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.
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.
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.
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.
FC Barcelona failed to impress at home and to keep pace with Real Madrid. On a night where the club sorely missed Lionel Messi, Barcelona were only able to tie a very defensive Malaga. Ten men behind the ball for Malaga meant Barcelona’s offense was severely limited to wide play and the individual magic of Neymar.
Barcelona have walked away with a win in each of their last 22 home games against Granada, and today’s match was no exception. Rafinha Alcántara’s goal was the difference as Barça won 1-0 in a game where both sides played uninspiring football. Granada played good defense which, added to the lack of finishing up top, led to a single goal and not much else for Barcelona.
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.
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.
In Spanish, the phrase a la vez means “both, at the same time.” Fittingly, Barça’s 1-2 loss to newly promoted Alavés was, a la vez, frustrating and potentially avoidable, but not world ending or an indicator of crisis.