Barcelona player ratings vs Espanyol as Suárez secures win
It wasn't the impressive performance that we'd seen in the previous game, but the Griezmann-Messi-Suárez trident combined for the only goal of the game.
Quique Setién knew that he needed to take all three points from the game against bottom side Espanyol in order to keep up the pressure on Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga, and that is exactly what he did. In doing so, his team also finished off the inevitable end to top flight existence of their city rivals. Here’s how the player’s fared as we watched on from a safe distance.
How the game unfolded: Barça keep title race alive as they relegate rivals Espanyol
Barcelona player ratings vs Espanyol
Ter Stegen: Made two stops of real merit. The first, with his foot in true handball goalkeeping style, was to prevent a nice shot from wide by Embarba. The second, from an attempted clearance by Lenglet which would have sneaked in. He was also solid as he parried away a powerful strike from distance from Raúl de Tomás that bounced in front of him. Didac came close to beating him, striking the outside of the post, but it’s very possible he would have reached it had it been the other side of the upright. As always, he was assured dealing with passbacks, acting as an extra layer for possession football.
Semedo: He only played the first 45 minutes and made a number of mistakes as he tried to link up on the right wing, failing with several crosses. It is fair to assume that Setién saw it wasn’t the defender’s best game so decided to make the change at the break.
Piqué: After getting attention for arriving at the Camp Nou on an electric bicycle, the centre half caught the eye on the pitch as he duelled with Raúl de Tomás, the most dangerous opposition player on the night. It was an authentic battle between the two and without a clear winner. The challenges in the air throughout, as Espanyol went direct, must have had him breathing a sigh of relief when the referee blew the final whistle. The Spanish international was also seen sarcastically clapping the ref-VAR decision to send of teammate Ansu Fati…although had not problem three minutes later as a foul on him levelled the numbers.
Lenglet: Outstanding. The French center-back has been bordering on perfection in his recent performances. Attentive without the ball, effective with it, he has also shown his strength in the air.
Alba: The left back completed a solid match. He did not have as much presence in the attacking sense, although carefully managed his energy levels to see out the game.
Sergio Busquets: It was a decent performance from the midfielder but he found key passing lines difficult due to the spider’s web that Rufete had created. He ensured Barça maintained control for much of the game and was pivotal in cutting out Espanyol’s counterattacks.
Rakitic: The Croatian helped win the ball back and was good defensively, although was below his usual level with the ball and linking up with the forward line.
Sergi Roberto: He returned to play from the inside left, but this time had much less space than against a more adventurous Villarreal, so most of his attacking attempts were frustrated. After the break, he was pushed out to the right side, and proved more effective.
Griezmann: The Frenchman had a good game, although wasn’t as dynamic as in the previous game, and showed further signs of positive link-up play in creating chances. The highlight was clearly his clever back flick that allowed Messi to shoot, and Suaréz to finish off. Substituted on the 70th minute with visible signs of tiredness, understandable for the defensive effort he put in to support his teammates.
Suárez: It wasn’t proving to be a positive game for the Uruguayan, failing to get into it fully and disappearin in certain moments. But as if often the case with this goalscorer, he was in the right place at the right time to score the only goal of the game. It put him third on the Barça all-time top marksmen list with 195 goals, and kept LaLiga hopes alive.
Messi: Although he was the Barça player that touched the ball before Suárez scored, he is not given an assist that would have put him one behind Xavi’s all-time season record. A constant threat, with some trademark dribbling and spreading of the play, he only really had two good chances to score. The first was a free kick that grazed the crossbar and the second a sweetly hit volley from a deep pass from Sergi Roberto, which Diego López incredibly stopped. Neither were easy opportunities but the bar is different for the mercurial Argentine.
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