considering Espanyol made it to our box on a few occasions. Not something you see everyday but he won all his aerial duels and tackles. Started off the opener by intercepting a pass which then Iniesta took over and played a wonder ball. Late into the second half, he was moved to DM after Busquets came off, he didn’t do bad nor great though on the Espanyol goal, it may have been prevented if he tracked back quicker to close down David Lopez. Nonetheless, it is nice to see him do well after a not so good Clásico.
Jordi Alba (6.5): Good performance. It’s impressive that he is stringing together some consistent games which wasn’t the case last season. Barely misplaced a pass, which isn’t the most common thing for him since his poor decision making at times. Managed to get a goal after some wonderful work from Messi to set it up. I was somewhat surprised that he scored considering he has had this sort of chance many times before and missed. The goal will do him the world of good though. On the Espanyol goal he was caught too high up the pitch but he wasn’t to blame for the goal. Happy with how he is doing these past few weeks, the last time I recall him this consistent was in Luis Enrique’s first season.
Sergio Busquets (6.5): Solid in the first half today and combined well with Iniesta, even though he wasn’t used much in the buildup compared to most of the games. Only attempted 34 passes today. Defensively he did well and always found himself on the right place even though Espanyol were quite poor for the most part. Subbed off for Umtiti in the 74th minute. Good to see his nice run continues after a poor start to his season.
Denis Suarez (6.5): Started in RCM position today and did well for the most part. His work-rate defensively was the highlight of his first half performance. Going forward, he kept it simple for the most part but combined well with Messi on the right and a player of his profile was needed in midfield against Espanyol’s low block. Subbed off for Rafinha in 66th minute. Good to see him finally start getting some minutes in the last few weeks, he’s proven we can count on him even in important games.
Andres Iniesta (8.5): Well, what do you say about the magician? His presence has made the whole team increase their level. Dictated the game with little trouble, Espanyol players struggled to cause him any problems. Completed all his take ons he attempted, the take on for the second goal was superb, his control in tight spaces is unmatched. Assist for the first goal was absolutely superb, a 50 yard cross field pass and Suarez managed to control it with ease. Managed to create 3 different goal scoring chances which is a fair amount given his role. The most underrated part of his game is his defensive ability and once again he managed to complete all his tackles and interceptions. It isn’t easy to put what he does into words and it doesn’t help he nearly does this weekly. Great to have him back from his injury and let’s hope he stays fit for the rest of the season because who wouldn’t want to watch him play?
Lionel Messi (9): Another performance that can’t be put into words. Started off quiet in the first half, missed a great chance after Neymar’s pass in a counter. Passing was good but he only started dominating in the second half when he completely destroyed Espanyol. Created tons of chances for his teammates and two of those were converted. Incredible play before the second goal when he dribbled past five Espanyol players in small space, and Suárez scored on a rebound. Then did it again a minute after to set up Alba for his goal. Finally managed to get his well deserved goal to make it 4-1, cool finish inside the box after a Suárez’ pass. Man of the match.
Luis Suárez (8): Fantastic by the best striker in the world. Got involved from the start and pressured to Espanyol’s defence. Wonderful first touch and a finish to make it 1-0 after a brilliant assist from Iniesta. He combined well with Messi and Neymar today and didn’t look isolated up front like he did in previous weeks. Scored his second of the night after Messi and Iniesta did most of the work and he was there on the rebound. Finished off the game with a wonderful assist to Messi, who made it 4-1. Let’s hope we’ll be seeing more of this in the rest of the season.
Neymar (7): Strong game. In the first half, his off the ball movement was very good. It stretched the Espanyol defence as he drew defenders out their position for Alba to go on the overlap. On the ball, he wasn’t trying to force it but kept it simple which helped the team. Before the first goal he could’ve set up the opener but his pass was slightly overhit and Messi put the ball into the side netting. Dribbling was a lot better too, didn’t try a take on at every chance he could, played it smarter and only when he was 1v1 with the fullback. Created three chances which is more than the usual. His final third passing wasn’t the best but most of them came from corners and Barça doesn’t often score from those. One thing even I didn’t notice is that he actually helped to defend against counters. Unlucky not to get on the scoresheet considering he played well but it is good to see him perform to a high level again. I only wonder if he will do this consistently in 2017.
Rafinha: Replaced Denis in the second half today. Barça scored their second and 3rd goal right after he came on so the game was already done for the most part when he was on the pitch, but he did well when he was on the ball. Solid passing and worked well defensively, which was expected. Keeps getting minutes this season and it’s nice to see that Lucho trusts him.
Samuel Umtiti: Played in the last 15 minutes. The game was already done at that point so there’s not much to say. Passed the ball well including a couple of solid long passes. Not much he could do on the goal conceded, Alba didn’t track back so he had to pick up his man, and Mascherano could’ve done better to track the man running in behind. He was reading the game well and had a couple of interceptions in the short time he spent on the pitch.
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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.