FC Barcelona bounced back after their loss to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup by defeating Valencia at the Camp Nou on Sunday. Tito Vilanova was forced to watch from the stands as he is serving a suspension for his ejection in the Osasuna game last week.
With the win, Barcelona is now in at the top of the La Liga table with nine points.
Alex Song made his starting lineup debut as the newest blaugrana lined up alongside Xavi and Cesc Fabregas, who replaced a resting Andres Iniesta in the lineup.
Roberto Soldado had a good shot in the 11th minute as he tried to make a long shot around Victor Valdes.
The lone goal came in the 23rd minute as a Barça corner kick was taken short, and Adriano took the ball from outside the box and curled in a wonder goal for the lead. Valencia goalkeeper Diego Alves couldn’t do anything about it.
Lionel Messi struggled in the first half as he had a few bad passes and lost the ball a few times as well. He was able to find Fabregas in the 26th minute to nearly make it 2-0, but Fabregas’ chip went left of the post.
In the second half, Jordi Alba came in for Dani Alves. It was Alba’s first game against his former club. The Barcelona defense had to step it up in the second part as Valencia tried to counterattack with Soldado, Jonas and the rest of Valencia’s offense.
This was not Barcelona’s best game, to say the least, as Messi, Fabregas and Sanchez seemingly were not in sync and were continuously on the verge of making a big play happen. This is now the second straight Liga game that Barcelona struggle to score goals. Last week, it took Messi’s two goals in four minutes to overtake Osasuna, and now, it took a wonder goal from Adriano to defeat Valencia.
Let’s hope that Messi, Fabregas, Sanchez and the rest of the Barça offense gets things rolling after the international FIFA date this week.
Final score: Barcelona 1 - 0 Valencia
A win is a win, and I’ll take it. But, there’s always room for improvement.
The player of the game for me was Alex Song. He had a fantastic game as he was in the middle of things, disrupting the Valencia attack. He had complete control of the back midfield for most of the game as well as going back to help the Barça back line when needed.
His height is always a presence on corner kicks, both defending and on offense. I was surprised to see how quickly Song was able to adapt to this team, but it’s very well welcomed, and it will help Sergio Busquets get much deserved rest when needed.
It’s time to give out the individual player grades for FC Barcelona in their 1-0 victory over Valencia and move into the top of the La Liga table.
Adriano saves Barca!
Victor Valdes: Not forced to make too many things in the first half. Had a few scary moments in the second half, but he held his ground and got the shutout. No big save, so he doesn't get the full "A."
Dani Alves: Terrific pass by the Brazilian to Messi in the 19th minute. Good game by Alves, as he was able to find his teammates to set up plays. Was replaced by Jordi Alba at halftime.
Gerard Pique: Yellow card for Pique in the 13th minute. A bit shaky too many times, but overall, cannot complain too much about his game.
Javier Mascherano: Solid game by el jefecito. It was good to see him bounce back after last week’s terrible game against Real Madrid.
Adriano: What a golazo by Adriano in the 23rd minute as he curled it from outside the top left side of the box and sent a beauty past the reach of Diego Alves. The Brazilian got the ball away from a potential Valencia attack in the 32nd minute.
Great game by Adriano. Nice to see him bounce back after the Supercopa game in which he got sent off.
Jordi Alba: Came in for Dani Alves at halftime. This was Alba’s first game against his former club. Great energy as usual.
Xavi: Strong first half by Xavi. A fantastic trick play on Andres Guardado in the 67th minute. It was a typical Xavi game as he made the passes needed and was effective in the ball-control game.
Alex Song: Nice pass from Song in the 11th minute as he looked for Pedro for a long pass. His presence in the defensive midfield was crucial in this game as Valencia knew long passes are a Barcelona weakness. Song was able to break up several long passes in the game, and his height made Valencia corners that much more difficult.
He seemed to fit in smoothly into the lineup. I was very surprised how fast Song got the tiki-taka down. I know it's just one game, but you can't be not impressed by the way Alex Song played.
Cesc Fabregas: Terrible miss by Fabregas in the 26th minute as Messi found him to the right and Fabregas chokes on the chip shot. Other than that, Fabregas had a solid first half. He missed another big shot at a goal in the 53rd minute as Alexis found an open Fabregas, but he put the ball in Section 14, Row 10. Was replaced by Andres Iniesta just a few minutes later.
Fabregas had a good game overall, but continues to come up short in games this season. My confidence in him is not shaken, but these close misses and mistimed passes need to be fixed before much bigger games in the UEFA Champions League.
Iniesta and Sergio Busquets both get a "pass" grade as they did not do much in the game. They did come in for Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez respectively.
Pedro: Nice shot by Pedro in the eighth minute. The Canarian also had a good shot in the 24th minute as he nearly made it 2-0. His hustle is always great to see and had a few chances at goal.
Pedro has been playing fantastically in these past few games. He is making it very difficult for David Villa to get back into the lineup as Pedrito continues to prove his merit in the starting XI.
Alexis Sanchez: Not too much from the Chilean in the first half. Sweet moves from Sanchez in the 53rd minute as he was able to fool the Valencia defender and get the ball to a wide-open Cesc who skied the ball. Came out for Sergio Busquets in the 87th minute.
Sanchez must be frustrated to not have found the back of the net by now. It may be time for Tito Vilanova to mix things up and put David Villa in Sanchez's place to both give el guaje more playing time plus make Sanchez a bit angry. Why? So Sanchez can come out off the bench motivated to get that first goal.
Lionel Messi: Great header by Leo in the 19th minute as he got the pass from Dani Alves only to be saved by Valencia keeper Diego Alves. Found Fabregas in the 26th minute to nearly get a goal. But, Leo had a few bad passes in the first half. The second half saw some bad passes from Leo as well as hesitance to take the shot.
This was not Leo's best game to say the least. Not that Messi needs to score a hat trick every week, but his passes are so crucial to this offense's game. One bad game throws everything off. Messi did get an assist on the Adriano goal, but not even Messi thought Adriano was going to make that goal.
Leo will now go back to Latin America as he looks to lead his Argentine national team to a win against both Paraguay and Peru in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying later this week.
Overall, I give FC Barcelona a grade of B- for their win against Valencia.
A win is a win, but they struggled in the execution of shots and kept Valencia in the game. Credit goes to Valencia for playing a solid game themselves.
So, what did we learn?
Leo Messi had another "good, but not great game," which is OK, but his passes need to be timed better. His teammates need to convert said Messi passes as well. (I'm looking in your direction, Cesc Fabregas)
Alex Song has gotten off to a terrific start with FC Barcelona. If he keeps this up, he very well may end up truly becoming the new Yaya Toure/Seydou Keita.
Valencia are a scrappy team who seem to be close, but not close enough to beating the two big clubs in La Liga.
Roberto Soldado is one angry little man when his teammates don't get him the ball.
Another Liga match gone by, another game that Marc Bartra does not play. When will Tito Vilanova finally give the kid a chance to prove himself. This Barcelona defense is weak and Bartra could be their center-back of the future. Time to give the future a shot, Tito.
Although he rested most of the game, the night was Andres Iniesta's as the Camp Nou celebrated his UEFA Best Player in Europe Award which he received last week. Well deserved and it's great to see individual awards finally go Don Andres' way. We all know he has plenty of team awards with Barcelona and Spain. Grande Andres!
Barcelona's next game is on September 16, as they will head to Getafe.
Three Liga games so far.
Nine points earned.
Alone at the top of the La Liga table...
Exactly were FC Barcelona wanted to be at.
Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona on Bleacher Report.
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