Today, FC Barcelona went to play Elche at the Manuel Martinez Valero stadium. The Calatans dispatched their opponents in a 6-0 win. Due to having played a Copa del Rey match against Atletico Madrid just three days prior to playing Elche and having another Copa match against Atletico this Wednesday, Barcelona manager Luis Enrique decided to rest some players. Usual starters Andres Iniesta, Dani Alves, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic were all on the bench, with Busquets coming as a substitute. Also rested was Barcelona’s record signing Luis Suarez who turned 28 today. Here you will find analysis of the performances of the whole team and each individual player.
The Blaugrana didn’t start the match very well. Although they were in control from start to finish, they didn’t look their usual effervescent selves at the beginning of the match. Although they were leading 1-0 at halftime off a Gerard Pique goal, at that point Elche had registered more shots than Barcelona. Despite their original struggles, the Camp Nou outfit looked organized throughout the match and was very calm in possession and on defense. At first, the front three of Neymar, Pedro and Lionel Messi were linking up well, but that was to change. The match was a very physical one with Elche committing 18 fouls and Barcelona 12. As always, the Catalans dominated possession, having the ball for 72% of the match. They also completed an astonishing 89% of their passes. Barcelona spent most of the match in and around Elche’s final third.
Once again, the Chilean goalkeeper wasn’t called into action very often, but he came up big when he was, registering a save on all three of Elche’s shots on target. Bravo’s best moment came in the 25th minute when he pushed away a free kick that was destined for the bottom corner.
Montoya, who was filling in for Dani Alves at right-back, put in a decent performance. While the Spaniard wasn’t nearly as active in the attack as Alves usually is, he certainly got the job done on defense. Multiple times he could be seen making a tackle to thwart an Elche attack. Montoya proved he is a good option at right-back for when Alves needs a rest.
The Spanish left-back didn’t play as well as we have come to expect him to. He did not contribute much on attack and defended mediocrely. Alba, however, did almost score a beautiful volley in the 14th minute after Xavi delivered a beautiful lobbed pass. In the 66th minute, Alba was booked for stepping on the foot of Elche’s Aaron and was promptly taken off for Adriano three minutes later.
The center-back from Spain marked his 200th La Liga appearance for Barcelona by scoring a rare goal. In the 35th minute, with the score still tied at 0, Pique scored a half-volley off a Xavi pass from a free kick. On the other end of the pitch, Pique’s tackling was very strong, even though he was easily dispossessed on multiple occasions. A strong showing for the Spaniard.
Getting a rare start, the Spanish center-back put in a good performance. He defended very well and was skilled in the tackle. He distributed very well in defense, not looking nervous or out place. In the 88th minute, just as Ray Hudson (the beIN Sports commentator who I like very much) was criticizing Bartra’s performance, the young Spaniard played a beautiful through ball to Lionel Messi who danced around a defender and beautifully place his shot in the back of the net, giving Bartra the assist.
The Argentine who is usually played at center-back for the Blaugrana, was used in his natural defensive midfield position today. As always, Mascherano proved a great defensive presence for Barcelona, thwarting many attacks with his well-timed tackles. Playing in a slightly more advanced role than usual, the former Liverpool man was somewhat of a creative force, playing many long balls forward. Mascherano also did very well at shielding the defense and dictating play. He was eventually substituted off in the 69th minute after receiving a yellow card for a poor challenge on Elche’s Damian Suarez. Despite being substituted, Mascherano touched the ball more times (94) than any other player on the pitch.
The Brazilian was handed a rare start and did not fail to impress. Playing as a central midfielder, Rafinha helped to control the tempo of the match very well. His best moment came on what was essentially the last play of the match when he gave Neymar a beautiful long pass, setting him up to assist Pedro. Rafinha touched the ball more times (90) than any other player besides Mascherano.
The central midfielder showed once again why he has been a pivotal figure to everything Barcelona and the Spanish national team have achieved in recent years. In his first match back from an injury that sidelined him for several weeks he was dictating play and delivering beautiful passes the whole match. For much of the match he dropped back into a sort of defensive midfield role and played beside Javier Mascherano. In the 35th minute, Xavi delivered a beautiful free kick through the air to Gerard Pique, who scored to give Barcelona the lead. Xavi completed an astonishing 97% of his passes and was taken off for Sergi Roberto in the 71st minute. The diminutive Spaniard played an amazing match and could very well have had more than an assist to show for it.
The Brazilian played in his usual left-wing position and was phenomenal. His work rate was magnificent and he set up his teammates as well as scoring himself. In the 53rd minute, Neymar was fouled in the box, winning a penalty for his team which Lionel Messi scored. In the 69th minute, Neymar received a great through ball from Messi and put the pass in the back of the net. Two minutes later, Messi played a beautiful pass over the Elche defense, which Neymar delicately volleyed into the back of the net. In the 93rd minute, Neymar received a beautiful long ball from Rafinha, dribbled past several defenders and put in a beautiful ground cross that Pedro scored on with ease. Another incredible match from the 23 year-old Brazilian.
The Spanish right-winger surprisingly started in place of Luis Suarez, who was most likely being rested. While Pedro started the match out quietly, he started to heat up in the second half and scored in the 93rd minute thanks to a beautiful assist from Neymar. A good performance from Pedro.
“Don’t write about him, don’t try to describe him. Just watch him.” The wise words of Pep Guardiola about Lionel Messi make complete sense. But I have to disobey him by writing about the magical Argentine. It is nearly impossible to describe Messi; he is a complete player, well disciplined and does pretty much everything on the pitch perfectly. Today, Messi registered a brace and an assist for the Blaugrana, bringing his combined goal and assist tally for the season to 39 in 25 matches. After a fairly quiet start to the match, Messi dispatched a penalty in the 55th minute. However, he was far from done. In the 69th minute, La Pulga played a beautiful little through ball to Neymar who scored for Barcelona. Two minutes later, Messi gave Neymar an even better assist by lobbing the ball over the Elche defense, right into the path of the Brazilian. In the 88th minute, Messi received a great pass from Marc Bartra, danced around a defender and took a great shot for his second goal of the match. Another absolutely amazing performance from the Argentine.
The defensive midfielder came on for Mascherano in the 69th minute. He didn’t make much of an impact but did well, floating all over the pitch, passing and defending very well.
The left-back came on for Jordi Alba in the 69th minute and played decently. He combined very well with Neymar and made runs down the left wing. Defensively, he did well to block crosses from the Elche attack.
The Spanish central midfielder was thrown into the action for Xavi in the 71st minute. He didn’t do very much but he passed and tackled well.
*All stats were obtained via ESPNFC.com and WhoScored.com