Barcelona beat Celta Vigo 2-0 at Camp Nou on Saturday evening, with first-half goals from Ousmane Dembélé and Lionel Messi ensuring the reigning Spanish champions will finish 2018 top of La Liga.
Celta started on the front foot, recording the game's first shot while keeping a compact defence line. However, their resistance crumbled after just nine minutes when Ousmane Dembélé opened the scoring.
Lionel Messi started the attack, exchanging passes with Jordi Alba before seeing his following shot saved by Rubén Blanco. The Célticos goalkeeper couldn't maintain hold of the ball, though, and Dembélé was on hand to capitalise.
Barça followed that up with a period of dominance in possession, with their opponents attempting to stay in the game but the task grew tougher for Miguel Cardoso's men when Alba's brilliant through ball from the left flank found Messi and the Blaugrana skipper scored his 15th goal of the season to give his side a 2-0 half time lead.
The second half saw a clear drop in quality, as the visitors struggled to get back in the game.
Barcelona remained defensively firm, however, and managed the match well to win their fourth consecutive league match and maintain their lead at the top of the table.
Here's our breakdown of this one.
Key Talking Point
Although routine in nature, this win over Celta counts as a huge positive for Barcelona coming as it does right before the winter break. Ernesto Valverde’s men have put themselves in a strong position to defend their La Liga title and would not have wanted to spend the Christmas holidays worrying about their rivals gaining ground.
Atletico Madrid and Sevilla have emerged as worthy contenders this season and both sides will surely continue to push the Blaugrana hard in the second half of the season. However, as a win like this makes clear, Valverde's side, led by Messi are the clear and comfortable favourites.
Starting XI: Ter Stegen (7); Semedo (7), Pique (6), Lenglet (7); Alba (8*); Busquets (6), Vidal (5), Rakitić (7); Messi (8), Dembele (7), Suarez (6).
Substitutes: Arthur (6), Coutinho (6), Aleñá (N/A).
Star Man - Jordi Alba
You would be forgiven for wondering whether he's an actual left-back or a winger. That's how much influence Alba has on Barcelona's attacks and the Spain international was at it again on Saturday evening, putting in an excellent display and earning himself a superb assist.
Alba's near-telepathic understanding with Messi was the main standout in his performance, as his darting runs down the left flank were complimented by the striker's vision and technique, causing Celta a constant defensive headache.
It doesn’t matter how many times I see the link up between Messi and Alba, it’s still scintillating...— Emma Gabriel-Garcia (@emgabrielgarcia) December 22, 2018
Jordi Alba is not your regular right back— Makwin (@japh_1) December 22, 2018
That Jordi Alba pass❤. Best Left Back in the World🔥— Ranmii🍍 (@raja_ranmii1) December 22, 2018
Worst Player - Arturo Vidal
For a man who once claimed to be the best player in the world in his position, Arturo Vidal has struggled to back up that claim since his move to Barcelona from Bayern Münich and his performance against Celta provided yet another reason as to why he hasn’t been the top class signing the Camp Nou faithful thought they had acquired.
The Chilean’s display - which was brought to an end when he was substituted in the 61st minute – was missing impact, with just one key pass made and no shots at goal made. His two interceptions, three duels and single clearance testifies to some minor defensive work but it’s still below average for a player of his quality.
With this being each side’s final match of the year before La Liga takes a winter break, Barcelona will resume league action on the 6 January with an away clash at Getafe, while Celta will host Athletic Bilbao the following day.