Brilliant from start to finish. These are the ratings from the Barcelona players in Sunday’s 1–4 victory over Villarreal.
While the first half involved innumerable moments of magic, Barcelona were surprisingly able to continue their supreme level of assertion after proceedings. Instead of backpedaling or losing their-hard earned rhythm, the team kept striving for more, which led them to a crucial team points. Here’s how the players fared against Villarreal away from home.
Marc-André ter Stegen: 7/10
Marc-André ter Stegen enjoyed a relatively less burdensome night in goal as Barcelona’s fearsome attack kept the Yellow Submarine’s defence occupied for most of the game. Although Ter Stegen had to pick the ball out of his net in the first half, he had little to be blamed for considering the German’s save to deny Santi Cazorla’s shot deflected straight to Gerard Moreno, who took advantage of Barcelona’s poor man-marking.
Gerard Piqué: 7/10
Despite being partially slow to track back and restrict Santi Cazorla from allowing his side to equalise, Gerard Piqué displayed adept positioning and dealt quite well with Villarreal whenever they lashed out on the counter. Piqué wasn’t tested much on the ground, but maintained an imposing presence aerially, winning three out of four duels.
Clément Lenglet: 7.5/10
As reliable as ever. Clément Lenglet marshalled Barcelona’s backline and kept a cool head in defence. The fautless Frenchman rarely lost focus and knew the the threat Villarreal’s pacy attackers carried. Along with his proficient positioning, he won nearly all his duels.
Nélson Semedo: 6.5/10
Nélson Semedo burst forward at any given opportunity and tried adding width on the field, but his advanced role in attack cost Barça a goal as he was caught out of position. Although Barcelona were adamant on making plays through the left, the Portuguese was active and influential whenever the ball landed at his feet.
Jordi Alba: 7.5/10
After finally getting his first ever driving licence, it seemed as if Jordi Alba’s exuberance and happiness was transmited on the pitch. The fiery full-back was a continuous threat on the left-hand side and helped the visitors acquire their first goal after he sent in a low cross in the box. Lively and energetic performance from Alba, who nearly bagged himself a goal as well.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
Typical exhibition from Sergio Busquets, who silently pulled the strings in midfield. His distribution and towering figure allowed Barcelona to run rampant up front as the team had much to owe for his capabilities on the ball. Added to that, the prevalent pivot completed his defensive duties diligently.
Arturo Vidal: 6/10
While Arturo Vidal is known to be a tireless workhorse, the Chilean seemed weary and fatigued, as was the case against Atlético de Madrid. Vidal looked to add a certain degree of flare moving upfield, but his contribution on the pitch was not too noteworthy for Barcelona. Simply suffering the consequences of La Liga’s suffocating schedule, he desperately needs a break against Barça’s next opponent, RCD Espanyol.
After starting in five consecutive games, it seems clear that Arturo Vidal needs some rest | Photo by José Jordán / AFP via Getty Images
Sergi Roberto: 8/10
Despite not starting in the role he had become so accustomed to over the years, Sergi Roberto right-back wreaked havoc on the left side of the pitch, providing his side with the defence-piercing runs and creativity culés craved for from their midfield. He was heavily involved in Barça’s opener and almost bagged himself an assist for Messi’s goal, which was, woefully, ruled out. A night to remember for Sergi, who successfully silenced several doubters.
“He was spectacular”
on Sergi Roberto
Lionel Messi: 8.5/10
The menacing man spared Villarreal no mercy. In spite of starting every game in La Liga so far, Lionel Messi looked fresher than ever, stirring up delightful plays and terrorising defences like it was another day at the office. The Argentine played in an unfamiliar role, but one that suited him and his team’s needs flawlessly. Messi operated behind Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suárez as he dictated every move in the final third and even reserved himself two marvellous assists. Although he would be gutted to get a goal ruled out, Leo closed the gap between him and Xavi Hernández‘s record for most assists in a season.
Luis Suárez: 8/10
Luis Suárez’s annoyingly unforeseeable performances are turning out to become an incredible hassle for the blaugranas, but it is on days like these that he presents his true abilties as a player. While Luisito scored a mesmerizing curler for the visitors, he even seemed efficient on the ball, not proving to be a burden for his teammates surrounding him.
Antoine Griezmann: 9/10
At long last, Antoine Griezmann’s gears seemed well oiled and vigorous. After being a part of countless ridiculous rumours and hearsays, the Frenchman put a muzzle on his doubters’ mouth, silencing them with an applaudable display. Griezmann combined really well with Leo and Suárez, while even chipped the goalkeeper from outside the box, kindling his inner Lionel Messi. With the Argentine stationed a lot more deeper and Griezmann having more authority on the field, the number 17 stole the show in the first half.
“I am very satisfied as I suppose he will be after the goal so beautiful that he has scored. It reminded me of one from Messi against Betis”
on Antoine Griezmann
Iván Rakitić: 7/10
After getting some rest on the bench, Iván Rakitić looked dynamic and energetic once brought on. He played some nice one-twos with his fellow teammates and sent a beautifully timed through ball to Messi.
Riqui Puig: 7.5/10
While his exclusion from the starting XI was largely undeserved, Riqui Puig did not use that as an excuse to hide his virtuosic abilities in the second half. The youngster took absolutely no time in adding his dominance on the field as he produced some fabulous passes and positioned himself accurately.
Ansu Fati: 8/10
At just 17 years of age, Ansu Fati is taking La Liga by storm. He just wants to have fun, and that hunger is visible everytime he steps foot on the pitch. The La Masía gem provided width to Barcelona’s left flank and scored a scintillating goal to seal a 1–4 victory. He humiliated the Villarreal defence by cutting inside precisely and then left Sergio Asenjo for dead as he clinically found the back ot the net.
Martin Braithwaite: N/A
Ronald Araújo: N/A
How should Barcelona lineup against Dynamo Kyiv?
If the horrid performance against Atletico Madrid was not enough, injuries continue to plague Barcelona’s season further. The Catalans were outplayed at the Wanda Metropolitano. However, the question is: How does the team recover from a defeat like that?
After initial injuries to Ansu Fati and Sergio Busquets threatened to derail the Catalans season, the club has now confirmed both Gerard Pique and Seri Roberto to be out through injury for a long spell.
Yet, for all the mayhem in the league, Barcelona’s position in the champions league is safe. With three wins from their opening three encounters, they sit untouched at the top of the group. Ronald Koeman pointed to the same when asked about his decision of resting Lionel Messi and Frenkie de Jong. With so many key players out injured and others rested, how should Barcelona line-up against Dynamo Kyiv?
What to expect from Dynamo Kyiv?
The first game between the two sides provided more than it had promised. Kyiv were missing 13 players through COVID-19, yet that did not reflect on the pitch. Barcelona dominated the opening spell of the game. However, beyond the 25-minute mark, there was a sudden drop in energy levels. The Catalans seemed to ease off, opening the gates to a close-fought level headed battle which could have gone either way.
Mircea Lucescu has stuck to his successful 4-1-4-1 in the Champions League too. The overload in midfield is a potent obstacle to most oppositions, though one would expect Barcelona to break it down. The Ukrainians have often resorted to, and will most probably look to once again implement a low block. The press is high, however, isn’t very prominent in the opposition half.
Lucescu will bring up a harbour of troubles for Barcelona. (Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP)
Instead, Lucescu’s men look to hit on the counter. Victor Tsygankov, Vitaliy Buyalski and Vladydlav Supryaga have time and time again proved to invaluable for the same.
Learning from their mistakes, Barcelona will have to plug the spaces in between lines to come back home with all three points. It is a much younger side travelling to Ukraine. Moreover, with this being a chance for many of them to impress, one can expect the youth to step up.
How should the Barcelona line-up?
The only department that seems sorted for the time being is the Goalkeeper. Yet, ter Stegen too is coming off a horrid mistake at the Wanda Metropolitano. One that cost Barcelona the match. Undoubtedly, the German will be keen to make a statement on Tuesday.
The defence is in jeopardy. Gerard Pique could likely miss anywhere between three months to the end of the season after suffering a muscle sprain and partial cruciate ligament tear. Ronald Araujo is not fit to compete either, and with Samuel Umtiti’s state not helping the cause, Koeman stares into blackness.
Yet, one man’s loss is another’s gain. Given the situation, young Barcelona B centre-back Oscar Mingueza could get his chance to impress. In fact, it was a point Koeman specifically hinted to at the pre-match interview. Alongside him will undoubtedly be Clement Lenglet, whose importance is now more than ever. In Pique’s absence, the Frenchman will have to take up the onus of leadership and marshalling the troops.
Sergi Roberto’s injury opens the door for Sergino Dest to start the game at right-back. Unquestionably, his pace will be crucial to neutralise Kyiv’s threat on the counter.
At left-back, one expects Jordi Alba to start once again. In the absence of Lionel Messi, the Spaniard’s importance will be more than ever to create chances going forward.
Ronald Koeman could opt for a change in formation going into this clash, given his limited resources. Indeed, a 4-3-3 would be an ideal setup to try with the new crop of players. Miralem Pjanic could start as the defensive midfielder operating deeper in the position. Nevertheless, It is not a new role for the Bosnian, as he has played as a single pivot on many occasions in his career.
The midfield could be completed by the duo of Pedri and Carles Alena. Pedri had a comparatively quiet night against Atletico Madrid and will look to make amends. Carles Alena could finally get a well-deserved start after being neglected from the start of the season.
Antoine Griezmann could well start as the centre-forward on the night. The Frenchman has come under intense scrutiny by the media, both for his performances and statement made by people in his environment. Indeed, it will be an essential night for the World Cup winner, as he will lead the Catalan attack.
🗣 — Griezmann: "I am very well here at Barça, they have welcomed me very well. I want to help the team. They trusted me and now I want to reciprocate that trust by helping the team win. There is no problem with anyone, I'm really fine and I just ask you to leave me a bit calm." pic.twitter.com/XuOLl92GQH— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) November 23, 2020
Flanking him on the left side would be Ousmane Dembele, who is undoubtedly a major asset for Koeman. In these trying times with limited options, his all-round play comes as a whiff of fresh air.
On the right-flank, Fransisco Trincao would be the ideal option. Koeman has under-utilised the Portuguese winger so far. However, Tuesday night could be his chance to impress as the Dutch manager looks to rest key players. Moreover, his combination with Dest will be crucial for Barcelona to break down Lucescu’s side.