Barcelona hosted Real Valladolid at the Camp Nou on Monday night, fighting till the end to win a difficult game by just a single goal scored by Dembele. It was a tough match for the Garnet and the Blue; however, they managed to grind out a result, not putting in their prettiest display of the season. Nonetheless, they managed to bring all three points back home, with fairly adequate performances from most of the team’s players.
Marc-André ter Stegen: 6/10
Ter Stegen enjoyed a relatively quiet night, albeit being tested on a few occasions. Apart from a few simple saves, the German was mostly solid in his ball distribution, crucial to the Blaugrana in playing out of Valladolid’s high press.
Jordi Alba: 6.5/10
Alba was once again crucial in Barça’s build up play, registering over 100 touches once again. He registered one key pass in the whole night, not emulating his usually precise passing in the opposition box. However, the Spanish fullback was still a menace throughout the night, being constantly hunted by his fellow midfielders in attacking moves.
Clément Lenglet: 6/10
The French defender put in a fairly solid shift, covering his defensive grounds. He registered six clearances and two tackles, while working well in Barça’s ball circulation. He also came out of his defensive line a few times, carrying the ball. A fairly content performance for the Frenchman, who has struggled this season.
Frenkie de Jong: 8.5/10
The Dutch midfielder was one of Barcelona’s better performers on the night, covering all ends of the pitch in three different positions. The team changed formations three times, only possible due to de Jong’s versatility. He started the game as a Libero in the centre-back role. He was then shifted into the right centre-midfield, and ended the game as one of two double pivots. De Jong’s performance was highly satisfying. He covered the tasks of defending, ball circulation, offensive threat, as well as creative duties all in one match. The Dutchman even managed to send in the cross that made Dembele’s goal possible, truly covering each and every acre of the field. A true wild card for the Blaugrana.
Óscar Mingueza: 6/10
The 21-year-old Spanish defender put in a relatively average performance, with no real noteworthy contribution. However, the versatile defender once again proved he is a reliable defender in Koeman’s squad, displaying both defensive solidity as well as the ability to both carry and pass the ball out of the defensive line.
Sergiño Dest: 5/10
Dest was unable to impact the game in any real way. The American is a less sought-after attacking outlet than his fellow fullback Jordi Alba. The right-back was unable to show decisiveness in the final third, failing to complete any of his two attempted dribbles. While he did register a key pass, Dest’s contribution in the game was nothing special.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
The Spanish midfielder once again put in a fantastic display, silencing doubters game-after-game. After two highly satisfying performances with Spain, Busquets has returned to the Catalan capital with his A-game, keeping the play ticking with no real errors. The Barça midfield would truly be at risk of floundering without the ingenious Spanish veteran.
Pedri’s positional understanding for his age is jaw dropping. The young Canary Islander seems to receive and play the ball in the perfect position for every play, almost always pulling out a few yards of space from seemingly no where. The eighteen-year-old showed, in yet another wonderful display, his intelligent understanding of the pitch and his fellow teammates. He was always available as a passing option while circulating the ball with immense efficiency. Pedri also got into dangerous positions in and around the eighteen-yard-box several times, registering a shot on the post. It seems that his confidence is growing with each outing.
Antoine Griezmann: 6/10
Griezmann started the game off brightly, showing the confidence to drop deep and create attacking plays. Once again, he displayed his unparalleled dedication to running back and helping in defence. However, the Frenchman failed to really threaten Jordi Masip on the night, having missed a glaring header into what was virtually an empty net. It was not by any means a poor display, as the Frenchman was efficient in his linkup play while also contributing thoroughly in defence. Nevertheless, he failed to provide any real offensive threat.
Lionel Messi: 8/10
The six time Ballon d’Or winner had a relatively off night, failing to register a goal or an assist for the first time in fifteen league games. Nonetheless, the Argentinian’s impact on the game always goes beyond just direct goal contributions. Having registered five key passes and seven shots, Messi was an attacking menace throughout the match, also acting as the Blaugrana‘s sole effective playmaker. While it was not his best night, it is only his own high standards that prevent him from being applauded for world-class performances, simply because world-class is a standard he has long surpassed.
Ousmane Dembélé: 9/10
The French winger was the difference-maker in the match, registering the only goal in the entire match. He attempted four successful dribbles and even managed to register three shots on target. Further, the 23-year-old started the game playing in the striker position. He then shifted onto the right-wing and finally the left-wing, showing his phenomenal versatility and ambidexterity. Dembele threatened from every single position he was employed in, turning defenders in and out all night long. He was smartly positioned to get on the end of de Jong’s cross (though with a touch from Ronald Araujo), and scored the game-winning goal.
Ronald Araújo (6/10); Fransisco Trincão (5.5/10); Martin Braithwaite (5/10); Ilaix Moriba (6/10); Riqui Puig (6/10).
Three talking points from Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona
In the final edition of El Clásico in the 2020/21 domestic campaign, Barcelona incurred their fifth defeat of the league campaign. It was end-to-end stuff in the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, as an exceptional first-half performance from the hosts was followed up by a tantalizing second from Barça.
This game had everything someone could ask for in a Clásico. There was controversy, passion, goals and for the first time in a few years, a red card was the cherry on the top. These are Barca Universal’s takeaways from the game in the capital.
Real Madrid’s efficiency on show
With four shots on target, 1.58 Expected Goals, and two goals to their name, Real Madrid put to show their sheer efficacy in front of goal, as well as in defence. For the first half at least, Zinédine Zidane’s men were always at the right place, at the right time making all the right movements and to devastating effect.
Los Blancos‘ philosophy is one of winning, and doing so regardless of how the victory is earned. Contrary to the Catalans, who not only need to win, but also do it a certain way, Los Merengues are more than capable of abandoning their usually proactive approach to games in favour of a more reactive one. The fact that they are not bound to a specific ideology makes winning matches one of the simplest of tasks.
They held the ball for only 32% of the game, which goes completely against what a majority would expect them to. At the end of the day, however, possession matters significantly less than what one does with it. With every lapse in concentration from the Garnet and Blue, Madrid had enough men forward, and well enough positioned, to hit them where it hurt.
Despite the relatively low xG, they had enough big chances to even lead 4-0 come the halftime whistle. When it came to defending, their tight-knit defence, in stark contrast to that of their rivals, barely broke a sweat. They imposed an impenetrable low block, and applied a collective press to force as many errors as they could.
In addition to this, Zidane has the luxury of having a starting eleven of devastatingly versatile footballers in his arsenal. Fede Valverde for instance was as much a right-back as he was a central midfielder and a winger. He executed each role to pristine perfection, and so did his peers to ensure all 3 points, and bragging rights stayed in Madrid.
Excellent mentality shift
Following such a harrowing performance in the first half, few, if any, could have expected Barcelona to mount a comeback. Had this been any other team, that would have been possible, but given Real Madrid’s first-half performance, this was all but envisageable.
Indeed, the Catalans did fail to get any points from the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, however, the sheer mentality they showed in the second half was a sight for sore eyes. Ronald Koeman made the necessary adjustments to the side, reverting to the 4-3-3 and with it, they wrought trouble in the Madrid backline.
Lionel Messi celebrating the goal. pic.twitter.com/ZX1HzWSqAR— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) April 10, 2021
If in the first half Barça seemed caged in endless cycles of worthless possession, then in the second they made thorough use of it. The Blaugrana created eleven chances for themselves in the second period, and while doing this, they in turn limited Los Blancos to just a single shot on goal for the entirety of the half; a complete turnover from their performance in the opening 45 minutes.
It was nail-biting stuff up until the final second of the game, as Ilaix Moriba’s volleyed effort struck the underside of the crossbar. Given the overall performance from both sides, a draw would have been a considerably fairer result, but even in defeat with this version of Barça, the players and fans know that they can keep their heads held high.
A game of fine margins
Games of the magnitude of El Clásico will forever be decided by the most minute of details and the same was the case here.
The first significant one was the frame of the goal. In the first half, following the umpteenth counter attack from Real Madrid, Fede Valverde, who up until then was having yet another phenomenal showing against Barcelona, struck the frame of the post with a shot that crucially bounced underneath Sergio Busquets.
In the second half, Ronald Araújo nearly scored an own goal, but with Ter Stegen rooted to the spot, the ball rolled delicately onto the post and out for a corner. In the final minute of the match, and with Madrid fighting for their lives, Ilaix Moriba struck the underside of the crossbar to end this sensational tie on an emotional high.
Jordi Alba has often been criticized for being just as much a blessing offensively as he is a curse defensively. In the build-up to the hosts’ opener, he had one task to fulfill: mark his opposing fullback. This is one he absolutely failed, as he drifted too far inside, and by the time he had noticed his error, Lucas Vázquez already had Karim Benzema in his sights. Too little, too late.
The final significant detail was in the goal that won Los Blancos the game. After what many consider a poorly given free-kick from the referee’s standpoint, Toni Kroos surely could not believe his eyes when he saw the sheer state of Barça’s wall. Marc André Ter Stegen’s poor leadership of his defenders left him utterly vulnerable, and his German counterpart spared him no blushes, slotting it home to seal the victory for his side.