Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez were the predictable goalscoring heroes as Barcelona squeezed past hard-fighting Getafe with a 2-1 victory at the Alfonso Perez Coliseum on Sunday night.
It was far from easy for the reigning champions and not everybody covered themselves in glory, but the job got done…just about. Here is how all the players rated.
Soria 8. Made a series of good stops, denying Messi, Suarez and Pique to keep his team in it. Unlucky with the opener.
D Suarez 6. Had his hands full with Dembele and Alba but stuck to the task. Unlucky to inadvertently ‘assist’ Messi’s opener.
Djene 7. Held his team together with a strong performance full of tenacity and anticipation. So hard to shrug off.
Cabrera 5. Blocked a Suarez shot well and came close with a header, but was weak defensively and booked for an awful lunge.
Antunes 8. Came forward to good effect, playing some good crosses from the left, and was solid at the back. Excellent showing.
Foulquier 6. Gave Alba trouble down the right but he had problems defensively and was replaced in the second half.
Maksimovic 5. Remarkably only had 18 touches in the whole game as Barca controlled the middle and Getafe focused on wide areas.
Arambarri 5. Tried to link midfield with attack but spent a lot of time chasing Arthur, and had little impact going forward.
Portillo 5. Started on the left wing before moving to the right but exerted little influence in either position, failing to impress.
Mata 6. Pulled a goal back after earlier having one controversially disallowed but missed a sitter to level the score.
Angel 6. Blasted two reasonable chances over the top and dragged another effort wide, but set up Mata’s goal.
Molina 6. Introduced around the hour mark and was a handful with his physical presence but had no real chances.
Saiz 5. Entered the action for the final 20 minutes and threatened to cut inside from the left but was well contained.
Ibanez 5. Came on for the latter stages but with almost no effect, barely touching the ball.
Ter Stegen 7. Made a flying second half save to preserve his team’s lead and gathered a few dangerous crosses well.
Roberto 5. Back in action after injury and looked below the pace, with much of Getafe’s threat originating down his flank.
Pique 7. The lynchpin of his team’s defence, reading the game well to snuff out danger. Nearly scored with a first half snapshot.
Lenglet 5. Not his finest game. Looked vulnerable in the air and was sometimes too uncertain and tentative in the challenge.
Alba 6. A game of two halves in positional terms. Struggled defensively, especially against crosses, but a threat going forward
Vidal 6. An aggressive and energetic performance in the centre of midfield, but lacked precision and was replaced.
Rakitic 6. Operated deeper than usual and was initially very smooth but lost control after the break and changed position.
Arthur 7. Controlled the first half tempo with an excellent range of passing. Struggled early in the second half but finished strong.
Messi 7. Pounced on a half chance to open the scoring and produced several superb moments, but missed a decent chance at 2-1.
Suarez 7. Made it 2-0 with a stunning volley from outside the area. Worked hard without gaining any more reward.
Dembele 6. An electric early burst preluded a bright display, regularly threatening to breaking through but never quite doing it.
1⃣ One very good reason to go to sleep happy tonight 😘 pic.twitter.com/S7yJlfDd0f— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) 6 January 2019
Busquets 6. Introduced for the final 20 minutes to regain control. Slow to find the pace of the game but then settled.
Coutinho 5. A late replacement for Dembele, but made little impact and didn’t offer the same penetration.
Alena 6. Came on for Arthur with just three minutes to play and helped shore things up in the centre of the field.
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde says talks over a contract extension at the club will be conducted later in the season amid speculation he could leave the club at the end of this campaign.
The Spaniard’s original contract is for two years, with an option to extend by another year. That deal will run out at the end of the season, and so far no decision over the extension has been taken.
However, speaking ahead of the La Liga leaders’ trip to Getafe on Sunday, Valverde said simply that he and the club will “discuss it later”.
“It is true the contract was for two years plus one and at the end of the season it is necessary to decide,” Valverde said on Saturday.
“We will discuss it later, we are not even halfway through the season. There has always been a good relationship. If you lose one game, you are in trouble here but I have a contract with Barca.”
Barcelona currently hold a three-point lead atop the league table, ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid, and are looking to win the league for the second season running.
However, Valverde knows his spell will be judged on European success, especially after the way his team threw away a three-goal advantage in last year’s Champions League quarter-finals against Roma.
Barcelona last won Europe’s biggest club trophy in 2015, with arch-rivals Real Madrid winning it every year since, a run of three consecutive titles that had never been done before in the modern era. That spell of success has stung at the Camp Nou, with regaining the Champions League trophy now bordering on an obsession.
Madrid are enduring a transition season this year and will struggle to make it four in a row, but Valverde is not taking Barcelona’s fiercest rivals lightly, even saying that Los Blancos are title rivals despite being seven points behind.
“We still consider Madrid a candidate for the title,” said the Barcelona manager. “Sometimes the gaps seem great but they are not so much, just two and a half games, and we see them as one of our rivals.”
“This year La Liga is tighter, everything is more compressed. But always it is better if we are first.”
Meanwhile, Valverde revealed that defender Samuel Umtiti could resume training this month as he continues to recover from a knee injury that has restricted him to just eight appearances this season.
“We think that in a couple of weeks he can start training again with the team, we’ll see how things are going,” Valverde said.
“I always try to be optimistic and I would like that to happen. I think he has positive feelings, let’s see.”
Barcelona are going through an injury crisis at the back, with Umtiti’s fellow centre-back Thomas Vermaelen having also missed most of the season, leaving Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet as the only fit players for the position. La Blaugrana were forced to sign Jeison Murillo on loan from Valencia in order to shore up the defensive ranks, a move Valverde expects to pay off.
“Our idea was that Jeison would be available as soon as possible and he knows the league,” Valverde said. “He’s going to have to play and we hope to see the best of him,” he added.
Apart from Umtiti and Vermaelen, only midfielder Rafinha, who has a long-term injury, will miss Sunday’s game, with Sergi Roberto and Malcom available again after recovering from injuries of their own.
But it will not be easy for Ernesto Valverde’s team as they travel to take on defensively excellent Getafe, who have aspirations of claiming a European place after a strong first half of the season.
And whether Lionel Messi and co will be able to break down the home team’s dogged defence is the big question ahead of this Sunday night showdown.
Can Getafe stop Barca again?
Getafe succeeded in taking a point off Barca the last time the teams met, earning a 0-0 draw at the Camp Nou in February, and the Madrid-based side will be confident of their chances of doing more damage to the champions this time around.
The well-drilled defensive display which restricted Barca to a handful of clear chances in that encounter has been typical of their rise under highly-regarded coach Jose Bordalas, whose team are sitting pretty in seventh place as 2019 gets underway.
Getafe boast the second-best defensive record in the division with 13 goals conceded in 19 games (Atletico have allowed just 12), and have been particularly stingy at their Alfonso Perez Coliseum home, letting in only four goals in eight games. They also finished 2018 in fine fettle with a five-game unbeaten run, so confidence is high as the new year dawns.
Central defender Djene Dakonam, who is occasionally employed by Bordalas as an additional defensive midfielder, has perhaps been their best performer, but this is a team built around collective organisation rather than outstanding individuals and they are ready to make life more than difficult for Barca once again on Sunday night.
Who will support Messi in attack?
As always, responsibility for undoing Getafe’s watertight defence will fall to Messi, who brought 2018 to a close in scintillating style by firing home six goals in three games, taking his personal tally for the league campaign to 15 – just three goals fewer than the entire Getafe team.
Messi will be accompanied by Luis Suarez, but against such a well-organised defensive team like Getafe, who do an outstanding job of closing down the space in and around their penalty area, the biggest challenge facing the visitors will be finding some kind of supply line for the Uruguayan striker.
With that in mind, the thing Barca need most from Messi – rather than his outlandish scoring abilities – is his creativity. Chances will be at a premium considering Getafe’s ability to keep the ball away from their danger zone, and Barca will have to be prepared for an ultra-physical challenge from an opposing side which has committed more fouls – 17.7 per game – than any other team in La Liga.
It’s the kind of game where possession doesn’t count for much: Barca must also find penetration, and if Ousmane Dembele can support Messi by producing a spark to bury the demons of his last trip to the stadium – when he suffered a serious thigh injury early last season – their chances of success will significantly increase.
Setting the right tone for 2019?
The main talking point surrounding Barca during the winter break came with an interview given by boss Valverde, who admitted with surprising openness that he has no idea whether he will still be at the club next season.
Valverde’s contract expires at the end of the current campaign and there have been differing reports over a possible renewal, with some speculating it’s a matter of time until he signs again whereas others have claimed only a Champions League victory will be enough to keep him in situ.
Barca’s season so far has been very good, but no silverware has been secured yet and the biggest challenges lie ahead for a team which has occasionally showed worrying signs of frailty. Being able to overcome a dangerous opponent like Getafe would be the perfect way to set the right tone for a few months which will be anything but dull.