Barcelona grabbed a late 1-0 win over Alaves courtesy of a Frenkie de Jong winner.
Barca were looking to bounce back against their Copa del Rey extra-time defeat to Athletic Club, but were made to do so without Ansu Fati, out with another injury.
A win would have taken Xaxi Hernandez’s side into fifth and in with a chance of Champions League qualification next season, but they struggled to create much beyond a Luuk de Jong volley early in the first half, though they retained the ball for much of first half.
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In the second half, Alaves - celebrating their 101st anniversary - continued to stifle their more glamorous opponents as Barcelona delivered a succession of crosses without forcing anything particularly dangerous.
Barcelona had a scare when Tomas Pina had a decent penalty shout turned down, and Joselu flashed a header wide in a five-minute spell.
With the game looking destined for a draw Ferran Torres picked out De Jong for a simple finish with three minutes of normal time remaining.
The win leaves Barcelona in fifth, one point off Atletico Madrid in fourth, and Alaves remain 19th, in the relegation zone. Both sides remain in their own kind of danger.

TALKING POINT - Barcelona don’t have the players to match Xavi’s demands

The approach is obvious from Xavi. He asks his players to move the ball quickly in tight spaces, and he also acknowledges the limits of his side by using Luuk de Jong’s physical and direct presence in the box.
A reasonable approach and one that might work if Alvaro Morata comes in and his coaching pays off, but for now the players are too scruffy and De Jong is too callow for the hybrid system to work.
There are a few days left for Barcelona to somehow balance the books and for Xavi to overhaul one squad and meld another, all while challenging for the top four.

PLAYER OF THE MATCH - Frenkie De Jong (Barcelona)

Given the nod solely because of his winning goal. He was no better or worse than most of his teammates and there was not much to get excited about before he popped up at the death. De Jong has gone sideways at Barcelona and unless he contributes like this more regularly, he could soon be moved on , but at least he showed something decisive against Alaves.


Alaves: Pacheco 6; Martin 6, Laguardia 6, Lejeune 6, Javi Lopez 6; Jason 7, Escalante 6, Pina 6, Pons 6; Luis Rioja 6, Joselu 6. Subs: De la Fuente 6, Moya 6, Mendez 6.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen 6; Dest 6, Araujo 6, Pique 6, Alba 6; Busquets 7, Frenkie De Jong 7, Pedri 7; Ferran Torres 7, Luuk De Jong 6, Abde 6. Subs: Nico 6, Jutgla 6, Lenglet 6.


13’ - LUUK DE JONG CHANCE - He runs onto the last defender's shoulder to hook a volley just wide of the post.
29’ - BARCELONA WIN ANOTHER CORNER - A decent attack down the wings earns them a corner, it's headed on by Busquets and almost ricochets into the net.
45’ - PONS CHANCE - Straight at Ter Stegen! The best chance for the home side so far.
73’ - ALAVES WANT A PENALTY - Pina runs into Nico in the box, and it's hard to see how it would not have been a penalty anywhere else in the box, but the ref isn't interested.
78’ - JOSELU HEADER - The Spaniard goes so close when he gets across his marker to reach Jason's cross, thundering his effort past the post.
84’ - GOAL! Alaves 0-1 Barcelona (De Jong): Ferran Torres receives a ball over the top, cushions the ball to De Jong, and he sidefoots home.
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