In a weekend after Champions League play midweek where FC Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City, and Real Madrid all failed to win, the pressure was on FC Barcelona to impress away from home against Celta de Vigo. A win at the Balaídos would also mean Barça would vault to the top of the La Liga table. Unfortunately for the Catalans the Basque side dominated the first half so completely even a mighty club like Barcelona were unable to come back after a late Marc-André ter Stegen blunder.
The second match day in Group C of Champions League play sees FC Barcelona secure a late win two to one away to Borussia Mönchengladbach. Thorgan Hazard gave the home team an early lead in the first half, but second half goals from Arda Turan and Gerard Piqué gave the blaugrana all three points to keep the side top of their group table.
Gerard López´s Barcelona B seems to loving hard life. Nothing else can explain the reserves astonishing knack for getting themselves into trouble, only to stage great escapes just minutes later. This weekend’s match was just another link to the chain of great escapes. Against Mallorca B, a promoted side which had only picked up 4 points from a possible 15 prior to kick-off, Barcelona B could be forgiven to think that things would be sort of easier. The Blaugranas though, always love some drama: they had to fall behind, see the rival have a player send off, equalise and then take the lead, spurn dozens of chances to seal the win, concede an equaliser and then score a late goal to get three points.
FC Barcelona turned up the tempo after a late red card from Gijón and won round six of La Liga away five to nil. Early goals from Luis Suárez and Rafinha gave Barça a secure lead, but it wasn’t until Alberto Lora earned his second yellow that the match was truly put away. After the red, Neymar scored a brace flanked by a goal from Arda Turan in the 85th minute.
Round five of La Liga sees Spain’s first marquee matchup of the season as Barcelona ties Atlético one apiece. The encounter was a defensive one with Ivan Rakitić giving the blaugrana a lead just before the break with a header. Ángel Correa tied the match after a nice dribble and a Javier Mascherano slip.
The last three matches against Atlético Madrid have brought almost no fruit. A 2-1 win in the first leg of the UEFA Champions Quarter Final in Camp Nou (against a 10 man Atlético), a 0-2 loss at the Vicente Calderón in the second leg, and now a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou. There are few sides, if any, that are capable of nullifying our team the way Atlético are. Then again, there are few sides, if any, that are capable of the defensive discipline Diego Simeone’s men are. When these two sides clash, it is a battle of Attack vs Defense. A true battle of opposites. So then, does this mean that Atlético indeed has figured us out, and if so, should we be concerned?
In the past seven days, a lot has happened. Exactly a week ago, Luis Enrique found himself licking a few early-season wounds from the loss to Deportivo Alavés. Eyebrows were raised as to whether Lucho had made the right decision in resting so many key players that weekend. A few weeks into the season, we can now start analyzing the intentions of most managers. On the surface level, anyone with a seasoned culé eye would have been able to see Lucho’s clear intention of rotating his players to utilize the benefits of economies of squad– That being that this time around, Lucho has arguably the best and most versatile squad in Europe. Why? Because one of the biggest reasons (in fact, to many blaugrana’s, the only reason) why our team fell apart in it’s only blemish last season in the loss to Atlético Madrid in the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final, was down to fatigue. It only makes sense to rotate as much as possible, even to a fault (such as what was witnessed in the Alavés game), if it ensures that MSN and co are fully fit come April 2017. Other than this, Lucho has pulled a few rabbit’s out of the hat too.
Luis Enrique experiments with the team’s formation and sees his Barcelona overcome Leganés five to one. Lionel Messi scored a brace and had an assist while Luis Suárez had a brace of assists and scored a goal. 3-4-3 stood in and stood up for the squad’s usual 4-3-3.
If there’s something that characterises this year’s Barcelona B, then that must be the team’s incredibly strong fighting spirit. In the five matches they have played so far, Gerard López’s men have won four times, and for three of these wins, they had to wait until the final ten minutes to score the winning goal. It was no different this weekend. Against Atlético Baleares, a team that came to the Miniestadi for Saturday’s match while on a four-game unbeaten run, the reserves left it late to seal the three points that rubber stamped their return to the top of the table after last week’s defeat saw them drop from the top.
After Barça’s loss to Alavés on the weekend, it’s for sure that many British pundits saw Tuesday’s game as a massive chance for Celtic to come away from the Camp Nou with something. But taking all of the rotations into account, not to mention the substandard performance of many players against the Liga newcomers, it was clear to Barça fans that Saturday’s game was a mere blip from players and coach, and that a full strength team could easily brush aside Celtic. And they did.