Frenkie de Jong was the standout performer while Pedri impressed once again, as Barcelona claimed a hard-fought 2-0 win over Elche on Sunday.
Barcelona dominated the proceedings from the get-go, but failed to make much of their upper hand as Edgar Badia was forced into just a couple of saves. The opener finally came courtesy a stroke of good luck as Diego Gonzalez miscued a clearance from Martin Braithwaite’s cross. As the ball meandered towards the goal, Frenkie de Jong popped up to score into the open net to make it 1-0.
Early in the second half, Barcelona needed Marc-Andre ter Stegen to produce a strong save to stay narrowly ahead, with the German goalkeeper denying Emiliano Rigoni. At the other end, Badia was in inspired form, thwarting the hosts on a number of occasions before the game was eventually put to bed.
It was de Jong who unleashed a brilliant run deep into the Elche box before chipping the ball back across the goal, with Riqui Puig heading into the open goal to round off the win. The result kept Barcelona in pace with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, both of whom won their games this week. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ronald Koeman’s men.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 7/10
Hardly called into action, as Barcelona thoroughly dominated the proceedings. However, ter Stegen did have to make a couple of smart saves to preserve his clean sheet and ensure Barcelona remained ahead before their late goal. Extremely precise on the ball, the German custodian misplaced just one pass all game.
Oscar Mingueza: 6/10
Starting on the right side of the Barcelona defence once again in the absence of Sergino Dest, Oscar Mingueza endured a blow-hot-blow-cold outing against Elche. Not the most efficient of ball carriers being a centre-back, the youngster was wasteful with the ball higher up the pitch, losing possession in an instance when Elche unleashed a fine counter-attacking move.
Ronald Araujo: 7/10
Another start, which obviously meant that Barcelona did not end up on the wrong end of the result. It is now a 16th game that Barcelona have not lost with Araujo in the starting lineup. Just exudes calmness and confidence, which ultimately helped Barcelona effectively shut off Elche all through the game. Won 5 duels while his output on the ball just continues to improve.
Samuel Umtiti: 7/10
A surprise starter ahead of Clement Lenglet, Umtiti was impressive with the control he had in his display at the back. Apart from one nervy moment, the Frenchman was rarely troubled and he also had a superb passing success rate of 97 percent to boot. Will hope to remain fit in the weeks and months to come, with Barcelona still missing Gerard Pique.
Jordi Alba: 6/10
Not the best of outings going forward for Jordi Alba, who was clearly missing the presence of Lionel Messi on the pitch. Did grow in influence as the game progressed, but he was still well off his best levels, especially seeing as he was essentially a left-winger against an Elche side that sat deep.
Frenkie de Jong: 9/10
The clear standout on the day, de Jong first opened the scoring with the easiest goal he is going to score in his career, although it did come at the end of a lung-busting run. The Dutchman, though, produced the moment of the game late on, when he unleashed a brilliant run before setting Riqui Puig up for the second Barcelona goal. What a gem, really.
De Jong: "I believe that I can still offer more."
Winner mentality. pic.twitter.com/QJ2cZYdQNc
— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) January 24, 2021
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
In a typically commanding display, Busquets was a major reason why Barcelona were so dominant against Elche. The veteran Spaniard also engineered a fine opening for Francisco Trincao late on, only for the young winger to be denied by Edgar Badia.
Pedri was once again a bundle of energy going forward and constantly looked to make things happen. The teenage prodigy played the most key passes (4) in the game and despite his creative outlook, he boasted a brilliant 91 percent passing rate. There were a few moments of sloppiness, but on the whole, his star just continues to rise.
Ousmane Dembele: 7/10
He might not have a goal or an assist to show for his efforts on the day, but Dembele was critical in pushing Elche back constantly. The French international completed 5 take-ons while also playing in a couple of key passes. Room for improvement still, but it goes without saying that Dembele provides that X-Factor in the final third.
Antoine Griezmann: 6.5/10
A game of hits and misses for the Player to Watch in our preview. Griezmann was critical in putting the pressure on Diego Gonzalez, who miscued a clearance from Martin Braithwaite’s cross before de Jong netted the opener. In front of goal, however, the Frenchman was wasteful with the chances that were presented to him. Never stopped putting in a shift, though.
Martin Braithwaite: 6.5/10
Deployed on the left wing, which robbed him of his best abilities, Braithwaite flitted in and out of the game as a result. However, the Danish international was also involved in the opening goal that Barcelona scored, as it was his dangerous cross that was deflected goalwards by Gonzalez. Did not manage to get into a scoring position, though.
Francisco Trincao: N/A
An impressive cameo by Trincao, who was denied by a couple of fabulous saves by Badia. Slowly but surely starting to step up.
Riqui Puig: N/A
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 24, 2021
Sent on with barely any time left, Puig headed in his first goal of the season just moments after being introduced. Doing all that he can to convince Koeman.