Barcelona were forced to share points once again as Celta Vigo held them to a keenly contested 2-2 draw at Camp Nou on Saturday.
Barcelona dominated the proceedings in the initial stages of the match, grabbing most of the clear cut opportunities. But, as the first half approached its halfway stage, it was the visitors who grabbed the lead against the run of play as Iago Aspas netted the rebound into an empty net after Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved Maxi Gomez’s shot.
Barcelona didn’t take long to come back into the match though, as Luis Suarez, Paulinho and Lionel Messi combined brilliantly before the latter scored his first goal in six games. From thereon out, it was just one-way traffic, as the hosts created numerous chances, but to little success as Ruben Blanco stood tall between the posts.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 2, 2017
They finally managed to grab the lead seventeen minutes into the second half as Messi played a sumptuous pass to Jordi Alba, who crossed low to an unmarked Suarez to score his 6th league goal of the season. But, Juan Carlos Unzue’s men had the final say in the match, thanks to the indomitable Aspas.
The Spaniard charged through on the right flank before squaring the ball in to Gomez, who finally found a way past ter Stegen. With Real Madrid not managing to capitalise on their slip up later on Saturday, Barcelona maintained their eight-point lead over their bitter rivals, and The Hard Tackle runs the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 7.5/10
Yet another game, yet another day when ter Stegen was sublime between the posts for Barcelona. While he did concede two goals on Saturday, there was very little he could have done to stop either one. Other than those two, there was nothing going past the German, who was solid as ever for the hosts, making a number of brilliant saves.
ter Stegen conceded 10 goals in 4 games against Celta, more than against any other Spanish side. Nightmare. pic.twitter.com/sJpaDUTZ5S
— Ter Stegen Stats (@MarcAndreStats) December 3, 2017
In particular, the save against Pione Sisto in the second half was extremely important as it ended up avoiding a first defeat of the season for Valverde & co.
Sergi Roberto: 7/10
Back into the starting lineup after a month-long layoff, Roberto replaced Nelson Semedo, who has not looked the part in recent weeks at the right side of defence. The Spaniard, on the other hand, would have given his manager some food for thought after a strong outing on Saturday.
Refreshingly solid, reliable at the back and a constant threat on his marauding runs down the right flank. And while he was quite sloppy with his passing, those chinks could be worked out of his game as he secures more minutes going forward.
Gerard Pique: 6/10
Back into the starting lineup in the league after missing the trip to Valencia last weekend due to suspension, Pique produced a much improved performance on Saturday, dominating aerial battles and making numerous blocks and clearances.
But, it wasn’t smooth sailing for the veteran defender, who was quite troubled by the movement and pace, and he was caught out of position for the first goal when Maxi Gomez was able to take a shot at ter Stegen’s goal. He could have also turned into a hero for the hosts late on, when he struck the post when through on goal.
Samuel Umtiti: 6/10
Like Pique, Umtiti did have his hands full at the heart of the Barcelona defence. But, the Frenchman was a calm figure at the back, combining well alongside Pique while also playing the ball out smartly.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 2, 2017
His outing came to a premature end though, as he pulled up with a hamstring injury that will now keep him out of action for eight weeks. Quite a concern for Valverde, who now has just two senior centre-backs at his disposal now.
Jordi Alba: 7/10
Alba continued his fine run of form on Saturday as he continued to reap the dividends of getting the freedom to charge forward on the left flank, even providing an assist in the process. Defensively, he also backed up well to restrict the impact that Celta created on his side, although he was out of position for their second goal.
Ivan Rakitic: 7/10
Much improved on the day, Rakitic produced one of his better performances of the season on the right side of midfield. Full of energy all through his stint on the field, he ran and ran to make things happen in attack while also providing a lot of support to Roberto to restrict Sisto on his rare runs. Needs to keep this up now.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
As has been the case for the most part this season, Busquets was typically dependable in front of the back-four, breaking up plays down the middle and circulating the ball at a steady tempo. He was one of the guilty parties for Celta’s equaliser though, as he failed to provide enough cover and double up at the back after Umtiti pulled up.
Oh, what an asset the Brazilian has become this season, having been ridiculed upon his arrival. Paulinho showed a lot of intelligence with his movement, while combining up well with Luis Suarez and Messi, with one such link up ending with the latter’s goal. Turning out to be a top signing.
Andres Iniesta: 7/10
The midweek rest seems to have done Iniesta a world of good, who looked bright and lively in the first half, as he kept things ticking with constant rotation of the ball. But, like several of his outings this season, his level dropped in the second half before he was eventually taken off for Denis Suarez.
Lionel Messi: 8/10
Messi vs Celta. Arguably Messi’s best performance of the season thus far. Yet another masterclass from the greatest ever. pic.twitter.com/G7XpkKKF7Q
— R¹⁰ (@MessiZone) December 2, 2017
The Barcelona talisman was at it again, as he was the biggest threat for the hosts in the final third with his nippy movement that enabled him to lose his marker(s). A top performance was capped off with his first goal in six games, although he should have had more on the day.
Nevertheless, Messi constantly remained a threat, also playing a major role in Luis Suarez’s goal in the second half.
Luis Suarez: 7/10
It has been quite a rarity to see Suarez in his elements this season, and Saturday was one such day as he got into the right spaces, and looked sharp in front of goal. Had a goal to show for his efforts, and he would have had another if he wasn’t harshly ruled offside in the first half.
Denis Suarez: 6/10
Replacing early on in the second half, Denis Suarez brought a burst of energy that ensured Barcelona continued dominating the proceedings. His creative abilities did not match up to his senior teammate, though.
Thomas Vermaelen: N/A
On for Umtiti for the last quarter of an hour, Vermaelen provided a lot of solidity at the back, although he has some big boots to fill. The Belgian needs to remain fit, with Valverde now down to his bare bones at the heart of defence.
Paco Alcacer: N/A
Alcacer replaced Rakitic with ten minutes to go,and was a big threat in and around the Celta Vigo box. Almost netted the winner as well in the dying moments of the game.