Barcelona travelled to Eindhoven to seal the top spot in the group. Having gone without a win in the last 4 matches across La Liga and the Champions league, they were desperate to get back to their winning ways. Meanwhile PSV though out of the champions league, have been dominating the Eredivise; winning all of their 13 matches.
Formation and Lineups
Barcelona started with their usual 4-3-3 formation with Messi playing as False 9 and Dembélé and Coutinho on the wings. The midfield consisted of Vidal, Rakitic and Busquets since Arthur was out with an injury. Umtiti’s injury relapse forced Lenglet to pair with Gerard Piqué, with Alba and Semedo as the fullbacks.
PSV started with a 4-3-1-2 with the impressive Hirving Lozano partnering Bergwijn upfront. The midfield consisted of Rosario, Hendrix, Pereiro with the captain Luuk De Jong played as a second striker.
Barcelona started very nervously with Semedo losing the ball a couple of times and Busquets making an uncharacteristic foul near the penalty area. The resulting free-kick was brilliantly saved by Ter Stegen.
Barcelona were very scrappy in possession and it almost cost them in the 17thminute when Rakitic’s misplaced pass went to Pereiro. The PSV midfielder having taken a touch, thumped it towards the bottom right-hand corner which only managed to smack the base of the post.
The first clear-cut chance for Barcelona came in the 38thminute when Arturo Vidal was denied twice with goal line clearances.
Just before half-time, it was Barcelona thanking their lucky stars when De Jong’s header from a free kick somehow came off the bar and the follow-up by Denzel Dumfries struck the post.
Barça took the lead thanks to a typical piece of Messi magic as he picked up the ball on the edge of the box after a one-two with Dembélé, with four defenders around him and an impossible angle, still managed to find the back of the net with a brilliant finish into the top corner.
With 20 minutes remaining, Barça won a free-kick and Messi’s misfired free-kick found an unmarked Gerard Pique who slotted home a one touch finish to make it 2-0.
Barça endured a nervous last 10 minutes where PSV were clearly the better side. They got their reward in the 83rdminute when De Jong rose over Pique to head home a simple cross into the far post with Ter Stegen having no chance.
It was the last clear chance of the game with Barça confirming their top spot in the group.
- Lack of a Controller
It was very evident that Barça missed Arthur in midfield. He acts as a bridge between wing players on both ends of the pitch, which explained why Alba and Semedo played aimless back and forth passes between Coutinho and Dembélé respectively. Semedo had very little space to operate which also explained his loss of possession a few times in the match. Arthur also acts as the bridge between Rakitic and Busquets, which is the most important one too. Busquets was largely isolated with Vidal occupying the AM position. This explains also why he uncharacteristically misplaced a lot of passes. Piquéhad to kick the ball out of play when pressed since no midfielder came calling for the ball. To sum-up, Barça lacked the control and stability which Arthur would have given them.
- Dembélé’s Improvement
It was probably one of Dembélé’s most complete matches for Barça. He was confident on the ball, linked up well with Messi, took on the defenders confidently and didn’t lose the ball too many times. Most of the chances Barça created went through him, as was the opening goal.
- Lady Luck smiles on Barça
Barça were clearly the second best team in the opening 20 minutes of the first half. PSV hit the post 3 times in the match and if not for a fine save from Ter Stegen in the 5thminute, Barça could have been easily a couple of goals down. There are some matches over the course of the season where you get a little lucky, but you still have to score to win a match.
Let’s carry forward the momentum. ¡Visca el Barça!
Ter Stegen- 7/10
- He had an average match by his standards. He made a lot of mistakes with his feet though made up for it with a fine save.
- He could not bring the ball out from the back and was not his usual calm self while pressed. This is partly due to very less support from the midfield. His second goal sealed the match.
- He was composed on the ball and made a crucial block to stop De Jong scoring in the first half.
- He was pressed on throughout the match and looked very uncomfortable on the ball. There was no connection with Dembélé in the attack.
- His defensive contribution was good as he recovered quite a few balls, but there was no contribution to the attack.
- One of those rare games where he misplaced quite a few passes and looked uncomfortable on the ball.
- He gave away too many balls, one of which almost resulted in a goal. It was overall a poor performance. One which is becoming quite regular.
- His energy and work-rate were excellent. But he doesn’t bring the control in the midfield which often Barça require.
- He had no impact on the match and hardly looked dangerous when he had the ball.
- Though not the typical brilliant Messi match, he still managed to score a brilliant goal and assist Piquéfor his second.
Dembélé – 8/10
- Probably the best player for Barça on the night. He took on the defenders, looked confident on the ball, dribbled well and most of the moves went through him.