FC Barcelona have kept the pressure on league leaders Real Madrid with their eighth consecutive La Liga win, this time 2-0 at home against Marcelo Bielsa’s Athletic Bilbao. Even though the Basque outfit should have been completely exhausted after their midweek match against Schalke, they put up quite a game and pressured the Barcelona players a great deal. Barcelona had one of their best and most dominant performances of the season and could have scored many more goals if their finishing had been a bit better.
Here are the ratings for today’s match.
Victor Valdés – 7
Rarely (if ever) troubled, what with Athletic proving to be very surprisingly harmless during the 90 minutes. Only had to save a few harmless shots from distance.
Adriano Correira – 7.5
Had little to nothing to do on defense and ended up supporting the attack a lot more then defending. He was a constant threat down his flanks with his speed and accurate deliveries.
Gerard Piqué – 8.5
Reminded everyone of how good he used to be (and hopefully will be again) after many shaky performances during this season. He was rock solid at the back and great with the ball as well (starting some of the team’s attacking moves). He crucially cleared a ball off the goal line in the second half (in Athletic’s only clear cut chance in the match) and saw one of this shots also cleared off the line in the first half.
Javier Mascherano – 8.5
Rock solid as well, no one could get past Mascherano. He made a lot of key tackles and interceptions in this match, playing a key role in how Barcelona kept a clean sheet.
Daniel Alves – 8
Dealt with the likes of Muniain and Ibai pretty well and was extremely active up front as usual, showing great chemistry with the team’s attacking players, namely Lionel Messi.
Sergio Busquets – 8
Another great performance, both putting an end to a lot of Athletic attacks and starting some of Barcelona’s attacks with his brilliant passing skills and vision. He’s becoming more and more like Pep Guardiola (in his playing days, of course) as time goes by.
Andrés Iniesta – 8.5
A masterclass as usual, completely dominating the midfield in Xavi’s absence and playing a key role in the team’s great performance with his spectacular passing and dribbles. He also scored a rare goal (with a great shot) at the end of the first half, breaking the deadlock and injecting calm and confidence into the team.
Thiago Alcantara – 8.5
Was on the same level as Iniesta today, showcasing his incredible talent, tenacity and potential once again. His passing was excellent as usual, but his dribbling and close control were… Iniesta-like. He had one of his best games with the blaugrana jersey so far; he really looked like a seasoned Barcelona midfield out there and not like a 20-year-old youngster.
Christian Tello – 6.5
Started a game after many sub appearances in a row, and didn’t have a particularly great match. He wasn’t very involved in the team’s offense, and he was mostly neutralized by Athletic’s fullbacks. He got a very questionable penalty in the second half, which was the highlight of his performance.
Alexis Sanchez – 7.5
Worked a lot off the ball, failed to do anything spectacular in attack. His work ethic is beyond reproach and he was the one who made the steal which led to Iniesta’s goal, but lately he hasn’t been able to fully unleash his talent and be as threatening up front as he should.
Lionel Messi – 8
Not a vintage performance by any means, but he assisted Iniesta’s goal with a perfect through pass and scored the second from the spot. He wasn’t at his best, but still managed to create a lot of space and goal chances for his teammates with his incredible dribbling and vision, despite being heavily marked by Javi Martinez.
Pedro Rodriguez – 7
Came in for Tello with about 30 minutes left and, much like Sanchez, was better off the ball than on the ball, even missing one great opportunity to score near the end. His work ethic remains as great as ever, but he still can’t find his scoring boots.
Xavi Hernandez – 7
Came in for Iniesta with around 15 minutes left and helped Barcelona see out the match with his flawless passing accuracy, not taking too many risks and not creating any great scoring chances.
Seydou Keita – 7
Came in for Alexis Sanchez near the end to do the same job as Xavi and help the team keep possession and see out the match. He did so very well and was even close to scoring, but his shot hit the crossbar.
Editor’s note: These ratings have been written by Manuel Traquete. He is a lifelong FC Barcelona supporter and a freelance football writer who shares his thoughts @Manueltraquete
Image Credit: David Ramos/Getty Images