FC Barcelona traveled down the coast this Saturday to face off against Valencia in another La Liga clash. Valencia, with an average age in the starting lineup of just 23 years old, were in 11th place before the match, as Barça were tied at 3rd place. Xavi's men needed to pick up some momentum, and soon, to stem the tide of criticism they've been receiving lately.
They didn't exactly do that. The match ended in a 1-1 draw, as Barça were once again unable to put away chances despite many opportunities to do so. Valencia weren't extremely threatening, but when the Catalans can only score one, anything can happen. Let's take a look at the players in this one:
Peña - 8/10: Iñaki has stepped into ter Stegen's empty goal and proved quite capable. He produced a good save in the first few minutes and had a couple more as the match went on. He came off his line well and passed well from the back. On Valencia's goal, there was little he could do, as Guillamón produced a great strike right in the top corner. Overall, however, a good match from Peña.
Balde - 7/10: Not a huge fan of the role Xavi has Balde in at the moment. He needs to be over- and underlapping runners like Félix, not holding the width on the sideline as a sort of false winger. He was good in this one, though, as he produced some dangerous balls in from that left side and overall solid.
Koundé - 7/10: Again, a bit baffling that Xavi has Koundé playing as the left center back when 1: he's better on the right and 2: Christensen has been very good in that role. However, if Cancelo and Balde are to play at the same time, then it can make some sense. He was alright in this one, solid, and just that.
Araújo - 7/10: To be honest, the Uruguayan has been a bit.. off recently. He doesn't seem to be quite as imposing as he usually is, or decisive. He was good in this one, but at times just a bit slow to react or in the wrong space. Perhaps the injury to his head has been bothering him, or he's been carrying some other sort of injury. Either way, an Araújo at 80% is still a very, very good player.
Cancelo - 7/10: He had some good play with Raphinha in the first half, the two overlapping and underlapping each other at various times and causing some havoc. He was quite good in that half, playing a more traditional right back role. They went away from it in the second half, though, which was a shame. The team had some different patterns, and Cancelo was fine in the second, for a good 7 overall.
De Jong - 8/10: While Frenkie can sometimes infuriate fans with his lackadaisical defending and inability (unwillingness?) to pass the ball quickly, he is a singular talent. There are very few midfielders in the world who can do what he does consistently. The pass to Raphinha with the outside of his boot to open the scoring was perfection. Frenkie is a player Barça need, for certain. The challenging part, though, is who he plays alongside and how to maximize his talents.
Pedri - 8/10: The Canarian was playing deeper, alongside Frenkie, and he was quite good. His poise and calm is quite impressive, and he was able to control the midfield fairly well. Of course, defensively, those two are a problem, and will continue to be, but in matches like this that setup can work - assuming, of course, Barça finish their chances.
Gundogan - 7/10: The German seems more impactful while playing higher up the pitch. He's more comfortable there, it seems, and he certainly has a feel for goal. The problem, however, is the same as the entire team's. They can't finish to save their lives, unfortunately, as Gundogan also had a wide open shot, perfectly placed onto his right foot, that he pulled wide.
Raphinha - 6/10: Raphinha is the one forward who consistently finds himself space in behind the defense, which is good. However, he wastes opportunities far, far too often. It worked out for him on the play of the goal, where he found space in behind, took a beautiful pass from Frenkie, and slotted it on for Félix. There were a few other plays, though, where he got in behind and then either missed a good chance or sprung a bad pass. It happens far too often. You can tell he's desperate for a goal, as he tried to boom one in at the near post. He needs one soon.
Félix - 7/10: The lone goal scorer for Barça tonight, but don't let that fool you. He was... good, nothing more. I'm not entirely sure still of his fit with Lewandowski (if Félix comes inside, then Robert naturally goes left, where he's basically useless). He had some nice passages of play, but was a bit invisible, apart from another shot on goal that was dealt with easily.
Lewandowski - 6.5/10: A game from the Polish striker that was better than recent others. He had a pseudo-scissor kick early on that almost resulted in a goal and a left-footed strike later on that just skipped across the face of goal. His first touch is still heavy and he still drifts way too far left for no reason, but he was better than usual in this one. Xavi has to know, though, that the likes of Guiu and Roque will be coming for this spot sooner rather than later.
Ferran - 7/10: Came on in the 72nd. He had two plays that stand out in my mind. The first, a rushed shot very close on goal that was saved (although it was a difficult one that he did well just to control and turn on target). The second, a beautiful pass to Raphinha behind Valencia's line that led to a one on one (that the Brazilian couldn't finish). Well involved in this one, and he could've done better at times, but still did alright.
Yamal - 7/10: Came on in the 81st. Didn't have much to do, or get many chances. He was good, and did his job, but not much more. At this point, it's easy to forget he's just 16 years old, and it's hard for anyone to make an instant impact in the last 15 minutes of the match.
The team is suffering through quite a slump at the moment. There seems to be a lid on the goal at times, and they're going to need to be much more effective moving forward. A result like this against such a young Valencia team should be unacceptable. Xavi, of course, will be under fire as usual, but as Ferran Torres said, he isn't on the pitch missing chances.