The party has begun at Barcelona, who are now just one win away from winning the La Liga title again after beating Deportivo Alaves 2-0 on Tuesday.
Barcelona were the dominant of the two sides right from the get-go, with the likes of Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho coming close to scoring early on. But, Alaves held on in the first half, as the two teams entered the break on level terms, when the absence of Lionel Messi was clearly being felt.
But, the doubts were soon ended, as Carles Alena put Barcelona in the lead in the 54th minute with a clever left-footed finish after being found by Sergi Roberto. Moments later, the visitors thought they had doubled their advantage before Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti were ruled offside for the goal.
But, replays suggested that the ball had struck Tomas Pina’s hand before it was netted and upon consultation with VAR, the referee awarded Barcelona a penalty. In the absence of Messi, Luis Suarez stepped up to take the spot-kick, and he made little error in converting it.
Having taken a comfortable lead, Barcelona then played well within themselves with the intention of seeing the game out. The league leaders did come close to grabbing a third through Messi and Arturo Vidal, but the game ended in a 2-0 win for them.
The Blaugrana are now just one win away from conforming their title coronation, although they could win it without even kicking a ball, if Atletico Madrid are beaten by Valencia. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men following a straightforward win.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10
One of the most straightforward outings that ter Stegen has enjoyed this season. The German goalkeeper had precious little to do on the night, although his precise distribution aided Barcelona in their build-up play.
Nelson Semedo: 6/10
With Barcelona dominating the proceedings, Semedo had the chance to make an impression on his manager with the crucial games in mind. But, while he defended well against the threat of the tricky Jony, the Portuguese made little impact in the final third in way of end product. An opportunity missed.
Gerard Pique: 7/10
Barcelona’s Mr. Reliable in defence produced another professional display at the back, keeping the backline organised and disciplined. At times, he even ventured forward during open play, with Barcelona dominating the game so much. In such a form, it is hard to see how Liverpool can get past Pique.
Samuel Umtiti: 7/10
Given a chance to prove his credentials after being usurped by Clement Lenglet lately, Umtiti was rather solid in what has to be his most efficient display since returning from injury. The Frenchman did not give an inch in defence and shared good understanding with Pique. Needs to keep this up if he is to find his way back to being a regular.
Sergi Roberto: 7/10
With Jordi Alba being given some rest, Roberto reprised a role he has struggled in this season. But, the Spaniard was much more comfortable than he has ever been as a left-back, and was never quite troubled at the back. Switched to the opposite flank post half-time and laid on the assist for Alena. Seems to have done enough to start against Liverpool.
Arturo Vidal: 8/10
With the rotations in full effect, Vidal continues to feature in the league. And, his performance against Alaves ought to have earned him even more time in the side. The Chilean was astute in his defensive work. But, it was his impact on the ball that stood out, as he drove Barcelona forward and ensured they dominated the game all throughout. Needs to be trusted in bigger games now.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
Busquets had precious little to do on the defensive front, with Alaves threatening very little. On the ball, he did not do much other than recycling possession, with Vidal and Alena being effective in their work. An outing like this would have helped him conserve energy ahead of bigger assignments.
Carles Alena: 8/10
Alena continues to benefit from the rotations during the run-in, and this was a performance that ought to have helped him rise in stature at Camp Nou. Smart in possession, linked up brilliantly with Suarez and made clever runs off the ball to get into dangerous scoring positions.
Carles Aleñá vs Alaves
92% pass accuracy
1 key pass
1 dribble won
1 tackle won
1 aerial won
Wonderful player. The future of Barca & Spanish football. ?? pic.twitter.com/MaiEfT5fnc
— FootballTalentScout (@FtblTalentScout) April 23, 2019
One such run ended with him scoring the opening goal of the game, as Alena received Roberto’s pass before smartly finishing past Fernando Pacheco. Has a bright future ahead of him.
Ousmane Dembele: 6/10
The rustiness in his game does not seem to be going away easily, as Dembele again blew hot and cold on the night. Looks dangerous whenever he embarks on his runs, but the spark is clearly still missing, and the Frenchman will hope he gets back to his best by continuing to rack up the minutes.
Luis Suarez: 7/10
A game of hits and misses for Suarez, but it has been that sort of a season for him. Could have easily had more goals on the night, if not for Pacheco and poor finishing. But, he sealed the win with a calmly taken penalty, the eighth successive time he has netted from the spot.
Philippe Coutinho: 6/10
Coutinho continues to show signs of improvements. The Brazilian looked dangerous in the first half, gelling well with the intelligent Alena. But, this was another game of two halves for him as he tapered off quite a bit post the break. Another player who missed a big opportunity against Alaves.
Lionel Messi: 6/10
With the win rounded off, Messi was surprisingly brought on. But, the Barcelona captain did not expend a lot of energy, playing well within himself to see the game out, although he could have scored as well.
Jordi Alba: 6/10
On for the last 20 minutes or so, Alba, like Messi, never got out of second gear in a bid to conserve energy.
Arthur was a pair of fresh legs late on.