The last friendly match for FC Barcelona ended on a very good note. The fixture took place in Bucharest where Messi and Afellay scored on both ends of the match against Dinamo. Villa and Fontas were back on the pitch to regain some playing time, showing some promise as to the depth of the squad, which will be very useful for the dynamic needs of Barcelona this coming season.
Messi scores early
At the beginning Dinamo was content with a four at the back formation, but a swiftly executed goal from Lionel Messi only 4 minutes into the match changed the game. Alexis was once again the instigator, correctly guessing the direction of a Dinamo Bucharest midfielder who just received the ball, passing it to Messi who had no problem putting the ball into the back of the net. It was very like one of Messi’s goals against Raja. Maybe this is a sign that Barcelona under Tito is not afraid to pursue the direct option to goal.
Unwilling to become a laughing stock of world football, Dinamo then only focused on their defense, defending in numbers and always finishing a counter attack chance with a shot to avoid over committing players in the final third. Messi was also instructed to drop deep afterwards to help linkup plays, with Fabregas bombing forward to create anarchy for the defense. Messi and Alexis are already linking very well, especially when Alexis moves to the right wing and Pedro to the left. Alexis expertly provided linkup play on numerous occasions using his quick dribbles, it was very unlucky for him to not score this time around.
Curse of the left wing
The left wing position has proved a very hard position to fill for Barcelona. Even players of Thierry Henry’s and David Villa’s caliber have struggled playing in this position. With David Villa, Pedro, and Alexis Sanchez all taking turns being injured last season, this position once again became the achilles heel of the attack. Cuenca and Tello both tried to fill the position last season to varying effect, so who will play on the wing will be a very important problem to solve for Tito.
In the first matches of the preseason, Afellay was tried on the left wing and he wasn’t bad, but Tito went ahead and tried Tello and Pedro there also. Tello didn’t perform against Manchester United and Pedro was also lacking a little sharpness yesterday. Alexis is the only player that has performed well this preseason on the left wing, but he looks even better on the right. Seems like Tito still has an unsolved problem on his hands.
The match proceeded in classic possession keeping mode for Barcelona, although the uneven pitch made it hard for a few of our players to have a perfect first touch. Barcelona created a lot of chances but was unable to convert most of them. Fabregas looked very eager to build up on his performance last season, but it’s very hard to score against waves of bodies in the penalty box. The highlight of the first half was our very dependable defense with Alba and Bartra deserving compliments for how well they are linking with the other Barcelona players, especially considering their limited training time.
In the second half, a lot of players were sent in to ensure distributed match fitness. To everyone’s delight, the game marked the comeback of David Villa and Andreu Fontas after long injury spells last season. David Villa provides intelligent movement and the possibility of a direct shot after cutting in, which makes him more unpredictable than Barcelona’s other options.
The other highlight of the game was Afellay finally scoring from a false-9 position, after what must have been a really hard summer for him. Afellay’s under-performance with Barcelona this current preseason has a lot to do with his shattered confidence after the Holland national team’s abysmal performance in the European Championship. His goal was courtesy of a really smart run from the Dutch player that was picked up by Mascherano. He still had to latch onto the lobbed through ball perfectly and chip the keeper with his right foot from an awkward angle; his goal shows that he has the ability to perform on the highest stage.
All in all, it was a very good game in that everyone leaves unscathed and it provided a really good platform to jump into another tricky season for Barcelona. Bartra looks ready as an understudy to Pique, Puyol, and Mascherano, so Barcelona shouldn’t need another defender. Defensive midfielder might be another case, as Tito will only depend on Jonathan dos Santos as a last resort, with PSG’s ridiculous spending spree inflating the whole market. It remains to be seen if a player with the Barcelona profile will be available on the market for a good price.
Image: Pere Punti (MD)