This is an exclusive translation of a story that ran in Sport this week. Find the original here: http://ttlbr.ca/2c6Qf2s
During the international break, attention usually swings away from club football. For Barcelona B though, the weekend was not the time for switching off. Gerard López and his charges hosted Villarreal B, one of the promotion contenders this weekend, in a match the coach conceded last week would be one of the toughest for the team in the first round of the league season. The Blaugranas though, riding the wave of positivity that has been carrying them for the past two weeks, managed to sink the Yellow Submarine and take a win that installed them as the sole league leaders. To get there though, the reserves had to suffer.
Barça’s 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao was an interesting game, and an exciting one to watch. It was a rainy night at the San Mamés, a night when Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez weren’t at the top of their games, missing several chances to score. Their defense was having some trouble with the high pressure Athletic Bilbao were playing with, and Barça’s midfield had to help break the pressure. Arda Turan lifted a cross into the box for Ivan Rakitić to head home, and Barcelona left the stadium full of 50,000 fans with an away victory. But that wasn’t the biggest statement made on Sunday night. That would be the play of Marc-André ter Stegen.
“Well begun is half done,” said the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. There can’t be a better way to highlight the importance of having a good start to your league season than the wise old man’s words. When you are talking about footballers, a good start is enough to propel them until Christmas, at least. Look at Leicester City’s Premier League winning season if you are not convinced. Barcelona B, on their part, seem to have taken full notice of Aristotle’s quote. Gerard’s boys managed to record a second consecutive win with a 3-1 defeat of Hércules away from home, made it two out of two against a direct rival, but above all, they managed to take advantage of their momentum, something that had started to prove elusive for the team in recent seasons.
Round two of La Liga sees Barcelona earn a tough three points with a one to nil victory away at the new San Mamés. The low scoring affair was cagey and tense throughout with an early header from Ivan Rakitić deciding the affair.
As much as today’s victory was a monumental team effort, make no mistake; Luis Enrique deserves all the plaudits for achieving what he has with all the pressure that following in Pep Guardiola’s footsteps comes with. With today’s win at the San Mames, Lucho became the fastest ever coach to reach a hundred victories in charge, surpassing the now Manchester City boss’s records in both Barcelona and Munich. This game typified exactly how far he’s come from his first game in charge, making this team his own.
Here’s the thing. Even if Barcelona didn’t already beat Manchester City two years ago with basically the same exact team they have now, and even if they hadn’t beaten Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich team in the Champions League, there’s no reason to worry. Because they did, and they will again. There’s no reason to fear City.
The selection of Barça’s first eleven isn’t all that complicated if everyone’s healthy. Rarely on a team as talented and full of quality as Barcelona is any position really in doubt. The team is stacked from top to bottom, with depth that wasn’t present last season. In this respect, the team is probably better than it was last year.
There’s a big difference between this team and last year’s, though. Dani Alves, the first choice right back for years, has left to join Juventus, leaving a hole at right back and a conundrum for Luis Enrique and the coaching staff. While they bought good new players, they didn’t buy a right back. Alves is a player that can never be replaced, but Aleix Vidal and Sergi Roberto are the choices at Barça’s disposal, and while the right back position might come more naturally to Vidal, there is a better option.
Barcelona B kicked off their 2016-17 season on Saturday, and after last season’s disappointment, Gerard López’s men did what they had to do to start their season on high note. In front of just 850 spectators at the Miniestadi, the reserves began their quest to come from the ‘well’ (a name for the Segunda División B due to the complexity of its promotion system) against tiny Atlético Saguntino, who just gained promotion to Spain’s third tier after negotiating the way up from the Tercera División. Gerard’s side dominated the match from start to end, but once again the team’s defensive frailties meant the match went for a grandstand finish, with MVP Marc Cardona sealing the win and three points for the reserves in stoppage time.
-66, -2, -85, -73, -32. These five numbers crudely offer an impression of FC Barcelona’s net transfer spending over the past five seasons. In a brutally quick analysis of these five figures, one can say that Barcelona is a club that every year pays extraordinarily high amounts of money for players, only recouping a tiny amount from sales. That is true, but the million-dollar question is, does this constitute bad business?