Match Review: SD Eibar vs. FC Barcelona

Barcelona's midfielder Denis Suarez (C) celebrates after scoring the opener during the Spanish league football match SD Eibar vs FC Barcelona at the Ipurua stadium in Eibar on January 22, 2017. / AFP / ANDER GILLENEA (Photo credit should read ANDER GILLENEA/AFP/Getty Images)

Travelling to the small Basque city of Eibar is always a spectacle for Barcelona. Seeing Barça’s stars taking to the field at the hostile atmosphere of the Ipurua is an interesting sight, and the team of superstars are always expected to roll the little team over, but Eibar’s quick growth into La Liga battlers has made sure that they are anything but pushovers.

Eibar started that game by far the better side, pressing Luis Enrique’s team high and limiting Barça to minimal ball possession in their own half of the pitch and not allowing them to dominate possession like they usually do. The whole Eibar team were working their socks off to make sure FCB’s never before used centre-back pairing of Samuel Umtiti and Jérémy Mathieu had no time on the ball, forcing them and Marc-andré Ter Stegen to play long balls towards Suárez and company.

The one thing that is always key with a pressing tactic is persistence. It is very difficult, in a game where only three substitutes are allowed, to consistently use a high press without being picked off.

Barça rode the first few waves of the Eibar press without giving away any major chances, but the press saw Sergio Busquets a casualty after a very poor challenge from Gonzalo Escalante which somehow escaped the awarding of a free-kick let alone a booking. It was clear that after Busquets came off Barça struggled even more against Eibar’s frantic play style.

Barça gradually started to get into the game and after Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez had a couple of chances go begging, Denis Suárez, who came on for the injured Busquets, saw the ball perfectly set up for long shot after a few deflections and took up the chance to score his first goal for the club, hitting a first time effort into the bottom left corner and giving Barça what they needed after struggling for the majority of the half.

After breaking the deadlock Barça still weren’t convincing and failed to really get a grip of the game, but Messi, despite reverting back to a normal hairstyle, still stood out. The Argentine was floating around the pitch playing the most ridiculous through passes, but the players given the gift of a Messi through ball failed to convert the chances and FCB went into the break 1-0 up.

Going into the second 45 minutes and it was interesting to find out whether José Luis Mendilibar’s side could keep up their solid performance from the first half, but just five minutes in Messi finished off a brilliant cross by Suárez, caressing the ball on the bounce underneath Eibar ‘keeper Yoel Rodríguez for the second.

With Messi well and truly in the mood, Barça looked like scoring a few more before returning to Catalonia. And that’s what they did.

18 minutes after Messi made it 2-0, Suárez added the third. The Uruguayan pressed Eibar left-back Florian Lejuene, stole the ball from him bundling him over in the process and with a clean run on goal slotted home his 15th goal of the Liga season.

With the Copa del Rey second leg against Real Sociedad coming up for Barça in the week, Enrique saw the chance to give some players a rest. Aleix Vidal replaced Sergi Roberto before the third goal, and a Paco Alcácer on the hunt for his first Liga goal of the season replaced Suárez with 15 minutes to play.

A tired looking Eibar side continued to try to give their fans something to celebrate but were mostly limited to snapshots inside the box and long-range efforts. Ter Stegen had a relatively quite evening, contributing to the attack more than making saves, with his biggest threat being a swerving strike by Pedro León which the German saved fairly comfortably, adding a bit of a dive for the cameras.

In the closing minutes of the game Neymar got his first La Liga from open play since September after Aleix Vidal sent in a teasing cross which Alcácer kindly left for the Brazilian who tucked home into the bottom left corner.

Despite beginning the game poorly, failing to retain or circulate the ball, Barcelona eventually breezed past a valiant Eibar in a performance that some call the performance of champions, not playing too well but securing the points comfortably, and with a somewhat rotated line-up, this is a good win for Barça during a busy period of the season.

Luis Enrique’s men will now go into the Copa tie at the Camp Nou with Gerard Piqué fresh after being rested, Andrés Iniesta back from a minor injury, and a squad confident that they can see out the tie with their 1-0 advantage from the Anoeta.

The only question that everyone is wanting the answer to is: who will replace Busquets? It looks like the defensive pivot will be out with an ankle injury for at least a few weeks, so it will be interesting to see who Enrique will pick to fill that void.

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  • Kneowell Anyanwu

    It’s easy, Andre gomes is a replica of busquet in that position. Sergio roberto can also play there with Vidal at right back, and so also can rakitic.

    • futbolistaviva

      I disagree. Gomes is in no way shape or form a replica of Busquets.
      They are totally different players.
      Busquets is a pivote (pivot in English) playing in front of the back four like no player can and arguably one of the best midfielders of his generation.
      He under the guidance of Guardiola as coach instituted and revolutionized that position.
      Sergio Busquets has been the best one-touch passer on Barca.
      Guardiola said it and so do his teammates.
      Spain and Barca would not have reached the level of success without Busquets contributions.
      Last evening, Rakitic played very well in that role after Sergio got hurt.
      Sergio Roberto is not a pivote and to be honest he’s not really performing well as a right fullback anymore. He’s better as an attacking mid.
      Vidal may supplant Roberto at RB. Roberto seems out of sorts at fullback. He filled in really well initially but since then his lack of positioning, pace and service have declined.
      Visca Barca!

      • Kneowell Anyanwu

        You don’t have to agree, but while at it don’t get me out of context, I said gomes is a replica ‘in that position’. I say so because I have watched games where gomes played the busquet role and I had a hard time figuring if it was busquet or really gomes. You should see one of those games of you haven’t. I didn’t mean he was exactly the same kind of player like busquet in everysense of it. This debate isn’t about the role of busquet in Spain and barca, it’s about who can fit into his shoes in his absence, so the chronicles of busquet isn’t really necessary here

        • futbolistviva

          Ah, the beauty of digital communication.
          I did not take your comment out of context.
          Clearly, in your comment above, you stated that “Gomes is a replica of Busquets in that position”.
          Now you may want to change your narrative. That’s fine but admit to your initial post.

          The reality is, Gomes is not a replica of Busquets in that position.
          Gomes is not a pivote. He could possibly grow into one but he never played
          that role for Portugal, Benfica or Valencia.

          I am simply trying to enlighten you as to the critical and often unheralded role Busquests has played at Barca. And a chronicle of Busquets abilities, in your case is warranted.

          As to who can fill Busquets role during his rebab?

          Maybe Lucho will instill Gomes in that role. I believe Rakitic is best suited for the interim Busquets role. He’s got more “bite” to his game, he’s a better passer and that is really where Busquets shines as a pivote linking play up through midfield.

          Both Gomes and Rakitic like to get forward and we all know that Rakitic can be a critical goal scorer as well.

          BTW, I have not missed a Barca match in years.

          • Kneowell Anyanwu

            Lol, I understand your love for busquet and trust me buddy, I’m one of those who believe busquet is the largely and criminally unsung heroes in barca since pep, I have only but praise and love for the guy so much I can give you chronicles on a match by match basis.
            That said, the question of who’s best fit can only be one of personal opinion as neither gomes or rakitic are pivots, not for their countries or former clubs. But I’ve seen them both play that position for barca in recent times, while rakitic might be good at it, I believe he’s made more sloppy passes and I believe gomes is a better passer. We may argue to the ends of the earths who the better pivot is based on what we both see, that is why I have injected more objectivity into this with a squawka comparison for more clarity of the two men (with respect to busquet) with key matrix that pivots may be judged by, while gomes may have played far less minutes (not forgetting this is his first season in barca) you should see how they both fair. This will interest you and maybe inform you better in some areas when you reconcile the minutes played to the numbers.
            http://www.squawka.com/comparison-matrix#la_liga/2016/2017/ivan_rakitic/712/712/12/73/p|champions_league/2016/2017/andré_gomes/727/727/9280/73/p|la_liga/2016/2017/sergio_busquets/712/712/315/0/p#total_passes/successful_passes/pass_completion/tackles_won/successful_take_ons_%/key_passes#total

          • Kneowell Anyanwu