Barcelona were far from their best yet again but did return to winning ways, beating Real Valladolid 1-0 at Camp Nou courtesy a Lionel Messi penalty.

Coming into the game on the back of three successive draws, Barcelona were in need of a turnaround in form, especially with Atletico Madrid cutting their lead atop the La Liga table down to four points. But, the hosts were far from their best on the night, struggling to create chances in a flurry.

In fact, after being denied a penalty when Kevin-Prince Boateng was brought down early on, Barcelona were awarded one when Gerard Pique was fouled by Michel inside the Valladolid box just minutes before half-time. Lionel Messi stepped up to take the spot-kick, making no mistake in scoring his 22nd league goal of the season.

In the second half, the visitors had Jordi Masip to thank for keeping them in the game as they continued to take the game to Barcelona. Most notable among his stops were his save that denied Messi early on, while at the other end, Pique went a long way in ensuring his side’s clean sheet.

As the game approached its end, the La Liga champions were awarded a second penalty when Philippe Coutinho was brought down by Kiko Olivas. Messi took the penalty once again, but was thwarted by Masip this time, as the La Masia product continued to keep the deficit down to a solitary goal.

Nevertheless, Barcelona held on for the narrow win, which saw them stretch their lead on Saturday to seven points. The Blaugrana will be facing Lyon in the UEFA Champions League up next, but before that, The Hard Tackle runs the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10

Real Valladolid did take the game to Barcelona on Saturday, but ter Stegen barely had anything to do for much of the night. Distributed the ball well, as he almost always does.

Sergi Roberto: 6/10

Preferred ahead of Nelson Semedo, who might have been rested ahead of the Champions League game against Lyon, Roberto was out of sorts yet again. While he wasn’t tested much at the back, he reciprocated with a sub-par showing going forward. Came close to score late on, but it wasn’t to be for him.

Gerard Pique: 9/10

A key moment.` (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

A key moment. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Pique has been a rock at the back for Barcelona lately, and on Saturday, the veteran defender was at his very best once again. All through the game, very little went past the 32-year-old, with the most notable of his contributions at the back being an interception to stop Enes Unal in his tracks. Also won the penalty for the winner in what was pretty much a perfect outing.

Thomas Vermaelen: 8/10

Starting in place of the rested Clement Lenglet, Thomas Vermaelen showed exactly why he is so revered as a backup option. Alongside Pique, the Belgian defender forged a formidable partnership, keeping a check on Sergi Guardiola. Played the ball out from the back precisely as well, in what was a solid performance.

Jordi Alba: 6/10

Much like Sergi Roberto on the opposite flank, Alba did not affect the proceedings much while charging forward, which is quite atypical of him. Suffice to say, Barcelona were far from fluid in the final third. Never quite troubled at the back, where the Spaniard was accomplished in his performance.

Arturo Vidal: 6/10

Much like last week, Vidal was sloppy in possession once again, although he did not quite lose the ball as much against Valladolid. Worked his socks off when off the ball, however, which helped Barcelona curb the threat of the resolute opposition better. But, the Chilean needs to regain his form on the ball, so as to drive his side forward better.

Sergio Busquets: 6/10

Much improved. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Much improved. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Busquets has been rather inconsistent this season, especially when it comes to him sweeping up the threat. But, on Saturday, the vastly experienced midfielder took a big step in regaining top form, stopping a lot of Valladolid plays while also moving the ball forward at pace. Some sloppiness remains, but this was a step in the right direction.

Carles Alena: 6/10

Given a big chance to impress, Alena did were for large parts of the game. But, the rawness in his game was evident as well, with a few poorly timed passes proving to be his undoing. The La Masia graduate though, oozes confidence, which ought to stand him in good stead going forward.

Lionel Messi: 7/10

It was a game of highs and lows for Messi, who converted and missed a penalty. The Argentine created a number of chances as well, but misplaced a number of passes too, which is quite unlike him. Looked to be tiring out towards the end, although a rest is not forthcoming anytime soon.

Did score the winner for Barcelona, which is all that essentially matters in the end. Now up to 30 goals across all competitions this season, a tally he has reached in each of the last 11 seasons – quite remarkable.

Kevin-Prince Boateng: 5/10

Nearly a month after joining Barcelona on loan from Sassuolo, Boateng finally got the chance to make his La Liga debut. While the Ghanaian striker did look intent on making things happen, his end product was found lacking a lot of times. Did get a great chance to break his duck, but fluffed his lines. No harm done though, with the three points secured.

Ousmane Dembele: 6/10

Back into the starting lineup for the first time since recovering from injury, Dembele was typically a bright spark all throughout his stint on the pitch. But, he too, should have made more of the chance that came his way. Still not fully sharp, although he is getting there.


Luis Suarez: 4/10

A frustrating cameo. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

A frustrating cameo. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

On for Boateng at the hour mark, Suarez constantly found himself getting into scoring positions. But, he missed an astounding four chances to find the back of the net, the most he has as a Barcelona player. Quite damning that it came in a cameo, and in games of such slim margins of error, it is unsurprising that he was so heavily scrutinized.

Philippe Coutinho: 6/10

On the pitch for around 20 minutes, Coutinho seemed to be in his elements, which is a positive sign considering his recent struggles. Won the penalty late on as well, but Messi failed to convert it.

Ivan Rakitic: N/A

Rakitic replaced Alena, and helped calm things down when Valladolid were threatening to script a comeback. Well rested for the Champions League game.

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