Goals from Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez helped Barcelona sweep aside Valencia at the Nou Camp and helped them keep the pressure on league leaders Real Madrid
Luis Enrique’s men weren’t at their sparkling best, but Eliaquim Mangala ensured that the hosts wouldn’t have it too difficult, after getting himself sent off in the first half and leaving a 10 -man Valencia to fend for themselves for the majority of the game.
The Frenchman opened the scoring in the 29th minute, before Luis Suarez brought his side back on level terms 6 minutes later. Lionel Messi gave Barcelona the lead after slotting home a penalty conceded as a result of Mangala’s foul in the 45th minute.
Munir El Haddadi, currently on loan from Barcelona, equalized almost immediately to bring the game back on level terms going into halftime. However, they couldn’t hold back Barcelona for too long with 10 men and Lionel Messi scored his 41st goal 7 minutes after the restart, before Andre Gomes sealed the deal in the 89th minute.
Attacking with Abandon
Barcelona, if they wished it, could have ended this match having scored around 10 goals. Such was the level of domination they had with their possession, but they were hardly at their defensive best and as a result, had to rely on Lionel Messi to bail them out once again.
Their 3-man defence was caught off guard on numerous occasions and it is clear that they still need to get used to this new formation. With the lack of a recognized full-back in the squad, or even a wingback, the Catalans had no answer to Valencia’s attackers on the flanks or on the counter.
Munir won his side’s corner that eventually led to Mangala’s goal after losing Pique and leaving him for dead. The Barcelona loanee would score his second goal against his parent club this season after some great work from Gaya on the left, who squared it for Munir, who had left Umtiti in his wake. He had another chance in the 56th minute after finding a lot of space, but couldn’t make the most of it.
This will certainly not do for Barcelona. The fact that they couldn’t make the most of their chances, especially with their defence still getting to grips with a new formation won’t be encouraging for their fans and Enrique. Perhaps if Mangala had actually stayed on till the end of the game, things wouldn’t have been so easy for Barcelona up front either.
Lionel Messi’s double against Los Che were his 40th and 41st goals of the season in all competitions. An outstanding feat, only enhanced by the fact that the legendary Argentine has now achieved this tally for the 8th consecutive season.
It seems as if the 29-year-old has a special disliking for Valencia keeper Diego Alves. His brace in this victory took his tally of goals scored against the Brazilian international to an insane 21 goals, during his time between the posts for Valencia and Almeria combined.
In 40 games this season, he has scored 41 goals is currently Europe’s top scorer. Besides conquering the continent, he is also the top scorer in the Spanish top flight with 25 goals, with Luis Suarez behind him at 22 and Cristiano Ronaldo at 19.
With each passing performance, the Argentine is showing why Barcelona absolutely must do everything in their power to retain him. Messi has been unstoppable, unreal and often at times almost untouchabale this campaign.
He has been the defending Champions’ saviour on numerous occasions, more often than he’d like to be, which just shows how much their dependent on him to get them out of tough situations.
With Barcelona Sporting Director Robert Fernandez recently insisting that his star player will extend his current contract, it will be interesting to see what it costs to keep the best player alive at the club for the foreseeable future.
The Return of El Cerebro
This was the first time Andres Iniesta had completed a full 90 minutes of a game since their 1-1 draw against Villarreal way back in January. The captain has struggled with injuries and fitness this season and Barcelona have clearly missed him in his absence.
He has only made 26 appearances this season across all competitions and has started 17 of those games. But his recent return to full fitness will come as a major boost to Luis Enrique and the Spanish National for their upcoming fixtures this month.
3-4-3 Here To Stay?
Barcelona returned to the 3-4-3 formation after having used the 4-3-3 in their loss against Deportivo de La Coruna in their last La Liga fixture, and after this victory against Valencia, we can be sure that this certainly isn’t the last time the Catalan giants will use it this season.
This formation in a way, helps Barcelona solve it’s fullback issue simply because it doesn’t use any. Against Valencia, Andres Iniesta and Rafinha started on the left and right flanks respectively, with Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Samuel Umtiti making up the center back trio.
This formation will still take time to get used to, however as Barcelona need to learn to cope without the pace of their fullbacks, and that can only be solved over time. In this game, Sergi Roberto had to brought on just after the hour mark to help steady the ship.
This change in formation may come as great news for Rafinha, who seems to be their first choice player for the right flank, it doesn’t bode well for the likes of Lucas Digne and Jordi Alba, who will likely find their opportunities to play significantly reduce.
The Race Is Still On
As things stand, Barcelona 2 points behind League leaders Real Madrid who have 65 points, with a game in hand. Had they beaten Deportivo last week, they would have currently found themselves to be on top of the table, one point above their fierce rivals.
They cannot do afford to slip up from here, however. Even a draw could spell disaster to their League title hopes. Real Madrid, despite not being at their optimum levels over the past few matches have managed to scrape out results after digging deep and this may very well carry them to the title.
However, with 10 games to go and a fixture list kinder than that of Zidane’s men, it seems as if the title race will go down to the wire and may very well be decided on the last day of the season. There is also the Clasico at the Bernabeu in April that can help turn things in the Blaugrana’s favour.