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PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ (FCB)

Jordi Alba’s return to Mestalla saw him put in a notable performance. The Catalan player was calm and collected as his team looked to score the go-ahead goal down his wing. In addition to Alba, Víctor Valdés played a crucial role in Barça’s success this evening. Despite conceding a goal to Banega, Víctor was sure and dominating in goal. He also kept his team in the game in the final minutes of the match.

Mestalla is a complicated ground for FC Barcelona. The fans are right on top of the players and the Valencia were well aware of the difficult task ahead of them as the referee blew the starting whistle. Valverde instructed his men to keep the lines tight, and he deployed his defence farther up the pitch in the hopes of catching Barça on the counter.

With this approach, FC Barcelona were not comfortable on the ball. Barça’s midfield was run by Xavi and Iniesta, however, neither of them found enough freedom to link up well with the Blaugrana forwards.

It became evident that it was up to Barça’s wide backs to unlock the Valencia’s defence. Jordi Alba and Dani Alves played a fundamental role in thinning out an overcrowded midfield.

Alba returned to Mestalla, the stadium that saw him make his debut in Spain’s top flight, and put in an all-around solid performance. He was intelligent, quick on the ball and voracious on defence. It was a special match for the defender, who recovered possession 10 times and sent in three crosses in to Guaita’s area.

Víctor Valdés also played a crucial role for Barça against Valencia. The home team took the lead thanks to a strike from Ever Banega. The keeper, who didn’t have a clear view of the shot through his defenders, was unable to divert the Argentine’s attempt.

After the goal, however, the keeper was a brick wall in goal. In the dying minutes of the match, Cissokho recovered possession and crossed the ball in for Soldado, who unleashed a shot that very well could have been the match winner if it had not been for the keeper’s fantastic save.


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