Rating the Barcelona Players Against Celtic in the Champions League Win
Barcelona won another three points in the UEFA Champions League against a hard-working and dogged Celtic side at the Camp Nou, yet were finally unworthy to walk away with even a point.
In a contest where Barcelona utterly dominated proceedings, the home team were impressive in not only their composure and manner when Celtic players tried to pack the massed ranks, but also in their innate ability to keep trusting their method of playing.
After Celtic took the early lead, an equaliser from Andres Iniesta was necessary to send the sides in level at the break, and it took a 94th-minute winner from Jordi Alba to hand all three points to Barcelona.
Here are the Barca players' rankings from the 2-1 win.
Goalkeeper: Victor Valdes
Victor Valdes had quite literally nothing to do for the vast majority of the night.
Even after Celtic scored, they became less-inclined to attack and instead dropped deeper more often and quickly, leaving Valdes on top of his defence at times when Celtic did manage to venture forward on the counter.
The second half was more of the same, with only set pieces really threatening the Barcelona goal.
There was not much Valdes could do about the goal he conceded.
Victor Valdes: 7/10
Full-Backs: Adriano and Jordi Alba
The two Barcelona full-backs were two of the most influential players in the game.
With Celtic so defense-minded and unable to penetrate the wide areas of the pitch, Adriano on the right and Jordi Alba on the left were able to raid forward at will, holding high lines inside the Celtic half and making bursts into the box when the moment called for it.
Adriano sent over a succession of teasing, low crosses into the penalty area from out wide, and Alba made his penetrative darts towards the six-yard box, always looking for someone to cut the ball back to.
The Brazilian right-back was involved in the build-up for the final goal as well, but it was Alba who scored it. With 94 minutes showing on the clock, Alba ghosted in to tap home from a few yards out and give Barcelona a much-deserved win.
Jordi Alba: 9/10, man of the match
Central Defenders: Marc Bartra and Javier Mascherano
Another new pairing at the back this season for Barcelona and the chances are it won't be repeated again too quickly.
In truth, the combination of Marc Bartra and Javier Mascherano didn't do too much wrong. However, they also seemed ill at ease playing alongside each other and there was not much evidence of teamwork on their part.
Mascherano was unfortunate to score an own goal after a free kick bounced off his shoulder in the penalty area, but neither player really took charge in defensive situations and as a result, Celtic were more dangerous than they should have been.
Bartra is fast-approaching his 22nd birthday and will need to make a name for himself at the club soon if he is to be rewarded with staying at the club longer, but on this evidence, he is not a top-drawer stand-in for the likes of Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol.
Marc Bartra: 6/10
Javier Mascherano: 6/10
Central Midfielders: Alex Song, Andres Iniesta and Xavi
Alex Song was given a return to the centre of midfield for the Champions League encounter against Celtic, in the deepest of the three midfield roles.
"Deep," however, is not exactly where he needed to be located on the pitch, with all three encamped inside Celtic's half of the pitch for most of the 90 minutes.
Song made six tackles and, like the rest of the team, was immaculate in his passing.
His two teammates in the middle of the pitch, however, took passing to a whole new level.
In a game where Barca had 82 percent possession, Andres Iniesta completed 128 of his 141 passes and Xavi racked up an incredible 177 successful passes out of 183 attempted, a whopping 97 percent success rate.
Barcelona stuck to their game and their plan, with the rhythm dictated by those two, and in the end got their late, but very just, rewards.
Iniesta, of course, scored a fantastic, swept-home goal after a quick-flowing move inside the Celtic penalty area.
Alex Song: 7/10
Andres Iniesta: 8/10
Wide Forwards: Pedro and Alexis Sanchez
Celtic packed the defence, stood firm and organised and invited Barcelona to break them down.
Normally, the work-rate, creativity and movement off the ball of the two wide men—this time Pedro and Alexis Sanchez—are key to that, but against Celtic, the two never really got into the game to swing it in their team's favour as they can do.
Sanchez had one early chance when he got behind the defence to shoot across goal, but failed to hit the target on that occasion—and as it turned out, that was about as good as it got for the Chilean.
Pedro was plenty involved in build-up play down the right, but neither his delivery nor his customary excellent movement in the final third were quite up to scratch.
Both were unsurprisingly replaced as Barcelona sought out a winner in the second half.
Alexis Sanchez: 6/10
Central Forward: Leo Messi
It was a frustrating night for Messi for the most part who, though he had eight shots during the game, failed to score for once.
A couple of free kicks went close, as did a low drive or two, but all in all it was not one of his finer matches for finishing.
In terms of build-up and linking with his teammates, he was certainly in superb form as usual.
Messi quickly controls a ball, shifts direction and body weight and moves the ball on to a teammate before defenders can react, and against Celtic he helped pop the ball about the edge of the packed penalty area on numerous occasions.
Leo Messi: 7/10
Substitutes: Cristian Tello and David Villa
Tito Vilanova left it late to introduce his substitutes into the match, making two in the final 15 minutes as his team looked to take all three points.
Cristian Tello replaced Pedro with 76 minutes on the clock, perhaps indicating again to David Villa that he is a little further down the list of requirements these days.
Villa was turned to only moments later, though, as Sanchez was taken off—and the Spanish forward almost scored the winner with a tidy effort from inside the area, only to see his shot hit the post.
The second sub almost seemed to play a deep central striker's role, but in the end, of course, the winning goal came from....a left-back.
Cristian Tello: 6/10
David Villa: 7/10
Unused subs: Pinto, Sergi Roberto, Martin Montoya, Cesc Fabregas, Jonathon dos Santos.
Stats from whoscored.com