Barcelona could not have made a bigger mess of a game against the lowest placed team in La Liga. On the start of what is an extended away tour, the Catalans dominated the hosts. So much so, that Huesca recorded an xG of 0.0 at the end of the first period.
Barcelona pressed relentlessly, covering inch after inch of turf with the same determination as they had in the opening minute. As one would expect from the Catalans, they dominated the possession and the proceedings. However, it still boiled down to the same nervy ten-minute spell in the dying minutes when they had to defend a one-goal lead.
The performance was impressive, yet lacked the final product. Chance after chance came the way of Ronald Koeman’s side, as they colossally failed to find the back of the net at every juncture. There were positives and their equivalent share of negatives in a sweet-sour outing for the side in yellow and red. Barça Universal brings to you the player ratings from Barcelona vs Huesca.
Marc Andre ter Stegen: 8.5
It’s often how we react under the most sudden challenges that define our greatness. On Sunday night, ter Stegen found himself in one of the same. A horribly misplaced backpass from Sergio Busquets found the German shot-stopper in a tricky situation. The aerial backpass was well above the goalkeepers head and en route to being an own goal.
Yet, despite not being able to use his hands, ter Stegen stayed calm and composed to display his immense awareness of the ball, and prevented what would have been an unfair equalizer. Besides, three saves from inside the box in the second period is a good enough performance for a goalkeeper on any day.
Clement Lenglet: 7
It was a night where defenders did not have much to do, with Huesca hardly threatening any counter-play. Lenglet only had to make the one interception in the 90 minutes of the game. Nevertheless, his passing range was spot on, and the Frenchman recorded two key passes to cap off a solid performance
Ronald Araujo: 7.5
A quiet night at work for Araujo, in a game that was practically a defensive day off. Yet, the Uruguayan was calm on the rare occasion that Huesca attacked. He was more involved in defence than his partner with three clearances, two interceptions and two tackles. Araujo seems to have put the horrors of Eibar behind him, and that can only be a good thing.
Sergino Dest: 6
On a night when Dest literally had to make zero defensive contributions, one would have expected the American to unleash his ruthless form going forward. However, the right-back has a passive outing, with nothing solid to offer going front.
He did not put any step wrong, but he could have put many more steps right. Oscar Mingueza eventually replaced him in the 75th minute.
Jordi Alba: 7
Jordi Alba had a considerably better outing going forward when compared to his fellow full-back. The Spaniard recorded three key passes on the night and was a constant threat combining with Ousmane Dembele. Like the other defenders, he didn’t have much of a role at the back-half of the field.
Frenkie de Jong: 8.5
The difference-maker in the game. De Jong was the only man who could direct the ball into the net amidst the volley of chances that Barcelona saw. His perfectly timed run complemented by his spatial awareness and silky smooth touch saw the Catalans run away with all three points.
Apart from the goal too, the #21 had a decent game. He combined well with Sergio Busquets and Lionel Messi and dictated the overall flow of the game.
Sergio Busquets: 6.5
Having a game without much defensive trouble could have been the best thing to happen to Sergio’s morale. The absence of defensive duties helped his free up his play and involve more players in the buildup. He finished the game with over 95% pass accuracy
Two massive chances in the opening period, both missed. Pedri had a real shot of being the hero of The game once again, but couldn’t capitalize. However, it was a night when all four forwards failed to capitalize on their chances, and singling out the youngster would be unjustified. That said, his dribbling and positional play were on point. The Messi-Pedri connection continues to grow.
Lionel Messi: 8
Messi had a rather frustrating day, yet heavily impactful at the same time. Struggles in front of goal continue to haunt the Argentine, but don’t hinder him from inspiring the team. In the end, it boiled down to his gorgeous ball through to de Jong that fetched the visitors the win.
Ousmane Dembele: 8.5
Dembele was Barcelona’s most lethal threat going forward and by quite a distance. His blistering pace and smooth dribbling left Michel with no answers. The French winger had three shots on goal, all saved by Alvaro Fernandez. It was Dembele that set up the initial chance that was squandered by Pedri too. If anything, this was a reiteration of the importance of a winger in this team.
Martin Braithwaite: 5.5
Starting as the centre-forward and finishing the game with zero shots is just a nightmare for a striker. Braithwaite continuously tried to get involved, however, just couldn’t find his rhythm. The Dane barely offered any cutting-edge going forward, and his presence was not even felt later in the game.
Miralem Pjanic: 6.5
Miralem Pjanic replaced Busquets in the closing 15 minutes of the game. It wasn’t enough time for the Bosnian to impress. However, Pjanic did not make any mistakes and continued to carry on the role that Busquets played during the game.
Antoine Griezmann: 6
Coming on for an ineffective Mertin Braithwaite, Griezmann did not offer a whole lot more. In his ten minutes of play, he saw just four touches with nothing solid created.
Oscar Mingueza: 7
Sergino Dest has been overburdened in the last month and using Mingueza as a back-up was always on the cards. The experiment paid off decently, as the La Masia graduate did not seem to struggle overtly in a new position.
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.