Lionel Messi’s penalty was enough for Barcelona to take the points from a hard-fought game against Real Valladolid at Camp Nou on Saturday night, but that was a rare bright spot in a largely poor performance.
Even Messi struggled to shine in this La Liga clash, having another penalty saved, and the three points from the 1-0 win were largely thanks to a strong defensively display – as revealed by our full player ratings.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen 6: Had little to do as Valladolid wasted their occasional chances with wayward finishing. Solid enough.
Sergi Roberto 6: Always a willing runner coming forward but was suspect defensively, with many attacks coming down his side.
Gerard Pique 9: Flawless in defence and found time to bound forward and win the penalty for the opener. In majestic form.
Thomas Vermaelen 8: Outstanding at the back alongside Pique, showing decisiveness and a sureness of touch in everything he did.
Jordi Alba 6: Much less effective than usual going forward as Barca toiled, but did a determined job at the back.
Arturo Vidal 6: Did good work defensively and tried to time runs forward into the box, but lacked quality on the ball.
Sergio Busquets 6: A so-so performance in midfield, failing to establish full control over the encounter as Barca struggled for rhythm.
Carles Alena 7: Continued his rapid development with another confident and mature display, a few loose touches notwithstanding.
Lionel Messi 5: Crunched home a perfect penalty in the first half but saw his second saved to typify a remarkably off the pace display.
Kevin-Prince Boateng 4: Had a low early shot saved and wasted another chance by delaying. Struggled to look the part in a Barca shirt.
Ousmane Dembele 7: Bright and lively on his first start for four weeks, playing his way back to fitness with some dangerous bursts.
Luis Suarez 4: Replaced Prince after an hour and somehow squandered three great chances, looking clumsy and off the pace.
Philippe Coutinho 6: Came on for Dembele with 20 minutes remaining and looked sharp, winning the second penalty with a dazzling run.
Ivan Rakitic N/A: Introduced for Alena for the last quarter of an hour and did a calm and unfussy job, without really shining.
Jordi Masip 8: Former Barca keeper made a remarkable save from Messi just after the break and later saved his second penalty.
Joaquin Fernandez 7: Made an excellent early challenge on Dembele to prelude an alert and rigorous display on the right of the back three.
Kiko Olivas 7: Read the game brilliantly and broke up countless attacks with sharp anticipation, but fouled Coutinho for the second penalty.
Fernando Calero 7: Highly rated defender delivered another calm and composed display, keeping his cool despite Messi’s regular dribbles at him.
Antonito 6: Did well to block an early strike from Dembele and worked hard to cut out Alba’s threat, but rarely got forward.
Anuar Tuhami 6: Tried to link midfield with attack and was occasionally successful, but couldn’t find a killer ball to break open the defence.
Michel 7: Visiting skipper sat in front of the back four and did a diligent job but conceded the penalty for the only goal.
Nacho 6: Delivered some decent crosses but wasted a glorious counter-attacking chance with a poor cross just before the goal.
Daniele Verde 6: Bright and busy, showing good movement and unlucky to be substituted midway through the second half.
Enes Unal 5: Booked for an early aerial challenge on Busquets and offered little threat before being replaced 15 minutes from time.
Sergi Guardiola 6: The man with a famous namesake led Valladolid’s line well, showing skill on the ball, but lacked penetration.
Toni Villa 6: Only lasted a few minutes before his night ended in despair as he was forced off through injury.
Stiven Plaza N/A: Came on to make his debut in attack and looked strong and fast, but Pique and Vermaelen handled him well.
Keko N/A: Patrolled the right wing after being introduced and worked hard without offering much end product.
Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde said it was an “easy decision” to sign a contract extension with the Spanish giants.
The former Blaugrana player has committed his future to the club for another season, with an option for a further year, which would take him to four years in charge if he remains until the summer of 2021.
“I had good rapport with the club and everything went in a natural way,” Valverde said ahead of Barca’s game with Real Valladolid on Saturday.
“As for the team, I feel we are all on good terms and the decision was easy for me.”
Valverde’s men go into Saturday’s game leading rivals Real Madrid by six points in La Liga with 15 games to go.
Victory would be a welcome way to celebrate Valverde’s new contract, particularly given Barca’s recent dip in form.
They are also searching for momentum with the Champions League last-16 tie with Lyon and the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg against Real looming.
Real Valladolid boss Sergio Gonzalez joked that Lionel Messi should plonk down on the sofa rather than strut his stuff against his side at the Camp Nou on Saturday.
With the first leg of Barca’s Champions League last 16 tie against Schalke coming up on Tuesday, it’s expected that Ernesto Valverde will field a rotated side in La Liga against Valladolid.
And Gonzalez wouldn’t mind if Messi takes a breather on Saturday, though is well aware of the quality flowing through the league leaders’ entire squad.
“Hopefully. If he wants to rest, I would tell him that the sofa is very good and I’m sure his is comfortable. If there are others who want to rest, let them, it’s no problem,” the Catalan said, according to Marca.
“I don’t know if it’s the best, but it’s one of them. That’s what I was saying, they’re all world class. It’s not just Messi anymore, it’s Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho…”
When asked if now would be the best timee to face Barcelona, given the Catalan club have drawn two league games in a row, Gonzalez responded with caution.
“It’s never a good time to visit the home of a big team, where they are stronger. They are an elite team with very few cracks. But as much as I say this, we are going there to cause problems. We are a La Liga team going to measure ourselves against another. We are aware of the difficulties but we will fight to pick up points to avoid relegation and we will try to get a positive result,” Gonzalez added.