Barcelona extended their unbeaten start to the La Liga season to nine games with a 2-0 win against Malaga at Camp Nou on Saturday.
Gerard Deulofeu opened the scoring in the second minute, although the goal came in controversial circumstances, with the ball having gone out of play prior to Lucas Digne delivering the assist.
Malaga, who are bottom of the table with a solitary point, never really threatened to get back into the game and the three points were sealed when Andres Iniesta’s deflected effort beat Andres Prieto in the second half.
Ernesto Valverde has spoken about the need for Deulofeu to play with confidence and his first ever goal for the club, on the back of a good performance in midweek, should help in that regard. There were also good performances from Javier Mascherano and Samuel Umtiti in defence, while Sergi Roberto impressed once he moved into midfield.
Luis Suarez remains short of the form which has seen him score so many goals since joining the club from Liverpool in 2014. The Uruguayan missed a sitter in the second half and was taken off inside the final 10 minutes. Although he will have been grateful with the support he received from the home fans as he trotted off the pitch, his performances remain a cause for concern and the extent of his knee injury is still a mystery.
Manager rating out of 10
7 — Valverde’s Barca haven’t been particularly exciting but they have been very effective, as evidenced by results. Once again, they were rarely troubled at the back and the players know their roles. However, there’s still work to be done in the final third, where Barca are a little predictable at times.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 6 — A quiet evening for the German, who was busier with his feet than his gloves.
DF Sergi Roberto, 7 — A second successive start at right-back for the midfielder, who is keeping Nelson Semedo out of the team. But it was once he moved into midfield in the second half that he really stood out. Made some brilliant runs with the ball and created a great chance for Suarez.
DF Javier Mascherano, 8 — Been stuck on the sidelines for large parts of the season, but showed he’s still got a big role to play for Barca. As well as making a number of brilliant interceptions and reading the game exquisitely from the back, he broke the lines with a brilliant pass in the build-up to Iniesta’s goal.
DF Samuel Umtiti, 8 — The French defender is Barcelona’s best centre-back by a distance at the moment. Reads the game well, composed on the ball and an early contender for player-of-the-season-not-named-Messi award.
DF Lucas Digne, 7 — Followed up his goal in midweek with the assist for Deulofeu’s opener, although the ball had already gone out of play when he crossed it. Unlikely to trouble Jordi Alba’s place in the team when the Spain international returns, but has shown himself to be a reliable deputy in the last two matches.
MF Sergio Busquets, 6 — A couple of lapses in concentration almost saw him get caught in the first half, but he recovered well. Taken off for Paulinho with 15 minutes to play.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 5 — Restored to the team after being rested against Olympiakos, but once again struggled to convince. With competition for places in midfield heating up, the Croatian is going to have to do more to keep his place in the team.
MF Andres Iniesta, 7 — Sets the pace for Valverde’s side, along with Messi. Scored the insurance goal, too, which was his first goal in La Liga since he scored against Real Madrid in Nov. 2015.
FW Gerard Deulofeu, 7 — Followed up his lively 45 minutes against Olympiakos with the game’s opening goal here, netting from close range after just two minutes. Wasn’t overly involved other that, but his decision making seemed improved in comparison to recent outings.
FW Luis Suarez, 5 — Looked sharper in the first 20 minutes but this quickly unraveled into another disappointing performance for the striker on the day it was confirmed he’ll miss Uruguay’s friendly in November to rest his knee. Missed a sitter in the second half and was eventually replaced by Paco Alcacer.
FW Lionel Messi, 7 — Failed to add to his tally for the season but was central to everything Barca did. Created Iniesta’s goal and had one of his own ruled out for offside.
DF Nelson Semedo, 6 — Barca looked better with the Portugal right-back on the pitch and Sergi Roberto pushed on into midfield.
MF Paulinho, 7 — Another energetic cameo, complete with an ever-improving understanding with Messi. Quickly becoming a cult hero at Camp Nou and was giving a rousing reception when he was brought on.
FW Paco Alcacer, NR — A first appearance since the end of August suggests the former forward could still have a part to play under Valverde.