This project is over. And it has ended in explosive fashion.
It was about time. Barcelona B rediscovered their best version in Cornellà, and after exhibiting their superiority against a rival which had beaten them in the first round match at the Miniestadi, Gerard’s men took home all three points with a 2-0 win that rather flatters the hosts. Barcelona B’s revenge on their Catalan neighbors was based on the team’s defensive solidity and the attacking effectiveness. The winning cocktail of the two ensured that the Blaugranas maintained their slender one-point lead at the top of the table for yet another week.
This team has not looked worse in years. After probably the worst and most humbling performance since being hammered in historic fashion by Bayern Munich in 2013, CD Leganés had been identified as a match in which culés the world over had expected a thirst-quenching response. And after a fairly straightforward goal within the first five minutes by a seemingly frustrated Lionel Messi, we could be forgiven for expecting a ruthless release of frustration. But it was not to be. Instead, as the game wore on, it seemed this would be yet another complicated evening for Luis Enrique’s men.
It’s difficult to put into words the 90 minutes of football I have just watched. Going into any big match Barcelona almost always seem to find another gear, create a bit of magic and come away with a good result, even when they aren’t at their best. Tonight’s game was dreadful. It’s hard to describe it in more detail than that.
FC Barcelona punished a lethargic Deportivo Alavés away at the Estadio Mendizorrotza six to nil. Alavés lost the plot in the second half conceding four goals in the span of eight minutes. The match should have ended as revenge for the home defeat Alavés afflicted the club earlier in the season and as a warning to their future Copa del Rey final opponents. Unfortunately, the match will be remembered and marred by the late horrific ankle injury to Aleix Vidal.
Hey, Luis Enrique used those very same words. He was referring, of course, to being able to withstand other teams’s pressure. It’s no secret, of course, that teams have been using this strategy for a while, knowing how the Barcelona style of play depends on ball control and possession. Teams that have had success against Barcelona have implemented that very same strategy time and time again with Luis Enrique teams (Celta beat them 4-3, Athletic Bilbao took a 2-0 lead in Copa, Valencia almost snatched a victory earlier this season). Oftentimes, Barcelona’s superior talent is enough to see them through, but the opposition can make life difficult for them. Despite this, with the match against Atlético Madrid that saw Barça advance to their fourth straight Copa final we learned that maybe Luis Enrique’s side has learned how to suffer.
This tie was the first real acid test of the 2016/2017 season. In Atlético, we faced our conquerors from a season ago; The team that famously stopped the MSN in last season’s UEFA Champions League semi-final. This tie gave us a look into what the takeaways of that encounter were. And with flying colours, Luis Enrique passed the test.
A match between Barcelona and the opposition from the north is always sure to be a good one. With Paco Alcácer starting in place of Luis Suárez, Lionel Messi and Neymar up front, the midfield was made up of André Gomes, Arda Turan, and Rafinha. The defense included Aleix Vidal, Gerard Piqué, Samuel Umtiti and Jeremy Mathieu. With Marc-André ter Stegen in goal, the match was off.
Before the break, Barcelona’s Copa del Rey tie with Atleti was a dominant display capped off with a two-goal advantage.
The second half, conversely, was a reminder that you should never feel calm at half-time and always prepare for the last 45 minutes to test your nerves.