Uninspiring Barcelona edge past promoted Real Valladolid

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Barcelona toiled terribly against newly-promoted Real Valladolid, with Ousmane Demebele‘s strike proving to be the difference in this thoroughly uninspiring performance from the reigning La Liga champions.

The hosts, promoted via the Segunda Division’s play-off last season behind champions Rayo Vallecano and Huesca, gave a glimpse of what to expect from them this season as they pushed their illustrious opponents all the way in a courageous performance in which they can count themselves unlucky not to take anything from – with Keko’s injury time header initially given before being ruled out for offside.

Dembele’s goal proved decisive at the Estadio Jose Zorrilla, but it was another erratic performance from the youngster, who was hooked soon after.

Star man Lionel Messi endured one of his rare off nights and, worryingly for coach Ernesto Valverde, none of his teammates looked capable of bearing the creative burden – with Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Dembele all below their best.

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Ousmane Dembele a match-winner but earns just a 4 in our Barcelona ratings

Matt Jones 26/08/2018
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Barcelona toiled terribly against newly-promoted Real Valladolid, with Ousmane Demebele‘s strike proving to be the difference in this thoroughly uninspiring performance from the reigning La Liga champions.

The hosts, promoted via the Segunda Division’s play-off last season behind champions Rayo Vallecano and Huesca, gave a glimpse of what to expect from them this season as they pushed their illustrious opponents all the way in a courageous performance in which they can count themselves unlucky not to take anything from – with Keko’s injury time header initially given before being ruled out for offside.

Dembele’s goal proved decisive at the Estadio Jose Zorrilla, but it was another erratic performance from the youngster, who was hooked soon after.

Here we rate the Barcelona players’ performances.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen – 6: Coped well with what came his way. Might have been picking the ball out of his net had Valladolid been more clinical.

Sergi Roberto – 7: Did brilliantly to divert Suarez’s hopeful cross into the path of Dembele. Generally lively up and down the right flank. Three tackles and three interceptions were both team highs.

Samuel Umtiti – 7: Stayed firm as the plucky hosts gave it their all and had Barca on the ropes. Excellently cut out one dangerous low cross.

Gerard Pique – 5: Out of position on a couple of occasions. Looked shaky. Horribly caught out for Valladolid’s ultimately disallowed goal. Won a team high five aerial duels.

Jordi Alba – 6: Isn’t that used to playing back towards his own goal but was diligent defensively; clearing header to deny Keko was vital. Although he slipped minutes later to allow him another, a chance Alba thankfully saw him waste.

Philippe Coutinho – 5: Two key passes led Barca as he looked to help Messi shoulder the creative burden. Was well marshaled by the home defence for the most part though.

Ivan Rakitic – 5: Not one of the crafty Croat’s best nights. The pitch didn’t help but his low cross that was nowhere near Suarez in the first half summed up his night, as did a handball.

Sergio Busquets – 7: Was one of the few visiting players to emerge with any credit, fouled five times as Valladolid looked to obviously disrupt Barca’s possession-based game.

Lionel Messi – 4: He’s the best player on the planet but when he’s not on top of his game – as he ever so occasionally is, like here – it’s important someone else in Blaugrana colours steps up. The fact no-one really did will be a worry for Valverde.

Luis Suarez – 5: He set up the first goal but it owed more to Roberto’s perseverance as opposed to any skill from the Uruguayan who did nothing more than to hit a hopeful, wayward cross into the box. Saw a second chalked off.

Ousmane Dembele – 4: It was turning into one of those error-strewn, frustrating performances for the talented young French winger, before he connected sweetly with Roberto’s cute header. Pass percentage completion of 67.7 per cent was dreadful.

SUBS:

Arturo Vidal N/A: Brought on for the goalscorer to try and beef up Barca’s midfield.

Malcom N/A: Brought on late for Coutinho, could have won it but effort was saved superbly down low by Jordi Masip.

Munir El Haddadi N/A: Brought on late for Suarez to run down the clock.

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Gerard Pique set for landmark 300th La Liga appearance

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Gerard Pique is set to make his 300th La Liga appearance.

Gerard Pique is set to make his 300th La Liga appearance on Saturday when Barcelona face Real Valladolid.

The 31-year-old made his debut in 2006 as a Real Zaragoza player, on loan from Manchester United having moved to England straight from Barcelona’s youth set-up.

In typical fashion, Pique marked that match with a goal, the first of 25 he’s scored so far in the league, an impressive tally for a centre-back.

Pique, who recently signed a new contract with the Nou Camp outfit to keep him at the club until 2022, has emerged on the winning side in 220 of his 299 league appearances so far, and he’ll be hoping to make it 221 on Saturday, regardless of whether he adds to his goals tally or not.

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