Monday night’s game at the Camp Nou could go down as being one of Barca’s most important of the season.
Valladolid had arrived with 12 players out injured and they were, for all intents and purposes, cannon fodder. No one gave them a hope of getting anything.
However, as Cadiz and Eibar had shown earlier this season, if Barca take their foot off of the pedal they are vulnerable, and the visitors can count themselves unlucky to lose.Indeed, they should’ve been at least one goal up by half-time, such was their exuberance in attack. They just didn’t have the quality at the right time and it would come back to haunt them.
Barcelona always struggle when teams put 10 men behind the ball, and this match was no different.
The lion’s share of possession means nothing if the team don’t do anything with it, and time and time again Barca moved forward with purpose, only to flounder at the most important moments.
When they did get a chance, invariably Jordi Masip in the Valladolid goal was up to the task.
He was eventually beaten in the 89th minute, when Ousmane Dembele slammed home a shot at the back post following a cross from Frenkie de Jong that was helped on by Ronald Araujo.
The Frenchman was in the right place at the right time to score the goal which puts Barca just a point behind La Liga leaders, Atletico Madrid in the race for the title.
As late as the end of January, Atleti were 10 points ahead of Barca and with a game in hand, but they’ve really fallen off of the end of a cliff of late.
With Luis Suarez and Marcos Llorente out for a tricky away trip to Real Betis at the weekend, the incentive for Barcelona to win El Clasico has never been more obvious.
Ronald Koeman’s side are still developing and Monday’s result showed that they can grind out a result when they need to, it’s not always about playing pretty football.
Carry on in the same vain, and Lionel Messi will find it hugely difficult to follow through on his wish to move from eight months ago. How quickly things change in football.
With the Copa del Rey final less than a fortnight away, everyone connected with the club will be hoping that another piece of silverware in the cabinet will ensure the Argentinian will stay and another era can begin at the club.
If they can keep scoring last minute winners too, then the league title will be a well-deserved bonus.