LaLiga 2018-19: Barcelona's scratchy 1-0 win over Real Valladolid shows how much they need to improve
To be fair it looked like Barcelona were saving themselves for the Tuesday Champions League clash with Olympique Lyonnais. They were seemingly putting in less than 100%, making sloppy mistakes, their passing was not at its best, and chances were just not being created.
Maybe on Tuesday Barcelona will be brilliant, maybe they will score lots of goals and demolish Lyon, or something like that. But yesterday saw a rather indifferent version of the world-beating club.
The first half was a little boring, and the Barcelona players were struggling to even pass the ball. Even Messi lost the ball quite a few times. The second half was better but they lacked in the finishing.
This was a continuation of a bad couple of weeks for them. They were very poor against Valencia, not the best against Real Madrid and highly vulnerable against Bilbao.
The result was still a win and they got three points, but after this display the players won't be too high on confidence. Luis Suarez, coming on in the second half, just couldn't finish the shots. He missed four big chances, which is among the highest number of chances he has wasted in a single game his entire Barcelona career.
Messi himself did not look great with the ball. He was not able to create much in the first half, though he was back to his best in the second half. Even so, he ended up missing a penalty to cap a sub-par night for him overall.
Ousmane Dembele came back to the starting XI after suffering an injury, and looked average. Arturo Vidal was probably the best Barcelona player of the night as he was constantly trying and fighting to win balls back.
Kevin-Prince Boetang played his first LaLiga game and looked decent, but he missed a one-on-one chance too.
Messi looked so frustrated by the end that he even got a yellow card for arguing with the referee.
To give the opposition credit, their defence was absolutely fantastic. They were always marking Messi, making life difficult for him. They were not giving Dembele free space and looked highly motivated throughout the game.
They did commit two mistakes in the game, and gave away two penalties. The first one scored by Messi and was decisive in winning the match, while the other was saved by their keeper.
The La Masia product Jordi Masip was easily the Man of the match. He stood like a wall and didn't allow anything to pass. He made quite a few good saves and also saved a Messi penalty.
The bottom line is that Barcelona were far from their best, and would like to get back to form soon as they face very tough matches in the next few days. Real Valladolid on their part had a good game as it's difficult for a 15th-ranked team to come to Barcelona and concede just one goal.
That Messi penalty was decisive, and won the match for Barcelona. But they would need to find some motivation and confidence out of thin air if they want to perform well against Lyon on Tuesday.Published 17 Feb 2019, 12:13 IST