Suarez and Messi take Barcelona one step closer to La Liga title after win
Barcelona achieved a comfortable 4-0 victory against Almeria at the Camp Nou in round 30 of La Liga. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez (brace) and Marc Bartra scored the goals for the club, which enjoyed 72 percent of possession, created 19 goalscoring chances and attempted 16 shots, 12 of them on target.
Barcelona seemed to take their foot off the accelerator from the initial whistle, as if the game was pretty much won before it actually started. With their minds perhaps focused on the very difficult challenges ahead, this was a game played at a relatively slow pace. The obvious lack of oomph in Barca's approach made it difficult for the hosts to break their opponents defence for most of the first half. Until usual suspect Messi decided to score with yet another spark of magic, that is.
From that point on, the game became what most predicted: Barcelona in constant possession within the visitors' final attacking third, Almeria defending to ensure the final result didn't become as humiliating as the 9-1 defeat that Granada collected at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.
While Barcelona's performance was far from spectacular for a third consecutive game, it is reassuring that they managed to add another valuable three points which ensures their four-point lead at the top of the table remains with only eight more matches to be played.
Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Claudio Bravo, 6 -- A privileged spectator, rarely challenged. The clean sheet was never in doubt, helping the Chilean goalkeeper to improve even further on the best defensive record in La Liga, with only 17 goals conceded since the competition started in late August.
DF Dani Alves, 6 -- A no-thrills, yet disciplined performance. Contributed fairly well at both ends of the pitch, prioritising his defensive duties to constantly pushing forward into wide attacking positions. Will definitely not be best pleased with a couple of embarrassingly wasteful crosses, however.
DF Javier Mascherano, 7 -- Focused, strong, well-positioned. Read the game well throughout, as usual. Stepped up as the team's defensive leader in the absence of the much-improved Gerard Pique. Made several text-book tackles to be proud of.
DF Marc Bartra, 7 -- Completed yet another solid performance by heading Barca's third after attacking the ball confidently inside the area following an inch-perfect Xavi cross from the corner-kick. Considering the very intermittent playing time he has been granted this season, his progression so far has been remarkable.
DF Adriano Correia, 6 -- Included in the starting eleven for the ninth time this season. While the absence of injured regular Jordi Alba was noticeable, the Brazilian completed a more than acceptable job in the left-back position. Despite giving some unnecessary free-kicks initially, showed more composure as the game progressed.
MF Sergi Roberto, 6 -- Started only his second league match of the season. Performed well as the Catalans' holding midfielder, ensuring the banned Sergio Busquets was not missed excessively. Helped the ball continue to flow effectively across the park, combining well with those around him.
MF Xavi Hernandez, 7 -- While clearly not as physically fit as during his peak, his privileged vision and ability to control the tempo of the game definitely contributed to Barca's victory. Heard continued chants of "We love you, Xavi please stay" from the adoring Camp Nou supporters, a crystal clear response to him being photographed in Qatar while negotiating what may be his last professional contract during the international break. Hardly a surprise after a record 753 appearances, it must be said.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 6 -- Added much-needed physicality to the Barcelona midfield. Attempted a couple of decent long-range shots from outside the area, but failed to build on the six goals he has already added to his personal tally this season.
FW Pedro Rodriguez, 6 -- Timed his runs fairly well, but was let down by his first touch more often than not. While his lack of confidence and regular playing time was apparent from the initial whistle, gave his absolute best effort from beginning to end.
Can be proud of the generous assist to Suarez, which resulted in Barca's fourth goal with only seconds to go. Only time will tell whether Luis Enrique feels the No.7's display is enough to keep Neymar away from the starting XI in the upcoming crucial matches.
FW Luis Suarez, 7 -- The Uruguayan striker made brilliant moves inside the area, often cutting across his markers to create spaces. Guilty of overthinking the move ahead rather than simply playing on instinct at times during the first half. Redeemed himself by scoring his 15th goal of the season, smashing an inch-perfect strike into the top-left corner. Added another goal to his tally with only seconds to go after a trademark run into space. Not happy with just goals, he also put the effort in for the team by tracking back whenever necessary.
FW Lionel Messi, 7 -- Found it difficult initially to break the visitors' backline. Fortunately, his frustration didn't last long. Broke the deadlock after 32 minutes with a trademark curled strike into the far post, scoring his 33rd goal in La Liga and 44th in all competitions. Another top-drawer performance for the most consistent, effective player on the planet, the leader that Barcelona desperately need if they are serious about achieving the treble this season.
DF Martin Montoya, 6 -- Replaced Dani Alves after 64 minutes, allowing the Brazilian to rest for the very demanding matches ahead. Added fresh legs to the Catalans' right-back position.
MF Rafinha Alcantara, 6 -- Introduced for Rakitic after 67 minutes. The 21-year-old would be delighted to add more valuable playing time which will definitely help him develop into a key midfield presence in the near future.