Barcelona Player Grades Against Deportivo
I don't think many people expected a nine-goal thriller before Barcelona and Deportivo de La Coruña met at Estadio Riazor on Saturday night, but that's exactly what we got!
Barcelona fans may say the game was always in control but they'd be lying.
Cesc Febregas was at his brilliant best as the visitors raced into an early three-goal lead, but that's just where the fun started.
What followed ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, with seven yellow cards, six more goals and a sending off.
It was the first time Barcelona had conceded four goals since March 2009 in a 4-3 defeat to Atletico Madrid.
But on this occasion, the result was very different indeed. The three points meant Barcelona maintained their first place in La Liga, and it already appears very unlikely they will give the spot up in their quest to regain the Championship.
Here's how the players rated in the 5-4 thriller.
Victor Valdes: C+
When you concede four in a game, it's very rare you're going to be given a good grade, and that's exactly the case with Mr Valdes. There are still question marks over his long-term future, and mistakes are still being made after finishing last season on a low. He could do nothing about either of Pizzi's goals but should definitely have done better with Alejandro Bergantinos' half-volley.
Martin Montoya: B
The youngster did a pretty decent job replacing the injured Daniel Alves. His positioning was commendable throughout and negated Calderon's impact on the game. Certainly Montoya was not out of his depth and he look like a really good prospect for the future. He already made six appearances this season and generally keeps the ball very well.
Javier Mascherano: C
This was not a good night for the Argentinean. He gave away a penalty (perhaps unfortunately) before picking up his second booking after catching Riki with a wild arm. He has performed commendably out of position but is certainly not a long-term option in that position. He left his team virtually the whole second half with ten men, but the result was not affected, much to the relief of the 28-year-old.
Alex Song: C-
The new signing from Arsenal has not done much to win the fans over since arriving at Camp Nou. This was not the first shaky performance of Song's short Barcelona career, but with Gerard Pique still not fit and Carles Puyol out for months, he will continue to get plenty more opportunities to establish himself. His natural position is just in front of the back four, but he will have to adapt quickly because Pizzi and Riki ran circles round him.
Jordi Alba: B-
Alba had an eventful evening scoring at both ends with his own goal, arguably his best of the two. Alba has great skills going forward and is surely going to develop into a marquee player for the club. Offensively, he's one of the top full-backs in the world, but he needs to reign it in sometimes and become a bit more defensive minded. Too many times he was caught out of position, a trait that Daniel Alves has often taken criticism for in the past.
Andres Iniesta: B-
Not Iniesta's best game; his passing game was excellent but allowed too much space, as Deportivo's midfield took a foothold as it progressed. He was lucky to not be the first of two Barca players to get sent off after a poor challenge on Riki in the 39th minute.
Sergio Busquets: B
Busquets looked so much better returning to his regular midfield role and made some delightful passes throughout the first half. He looked a little tired after the break but was still a constant outlet for Barca as they spread the ball out wide.
This was a magnificent performance from the Spanish international. He was the brilliant architect in three of Barca's goals and deserved one himself for a stunning sixty minutes of football. The ball to Jordi Alba was just exquisite and he is looking far more comfortable with what is being asked of him. He is starting to compliment Messi and is far more effective playing behind a front three, especially with Villa back in the side.
Cristian Tello: A-
The 21-year-old continues to progress at a rapid rate, and this performance was another of the highest quality. He scored Barca's second after leaving Ayoze for dead, and he constantly caused the full-back a whole host of problems with his direct running. He was replaced by Pedro on the hour, a smart move by Villanova who wanted a little more experience on the pitch, especially after going down to ten men.
Lionel Messi: A+
You run out of superlatives trying to describe this genius of the modern age and that problem continues this week with another invaluable contribution. He performed a magnificent hat trick that not only preserved Barca's unbeaten run, it claimed maximum points when they needed it the most. He took his first two goals beautifully, after providing Cristian Tello with a delightful pass for Barca's second. His third was the best of all, as he continues to cement his place as the best footballer to ever play the game.
David Vila: B+
It brings a smile to the face anytime David Villa starts a game for Barcelona. After being out for so long, the striker is still searching for his best form, and it will take plenty more time to get back to full confidence and fitness—this outing was certainly a positive step in the right direction. Villa made plenty of well-timed runs, taking defenders away for Fabregas and Messi to do what they do best. He was withdrawn shortly after the sending off, although I suspect it was in the plan for the 30-year-old to play no longer than an hour.
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