Lionel Messi was the saviour for Barcelona as they kicked off the Quique Setien era with a narrow 1-0 victory over Granada on Sunday.
Barcelona dominated the possession stats on the night as expected, but a resolute Granada defence held firm against Lionel Messi & co. as the first half ended goalless. Against the run of play, the visitors almost broke the deadlock in the second half, but saw midfielder Yan Eteki’s strike bounce back off the foot of the post.
However, Granada were reduced to ten men in the 70th minute following German Sanchez’s sending off and Barcelona pounced on the advantage, as captain Messi side-footed the ball into the net in the 76th minute to bag the win and send Barcelona back to the top of the La Liga table.
GAME, SETIÉN, MATCH! pic.twitter.com/e6gPnsWno8
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 19, 2020
And here’s how we rated the performances of the Barcelona stars in what was new manager Quique Setien’s first game in charge.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10
The German international made his return from a knee injury on Sunday night and had little to do in terms of saves, with Granada hardly venturing forward in the game. Was saved by the post in the second half when Yan Eteki took aim at goal. Distributed well from the back.
Sergi Roberto: 6/10
Given a new role by Setien, wherein the Spaniard was asked to move into the right-side of a back three when Barcelona were in possession, which meant he could not influence the proceedings going forward. Was fairly comfortable at the back, as his team controlled the game.
Gerard Pique: 6/10
Not a lot of defensive work to do for the veteran centre-back as the visitors spent most of the game in their own half. Tried to influence the game with his passes from the back.
Samuel Umtiti: 7/10
Preferred over compatriot Clement Lenglet, Umtiti put in a solid shift against Granada, wherein he defended with good anticipation and intelligence to nip any potential threat in the bud. His ball-playing abilities were an asset when Barcelona were in possession, which might make him the first-choice ahead of Lenglet moving forward in the campaign.
Jordi Alba: 7/10
Given the licence to operate as an auxiliary winger when Barcelona were in possession, which was for majority of the game. Alba was a big influence in attack, helping create a number of chances on the night, including a lovely cutback to Messi in the first half, which the captain failed to convert.
Ivan Rakitic: 5/10
Looked uncomfortable and out of sync with the rest of his teammates in the new system that was being played under Setien. Gave away the ball on quite a few occasions and never really got into the game. Was subbed off for Riqui Puig, who was a huge improvement on the Croat.
Sergio Busquets: 8/10
Eye-popping numbers from our No. 5 against Granada
157 Total Passes
145 Completed Passes
92.4% Passing Accuracy
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 20, 2020
After an underwhelming start to the campaign, the Spaniard looked somewhere close to his best against Granada. Acted as the perfect link between the defence and attack, circulating the ball with pinpoint accuracy, helping Barcelona control and dominate the game. Had the most touches on the night (179) and completed 145 of his 157 passes.
Arturo Vidal: 7/10
An industrious perfomance from the Chilean, who worked hard and pressed the opponents high up when not in possession, while being involved in a number of attacking moves for Barcelona. Got the assist for Messi’s winner with a beautiful backheel.
Ansu Fati: 6/10
Given a chance in the absence of Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez, the youngster started off well, getting himself into good positions on the right and managed to test the opposition goalkeeper once as well. However, his end product lacked quality and consistency.
Lionel Messi: 8/10
Who else but the Little Magician to save Barcelona? Everything positive for the Catalans went through their captain, who had come close to scoring in the first half, before finally finding the back of the net in the second period to win the game for his team.
Antoine Griezmann: 6/10
Not the most effective performance from the Frenchman, who worked hard but could not impact the proceedings a great deal. Was involved in the buildup to Messi’s goal though, finding Vidal with a nice pass.
Riqui Puig: 7/10
Thrown on in place of Rakitic in the 70th minute, the 20-year-old made the most of his time on the pitch. Showed some great touches, made incisive passes forward, but his most valuable contribution came when he pressed and won the ball high up the pitch, launching the move for the winning goal. Definitely in contention to start the next game.
Carles Perez: N/A
Came on for Fati for the final ten minutes or so. Worked hard.
Marked his return from injury, replacing Vidal late in the game.