For Tito: Undefeated Winter Champions – Valladolid 1 – 3 Barcelona Match ReviewBy: Yazan | December 23rd, 2012
The big news of the week was of course the shock relapse of Tito Vilanova which overshadowed the return of Abidal to training, and the contract renewals of Messi, Xavi, and Puyol. The last game of the 2012 with a healthy 6 points lead on 2nd place and a 13 point lead over Real Madrid in 3rd, Barca would be excused to through this away, but the guys had other ideas.
Assistant coach Jordi Roura named a strong line-up for this match with Thiago, Alves, and Alexis returning to the line-up alongside Valdes, Pique, Mascherano, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Pedro, and Messi. Song and Adriano were not included in the squad list as they failed to recover from injury suffered in training.
For large parts of the first half, Barca seemed sluggish, maybe slightly affected by the week’s events. Slowly the team was gaining confidence and was more relaxed when defending and when put under pressure with the ball. As the first half’s end drew closer, Barca were finding their rhythm with each passing minute. The movement from Alves and Alba down the flanks were better timed, while Messi’s drop into midfield along with the continuous movement of Alexis and Pedro made life much easier for both Xavi and Thiago to find some players to pass too.
Messi was the first to come close to open the scoring after smashing a free kick into the left post. Alexis afterwards was guilty of missing a fantastic opportunity after some excellent work from Messi and Alves on the right. With a simple tap in from the 6 yard box, Alexis got into two minds whether to shoot with his right or left and ended up not touching the ball at all. Just before half-time, Xavi showed him exactly how to do it after exactly a similar move this time from the left after brilliant work between Messi and Alba.
The first half soon ended and the game restarted with Barca making no changes to the original line-up. The second half saw a much improved Barca with almost 100% ball possession. However, all the forwards then started competing for most agonizing scoring opportunity of the season. Alexis had a couple of chances to get the award and Pedro managed to place his header on the left post. Not to be undone by any of his colleagues, Messi then somehow managed to miss the target all together with the goal at his mercy from almost 8 yards out.
But what makes Messi, well Messi, is that he can always come up with something genius. Typical Messi movement from the center towards the left enabled him to nutmeg Valladolid’s defender before smashing a low shot into the right corner. It was simply beauty in motion.
Roura decided it was time to bring Villa for the disappointing Alexis while Iniesta came on for Thiago as the game end drew closer. With 5 minutes to the end, the team decided to switch off thus inviting Valladolid to gain some momentum which show them reduce the deficit to one goal. Javi Guerra’s header was well saved by Valdes, but he could do nothing about the follow up with Barca defenders failing to react as quickly as the striker who made no mistake.
1 minute into added time, Roura sent Tello in place of Pedro, presumably for running down the clock. However, with his first touch of the ball, Tello somehow managed to run at the defense to find himself one on one with Valladolid’s keeper. Unlike his fellow strikers, Tello made no mistake, Valladolid 1 – 3 Barca.
Valdes – 7.5: Nothing much to do was and was extremely unlucky not to keep a clean sheet as he produced a n excellent save to deny Guerra.
Alves – 8: Maybe the extra competition for places this season is helping him because this was by far the best Alves performance in almost a year. He actually managed to send some beautiful crosses into the box for a change. His ability to cover an entire flank is a joy to watch.
Pique – 7: It’s safe to say he’s finally back to his best, even though this was not one of his best performances, but an effective one nonetheless.
Mascherano – 6.5: Tried too many diagonal balls for my liking that almost never reached his teammates. Even though this season Mascherano’s defending has been called into question, tonight it was solid enough.
Alba – 8: Mr. Duracell bunny was again amazing tonight. Although his movement in the first 30 minutes caused some problems with his teammates who struggled to cover the space he leaves behind, he more than made up for it with his excellent assist for Xavi’s goal. The left back position is Alba’s to loose in this team.
Busquets – 6.5: The usual rule of thumb is, if you don’t hear Busquets name during the match, he would be having an excellent game. Tonight, he was mentioned all the time, especially in the 1st half when he struggled to stamp his authority in midfield. Once the game progressed, his performance improved.
Xavi – 8.5: Magnificent stuff from Xavi with fantastic passing and an excellent goal.
Thiago – 7: Reminds me a lot when Iniesta started to penetrate the first team with his erratic passing and over confidence at times. The boy is a class act; all he need is time to develop.
Pedro – 6: Pedro ‘s running and tracking back is something to be really admired, but the poor guy also needs to remember that he’s an attacker and should be more involved in attack and SCORING GOALS!
Messi – 8.5: He was of color tonight, scoring only one goal. Put him on the transfer list and see if any club wants him!
Alexis – 4: What happened to Alexis? Last year Sanchez was amazing; running around, chasing balls, threatening the opposition goal, and actually scoring a few. His miss in the penalty area is unforgivable!
Villa – 6: Not enough time to shine although he seemed slightly eager to impress as he thrives for match fitness.
Iniesta – 6: Kept things ticking in midfield with no time to impress.
Tello – 7: Grabbed his goal really well after chasing a dead ball all the way to the keeper and finishing it low and hard.
With our trio strikers Alexis, Villa, & Pedro all having some sort of goal scoring problems, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to bring Bojan back. He looked amazing in Milan’s latest 4-2 defeat to Roma, and actually managed to score a goal, something our strikers are not able to do apparently. As an added point, Milan will have no strikers to play against us in the Champions League as well. He’s only 22! #JustSaying
Real Valladolid – Barcelona Highlights HD 22.12… by FCBHighDef
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