Barcelona strolled to a 2-0 win over Inter Milan in a Champions League Group Stage match, thanks to goals from Rafinha and Jordi Alba.
Taking the field at Camp Nou with an injured Lionel Messi watching from the stands, Barcelona did not let Inter Milan settle into the game. The visitors did have their fair share of chances, a couple of which were the doing of Barcelona themselves.
But, Barcelona remained dominant before a classic give-and-go between Luis Suarez and Rafinha resulted in the Uruguayan provide a sumptuous cross for the Brazilian to open the scoring. Rafinha obliged, thus vindicating Ernesto Valverde’s choice of starting the player ahead of Ousmane Dembele and Malcom.
The second was a result of a brilliant run from Jordi Alba. Ivan Rakitic played a key role with his probing pass to the Spaniard, who completed the rest of the job with aplomb. As Barcelona boast a perfect record after the end of the first half of the Group Stage of the UEFA Champions League, we take a look at how the starting eleven fared individually.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen – 6.5
Top notch when it comes to saves, ter Stegen did disappoint with his distribution on the night. In fact, in the first half, he was guilty of a mis-kick that found it’s way to Ivan Perisic, who, fortunately for the custodian, shot high and wide.
A probing cross that seemed to be seeping in at the far corner was beautifully repelled by ter Stegen, who continues to build a formidable name for himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the world right now.
Sergi Roberto – 6
Unlike other outings, Roberto was often found out by Ivan Perisic, who troubled the star a great deal. Roberto was lucky in the first half as he allowed Perisic to cross the ball for Icardi, only for the ball to be obstructed by a fellow Barcelona defender, who cleared the ball.
Gerard Pique – 6
Another player who had an average game, despite Barcelona keeping a clean sheet. While not really troubled at the back, Pique was almost non-existent in set-pieces and was eclipsed by a less industrious Clement Lenglet in attacking positions. Needs to do better if he wants to retain his place when Samuel Umtiti returns from his injury layoff.
Clement Lenglet – 7
On another day, Lenglet could have easily had a hattrick to his name. The Frenchman had two clear headers in the first-half but failed to trouble Samir Handanovic much. In the second half, the ball fell kindly to him near the six-yard box but his shot from the left foot was weak and easily saved by the Inter Milan custodian.
At the back, Lenglet was authoritative and is really coming in strong as far as staking his claim for a regular place in the starting eleven in the long run is concerned.
Jordi Alba – 7.5
Jordi Alba did what Jordi Alba does best. Marauding runs that always tested the Inter Milan defence, Jordi Alba was perhaps instructed to let loose in an asymmetrical approach that is slowly becoming the norm – something that Chelsea are also championing at the moment.
Alba had the ball at his feet more than all of the other players on the pitch and his passing accuracy of 94% along with the goal that gave Barcelona the much-needed cushion proved he did well while on it. Attacking Alba, best Alba.
Ivan Rakitic – 7.5
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A satisfying performance from the Croatian midfielder, especially after a few notoriously poor displays in La Liga. Rakitic did provide the assist for the Alba goal. But, apart from it, he did little to influence proceedings in attack. The midfielder though, kept the ball ticking in what was a much more comfortable outing compared to his recent debacles, with 3 completed dribbles on the night.
As far as the defensive aspect is concerned, Rakitic had 2 successful tackles and was considerably dominant in the air as well.
Sergio Busquets – 7.5
If Rakitic deserves applause for his defensive performance, perhaps Sergio Busquets needs an award or something. The Spaniard holding midfielder registered a whopping SIX successful tackles, second only to Matias Vecino, who recorded 7.
That was not it as Sergio Busquets boasted a passing accuracy of 99%, almost a perfect score. Needless to say, the holding midfielder bossed the game and perhaps, was one of the driving forces behind the win and the clean sheet.
Arthur – 6
Despite being industrious in midfield and more than comfortable in close spaces, Arthur almost gifted a goal due to his penchant for intricate passes. Instead of hoofing the ball clear or finding a teammate further away from the goal, he tried to pass it near the Barcelona box, which saw the ball land at Matteo Politano’s feet, who, like Perisic in the first half, hoofed it high and wide.
Arthur has been bright overall and looks like a superstar in the making. Like every gem, the midfielder needs time.
Rafinha – 7.5
A genuine superstar performance from Rafinha, who has failed to be one at Barcelona, despite showing a lot of promise. The Brazilian was impeccable with his set-piece delivery and could have had a couple of assists, if not for Lenglet’s profligacy.
Took the goal well and was always looking to create chances. Could have played his way into a meatier role, at least till Lionel Messi remains unavailable.
Luis Suarez – 7
The Uruguayan was supposed to step up in the absence of Lionel Messi. And although he left the field without a goal on Wednesday, he did more than enough. His ball to Rafinha for the opener was as sumptuous as they come and he remained a thorn throughout his time on the pitch.
Could have done better in terms of shooting accuracy, though.
Coutinho – 6
Bang average. The two words describe the Brazilian’s performance against Inter Milan the best. Got in his usual spaces but failed to trouble Handanovic with his attempts. Almost felt like he was clutching at attempts. Did hit the post once in the second half but ideally, should have scored. Needs to do better, with Rafinha stepping up and Ousmane Dembele and Malcom waiting to pounce on the opportunity.
Nelson Semedo – 6
Brought in for Rafinha in order to secure the right flank to an extent, Semedo did well with no real positional pressure. Decent.
Arturo Vidal – N/A
The Chilean could emerge as an ideal alternative to Sergio Busquets, if and when the need does arise or Ernesto Valverde decides to rest his key star. Vidal recorded 2 successful tackles in just 10 or so minutes on the pitch. Good cameo.
Munir El Haddadi – N/A
Would have been glad to get some minutes under his belt.