Barcelona geared up for the midweek Chelsea game with a solid performance as they cruised to a 2-0 win over Malaga at La Rosaleda on Saturday
The visitors grabbed the lead just 15 minutes into the game as Jordi Alba teed Luis Suarez up with an inch perfect cross, with the Uruguayan heading the ball into the net. Barcelona’s lead was soon doubled, with Ousmane Dembele setting up Philippe Coutinho, who scored with a delightful backheel flick.
Malaga’s hopes of an unlikely comeback faded considerably at the half-hour mark as Samuel Garcia was sent off for a studs up challenge on Jordi Alba. But, the hosts produced a spirited performance as they created several chances to get back into the game, albeit unsuccessfully so as none was converted.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona_es) March 10, 2018
The win meant Malaga’s prospect of mounting a relegation escape have taken a major hit, while Barcelona extended their lead atop the table to eight points. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10
Malaga did have a few good moments in the match, but nothing that troubled ter Stegen. The German had just one regulation save to make and did more work with his feet than his hands on a relatively quiet night.
Sergi Roberto: 6.5/10
Signs of a budding partnership with Ousmane Dembele on the right flank were palpable on Sunday as Roberto looked to develop a fine understanding with the Frenchman. The Spaniard’s output in the final third though, wasn’t up to his usual standards, although he did reasonably well defensively.
Gerard Pique: 6/10
A solid outing for Pique, who, fortunately for Barcelona, didn’t look in any discomfort due to a niggling knee problem. While the veteran defender had a lapse in concentration once or twice, he barely had any moment of concern. Pique also contributed smartly to the build-up play, and will be crucial in the Chelsea game.
Samuel Umtiti: 6/10
Like Pique, Umtiti had a few worrying moments, but those were nothing that could have caused his side some harm. The Frenchman had a fine chance to grab a goal for himself, but he could only head straight into Roberto’s palms from Dembele’s fine cross.
Jordi Alba: 7/10
In a season that has been characterised by his contributions in the final third, Alba notched up another memorable assist, this time to Suarez, who headed a perfect cross into the back of the net. At the back, very little was asked of him, and he had a largely comfortable evening while defending.
Much improved after his recent lull, which suggests that a turnaround may be in the offing. Paulinho still wasn’t at his best though, as he tailed off for stretches in the game, but the drive seemed to be back in his runs and intensity. More involved upfront than ever before in 2018.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
A typical Busquets performance, absorbing all the pressure that came his way down the middle. His job on the night was a lot easier than usual for the most part though, as Malaga went down to ten men, giving Barcelona a numerical advantage that stood the Spaniard in good stead.
Ivan Rakitic: 7/10
Rakitic continued his fine run of recent form on Saturday as he controlled the proceedings smartly through the middle. He also looked intent on scoring on the night, although he could only come close from a couple of long-range efforts. Built up well for the midweek European game.
Ousmane Dembele: 8/10
Ousmane Dembélé vs Malaga (A)
Minutes played: 84
Pass accuracy: 78%
Key passes: 4
Dribbles completed: 5
Accurate long balls: 2
Big chances created: 2
His best performance yet pic.twitter.com/IZds4KLlvF
— ™ (@Tacticomotion_) March 10, 2018
Dembele produced his best performance in a Barcelona shirt on Saturday, cutting a lively outlet throughout his stint on the pitch. The Frenchman provided the assist for Philippe Coutinho’s goal after some fine work on the right flank, but his game was much more than that.
Dembele attempted eight dribbles, the most since his arrival at Barcelona, completing five of those and also made four key passes. Onwards and upwards now for the youngster.
Luis Suarez: 7.5/10
Suarez covered up for Messi’s absence superbly on Saturday, leading the line for Barcelona with elan. He finally got his elusive goal against Malaga – his 14th of the year – as he opened the scoring for Barcelona. Came close to grabbing a second, but his free-kick shaved wide of the post. Man in form.
Philippe Coutinho: 7.5/10
🎥 | Phillipe Coutinho individual highlights. pic.twitter.com/V4aKWzw2Um
— Barca Centre Media (@centrevid) March 11, 2018
Another player who is starting to adapt to his surroundings in La Liga. Coutinho was at his best on the left side of the attack, with the Malaga defenders having very little response to his cut-ins. His movement off the ball was delightful as well, as evidenced during his goal as he came through unmarked and scored with backheel flick.