Rating the Barcelona players after their 2-0 second-leg Copa del Rey victory
Marquee signing Philippe Coutinho’s debut for FC Barcelona was one of the major highlights of the Spanish club’s two-goal victory over Espanyol in the Copa del Rey quarter-final at Camp Nou on Thursday (January 25th).
Strikes from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi in the 9th and the 25th minute of the game, respectively, ensured that the hosts had their noses ahead after the first half of the game. Ernesto Valverde went into the competition all guns blazing and put his best team on the pitch from the first whistle.
The 2-1 aggregate of the fixture has helped Barcelona seal the semi-final spot and avoid the scare of being knocked out from the tournament, like their arch-rivals Real Madrid, were on Wednesday.
The Blaugrana took the game by the scruff of its neck from the word go, slammed their name all over it, and Coutinho’s blazing cameo added to the delight of the home fans.
On that note, here's a look at how the Barcelona players performed on the night:
Jasper Cillessen – 6.5/10
Though Barcelona excelled on the attack at most parts, their defence was made to put in a shift by the relentless effort from the Espanyol unit. However, the Dutch goalkeeper was not in the smack centre of the action for the entirety of the game, apart from the one shot that he saved almost immediately after the Suarez strike.
He will get a rating that is slightly above average, on the basis of the same.
Sergi Roberto – 8/10
The Spaniard served on the right side of the pitch on the day and displayed his usual solidarity throughout the game. He was out of position a few times, but did not look flustered and linked effortlessly with all the red and blue shirts around him. He worked hard, put in a shift and made sure that he was vigilant till the last whistle.
Gerard Pique – 7/10
The 30-year-old looked in control of his defensive duties of the game more often than not, but looked eager to contribute to the attack as well. He was not only dependable in the back 4, but also did well in set-piece tussles while attacking.
Samuel Umtiti – 8/10
This was a comeback game for the Frenchman after an injury-forced hiatus of almost two months. However, he looked like he was never off the pitch through the 90 minutes of the game. He was impenetrable, dominant and in control. All in all, It was a memorable return to the first team for the defender.
Jordi Alba – 6/10
He has been a rock for the team this season, but was shut down more often than not in this particular game. He did not fall short in terms of intent, but had little output to show for it in terms of the sheer impact (or lack thereof) that he had on the game. He should’ve done better going forward.
Sergio Busquets – 8/10
The midfielder put in one of his best performances of the season at Camp Nou on Thursday. His control was immense; he sprayed the ball around with remarkable ease and was clearly the anchor that held the formation together.
Ivan Rakitic – 6.5/10
Rakitic did not make any blunders but was unable to make his presence felt in the middle. The Croatian focused more on his defensive duties, especially after the double strike put his team in the front seat. He created a massive chance for Lionel Messi, but it could not be converted due to a good save by the keeper.
Andres Iniesta – 7.5/10
The captain was crucial to the success of the team, more so in the first half of the game. He returned to the field after missing a fortnight of action due to his calf injury.
His movement was splendid in the first half an hour of play and his decisive passing was the key to Barca’s menacing attack upfront. He was substituted for the debutant Philippe Coutinho in the 66th minute of the game.
Aleix Vidal – 7.5/10
The Spanish professional was not expected to make it to the first team in the game, but played his role with efficiency without a doubt. He generated an exceptional cross for Suarez that led to the opening goal of the night. He operated with pace and impressed in the right wing before he was substituted for Paulinho.
Lionel Messi – 9.5/10
The Argentine maestro had a forgettable day in the office in the first leg of the fixture, where his failure to score off a penalty, which was indirectly responsible for his team succumbing to a 1-0 defeat.
However, he brought his best to the table this time around, and rose to the occasion once again, when it mattered the most.
His intentions were clear after the scintillating pass that he delivered to Jordi Alba in the initial phase of the game. He helped create the Suarez goal before going on to conjure his magic once again and get on the scoreboard himself later in the game.
Luis Suarez - 8.5/10
It was the Uruguayan's goal that set the tone for the Blaugrana. After losing the first leg, it was imperative for them to start well at home. Thanks to Suarez's thumping header within the first ten minutes of the game, that is exactly what transpired.
His pace proved to be problematic for the Espanyol defenders and he kept looking like a threat to them throughout the game.
Paulinho – 6/10
The Brazilian midfielder did not have much impact off the bench when he was brought in for Vidal. He tried to instigate more forward movement for the team, but spent most of his time trying to hold the ball in the latter minutes of the game.
Philippe Coutinho – 8/10
The newest recruit brought in from Liverpool looked brilliant in flashes on his debut. He did not look nervous and seemed to settle well into the pace and passing proficiency of the team. The highlight of his debut was a clear-cut chance that he created for Suarez after coming on.
Andre Gomes – N/A
The Portuguese footballer was sent in during stoppage time, to merely see off the remaining minutes of the game, and could barely influence the game.