Barcelona endured a rare off day as they drew a blank in a 0-0 stalemate with Getafe at the Nou Camp.
The visitors stood firm to take an unlikely point away from Catalonia, having become the first side to prevent Barcelona from mustering a shot on target at home in the first half since Real Madrid in April 2012.
The gap is down to seven points at the top of La Liga after second-placed Atletico Madrid secured a 1-0 victory over Malaga. It’s not over yet…
Some of the ratings are not pretty for Barca’s attacking players but there was, at least, a clean sheet for Yerry Mina on his first start.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen – Dangerously strayed off his line at one point in the second half but Shibasaki shot high and wide. Had a watching brief for much of the match. 6
Sergi Roberto – Very little penetration came down the right flank, although he did not have much support except for Mina’s forays, and until Ousmane Dembele came on. Solid enough defensively. 6
Yerry Mina – Though he’ll face sterner challengers this was a confident-looking performance. Unafraid to come forward and could even have scored from either of two fine headed chances. A little out of position at times, and played Angel onside for one of Getafe’s only chances. But his pace is a vital asset. 7
Lucas Digne – With Barca playing a high line due to their domination, Digne’s lack of pace was glaring on the rare occasion that Getafe were allowed to break. Happy to let Mina take possession and drive forward, and thankfully for Barca, this was not a game in which he was pressed into action too much. 6
Jordi Alba – As willing as ever to provide width on the left but his crossing were finding too many luminous shirts. His patterns of play can be predictable – too often he was forcing the ball to Lionel Messi. 6
Sergio Busquets – His 300th La Liga game in a Blaugrana shirt did not produce any highlight-reel moments from midfield, but Busquets is a high-ceiling player and kept Barca ticking over before being replaced by Paulinho 10 minutes from full-time. 6
Ivan Rakitic – A mixed bag – landed one pass in Suarez’s lap at one point in the first half, but at other times his passing radar was uncharacteristically off. 6
Paco Alcacer – Yanked for Dembele in the 63rd minute and was clearly not on the same wavelength as his more illustrious team-mates. 5
Philippe Coutinho – Clearly still adapting to life at the Nou Camp – went missing for large swathes of the game, and his usual roaming role – as he performed at Liverpool – is occupied by Messi at Barcelona. Did go close in 58th minute with dipping shot that drew a good save from Guaita. 5
Luis Suarez – The linesmen wore themselves out continuously flagging Suarez for offside. The Uruguayan’s red-hot form took an ice bath against Getafe, as even the times he managed to avoid the flag’s attention, his finishing was off. Had a headed chance tipped over in injury-time. 4
Lionel Messi – Was at his exquisite best – minus the goals. Was hacked to pieces as he tried to conjure up something on his own but, despite the 300m plus of attacking talent around him at one point in the game, no one gave the Argentinian a helping hand. 8
Andres Iniesta – His superglue dribbling nearly carved out chance for Dembele, effective as ever when operating from the left. 7
Ousmane Dembele – Lacks that Barca stamp of composure and fell over his feet a couple of times. But the ball seemed drawn to him and he looked like he could make something happen – same couldn’t be said for Alcacer or Coutinho. 6
Paulinho – Had little time to make a mark and arguably should have entered the fray earlier. N/A
After securing their fifth-consecutive Copa del Rey final appearance following a 2-0 win over Valencia in the semi-final second leg, Barcelona’s attention return to La Liga.
The Catalans could go nine points clear of Atletico Madrid at the top of the table with a win against Getafe at Camp Nou on Sunday.
Here, we look at the key talking points ahead of the encounter.
Dembele return gives Barca boost
Barcelona fans have barely caught a glimpse of Ousmane Dembele since his €105 million (Dh472.3m) transfer from Borussia Dortmund in the summer.
An injury-plagued first season in Spain has been frustrating for the young France forward, but he has been included in the squad to face Getafe after being given the all-clear by medical staff.
Ernesto Valverde will no doubt be cautious with the 20-year-old but there’s every chance that he will play some part against the Blues. With the Champions League round of 16 tie against Chelsea to come next week, a fit Dembele with a few minutes under his belt will hand the Catalans a huge boost in attack going into the business end of the season with the treble in their sights.
Chance for Coutinho to make a statement
After scoring his first goal as a Barcelona player in the win over Valencia, Philippe Coutinho will be keen to establish himself in the first eleven and play a key role as the team chase down silverware in the final stages of the campaign.
A period of acclimatisation was always going to be in store for the Brazilian after making the switch from Liverpool.
However, having been the playmaker in chief at Anfield, he will be itching to take centre stage, or at least share it with the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez etc. Against Getafe, Coutinho will be keen to build on his fine second half-display at the Mestalla and hopefully earn a place in the starting line-up when the Blaugrana take on Chelsea in Europe.
Can Mina step up?
For too long Barcelona have relied on their first-choice centre-back pairing.
Samuel Umtiti and Gerard Pique have emerged as the central defensive duo this season but the Frenchman’s muscle injury over the winter fixtures meant the unreliable Thomas Vermaelen needed to be drafted in, who has since been sidelined with injury again. Pique has usually been the constant but after limping off in midweek, he’s in a race to be fit for the encounter with Chelsea next week.
Barcelona have always been precariously light in terms of defensive personnel but Yerry Mina’s arrival is supposed to rectify that. The Colombia international was meant to be eased into proceedings but now looks set to start against Getafe.
A solid display at Camp Nou could prove significant, not only to offer a solid back-up should Pique suffer a setback in his bid to recover for the Champions League tie, but also to provide reassurance that in the long-term, Barcelona no longer need to be as reliant on their Spanish defensive stalwart as they have been in recent years.
There’s no disputing it – Barcelona are the Kings of the King’s Cup.
We’ve plucked out a few of the numbers that demonstrate just how dominant Barcelona are, and why Sevilla should be concerned when they meet in the Copa del Rey final on April 21.
The last time that Barcelona did not make the final of the Copa del Rey, and you’d have to go back to 2010 for the last time they failed to at least make the semi-final stage. Five successive finals had never before been achieved in the competition’s 114-year history.
Career goals for Lionel Messi in the Copa del Rey though it’s good enough for only ninth among the competition’s top goal-scorers.
There are a few obvious targets he will be aiming to surpass in the final, with former Real Madrid hero Santillana just one ahead.
And then there’s a couple of early La Liga pioneers, Hungary-born duo Laszlo Kubala and Ferenc Puskas, tantalisingly perched on 49.
Should Barca triumph against Sevilla it would be their fourth Copa del Rey title in a row – a feat only accomplished by Real (1905-1908) and Athletic Club (1930-1933) so far.
Andres Iniesta, Messi, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique will be out to secure their fifth Copa del Rey success overall. The record-holder, Athletic’s Piru Gainza, sits on seven.
Barca have lifted the Copa del Rey 29 times in their history – six clear of second-most successful club Athletic and 10 ahead of Real Madrid. A 30th title is now in their sights.
Given that Athletic have not even reached a final since 1984 – in which time Barca have got their hands on the silverware on nine occasions – it’s fair to say they won’t be caught any time soon.