So far it’s been a good season for us. We’re on the track to willing La Liga, la Copa del Rey, and we’re still alive in the Champions League. Certainly the defense has been good, and Messi has been spectacular. However, one of the unsung heroes (or villains, however you want to look at it) for Barcelona this year has been the post. Love it or hate it, it’s had an impact this year. Never was that more plain to see than against Chelsea, in which Antonio Conte’s London side hit it four times. But beyond that, it’s become an important part of the season since it began.
A win is a win, no matter how you slice it. A draw isn’t winning, but at least it’s not losing. So far this season, FC Barcelona have won every game they’ve played but two, against Atlético de Madrid and Olympiakos, which they drew. Say what you will about the team’s form, its depth, or the tactics of Ernesto Valverde, they’ve had, at least record-wise, a tremendous start to the 2017-18 season. They’ve put themselves in a great position early on, especially in La Liga. Players like Lionel Messi, Samuel Umtiti, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen are at a world-class level of form. And while Valverde’s tactics may rub some of us the wrong way, at least he’s willing to take risks. That being said, we can’t waste the golden opportunities we have now.
Let’s get one thing clear from the get-go: Ousmane Dembele is one of the most talented players in world football, and this writer’s first-choice signing to replace Neymar when the Brazilian announced his departure. The young Frenchman playing alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez is a tantalizing prospect, one which, when Dembele adapts to his new teammates, will bear great fruit for Ernesto Valverde.
The fact is, though, that against Juventus FC there was another player, also signed this summer, who impressed in a position where Barca have had a lot of trouble over the past couple of seasons. Nelson Semedo was bought and presented at Barcelona without too much fanfare and early rumours surrounding the Portuguese full-back stated that he was ‘worse than Douglas’. It’s safe to say that the Juve game put such rumours firmly into the metaphorical trash can, where they belong, as Semedo was a key component in a comprehensive performance by Valverde’s men. To put into context just how impressive Semedo has been, and how much Barca have needed a player like him, there’s a need to understand exactly why the right-back role has been such a problem for the club. A big part of that problem, ironically, was Dani Alves, and just how good he was at doing exactly what was needed of him at the right time.
Yes, I know about PSG and that historic comeback. That was truly something special, a magical night at the Camp Nou when we witnessed something that had never happened before. A 6-1 win after being 4-0 down? A stoppage time winner that saw a stadium of nearly 100,000 explode? Sergi Roberto will forever have a special place in the hearts of all Barça fans. Neymar’s undying faith that anything can happen fueled his wonderful play. It was one of the greatest nights in football history – unless you’re a PSG fan, of course.
But la Juve is a different beast altogether.
It’s not often that someone can say that there is any individual or team that can serve as an example to follow for Barcelona’s first team. Widley regarded as the best team in the world, the Blaugranas are usually the example to follow. At this stage of the season though, with the first leg of the team’s crunch Champions League tie against Juventus, the first team could do worse than take a look down the ladder at Can Barça. Barcelona’s women team and the Juvenil A team, have already gotten to the stage that Luis Enrique’s team aims to reach, and there are a couple of lessons to be learned.
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.
Luis Enrique’s men travelled to Manchester knowing that they were facing a team that are very much a work in progress under Pep Guardiola’s management, but definitely knew that they are a very dangerous side. With multiple injuries within the squad, to think that City could get something from Wednesday’s game was in no way unthinkable.
If a football match lasted 38 minutes, Barcelona would have flown back to El Prat airport with a simple win and feeling very proud of their performance, but unfortunately a football match lasts 90 minutes, and Manchester City showed how important momentum and confidence can be, and how a game can change within small margins of error.
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.