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Season Review: Barcelona

Barcelona
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Luis Suarez, Neymar secure Barcelona victory despite poor team display

After Barca's latest victory over Las Palmas, Alexis Nunes asks Steve Nicol if the team can stay unbeaten for the rest of the season.

Barcelona were fortunate to escape with a narrow 2-1 victory against Las Palmas at the Estadio Gran Canaria on Matchday 25 of La Liga. Luis Suarez and Neymar scored the goals for the Blaugrana, who enjoyed only 53 percent of possession, created 13 goal-scoring chances and attempted nine shots, eight of them on target.

Las Palmas deserve full credit for giving Barca a true run for their money. The visitors did not look comfortable at any point and, perhaps with their minds unconsciously focused on their upcoming European clash against Arsenal, they can consider themselves lucky to have come away from the Canary Islands with the three points.

The highlight of the Catalans' terrible performance was the final whistle. In what is certainly a rarity in recent times, the current Treble winners never quite found their attacking rhythm and constantly struggled to break through the hosts' back line.

Despite playing one of the worst games of the season at both ends of the park, the Blaugrana still managed a victory, which now takes their unbeaten run to a record 32 games and, more importantly, nine points ahead of chasers Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga -- until Diego Simeone's side host Villarreal on Sunday, that is.

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Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):

GK Claudio Bravo, 5 -- Far busier than usual, the Chilean goalkeeper had to dig deep to secure the Catalans' victory, particularly in the dying minutes of the second half. While not at fault for the hosts' one and only goal, the No. 1 can't be too pleased after having conceding at least once in five of his past six La Liga outings.

DF Dani Alves, 4 -- The Brazilian international should have done better to defend William Jose before his goal but, disappointingly, he was not strong enough to hold his advantageous position inside the area. Ran relentlessly up and down the right flank but was not always effective when providing the vital final cross.

DF Javier Mascherano, 5 -- Given the absence of the rested Gerard Pique, the Argentinean was given the task to build Barca's attacking transitions from the back line. Unfortunately, it just did not work as well as expected because of his sloppy passing. Focused defensively, however.

DF Jeremy Mathieu, 4 -- Did not make any unnecessary mistakes but was far too hesitant when in possession and under pressure. The Frenchman once again proved why he has been consistently unable to secure a place in his manager's preferred XI.

DF Jordi Alba, 5 -- Rushed spectacularly into space before assisting Suarez for the Blaugrana's opener. Although he was caught out of position on the Las Palmas goal, the relentless Catalan redeemed himself with well-timed tackles and constant pressure on his opponents from that moment onward.

MF Sergi Roberto, 6 -- Contributed with several tidy tackles and purposeful passing from the centre of the park, distributing the ball efficiently. Barca obviously miss Sergio Busquets' excellent vision whenever unavailable, but his young deputy did not disappoint.

MF Andres Iniesta, 5 -- Even though he was clearly the most incisive Barcelona midfielder, the Spanish international failed to find his commanding best and could not provide the extra spark of magic that could have changed the game in his side's favour. Kudos to Las Palmas for forcing the in-form Iniesta into one of his less productive showings in recent memory.

MF Arda Turan, 3 -- Inexplicably passive, the Turkish playmaker did not respond to his manager's trust as well as expected. Because of his inability to get regularly involved in his side's attacking transitions, the former Atletico Madrid star deservedly ended up being replaced at half-time.

FW Neymar, 5 -- Blasted the ball into the back of the net for Barca's second in a moment that was his only memorable highlight. Decided to try to finish chances himself rather than assist his teammates in the dying seconds, a rare move that clearly reflected his overall lack of focus in an afternoon to forget.

FW Luis Suarez, 6 -- The most inspired Blaugrana on the pitch and a decisive contributor to both goals, the Uruguayan striker led his side to victory once again. Slotted the opener home with a confident tap-in, then battled desperately to create the play that resulted in Neymar's vital goal before the break. Should have done better when having two clear looks at Las Palmas goalkeeper Javi Varas during the second half, but his final touch was simply not good enough at that point.

Luis Suarez and Neymar were far from their best vs. Las Palmas, but still did enough for the three points.
Luis Suarez and Neymar were far from their best vs. Las Palmas, but still did enough for the three points.

FW Lionel Messi, 5 -- Although a player of his calibre is always naturally going to be involved in his team's attack, the No. 10 was not at his influential best, given a disheartening lack of intensity and desire. Judging by his unusually poor display, at least Messi is certain to have plenty of energy left in the tank for the vital Champions League clash against Arsenal on Tuesday.

Substitutes:

MF Ivan Rakitic, 6 -- Substituted Turan at half-time and instantly boosted his team's midfield with his willingness to get constantly involved when linking with those around him, particularly the attacking front three.

DF Thomas Vermaelen, 6 -- Replaced Sergi Roberto after 69 minutes, slotting alongside Mathieu at the heart of defence. Intercepted a dangerous cross with a spectacular header with only seconds to go, a movement that secured the three points for the visitors.

Francesc Tomas is a freelance Catalan columnist who writes for Barcablog.com, WeLoveBarca and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @TomasESPN.

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