Barça could only manage a disappointing 0-0 draw in this afternoon’s game at Getafe which leaves Real Madrid with a four-point advantage at the top of La Liga. Leo Messi came closest to breaking the deadlock with a 52nd minute free-kick which hit the crossbar though Getafe also came close with a first-half effort from Angel Lafita which produced a glorious save from Claudio Bravo.
Luis Enrique returned to Barça’s usual 4-3-3 formation with Bravo, Alves, Alba, Xavi and Rakitic returning to the team. Neymar Jr missed the game with an ankle injury while the Barça coach also decided to rest Andrés Iniesta and Javier Mascherano meaning a starting XI of Bravo, Alves, Piqué, Mathieu, Alba, Rakitic, Busquets, Xavi, Messi, Suarez and Pedro.
Getafe played a defensive 4-5-1 with just Jorge Sammir as a lone striker though Lafita took advantage of Alves’s forward runs to attack down the left. Barça were allowed to dominate possession but Getafe played a disciplined defence throughout with Emiliano Velazquez particularly impressing.
Getafe’s solid defence combined with a below-par pitch to frustrate Barça’s patient attack. Time and again an interesting elaborate build-up would break down before reaching a finish. However, with so much of the ball it seemed inevitable that the chances would come and in the 18th minute a ball from Rakitic deflected into the path of Messi but he could only shoot low straight at Guaita.
Barça’s best chance of the game came three minutes later. Alba crossed from the left, Guaita punched the ball to the edge of the area where Pedro fired the ball back, Suarez was eight yards out but his reaction wasn’t quick enough as he diverted the ball over the bar.
There were handball appeals in both penalty areas but it seems the referee Bikandi Garrido didn’t see Valera’s hand when Messi tried to dribble past while considering Alves’s handball at the other end to be unintentional. Then in the 33rd minute a long ball up the left found Lafita, Alves was beaten by a clever flick, Piqué didn’t get close enough to cover and Lafita cut inside and let fly with a bullet that was heading for the far corner before Bravo’s miraculously flew to his left to touch the ball past the post with his fingertips. A definite candidate for save-of-the-season.
Barça continued to struggle in static attacking situations. Pedro and Suarez were more busy than Messi but with little luck. Suarez sent in two decent crosses, first from the left but Pedro couldn’t get a touch and then from the right but Xavi was being tracked and his flick hit a defender before bouncing easily for Guaita. Rakitic had another unproductive game in midfield with his only shot going wide just before half-time.
Barça improved in the second half though there was an early long shot from Lafita that Bravo did well to hold. After that it was all one-way traffic though the Getafe defence proved impregnable. Alba was seen more in attack but Barça’s efforts were either charged down or flew wide as Getafe grew in confidence. The best attempts came from two free-kicks from Messi. The first was a carbon copy of the Argentinian’s shot against the bar in last week’s victory over Espanyol. Guaita didn’t even move as he watched the ball curl over the defensive wall and bounce out of the woodwork. From the second Messi whipped a low shot to the near post but Guaita got down to turn the ball out for a corner.
Iniesta replaced Rakitic and with time running down Munir came on for Pedro and Adriano replaced the limping Alves. A final assault was mounted but there was no late goal like in Villarreal or Valencia. Iniesta and Messi had two shots each charged down by the packed defence and Piqué’s late pushes forward produced just one weak header that was easy for Guaita.
The four-point gap is going to be very difficult to make up given the excellent form of Madrid. However, our rivals will slip up one day and we have to be close enough to take advantage when they do. We cannot afford to drop more points against the likes of Getafe who gave a creditable defensive performance but really should have been beaten. There were too many similarities with the game at Malaga where we failed to deal with a poor playing surface and a defensive opposition. The work-rate was fine and some of the forward movement was good but the ball needs to move more quickly to open up these defences and Barça were far too hesitant in the build-up play and there were too few flashes of inspiration with the ball in attack.
Getafe: Guaita; Valera, Naldo, Velazquez, Alexis; Yoda (Pedro Leon m75) Michel, Lacen, Sarabia, Lafita (Diego Castro m70); Sammir (Alvaro m62).
Barça: Bravo 8.5; Alves 5 (Adriano m80, 5.5), Piqué 5.5, Mathieu 5.5, Alba 6; Rakitic 5 (Iniesta m66, 6), Busquets 6, Xavi 6; Messi 5.5, Suarez 6, Pedro 6 (Munir m77, 5.5).
Yellow card: m65 Sarabia