Malcom, Philippe Coutinho both struggle again as Barca dig another Copa del Rey hole
Barcelona's defence of the Copa del Rey was left on the rocks on Wednesday as they were beaten 2-0 by Sevilla in the first leg of their quarterfinal.
The two sides will meet again Jan. 30 at Camp Nou, with Barca needing to mount a comeback for the second round running to remain in the hunt for their fifth successive Copa del Rey trophy.
There were very few in the end, but there was a debut for new signing Kevin-Prince Boateng. He didn't do too much, but he should benefit from the minutes moving forward. If you had to stick your neck out, you could argue there were also positive performances from Carles Alena and Arthur, too. And even if he didn't get the result he wanted, coach Ernesto Valverde might still feel it was good to hand Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets rest.
Too many players again failed to take their chances as Valverde made several changes. Malcom again falls into that category, but Philippe Coutinho also struggled off the bench in the second half. His form is becoming a real concern.
It wasn't just the stand-ins who struggled, though. Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet all had tough second periods. Nelson Semedo gets off the hook as he was at least playing out of position.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Valverde was probably right to make the changes, but his side lacked creativity and ingenuity in attack. He will have to field a strong side for the second leg now to keep alive hopes of making the last four.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jasper Cillessen, 6 -- Made a stunning save from Ben Yedder in the first half as Barca, in general, kept Sevilla at bay. Was left exposed by his defence for the two goals, and there was little he could do about either.
DF Sergi Roberto, 5 -- Struggled in defence and wasn't even in the shot when Sevilla's opener came down his side. Often does enough to make up for his poor positioning, but was caught out here.
DF Gerard Pique, 5 -- Gassed by Quincy Promes in the build-up to the opening goal, although he had been pulled out of position by Roberto. Also struggled with Ben Yedder, who turned him inside out at one point in the first half.
DF Clement Lenglet, 5 -- Booed by home fans on his first return to the Sanchez Pizjuan since leaving Sevilla for Barca last summer. They had the last laugh, too, as he produced perhaps his most uncertain performance since joining the Catalans.
DF Nelson Semedo, 6 -- Moved to left-back for two reasons: to afford Jordi Alba a rest and to counter Jesus Navas' pace on the Sevilla right. Actually did OK, but his positioning for the Sarabia goal was off. Later, made a great block on Navas.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 7 -- Did well as the deepest of Barca's midfielders, reading the game and keeping things simple. Never seems to get tired.
MF Arturo Vidal, 6 -- Worked hard and was the one Barca player in the final 10 minutes still rallying his teammates to keep going. Lacked quality -- and players to combine with -- in the final third, though.
MF Arthur, 7 -- One brilliant pass in the first half should have led to a goal, but Malcom squandered the chance. One of the side's better players. Good in possession and clever between the lines.
MF Carles Alena, 7 -- Playing a hybrid position of left wing and central midfield, he took responsibility, looking for the ball at every opportunity. Gave it away cheaply at times, but his willingness to offer himself and to take risks leads to more pros than cons.
FW Malcom, 5 -- Another missed opportunity. Wasted his best chance, only finding the side netting after rounding the goalkeeper. Taken off after an hour.
FW Kevin-Prince Boateng, 6 -- Only trained with his new teammates for the first time on Tuesday but was thrown in from the start as a centre-forward. Did well considering how busy the last few days have been. Held the ball up well but will hope to add more as he gets to know the mechanisms of the side.
FW Luis Suarez, 6 -- Came on at 1-0 as Barca tried to get an away goal. His best chance was deflected just wide.
FW Philippe Coutinho, 5 -- Looks anything but a €160 million player right now. Gave the ball away before Sevilla scored their second.
DF Jordi Alba, N/R -- Late run out in place of Semedo as Valverde got desperate.