It wasn’t Barcelona’s brightest show of the season however targets from Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Paulinho ensured they began as they left off in La Liga, with a Three-Zero win over guests Levante. The win maintained their nine-point lead on Atletico Madrid on the prime of the desk and stored the Catalan aspect unbeaten on the season.
Levante put out a weakened aspect as a result of suspensions and a lingering suspicion they would not take something dwelling from Camp Nou in any case, and Barcelona took benefit with what has change into a traditional efficiency beneath Ernesto Valverde, digging in to file one other win and one other clear sheet.
One other victory, one other step in direction of the title, one other clear sheet on the again for essentially the most defensively secure Barcelona crew we have now seen in years.
Ousmane Dembele additionally made his first begin after his hamstring damage in September, making the following step ahead in his restoration course of, which is nice information because the Catalans have lacked slightly spark up entrance since Neymar’s departure in the summertime.
The one actual criticism of Valverde’s Barcelona is that they aren’t as entertaining as Pep Guardiola or Luis Enrique’s aspect. That was the case once more right here, bar Messi’s contributions that are invariably magical.
Supervisor ranking out of 10
7 — Valverde utilised a brand new formation to create space for Dembele, choosing the Four-2-Three-1 he favoured at Athletic Bilbao, though Messi drifting between the strains meant it was extra versatile. Barcelona took management of the sport early on and after scoring within the 12th minute by no means regarded like giving up the lead.
Participant rankings (1-10; 10 = finest. Gamers launched after 70 minutes get no ranking)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, eight — The German is having the most effective season of his profession and made two sensational saves to earn Barcelona one other clear sheet. The primary was from Ivi shortly after the break, tipping the ball over the bar, earlier than later denying American Shaquell Moore from shut vary.
DF Sergi Roberto, eight — The Catalan midfielder would like to play in his pure place extra usually however to try this he must cease giving Valverde purpose to place him within the aspect at right-back. Roberto’s excellent volleyed cross led to the second objective, and it was the fifth help he has supplied for Luis Suarez this season.
DF Javier Mascherano, 7 — The defender is near a transfer to Chinese language Tremendous League aspect Hebei China Fortune, and if this proves to be his farewell it was becoming, as he put in a hard-working and defensively stable efficiency. Dependable till the tip.
DF Thomas Vermaelen, eight — The Belgian has been one of many nice surprises of Barcelona’s season since he stepped into the aspect to cowl for the injured Samuel Umtiti. Has been nothing however dependable on the again and, touching wooden, it seems his damage issues at the moment are behind him. An vital sort out within the first half to decelerate a Levante break and a vital one in direction of the tip to cease Nano breaking in on objective.
DF Jordi Alba, eight — The left-back has solid a particular reference to Messi this season and teed him up with a headed help to interrupt the impasse within the 12th minute. Alba has been a significant element for Barcelona this season, thriving within the ocean of house on the left with out Neymar forward of him.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 6 — The Croatian midfielder performed in Sergio Busquets’ position and did a very good job of it for essentially the most half, though a late mistake almost let Nano in. Was inches away from scoring top-of-the-line targets of his profession within the first half, whistling a low effort narrowly vast.
MF Paulinho, 6 — Bought one other objective on the finish by tapping dwelling after some fantastic work on the left by Messi, his seventh strike of the marketing campaign, making him the highest scoring midfielder in La Liga. Total, nevertheless, this was a quiet show from the Brazilian. Taking part in deeper than ordinary because of Valverde’s formation, he labored exhausting defensively however did not get into the realm as continuously as within the first half of the season.
MF Ousmane Dembele 6 — As Valverde’s assistant Jon Aspiazu identified earlier than the sport, Dembele was taking part in in midfield slightly than as a part of a brand new attacking trident alongside Suarez and Messi. The Frenchman had an early shot blocked after which noticed Oier Olazabal beat away one other effort. His passing and interaction was good, even when he had little total impression on his first begin since damage.
MF Lionel Messi eight — The Barcelona playmaker made his 400th league look and marked it with a volley to open the scoring which left Olazabal with no probability. Levante defenders used his shins as goal apply all recreation however Messi nonetheless thrived and teed up his teammates at each alternative till ultimately, Paulinho took benefit.
MF Andres Iniesta, 6 — The Barcelona captain was dependable on the ball however took his time bedding in to a brand new place out on the left. With Philippe Coutinho arriving, the veteran will most likely get much less time on the pitch within the months forward than he has grown used to beneath Valverde. The Brazilian appears made for this position too.
FW Luis Suarez, 7 — Struck his eighth objective in seven league video games with a fearsome strike that delighted Camp Nou. Suarez is out of a droop which noticed him web simply three targets in his first 14 video games of the season and Barcelona are extra lethal for it. The Uruguayan was the spearhead that allowed the attacking midfielders behind him to maneuver extra freely.
DF Nelson Semedo 6 — His arrival within the 67th minute for Dembele noticed Sergi Roberto transfer into midfield whereas the Portuguese performed in his ordinary right-back spot. Made little impression on a recreation which was already gained.
MF Andre Gomes, NR — Changed Andres Iniesta within the 76th minute and did effectively down the left regardless of having restricted time to indicate off.
MF Jose Arnaiz, NR — The younger ahead was given a league debut within the closing jiffy however barely touched the ball.
Richard Martin covers FC Barcelona for ESPN FC. Twitter: @wealthy9908.