The score line suggests Barcelona barely noted the absence of Lionel Messi against the second-lowest ranked team in the league but that was far from the truth as Luis Enrique’s side really had to scrap for the win at Granada, who made the most of their only real shooting opportunity to set up a nervy final 40 minutes.
Barca came through this test mainly thanks to Luis Suarez, who produced one of his best ever overall displays in the three seasons he has been with the Blaugrana, while Paco Alcacer also deserves credit for a hard-working and clinical display after replacing Rafinha when the game was only 17 minutes old.
Barca proved they can occasionally live without Messi by picking up just a second win from six league games in which their talisman has missed or failed to complete the contest.
It was sad to see Rafinha go off so early and Luis Enrique will be hoping the knee injury which forced him off is not a serious one. Elsewhere, there should be concern that Granada were able to score with their only real chance.
5 — Luis Enrique owes Suarez a favour as the coach would have had plenty of explaining to do had his side dropped points after he overindulged in rotations. He had already announced he was going to rest Gerard Pique, which made playing the unpredictable and only recently fit again Jeremy Mathieu over the ultra-reliable Samuel Umtiti an even more baffling move. The coach’s persistence with Andre Gomes, this time at the expense of Andres Iniesta, is also starting to verge on the ridiculous, although it has to be said he made the right substitution in bringing on Alcacer for Rafinha.
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 6 — Had been barely tested before the equaliser and perhaps could have done better to put Jeremie Boga off when he shaped to shoot but he learned to command his box better later in the game.
DF Sergi Roberto, 6 — Was back playing in a four-man defence for the first time in a month and was more cautious going forward than usual, leaving Jordi Alba to handle the bulk of the defence’s attacking contributions.
DF Javier Mascherano, 6 — A competent performance at the heart of the defence after a difficult couple of weeks away with Argentina.
DF Jeremy Mathieu, 5 — A bizarre choice at the expense of the imperious Umtiti. Was caught out for the equaliser and made a number of misplaced passes, interrupting Barca’s play from the back and he nearly risked conceding another goal with a careless pass.
DF Jordi Alba, 7 — Was excellent on the ball, providing the beautiful through pass for Suarez’s goal and displaying classy touches to link with the attack. He let himself down defensively for the equaliser, though, allowing too much space between him and Mathieu which Boga gleefully raced into.
MF Sergio Busquets, 6 — Was a little slow and allowed Matthieu Saunier to get past him and play in Boga for the leveller.
MF Andre Gomes, 4 — Yet again looked completely out of place in the team, unsure of his role and failing to do almost anything positive.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 7 — Played some wonderful long passes from deep and worked far harder and effectively than Gomes. Provided the goal that killed the game off as well with a slice of help from a deflection.
FW Rafinha, NR — Was working hard in midfield and helped start one promising attacking move but felt discomfort in his knee as early as the 10th minute, coming off after Alcacer had been given a few minutes to warm up.
FW Luis Suarez, 10 — Rose to the occasion with Messi absent and was at the heart of all of Barca’s attacks, playing with bruising power as well as pure class. Almost scored the most delightful of chips and tested Guillermo Ochoa for most of the first half before finally getting the better of the Mexican and his assist for Alcacer was a masterclass in hold up play.
FW Neymar, 6 — Did not quite produce the worldly displays we have come to expect from him in recent weeks, contained by Granada’s physical play. Was grateful to Suarez for carrying the team on his shoulders for a change, but in the end got his 100th goal for the club.
FW Paco Alcacer, 8 — Easily his best performance in a Barca shirt, working hard and linking up brilliantly with Suarez as soon as he came on. Scored his first important goal for the club to restore the lead, later squaring to Neymar to add an assist to his splendid display.
MF Andres Iniesta, 6 — Put Gomes out of his misery and provided the experience and class Barca needed to see them through what had become a tricky encounter.
MF Carles Alena, NR — The academy player got his first taste of league action for Barca but few conclusions can be made from the three minutes plus stoppage time he got to play.
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