With just three fixtures of the season left to play, this was a must-win match for Barca. This was far from a vintage performance from Quique Setien’s side, but they got the job done to keep on their rivals’ tail at the top of La Liga.
Setien opted for a back three, with Sergi Roberto as the right-sided centre back and Nelson Semedo as the wing back on the same flank. There was also a place in the starting lineup for Riqui Puig, with Luis Suarez dropped to the bench.
The decisive moment came after 15 minutes when Vidal lashed home a finish after being set up by Lionel Messi inside the area. Antoine Griezmann should have doubled Barca’s advantage moments later, but scuffed his shot from only yards out following good play by Semedo down the right.
Real Valladolid created some chances of their own, with Kike Perez and Enes Unal in particular spurning opportunities to find the back of the net, but the visitors held out for a win that keeps them in the title race with Real Madrid set to face Granada on Monday evening.
TALKING POINT - Riqui Puig has become indispensable for Barcelona
The difference in Barcelona’s performance was remarkable almost as soon as Puig was hooked by Setien in the second half. Without the talented youngster on the pitch, they desperately lacked energy and drive through the centre of the pitch. In an otherwise ageing side, Puig provides life. He was exceptional in the first half, suggesting this match would have been much more comfortable for Barcelona had they just kept him on for the full 90 minutes.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Arturo Vidal (Barcelona)
He might frequently look like a bit of a misfit in this Barcelona team, but that’s what makes Arturo Vidal so valuable to the Catalans. He brings something a little different to the table and it was his directness and willingness to make runs into the box that gave Barca the only goal of the game, lashing home a finish on the turn after being set up by Messi. Vidal also contributed defensively. Setien will be pleased with his performance.
Surprise Prem team rival Manchester United for Federico Chiesa - Euro Papers
15’ GOAL! Real Valladolid 0-1 Barcelona: Barcelona have the lead and it's a fantastic finish from Vidal! The pass was clipped into the Chilean by Messi, he must have been looking for the return ball, but Vidal cracked off the shot himself, finding the back of the net via the inside of the far post!
19’ Griezmann should have scored! Semedo burst to the byline, played the cross into the middle where Griezmann should have finished, but the Frenchman completely missed his shot!
38’ Big chance for Valladolid! That should have been an equaliser for the home side! The defending was poor from Barcelona, but Kike kicks the turf when faced with Ter Stegen! What an opportunity!
60’ Big save from Ter Stegen! Unal gets on the end of a dangerous freekick delivery into the area, the header was heading into the net at the back post, but the Barcelona goalkeeper makes the diving save.
90+2’ Sandro from the tight angle! The former Barcelona striker gets the powerful shot away after being set up for the strike inside the box, but Ter Stegen makes the strong save at his near post!
Lionel Messi became only the second player in the 21st century to notch at least 20 goals and 20 assists in a single season in any of Europe’s top five leagues since Thierry Henry in 2002/03.
Messi became the first player to reach 20 assists in a single La Liga season since Xavi Hernandez in 2008/09 (20).