A beautiful match in the offensive facet but a terrible organisation and a waste of chances. Even so, two goals from Ansu Fati and a collaborative Messi gave the mandatory win to the Azulgranas. 5 takeaways from the Barcelona 2–1 Levante.
In the first leg of La Liga Levante managed to win 3–1 in their own stadium against Barça. The team that visited the Camp Nou yesterday, though, didn’t know that they were dealing with a new Barcelona. It was going to be complicated. Nor was it going to be easy planning a game after so many outings in the winter market. Remember that, with Carles Pérez’s departure, Setién has to wait for Dembélé to recover and have more tools in attack. In spite of all this, the Blaugranas were forced to obtain those 3 points. There were brilliant things during the game, and others that clearly have to be worked on, but little by little that winning mentality is appearing. Showing up next the 5 takeaways from the Barcelona 2–1 Levante.
1. Messi is having problems to score
The 6-time Golden Boot winner had serious problems to score. Messi attempted 10 shots of which 6 were saved by the Levante goalkeeper. Genuinely the effectiveness of the Argentine with the created occasions are almost perfect. It’s impressive that he didn’t score a goal. He had good chances that in other games he has scored on a similar play. Shots directed to the middle, others that hit the posts, others that lacked strength. He clearly didn’t have the night he usually scores many goals. Messi was the one who had more chances but not only him. The whole team generally had difficulty scoring. Griezmann, Ansu Fati, Semedo. Setieé has to work that effectiveness, especially in Leo who, with Suárez’s absence, the Azulgranas rely heavily on the Argentine to score goals.
Messi is now the player with most assists in the 19/20 La Liga (8)
We missed the goalscorer Messi but we got the assistant Messi. Don’t get me wrong, Leo’s game was wonderful. As usual. Only that he missed scoring chances that he doesn’t usually fail. Fortunately, Messi is more than just a goal machine. He’s a machine of any football statistics. The “10” made 7 key passes, won most of the duels he disputed, completed 8 (9) dribbles and assisted Ansu Fati in the only two goals of the game with passes that he only saw. Messi distributed those assists as a motorcyclist delivers the pizza. Too easy. Fati and Griezmann are playing with the game creator that every striker dreams of. Those assists put Messi in the top of the list of assists in La Liga (8). This is the first of the 5 takeaways from the Barcelona 2-1 Levante.
2. Semedo is pushing for the starting role
If there is a player who deserves more recognition than he has that is Semedo. The Portuguese made the best game he has done since he arrived in Barcelona. Yesterday’s game was a message that Semedo has to be an unquestionable starter. His speed, creativity, agility and even dribbling were key to yesterday’s victory. At some moments of the game, I didn’t know who was playing, if Nélson or Dani Alves. The n.2 show was brilliant. He was very close to scoring a goal in an incredible offensive transition where the Portuguese positioning was key. Everything was perfect, also the reception of the ball, the movement of feet and the quick reaction to shooting to find the goal. We missed one of the best goals of the Catalans this season.
Semedo delivered his best performance with the Azulgrana shirt
With Wagué’s departure and not signing any other replacement as Yan Couto there is no one to replace the Portuguese. Bad administration. Barça only has the young Dani Morer who has already been called in the first team in November against Leganés in La Liga’s first leg. The only problem is that at the moment there are no intentions to promote the young Spaniard. We also have to take Sergi Roberto into account, although thanks to his versatility I’m sure that he will fit in any position that Setién considers. Given all this and if we add the great game of the Portuguese, Semedo has a free way to get the position he deserves.
3. Barça conceded too many chances
Levante scored a goal in the last minutes. A strange goal that clearly had no intention of scoring a goal on that play. It was pure luck. Luck that they didn’t have minutes before. If they had been more effective, the opponent would have scored 3-4 goals with great ease. The culés gave the opportunities to Levante and it is not yet Christmas. Many losses of the ball. At the time of maintaining possession in the rival area, the defensive line gets ahead too much, especially the fullbacks, which is normal. The problem is that the players had a terrible organization, especially in the second half, which allowed great opportunities for Levante.
Barça suffered a lot in the second half with Levante’s chances to score
Barcelona was really lucky not conceding many goals but we cannot depend on the superstition. The reality is that the team is not ready to apply that style of play by positioning Busquets between the two centre-backs and making Alba and Semedo add depth. It’s what is needed but more work is also required. The approach is correct, the organization is not. We cannot afford to dominate the game in the rival area, having almost all the players there and losing a ball very easily due to a structure mistake. Let’s continue with the rest of the takeaways from the Barcelona 2-1 Levante.
4. Ansu Fati’s memorable night at the Camp Nou
Imagine being 17 years old, being a starter in the team you’ve always loved and that Messi assists you twice. Ansu Fati is living his dream. He left his mark again in the history of Spanish football becoming the youngest player in history to score a double in La Liga. Iconic. We saw a very mature Fati, who scored in plays where it wasn’t easy. In the first goal Messi gave him a magnificent pass, but the rest he did. The “31” used his body very well, kept calm and retained the ball very well to finish off the goal. A play worthy of a world-class scorer. On the second goal he dribbled off the defender and in a matter of seconds, he shotted without an angle to score the second goal. A fast and effective decision play. These two goals in just 2 minutes.
Ansu Fati won’t score a goal in every game, nor will he be the most important player on the team. He’ll make mistakes, fail clear plays and make very poor matches. Don’t put a lot of pressure on young Fati. Barcelona has a gem that has to be polishing calmly. A unique case that we have that is only 17 years old. It will continue to have prominence, playing great games like yesterday, but if it has a bad game we don’t have to claim anything. Fati was being criticized by the culé fans. Things are not like that. Better to enjoy and thank this player because in other circumstances, for example with a Neymar signing, Suárez and Dembélé healthy, among others, Fati wouldn’t have even minutes. It’s only the beginning of greatness.
5. Rakitić, at his own pace, is returning to what he was before
If we compare the 2016 year with 2019 and the beginnings of this new year, Rakitić is far from what he was before. He has never had the DNA of this club but always strived and had an enviable resistance that allowed him to play unreal numbers of games. There are factors that can affect like the age but it is not an excuse for the performances he was doing. The Croatian had several games being terrible in both attack and defense. He contributed nothing. Yesterday many of the fans were disappointed to see him in the initial XI, including me, but if I had known that he would do a great performance then I had preferred it that way. He pressed the rivals well, created good offensive transitions and ran back and forth without getting tired. We watched a vintage Rakitic.
“I have been going through tough times, but it’s a thing of the past now”Iván rakitić
Rakitić will continue to have the participation he had. With Arthur and with Vidal’s return, the Croatian minutes are in danger. However, Setién is bringing him back to what he once was. Even if he doesn’t have many minutes, the least he could do is to try hard and do things right. Contribute in defense and attack as he used to. After the game, Iván made a couple of controversial statements about his departure of the club and the bad treatment he had with Valverde’s staff. Hopefully, the current circumstances are a motivation for Rakitić to raise its level. Although we shouldn’t rule out a possible exit of him in the summer, we must have the best Rakitić to increase the chances of winning titles. This is the last of the takeaways from the Barcelona 2–1 Levante.
Three talking points from Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona
In the final edition of El Clásico in the 2020/21 domestic campaign, Barcelona incurred their fifth defeat of the league campaign. It was end-to-end stuff in the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, as an exceptional first-half performance from the hosts was followed up by a tantalizing second from Barça.
This game had everything someone could ask for in a Clásico. There was controversy, passion, goals and for the first time in a few years, a red card was the cherry on the top. These are Barca Universal’s takeaways from the game in the capital.
Real Madrid’s efficiency on show
With four shots on target, 1.58 Expected Goals, and two goals to their name, Real Madrid put to show their sheer efficacy in front of goal, as well as in defence. For the first half at least, Zinédine Zidane’s men were always at the right place, at the right time making all the right movements and to devastating effect.
Los Blancos‘ philosophy is one of winning, and doing so regardless of how the victory is earned. Contrary to the Catalans, who not only need to win, but also do it a certain way, Los Merengues are more than capable of abandoning their usually proactive approach to games in favour of a more reactive one. The fact that they are not bound to a specific ideology makes winning matches one of the simplest of tasks.
They held the ball for only 32% of the game, which goes completely against what a majority would expect them to. At the end of the day, however, possession matters significantly less than what one does with it. With every lapse in concentration from the Garnet and Blue, Madrid had enough men forward, and well enough positioned, to hit them where it hurt.
Despite the relatively low xG, they had enough big chances to even lead 4-0 come the halftime whistle. When it came to defending, their tight-knit defence, in stark contrast to that of their rivals, barely broke a sweat. They imposed an impenetrable low block, and applied a collective press to force as many errors as they could.
In addition to this, Zidane has the luxury of having a starting eleven of devastatingly versatile footballers in his arsenal. Fede Valverde for instance was as much a right-back as he was a central midfielder and a winger. He executed each role to pristine perfection, and so did his peers to ensure all 3 points, and bragging rights stayed in Madrid.
Excellent mentality shift
Following such a harrowing performance in the first half, few, if any, could have expected Barcelona to mount a comeback. Had this been any other team, that would have been possible, but given Real Madrid’s first-half performance, this was all but envisageable.
Indeed, the Catalans did fail to get any points from the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, however, the sheer mentality they showed in the second half was a sight for sore eyes. Ronald Koeman made the necessary adjustments to the side, reverting to the 4-3-3 and with it, they wrought trouble in the Madrid backline.
Lionel Messi celebrating the goal. pic.twitter.com/ZX1HzWSqAR— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) April 10, 2021
If in the first half Barça seemed caged in endless cycles of worthless possession, then in the second they made thorough use of it. The Blaugrana created eleven chances for themselves in the second period, and while doing this, they in turn limited Los Blancos to just a single shot on goal for the entirety of the half; a complete turnover from their performance in the opening 45 minutes.
It was nail-biting stuff up until the final second of the game, as Ilaix Moriba’s volleyed effort struck the underside of the crossbar. Given the overall performance from both sides, a draw would have been a considerably fairer result, but even in defeat with this version of Barça, the players and fans know that they can keep their heads held high.
A game of fine margins
Games of the magnitude of El Clásico will forever be decided by the most minute of details and the same was the case here.
The first significant one was the frame of the goal. In the first half, following the umpteenth counter attack from Real Madrid, Fede Valverde, who up until then was having yet another phenomenal showing against Barcelona, struck the frame of the post with a shot that crucially bounced underneath Sergio Busquets.
In the second half, Ronald Araújo nearly scored an own goal, but with Ter Stegen rooted to the spot, the ball rolled delicately onto the post and out for a corner. In the final minute of the match, and with Madrid fighting for their lives, Ilaix Moriba struck the underside of the crossbar to end this sensational tie on an emotional high.
Jordi Alba has often been criticized for being just as much a blessing offensively as he is a curse defensively. In the build-up to the hosts’ opener, he had one task to fulfill: mark his opposing fullback. This is one he absolutely failed, as he drifted too far inside, and by the time he had noticed his error, Lucas Vázquez already had Karim Benzema in his sights. Too little, too late.
The final significant detail was in the goal that won Los Blancos the game. After what many consider a poorly given free-kick from the referee’s standpoint, Toni Kroos surely could not believe his eyes when he saw the sheer state of Barça’s wall. Marc André Ter Stegen’s poor leadership of his defenders left him utterly vulnerable, and his German counterpart spared him no blushes, slotting it home to seal the victory for his side.