Barcelona got back to winning ways in La Liga as they enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 win over a struggling Malaga side at Camp Nou on Saturday
The hosts grabbed the lead just two minutes into the game as Gerard Deulofeu converted from Lucas Digne’s cross with a stylish flick, although the goal should not have stood as the ball was out of play when the Frenchman passed it.
After a controversial start to the match, Barcelona controlled the proceedings for the remainder of the first half, but could not muster up another shot. But, the Blaugrana took the initiative in the second half, as Messi first tested Andres Prieto a few minutes after the restart before turning provider for his side’s second goal.
After being found by Javier Mascherano in the middle of the park, Messi turned and found Andres Iniesta, whose shot was deflected past Prieto. Ernesto Valverde’s men did come close in the last half an hour, but could not add to their tally.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 21, 2017
The win saw Barcelona maintain their four-point advantage over Valencia as they maintained their firm grip atop La Liga. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Valverde’s men after yet another comfortable outing in the league.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 7/10
Another night on which the German shot stopper had very little to do, ter Stegen was a spectator for much of the game. As has been the case for the majority of the campaign thus far, he had to distribute more than deal with the opposition attack, which he did quite diligently.
Sergi Roberto: 7/10
Preferred to Nelson Semedo yet again, the Spaniard turned in another impressive performance. Solid at the back, Roberto neutralised the threat on his flank effectively. But, it was when he moved into midfield when the player showed his full potential as he made a few penetrating runs while also setting Luis Suarez up, albeit futilely.
Javier Mascherano: 8/10
Mascherano against Malaga yesterday:
Passes (Acc.): 72 (94%)
Duels won: 5
— CE Stats (@CEStats) October 22, 2017
Took up Gerard Pique’s place at the heart of the Barcelona defence, Mascherano showed that he still has some life left in him despite largely becoming a bit-part player this season. The Argentinean veteran kept the Malaga attack quiet with his astute reading of the game while also winning a lot of aerial battles.
In addition to that, Mascherano played a major role in the build up to Iniesta’s goal as he broke up the opposition’s play before playing the ball through to Messi, who then found the Barcelona captain for the goal. Saturday’s outing would give Valverde much food for thought, with Pique struggling of late.
Samuel Umtiti: 8/10
Another ninety minutes. Another performance that showed just how inspired a signing Umtiti has been by Barcelona. As has been the case for large parts of this season thus far, the Frenchman was dominant in the air and composed on the ball while building up play. A player Barcelona can depend on.
Lucas Digne: 7/10
Lucas Digne assisted Deulofeu for his goal tonight.
Digne has scored an gave an assist during his last 2 games for Barcelona.
On form 🔥 pic.twitter.com/lpay2tahWq
— French Football 🇫🇷 (@FranceEdition) October 21, 2017
Has taken a fortuitous opportunity in Jordi Alba’s absence with both hands. Digne was diligent in his duties at the back while posing a threat in the final third, although his assist to Deulofeu shouldn’t have stood. The Frenchman is unlikely to usurp Alba when he’s fit again, but he is a reliable deputy at Valverde’s disposal.
Ivan Rakitic: 5.5/10
One of the few players whose form must be concerning for the Barcelona boss, Rakitic worked tirelessly in the game, but his impact going forward was minimal, if at all. With the Paulinho and Denis Suarez making a case for themselves with strong performances, the Croat is only just holding onto his spot for now.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
One of the most consistent performers for Barcelona this season, Busquets was up to his task yet again on Saturday. In what was a typically no-nonsense display, he broke up plays and dictated the tempo of the game, although he was lucky to get away scot-free on a couple of occasions.
Andres Iniesta: 7.5/10
Iniesta is going from strength to strength post the international break as he ran the show once again from the middle of the park. On top of that, a strong outing was rounded off with his first goal in La Liga in nearly two years, well deserved for another superb performance.
Gerard Deulofeu: 7/10
Another player who is grabbing his opportunities of late, Deulofeu continued from where he left off at half-time against Olympiacos as he made some brilliant runs with the ball and scored his first ever goal in Barcelona colours, albeit in controversial fashion. He still has a long way to go, but the player is surely finding his feet at Camp Nou.
1 – Gerard Deulofeu has scored his first goal in his 16th appearance for Barcelona in all competitions (14 shots). Sigh. pic.twitter.com/5BOheLUcbY
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 21, 2017
Lionel Messi: 7.5/10
Alongside Iniesta, Messi was at the centre of everything that was created by Barcelona as built up play by dropping deep. However, he would like to be involved a lot more inside the box as apart from a goal that was ruled offside, he couldn’t contribute much in front of goal.
His contribution to Iniesta’s goal, though, was delightful as he sent his captain through on goal. All in all, it was another solid performance by the Barcelona talisman.
Luis Suarez: 5/10
In what has now become a fully blown rut, Suarez turned in yet another disappointing performance on Saturday. While he worked hard off the ball, the Uruguayan failed in his primary responsibilities as his touch was poor, while he was also guilty of spurning the clearest of chance.
As things continue to go from bad to worse, one has to wonder just how long Valverde is going to persist with his star striker.
Nelson Semedo: 6/10
Replaced Deulofeu and set Roberto free to maraud forward on the right flank, Semedo’s arrival made Barcelona even more of a threat as he linked up well with the Spaniard.
Another solid cameo by the Brazilian who was, perhaps, better than Rakitic despite a short sting on the pitch. His performances are a cause for optimism for Valverde.
Paco Alcacer: N/A
Finally given an opportunity by Valverde, a first appearance since April coupled with Suarez’s struggles suggests he could have some role to play in the games to come.