Match Review: FC Barcelona vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach

Barcelona's players observe a minute of silence for the victims of an airplane crash one week ago, including members of the Brazilian football club Chapecoense before the UEFA Champions League Group C football match FC Barcelona vs Borussia Moenchengladbach at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, on December 6, 2016. / AFP / JOSEP LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)

Barcelona fans needed one thing from the last group stage match in Champions League play, a victory. Four draws in five matches in all competitions has left a bitter taste in the Blaugrana’s mouths, but there were three other things the faithful desperately wanted to happen to turn the recent tide for the club. With the top spot in Group C already secured, supporters hoped to see a goal from Paco Alcácer, strong displays from fringe players, and for Lionel Messi to break Cristiano Ronaldo’s record for most goals in the group stage. Well, one out of three ain’t bad especially with the dominating performance displayed by FC Barcelona on the night.

Death by a thousand passes and one, most are concerned with that last pass, the one before the goal. Previous Barcelona sides were exemplified by this kind of play. This is called tika-taka or the process of short passing and movement where as the club tries to maintain possession in hopes of wearing down the other side to open up different scoring avenues. This kind of play is usually dominated by the midfield and harkens back to the days of Pep Guardiola and even his mentor Johan Cruyff.

Recently the club’s midfield has gone missing with play dominated by the forwards especially with the injury to Andrés Iniesta and Messi continually dropping deeper to receive the ball and influence play. With the draw to Real Madrid on the weekend whispers that the club has lost its identity have begun to circulate around the Camp Nou. Unfortunately, the club didn’t make a thousand passes on the night but they attempted 993 passes, the most in the Champions League history.

The match started strong for the home side, and they never looked in danger of losing the match. The club just looks a different side with Iniesta in the lineup pulling the strings. It allows Messi to fully express himself on the pitch. Lionel dominated the early exchanges of the match with scintillating passes and uncompromising dribbles. It only took 16 minutes for the home side to break through. Messi dribbled the ball and found André Gomes to his left. The Portuguese first timed the ball back to Messi and he slid the ball to Arda Turan on the left wing. Turan centered the ball back to Messi and there was never any doubt as he put Barcelona up one to nil.

The rest of the first half played out much the same as the early exchanges. Messi ran rampant and had a good shot blocked in the 18th minute. Samuel Umtiti and Javier Mascherano played more as midfielders with the club operating exclusively in the Borussia’s half. Dennis Suárez filled the space on the right left by a roving Messi and formed a strong partnership with Alexi Vidal. The only thing the first half missed was more goals, but they would come in the second.

In the 49th minute Alcácer narrowly missed an opportunity to score as he slipped during the vital moment after a delicious lob pass from Denis. Moments late the club put in a goal in the 50th minute once again engineered by Suárez. Vidal slipped the ball to him with a beautiful pass that opened a great deal of space on the right side of the box. He dribbled toward goal and his deflected cross found the head of Arda Turan who easily put the club up two to nil.

It only took three more minutes for Barcelona to find the net again. Messi started the play with a delightfully weighted pass with backspin to Vidal on the wing. He played the ball to Denis who in turn passed back to Messi. Messi dribbled toward the defense and slid the ball into Vidal. Vidal turned and crossed the ball to Arda who charged into the middle of the box. He once again found the back of net by passing the ball into the right corner putting the match out of reach at three to nil.

After a great interchange between Messi and Iniesta, Paco had a great shot blocked. He just can’t buy a goal at the minute. In the 61st minute Rafinha came on for Iniesta who received a standing ovation as he left the pitch. Five minutes later Paco found Rafinha outside of the box and continued his run. Rafinha found him and his first time cross gave Turan a hat trick and the match ball. Registering an assist must be viewed as a positive sign for the young Spaniard. In the 73rd minute Messi missed a chance to equal Ronaldo’s record after a great cross by Luca Digne. His header was unfortunately saved. The remaining minutes were filled with the club keeping possession and icing the match.

Messi didn’t get the record. Paco didn’t score. Vidal and Turan stood out and definitely earned themselves more minutes in a match where Luis Enrique made seven changes to the lineup that started against Madrid. Barcelona totally dominated the match and won easily four to nil. Iniesta is a problem solver for the club. One can only hope the injury bug stays far away from the club. There are certain players like him who are irreplaceable.





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  • Kneowell Anyanwu

    Yes Collin you can say that again, iniesta is truly irreplaceable

  • Aniket Agrawal

    It was undoubtedly the best football from the club this season, good to see Turan score a hat-trick which will help him to keep his morale up, and yes indeed Iniesta is irreplaceable I wonder what will do without him. Espanyol visiting us at the weekend also promises to a very tough match but if the performance form the players is anywhere near the level they demonstrated against Monchengladbach I believe we have a very good chance at every trophy we are competing for.
    But what worried me last night was that I think Messi has lost some of his speed and acceleration I hope he proves me wrong.

  • Kneowell Anyanwu

    And I think Turan has been a more clinical finisher this season than Neymar, he’s always been superb playing LF this season with what? 6 goals and some assists? That’s same number of goals as neymar in all competitions playing lesser minutes. Turan also seem to form a better partnership with digne, releases the ball one time to the FB which activates the forwards into action at the centre of the pitch and also doesn’t hold on to the ball as long neymar does, this is very important as it helps keep the attack fluid and defenders rattled. Neymar on the other hand has refused to form any kind of connection with digne, allowing the full back’s run to lay waste. He wants to do it on his own terms, he wants to make that runs and give that assist most times at the detriment of the teams fluidity. Turan is just the kinda healthy dose of competition that Neymar needs and I hope Lucho gives him more playing time to challenge Neymar. I can bet on it that Neymar wouldn’t score a hatrick if he had same chance that turan had, he would score the tap in but blow the other chances if this happens and borrusia got back into the game to finish 2-2, all hands will point to lucho. Thankfully turan stepped upto the plate and scored 3 immaculate goals that gave us a much needed convincing win.

    Denis suarez and Gomes are far better players with don andres iniesta on the pitch.

    Even paco gave an assist. This game has positives written all over it, I hope we this begins a good trend with the team.

    • Pius Kamau

      I honestly hope from January we can start firing on all cylinders and improve our midfield’s game play and involvement, it’s possible for us to go all the way if we improve because Real & Bayern aren’t really lighting up the stage as they’re the other usual favorites.

      • Kneowell Anyanwu

        January is far, it was an encouraging outing against borrusia, if you keep up this pace we’ll be home and dry. The midfield is stronger with iniesta, we just need to stay fit and rotate wisely