Player Ratings: Barça vs Napoli


A Champions League clash against Napoli that would decide the direction Barça's European hopes would take. A raucous crowd, one of the best of the season, at the Estadi Olimpic. The stage was set for FC Barcelona to impress, and they did - kind of. They got off to a flying start, had some shaky times in the middle, and ended with a 3-1 victory and plenty of good vibes. Let's rate the players in this one:


Marc-André ter Stegen: 8/10 - Couldn't honestly do much on Napoli's goal. It was a perfect strike into the far corner, and 99% of goalkeepers aren't stopping that. He did make a great save, however, on a looping header from Di Lorenzo. A few other saves as well that didn't count because of offside, but you play to the whistle. He was also good on the ball, even if the team as a whole struggled to get out of the press.


Cubarsí: 9/10 - The 17-year old had a big task in front of him: Dealing with one of the most in-form and strong strikers in Europe in Victor Osimhen. Rather than attack Araújo, he would be sure to move right and attack the younger, smaller Cubarsí. But the youngster was more than ready for it. He played the high line to perfection in the first half and made a couple of very important tackles. Cubarsí is deceptively physically strong for his age, and held Osimhen at bay all game long. Not only did he defend incredibly well, but he also showcased his passing skills on more than one occasion. Calm, composed, and skilled. A man of the match performance and deservedly so. 

Araújo: 8/10 - It seems his recent run of bad form has turned around. In the center of that back four (three in possession), he looks like a leader out there. When he did have to deal with Osimhen, he did so well. He was good again in the air, and also had a few line-splitting passes that got transition opportunities going. 

Cancelo: 7/10 - A very mixed bag for Cancelo in this one. Offensively, great. He scored a goal, began the move for another, and combined very well with Raphinha and later Félix. His talent is undeniable and invaluable for Xavi at the moment, as he's basically the left winger. But his defense left a lot to be desired. Napoli's goal came from him not tracking back and losing his man, who was afforded a ton of space to cross the ball. It's not entirely his fault, and the setup hurts him, but he isn't a very good defender. One on one, he's fine, but positionally and within the scheme he's not. 

Koundé: 8/10 - Very good from him. He had the tall task of controlling Kvaratskhelia, and for the most part he did just that. He and Yamal ran circles around him in possession as well, as the Georgian tried to win the ball back. He's also no slouch when it comes to attacking, and it's not rare to see him in advanced positions. Kounde, in the current makeup of the team, just has to accept that he's better as a right back. He won't slot into the center back position unless there are injuries, and he's not quite good at right back.


Christensen: 7/10 - Not his best game in the new experiment role, but not a bad one either. This team struggles to maintain possession at times, especially at up 2-0. When the other team sits back, there's no problem, but the press bothers him. Christensen still has a steep learning curve when it comes to helping that. However, he's been a big part of Barça keeping more clean sheets recently. It's essentially (literally) having an extra center back out there. He's also not bad on the ball, despite what I wrote before. Just could use some improvement. 

Gündoğan: 7/10 - Barça struggle to control games, but it's unfair to ask anything more of Gündoğan at this point. In this currently decimated midfield, he's basically filling the Frenkie and Pedri role. Dropping back when playing out but also somehow being expected to provide the final ball into the box. If he labors at times, it's only natural. Despite all this, he still drops good performances week after week. Oh and by the way, he's played a lot of minutes this season while being one of the older players in the squad.

Fermín: 8/10 - Let's get this out of the way now: Fermín missed a few chances that he definitely should've put away. His finishing can sometimes be rushed, almost like he's too excited to pick his placement. However, the negatives end there. Fermín in this sort of 10 role, where he's allowed the freedom to make runs in behind, is a handful to deal with. He made one great run off a beautiful pass from Cubarsí that reminded me of Pedro, even if he didn't finish it. His work rate is always good, he plays well off his teammates, and he scored a goal to boot. He gives Barça an attacking punch from the midfield that isn't usually there.

Romeu: 7/10 - Came on with half an hour to go to spell Christensen, who was on a yellow. Things were looking a bit dicey, and Xavi decided not to risk the Dane picking up another. Romeu was alright, basically doing exactly what Christensen did and not much more. It ended up not mattering much with Barça scoring again, but the team can't help but look a bit shaky with him out there. If they already lost balls in the midfield, they would just lose them at a higher rate, which doesn't help the defense any. 

Sergi Roberto: 8/10 - Sergi is now their most experienced midfielder in this system, at least when it comes to attacking. He quite honestly seems to be the only one with real clear ideas about what exactly he's doing out there. He came on and immediately made an impact, assisting Lewandowski for his goal. Whether his comfort level is Xavi's doing or his own, it's clear Sergi is now a valuable asset off the bench. And by the way, he was never that bad in the midfield (just as a right back). 


Raphinha: 8/10 - Never been a fan of him playing on the left, but this match was a different story. He was left in space often, not so wide but more centrally, where he could combine with Cancelo and his overlapping runs. He was good, even almost scoring a goal with his right foot. He didn't lose many balls and was a big part of Barça jumping out to a 2-goal lead. Raphinha may be a more versatile player than we give him credit for. 

Yamal: 9/10 - He's just good in a way not many players are and it's always evident. Incredible talent, to be sure, but also good work rate and youthful energy. He's constantly making the defense think about his left-footed curler, but he can also use his right foot if needed. More than anything, what strikes me as impressive is his decision making. He knows just when to go and when to slow down, when to dribble defenders and when to take a safer option. The only moment his decision making breaks down is when he's going to shoot, but that's normal. He's 16 and he wants to score a Champions League goal, cut him some slack. For such a young player, his brain outshines his raw talent in a great way. 

Lewandowski: 8/10 - He's been much better of late. And it's not only because he's been scoring, although that helps quite a bit. The first goal for Fermín was actually a nice little dummy from the Pole to afford him the space. He also scored the third goal off of a beautiful team play. He's been playing as more of a traditional striker recently, despite the midfield losses, and he's improved on it. 

Félix: 6/10 - Tried his best, and did have some good moments and actions. He couldn't find the back of the net, but he played his role and did it well. He didn't try some of his usual foolish dribble attempts and combined well with Cancelo. 

A trip to the quarter final (and 15 million euros) now secured, the team can sit back and breath just a slight sigh of relief. No telling who the opponent will be, but there have been some very encouraging signs in recent matches. While the whole team still had problems against Napoli, there's something here for Xavi to build on and keep the train rolling.