Barcelona’s defence was on point as they saw off Real Sociedad at home courtesy of a goal from Lionel Messi.
After a rather disappointing El Clasico, where Barcelona fell 2-0 to Real Madrid, the Catalan giants seemed much more on their game on Saturday as they welcomed Real Sociedad onto their turf.
The game began in favour of the visitors who were able to threaten the Barcelona defence with the help of Martin Odegaard and Alexander Isak. However, the Basque outfit was not able to register a single shot till well into the second half, with Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet keeping them at bay.
After nearly 80 odd minutes of the deadlock, Barcelona went ahead with the help of a clutch penalty from captain Lionel Messi and bagged all three points. The Hard Tackle will now break down each Blaugrana’s performance individually.
REAL-LY BIG WIN!
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 7, 2020
Marc Andre Ter Stegen: 6/10
There were many instances where Sociedad looked threatening on the break, however, they could only attempt 1 shot on target which was comfortably punched away by the German keeper. Apart from that, ter Stegen showed rather mediocre distribution, which is quite unlike him. He took too much time on the ball, and was not able to complete most of his long ball attempts.
Nelson Semedo: 7/10
Barcelona’s rock of a right back faced trouble today against Ander Barrenetxea and a very attacking Nacho Monreal on his flank. However, they were comfortably dealt with for most part of the game. It was Isak that gave Semedo problems in the 90 minutes. Nonetheless, the Portugese’s solid 1v1 defending saw no one go past him as he made 4 tackles and 2 interceptions.
Gerard Pique: 8.5/10
Another matchday, another absolutely solid game for the to-be President of Barcelona. After having a cracker game vs Real Madrid, Pique backed up his claim of being one of the consistently best centre-halves in world football today, denying some very capable attackers today.
Pique won 6 of his 8 aerial duels, which included an effort on target in the first half of the game. He also blocked 2 shots that could’ve been well on target for Sociedad. The 33-year-old is well and truly the captain without an armband for Barça.
Clement Lenglet: 8/10
There was almost no reason for Samuel Umtiti to start 2 very important games for Barcelona, against Napoli and Real Madrid respectively when Clement Lenglet was fit. Lenglet made a very good start to the season, to see his form gradually dip, but is back to his best now.
In the second half of the game, Lenglet made a world-class sliding interception which would’ve seen Isak through on goal. The Frenchman then again denied Mikel Oyarzabal’s through ball the chance to reach an attacker with brilliant reading of the game. A fitting rating for Lenglet.
Jordi Alba: 8/10
Alba was rather poor last weekend during the El Clasico with the likes of Isco and Federico Valverde double-teaming him on the flank. He did, however, perform brilliantly against Sociedad, putting in an impressive defensive and offensive shift. Alba put in 2 very good crosses that met their targets but failed to end up in the net.
He played as a left-winger for the final few minutes of the game when Junior Firpo was brought on to replace Martin Braithwaite. To add to these spoils, Alba’s goal in the last minute of the game was ruled out by VAR when Ansu Fati was found to be offside. Unlucky.
Ivan Rakitic: 7.5/10
Another game when Rakitic does not complete 90 minutes. This has become a frequent occurrence this season, with the likes of Frenkie de Jong and Arturo Vidal getting more game time. In spite of that, Rakitic was rather impressive on Saturday. He took 2 attempts on goal, one of which required Alex Remiro to make a stunning save. He was also responsible for a major turnover in the second half when Portu was on the counter.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
To be fair, the pace did not quite suit Busquets initially, but he grew into it as time went on. He made 4 clutch tackles, and 2 interceptions against a very flagrant opposition midfield. The Spaniard also created a major chance for Messi, dinking the ball into the box, which the Argentine failed to control. Overall, a decent game for the 31-year-old.
Frenkie de Jong: 6/10
The ‘wonderkid’ seems to have lost the plot over the last few games for Barcelona. He’s been putting in underconfident performances, which could be traced to the fact that he practically plays every game. He’s played all but 1 game for the club, which he missed through suspension. The Dutch international has not been getting the rest he so obviously needs and deserves.
Antoine Griezmann: 6/10
World Cup winner. Europa League winner. Champions League runner up. Griezmann seems to have done it all – mostly – but he just can’t seem to find his feet in Catalonia. Maybe it’s due to the fact that his position simply does not exist at the club. Either way, this was just another average game in Griezmann’s overall tally.
To sugarcoat his performance, it would be fair to say that he did create a huge chance in the first half which was not buried by Rakitic.
Lionel Messi: 8/10
The match-winner for Barcelona. Yet again. The little magician seems to pull up the team even on his off days. However, what was really off putting about his performance today was that he was not able to control the ball like he usually does. La Pulga is usually able to trap the ball under his spell as soon as he takes the first touch. But the first touch today itself was quite off.
❗️RECORD — Lionel Messi became the all-time top scorer in Europe's top five leagues,
Messi – 438 goals, 474 games
Cristiano – 437 goals, 540 games pic.twitter.com/XOENyG16j5
— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) March 7, 2020
Either way, he created 3 goal-scoring chances for his teammates, one of which was converted and then ruled out. His clutch penalty in the 81st minutes helped Barcelona grab all 3 points from a tough match.
Martin Braithwaite: 7.5/10
The controversial signing got his first start of the season today, starting on the left wing ahead of Ansu Fati. Braithwaite showed electric pace whenever he got the ball. An early attempt on target from an acute angle almost caught the Sociedad goalkeeper off guard. Moreover, Braithwaite seems to already have a better connection with Barcelona captain Messi than the likes of Griezmann, Fati or Ousmane Dembele.
Arturo Vidal: 5.5/10
Vidal came on for Rakitic in order to add attacking options upfront for Barcelona when the score was all tied up. He didn’t really do anything, though. Barely made 5 passes and had less than 10 touches of the ball.
Ansu Fati: 6.5/10
Even though Fati was essentially brought on to see the game off for Barcelona, he added the bit of pace on the flank that Griezmann was not able to offer. His off the ball running seems to improve every game. Fati was unlucky to be ruled offside by merely a few centimetres when he grabbed an assist for Alba’s ruled out goal.
Junior Firpo: N/A
The Spanish left-back was brought on in the 89th minute to add more defensive solidity at the back and see the game off.