Another home game for FC Barcelona in the uphill climb to stay in La Liga's title race. While a bit difficult to hold onto, the 1-0 lead was enough for the three points. Vitor Roque had a night to remember, and Xavi breathes a sigh of relief as the hope stays alive for one more week. Let's take a look at the ratings from this one:
Peña: 7/10 - Didn't have many saves in this one, but he did have quite a good one on a stinging shot from outside the box. He did just enough to force a shot wide as well. He was also pretty decisive when it came to stepping up and snuffing out potentially dangerous balls. Overall, an improvement on his recent form, but nothing too impressive.
Cancelo: 8/10 - His outside of the boot pass was the assist that would break the deadlock. He was quite good in this one, offensively and defensively. He looked to be a bit hampered by his injury as the game wore on, but even so he was able to wreak havoc down the left. He's one of the few players that seem capable of taking on their man and actually winning, so having him there causes instability for the defense. That's good news for Barça, and as the game broke open in the second half, he created a few chances. On the other end, he was solid and didn't make any of his characteristic defensive mistakes.
Cubarsí: 8/10 - I'm a bit shocked by the personality of this kid. He plays audacious passes, and you can tell he's confident out there. He plays extremely well out from the back, and took up more of a forward position while Araújo hung back for insurance. He plays quite similarly to Christensen, actually. Just a bit worse in the air and a bit better on the ball.
Araújo: 7/10 - He's definitely playing with a knock. Similarly to Cancelo, certain actions looked a bit painful for him. However, he was pretty good in this one. He and Cubarsí intercepted plenty of passes. He does play a bit risky at times, though. Usually he's good enough and athletic enough to make up for it. There was one play that looked like he might've given up a penalty, until further review. That's the kind of player he is. Physical, and will sometimes play on the edge.
Koundé: 7/10 - Playing with Cancelo is a good and bad thing for Koundé. It allows him to stay back and defend more, almost as part of a 3-man defense, but it also limits him going forward. That might be something he likes, but it's a shame. He's not half bad going forward and dropping crosses into the box. He plays well with Yamal too. However, he defended well in this game and the defense as a whole didn't allow a ton of chances. And kept a clean sheet!
Frenkie de Jong: 7/10 - Rumors and speculation about Frenkie are swirling right now, and the crowd showed it. There were a few boos and whistles for Frenkie tonight, when he did his trademark turns and held on to the ball a bit too long. He still did that in this game, by the way. He still takes too long to pass, and it can ruin the flow a bit. However, he drives the ball forward and finds great passes all the time, so it's hard to be too down on him. The defense has miles of improvement to do, but that's what you get with Frenkie. His role on the team is... unclear.
Gundogan: 7/10 - The second half was wide open, and the German had a bit of a mixed bag. He missed a header that really has to be a goal at this level. He also lost a few balls and the whole team was sloppy late on. However, he also had a few nice line breaking passes that caused trouble for the defense. He was very involved in almost every offensive action in the second period. It was a good game, but it could've been better if he'd been just a bit more precise. In the first half, the whole teams passes were just a bit off, and that extended to Gundogan.
Pedri : 7/10 - Interesting game from him. The dynamic with him and Gundogan suffers greatly from not having a real 6. Ideally, they'd both be higher up, but Pedri played deeper in this one. While not ideal, Pedri has enough quality to do it well. He was able to pretty consistently complete passes and was a big part of the build up. He also didn't finish the game, which is good. Managing his minutes, as with Yamal, will be important.
Fermín: 8/10 - Very good performance from him. Whenever he's allowed to play higher up, almost more as a false 9 than an interior, he uses his pace and sense of timing to create problems. He's shifty, quick-thinking, and has good technical skill. In this one, against a 5 man defense, he was basically the only player making runs in behind to try and stretch the defense and create passing lanes. He wasn't effective when it came to the final touch, missing a few good chances, but it was great to see him. It would've been nice to see him play alongside Roque - I think they would've played wonderfully off each other.
Romeu: 6/10 - The midfield doesn't feel the same when he's out there. There's less control, more balls lost, and ironically more defensive insecurity. It's not as cohesive a unit, and to be frank it wasn't quite cohesive anyway. His minutes were Barça just holding on, and while not entirely his fault, he didn't help the situation.
Ferran: N/A - He came off with a hamstring injury with only 7 minutes in. He might've touched the ball twice. This has been said before, but Barcelona's medical staff are extremely questionable. That, or their physical preparation. Something must be going wrong. It's not normal to have half the squad injured year after year.
Lewandowski: 7/10 - All things considered, not a bad game from the Polish striker. He did miss a wide open header, but the partnership with Roque up top was interesting. It allowed Lewandowski to stay up in the box while Roque drifted wide, almost as a winger. Lewandowski being in the box allowed Roque to sneak in front and put away the header. The first half was a little rougher, but overall an alright match from him.
Yamal: 7/10 - I wonder about the wisdom of playing Yamal so much, but then I see Ferran go down as well and realize they have no players left. It's still a very dangerous game, at just 16 years old. Xavi will have to manage him extremely well. In this game, he was good. At times, Barça's best player, but he also missed two chances that really should've been goals. However, he's just talented, and it's plain to see every match.
Roque: 8/10 - A wonderful glancing header to open his scoring account once and for all. The game winner, in fact. He injected energy into the game above all else. He drew some fouls (including one at the edge of the box that was blatantly uncalled). He tracked back and worked hard on defense as well, helping out Cancelo near the end. It would've been very nice to see him play with Fermin instead of replacing him on the pitch, as i think he would've had a ton of space and filtered balls through to him feeding off of Fermin and not Lewandowski. He still managed to feel dangerous out there. Either way a memorable night for the youngster. Hopefully, it's a sign of many more goals to come.
A good night, and a meaningful one for Vitor Roque. Hopefully the first of many goals to come from the young Brazilian. Another win for Barça as well. It'll be extremely difficult to climb back into the La Liga title race, but there's no reason a top 4 finish can't be comfortable. Only time will tell if Xavi and this squad can get it done.