Barcelona continued their perfect start to their Champions League campaign on Wednesday, as they outclassed Olympiacos 3-1 at Camp Nou
Ernesto Valverde’s men took charge of the game against one of his former sides from the word go as the visitors focused on getting men behind the ball to frustrate the hosts. However, Barcelona created chances aplenty before grabbing a well deserved lead when Dimitris Nikolaou turned Gerard Deulofeu’s cross into his own net.
The Blaugrana though, went into half-time with a numerical disadvantage as Gerard Pique, shown a yellow card earlier in the half, was sent off for a second bookable offence. However, Olympiacos could not make their advantage count as Barcelona continued dominating the proceedings.
The hosts’ lead was deservedly doubled at the hour mark as Lionel Messi scored from a sweetly struck free-kick, before turning the provider to Lucas Digne to notch up his side’s third goal. However, Takis Lemonis’ men had the last word in the match as Nikolaou grabbed a consolation goal to end a tough night on a positive note.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 18, 2017
The win saw Barcelona consolidating their place atop Group D, putting them in a strong position to secure qualification to the Round of 16. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men after a commanding performance on Wednesday.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10
Another one of those games during which the Barcelona number one did not have much to do, despite his side at a distinct numerical disadvantage. Ter Stegen did end up picking the ball from inside his net once after Dimitris Nikolaou struck a bullet header that he couldn’t have saved. All in all though, a quiet night in goal.
Sergi Roberto: 7/10
Favoured in place of Nelson Semedo at right-back, Roberto was crisp and concise with his passing, and he also linked up well with Gerard Deulofeu in the first-half. Following Pique’s sending off though, the Spaniard had to stay back for the most part, restricting his impact a great deal.
Gerard Pique: 3/10
Another night to forget for Pique who was sent off in the first half itself for two bookable offences. The second, in particular, was a moment of utter foolishness as the player turned the ball into the net using his hand.
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 18, 2017
Angry protests followed from the veteran defender, but ones that didn’t help in case at all. Fortunately for him, Barcelona kept control of the proceedings in the second half and were seldom troubled by the Olympiacos attack, meaning his dismissal didn’t affect them adversely.
Samuel Umtiti: 7/10
Yet another solid outing for Umtiti, who is turning into one of the most dependable defenders in football, one game at a time. Largely untroubled by the opposition attack, the Frenchman was calm in possession as he helped build plays from the back.
Lucas Digne: 7/10
Coming into Valverde’s plans for the match very late, Digne made the most of a rare opportunity that was handed out to him. On a night when he wasn’t really tested at the back, the French defender took his chances in the final third and capped off his performance with a clever finish.
With Alba set to spend a few weeks on the sidelines, Digne is set to enjoy a larger role for an extended period and performances like these will go a long way in giving the Spain international a run for his money.
Paulinho completed more passes than any Champions League player this week:
3 chances created
‘You versus…’ 😉 pic.twitter.com/9PiC3ITHhS
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 19, 2017
A tireless showing by the Brazilian who is winning fans over with each passing performance. In what was a solid outing for him, Paulinho was constantly a menace in midfield produced several driving runs and created three goalscoring opportunities for his teammates. Proving well worth the money so far.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
A typically no-nonsense performance by the veteran midfielder, Busquets kept things tight in the middle of the park and dictated the tempo of the game. He was particularly assertive in the second half, when he sniffed out all the danger and kept things ticking constantly.
Andres Iniesta: 8/10
A slightly unspectacular performance from the Barcelona captain, but one that perhaps deserves the most praise. In fact, it was a night when everything went through Iniesta as he dictated the pace of the game with ease to make it seem like it was the Blaugrana who were a man up in the game. His form is cause for optimism.
Gerard Deulofeu: 7/10
Only played one half as he had to be substituted at the break to ease the pressure on the Barcelona defence, Deulofeu made a remarkable impression in just 45 minutes of action. Making his first ever Champions League start, and the first for the Catalans in over a month, the winger was lively during a shortened stint.
Deulofeu’s movement with and without the ball was menacing for the Olympiacos defenders to deal with, and he whipped in a record 11 crosses, one of which resulted in Barcelona’s first goal. All in all, it was a promising performance by the player, who will now look to cement his place in the side.
Lionel Messi: 8/10
Leo Messi’s 💯 goals, split team wise, in European Competitions pic.twitter.com/6ssev7KMFr
— Leo Messi 🔟 (@WeAreMessi) October 19, 2017
The Barcelona talisman was up to his usual antics as he dominated the Olympiacos defence pretty much throughout the ninety minutes. His movement was extremely tricky for the visitors’ defenders to deal with, and a sublime free-kick impossible for Silvio Proto to save.
That goal was Messi’s 100th in European competition, and he wasn’t finished just yet. Barcelona’s third goal was all his doing as well as the diminutive Argentine danced his way around the Olympiacos defence to set Digne up for a cool, albeit thumping finish.
Luis Suarez: 5/10
The slump continues for the Uruguayan striker who just can’t seem to regain his top form. Lacking sharpness in front of goal and decisiveness in his movement, Suarez missed an easy chance in the first half and struggled to create much for his teammates at the same time.
The player looks like a pale shadow of himself right now, which is getting increasingly worrying for everyone associated with Barcelona.
Javier Mascherano: 7/10
Wouldn’t have expected to leave the bench, but Pique’s dismissal helped him enjoy 45 minutes of action. The Argentine was typically unassuming as he supported Umtiti, and enjoyed a comfortable half of football.
Ivan Rakitic: 6/10
Replacing Iniesta midway through the second half, Rakitic just continued from where his captain had left off, keeping things ticking to assert his side’s dominance.
Andre Gomes: N/A
Came on with just 10 minutes left, but an easy outing would have helped his confidence to an extent.