After winning magnificently in midweek in Kyiv, Barcelona had to go back to winning ways against Osasuna. Also, Real Madrid lost to Deportivo Alavés on Saturday. With a win, Barça could have climbed up to 7th place with only three points less than their rivals with a game in hand.
Ronald Koeman went in with a bizarre lineup. The Dutchman picked five offensive players, and Pedri started as part of the double pivot. The youngster was far from accustomed to the position and had a below-par display.
However, in the attack, the Catalans looked brilliant—first, a sublime move from Antoine Griezmann who dribbled the keeper to give it to Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian’s shot was saved on the line by Unai García. Then, Barça did not take their foot off the gas pedal. A superb opening from Jordi Alba saw the left-back in acres of space and his pace came to Coutinho. This time, the goalkeeper made a brilliant save, but Martin Braithwaite was there to score with his knee. 1-0 to the dominating hosts.
Later in the half, Griezmann would get his well-deserved goal. After a powerful strike in Kyiv, the Frenchman launched a rocket from the edge of the area. Sergio Herrera was stuck on his line, and the forward deservedly celebrated his insane goal.
Ter Stegen was solicited once when he made a double save on a player in an offside position, but all in all, it was a complete performance. Even Oscar Mingueza, starting the second Barça game of his career, was serene. Koeman’s men had a great half and had to confirm in the second half.
After an aggressive first-half display, Barcelona came in with all guns blazing in the second half. The Catalans were excellent all throughout the game even though Osasuna were a horrendous side.
After a calmer start to the half, a move made of several intricate passes punctuated Griezmann’s game. The Frenchman took the ball at the beginning of the action and gave it to Coutinho. This time, the attacking midfielder passed it into the net and scored his first goal since the Sevilla game in La Liga.
Koeman introduced many players to the side. Ousmane Dembélé, Francisco Trincão, Carles Aleña, Junior Firpo and Sergio Busquets all came in as handy substitutes. Aleña came on for the injured Clément Lenglet, who looked like suffering from a sprained ankle. This injury is the last thing Barça needed. Frenkie de Jong came in as a centre-back.
Soon after Dembélé’s and Trincão’s introductions, the two would link up with the Portuguese youngster giving his first assist to the Frenchman. Dembélé had a smooth finish, but the goal was ultimately ruled out because Messi made a foul during the action. Later, the 33-year-old would score a rocket from the edge of the box. The Argentine took off his shirt to show a Newell’s Old Boys shirt in memory of the late Diego Maradona. A very emotional homage from the Barcelona captain who grew up idolising the World Cup winner.
📸 — Messi dedicating his goal to Diego Maradona. pic.twitter.com/PnoWbH65P5— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) November 29, 2020
All in all, this was a professional performance from the Catalans. They did not leave a doubt that they were the best team out there and, for once, switched on for 90 minutes. While Osasuna were astonishingly bad, there were encouraging signs. Barcelona must get confidence and build on the promising foundations.
Player Ratings: Elche 0-2 Barcelona
With four wins in on the trot in the league, Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona marches on in the hope of overtaking Real Madrid who sit second, three points clear of the Garnet and Blue. Last night’s game against Elche was proof that Barça have what it takes to grind out wins in important games, even if their performance is less than convincing.
A goal each from Frenkie de Jong and Riqui Puig was enough to etch a 0-2 win for the visitors who will now travel to Madrid to lock horns against Rayo Vallecano in the Copa del Rey round of 16. Meanwhile, Barça Universal runs the rule over the Blaugranas.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 8
Barcelona’s captain without the armband continues to come up clutch for Barcelona in the six-yard-box, making stellar saves with each passing game. Yesterday, while the German made only two stops, one of them came post the 75th minute in a high-xG 1v1 scenario.
Oscar Mingueza: 7
Starting in unfamiliar territory, Mingueza coped well with the pressure at right-back. He was solid in the first half and did not let anyone go past him. Additionally, he did well in the attack, continuously whipping in crosses, although with little success. Had an error covered up by ter Stegen, but a solid display nonetheless.
Ronald Araujo: 7.5
Words have started to fall short for Araujo, who, yet again, was on his toes, ready to rescue Barcelona with each passing attack. The Uruguayan won three fouls while committing one himself, and lost possession only 4 times.
Samuel Umtiti: 8
Following his display against Granada, Umtiti got a well-deserved start after two weeks, and was pretty much faultless. A bit conservative in possession, the World Cup winner still managed to create one chance. Without the ball, he was a rock, and nobody was able to get past him on the night.
Jordi Alba: 6.5
The run of underwhelming displays continues for Jordi Alba, who ghosted on the night against Elche, especially in the attack. Did well out of possession, though, making two interceptions, one tackle, and a solitary clearance.
Frenkie de Jong: 9
De Jong woke up and chose violence. He started the game in amazing fashion, progressing the ball immaculately. Got a goal for his rewards, and then etched an assist to his name in the last few minutes, as well, with the most perfectly timed run and pass. Continues to be sensational.
Sergio Busquets: 8
Busquets has started to hold his own in the centre of the park in this formation and had another evening where he was nearly back to his best. The Spaniard conducted the midfield with ease, not allowing the Elche midfield to have the sniff of the ball. Additionally, he also managed to create one chance. Picked up a suspension, though, and will miss the outing against Bilbao.
At just 18, Pedri continues to astound the Barcelona fans, four-folding his standards with each passing game. Yesterday, as well, he made four key passes, completed all his dribbles (4/4), and won two set-pieces. Would have been a perfect night had he gotten an assist, only to be denied by his own overhit passes on two occasions.
Ousmane Dembele: 6
The attack was inarguably the most underwhelming part of Barcelona’s game last night, and understandably so, after playing an insane number of minutes in the past week. Dembele tried his best to get past the Elche defence, but with little to no success, as they stood firmly in place. Additionally, he lost possession a bizarre 21 times in just 74 minutes.
Antoine Griezmann: 6
Griezmann played through the centre on the night, as opposed to the left, where he has been deployed of late. Barring a single key pass for Araujo, the Frenchman did not do a lot, either. He made two great runs, but was denied a shot through poor communication between him and Pedri.
Martin Braithwaite: 6
Rounding off the lineup was Martin Braithwaite, starting on the left. Can be given credit for creating the goal through a brilliant cross, but was otherwise slow in possession, and unable to think on his feet.
Fransisco Trincao: 7
Credit where credit is due, this was probably Trincao’s best cameo for Barcelona. Just when it looked like Barcelona were getting hit back, the Portuguese brought freshness to the wing, and even hit two shots on target. Unfortunately for him, Edgar Badia pulled off two superhuman efforts to deny both his chances.
Riqui Puig: 7
The man of the hour!
Ideally, playing just five minutes would not amount to a 7/10 rating, but Puig practically sealed the game for Barcelona in the 89th minute, meeting de Jong’s cross over two defenders, and scoring his first-ever senior goal. A night he will never forget.