There is little Barça Femení could have improved from their next-to-flawless start to the 2020/21 season, but there is a lot to look forward to for 2021: from the race for titles, to a visit to the Camp Nou.
What have we seen so far
Barça Femení went into the 2020/21 season campaign with high expectations following a triumphant season previously. The team are certainly exceeding expectations right now in all competitions. Whether it is on the defensive or offensive side of things, the blaugranas are playing a very balanced brand of football and keeping true to the Barça DNA while taking care of their business on the pitch.
While Barcelon are behind teams in the league in terms of matches played, they are still th leaders as the Primera Iberdrola comes to a slight halt for the holiday break. Barça have only played 10 league matches, but have accumulated 30 points for their 10 straight wins and have scored 57 goals in the process while only conceding two. The team’s best league result so far came from a 9–0 thrashing win over Santa Teresa on December 5th.
In the UEFA Women’s Champions League, they have dazzled as well and are heading to yet another round of 16. They faced a PSV that were in their European debut and the Catalans won both legs 4–1 on an aggregate for a score total of 8–2. Lluís Cortés’ side thus moves on to the round of 16 and will find out who their next opponents are on February 16th when the draw takes place. Those ties are scheduled to happen on March 3rd / 4th and March 10th / 11th.
This season so far has seen Barça play a complete style of football. They have been solid defensively and that can be shown on the stat sheet as they have only given up four goals in all competitions thus far. Goalkeepers Sandra Paños and Cata Coll have shared minutes in goal and have answered when called upon. Mapi León and Andrea Pereira have been tremendous in their roles as centre-backs and have made a huge impact on the defensive side of the game.
Barcelona have been even better offensively if the 67 goals in 13 matches over all competitions is enough of an argument. Something else to note is that 14 players out of the 24 on the normal roster have scored this term. Scoring had haunted Barça in the past and kept them out of important fixtures, but if this year so far is anything to go off of then it’s safe to say that they are beginning to sort out their goalscoring debacle. Instead of having to look to their usual goalscorers to put the ball in the back of the net, more than half of the squad are getting involved in the scoring.
Expectations for the remainder of the season
Well, if I haven’t managed to convince you yet as to why you should be excited about this team as we head into 2021, then maybe I can now with just two words: Camp Nou. Barça Femení will face Espanyol in a Catalan derby at the Camp Nou in the new year. A spectacular venue for their first game of 2021 in what should be an emotional meeting too. The opportunity to play at Barcelona’s temple has been something that they had been deserving of for a long time and the time has finally arrived. It should be a great curtain-raiser as the second half of the season kicks off and the race to the finish line is in full swing.
One can only hope that the form of Barça Femení continues into the second half of 2020/21 and so far there is no sign of it slowing down. The ultimate goal as always remains to win the league along with any and all other titles. The players will need to keep fit for the long and busy schedule and especially will need to see rotation in clashes that aren’t as challenging as others. This campaign has already really shown the true depth that this Barça side has with many footballers getting on the pitch for quality minutes and also in opportunities to alter the match in different ways. Every encounter is important whether it does or doesn’t look like it on paper and every point counts in the long run.
Adjustments can be made on the defensive end to sharpen up the backline even more in order to prevent simple mistakes that have led to the goals that they have conceded this season. Finishing has been on full display, but even that can be improved. While Barcelona have been putting games away pretty early at times and with a flood of goals from different players, they can still struggle to get a good rhythm going if they aren’t getting anything to hit the back of the net.
In the league duel against Atlético de Madrid back in November, it was impossible to miss that Atleti caught Barça on their heels at times when things weren’t going great with their finishing aspect of the match and that led to the rojiblancas attacking a lot during the first half. Luckily, adjustments at the half allowed Barça to finally find some breathing room as they netted a few goals and were able to cruise to the final whistle.
Not once during that match did Barça look like they were in doubt despite the influx of attacks from Atleti they had to deal with in the first period alone. Instead, they stuck with their brand of football which ultimately led them to getting a crucial victory. I would say that it wasn’t their best performance this course, but it was definitely something to look at and be encouraged by in the sense of the mentality the squad seems to operate with now. Even against the tide, this team will fight and never stray too far from their plan and will get the results to go with it.
If Barça can provide more of the same in 2021, then there are no reasons to not be excited about what the rapidly approaching future brings for this talented group. It’s only the beginning of the legacy they are building and paving the way for other Spanish teams to follow.
FCB Femeni’s January Player of the Month: Alexia Putellas
Another month down, another couple of wins for FCB Femeni. The team is in smooth sailing towards their second consecutive league title with an otherworldly wins-only season, including 73 goals scored and only 3 conceded. January was a rough month for the Catalan team, however, as they faced multiple match cancellations due to both a freak snowstorm and COVID-19 positives alongside an early Supercopa Femenina exit. Aside from the many downs, there were plenty of positives. FCB Femeni played a history-making match at the Camp Nou, the team’s first competitive match in the iconic stadium, and they dominated in a resounding 5-0 win against local rivals Espanyol Femeni. Later in the month, they smashed Rayo Vallecano Femenino 7-0, and at the end of January, they won the second-ever El Clasico Femenino against Real Madrid, scoring 4 at the Estadi Johan Cruyff.
Given the many iconic moments in this month alone, it was never going to be an easy choice. Plenty of players showed up big this month. Asisat Oshoala seems to have returned to form after a rough few months, scoring four goals and having many quality performances aside from her goalscoring. Melanie Serrano has had one of her best seasons in recent memory, and her performances this month were no exception. But if there was one player who came in clutch and made history, it was Alexia Putellas. She started the year strongly by being the first-ever woman to score a competitive goal at the Camp Nou. Her free kick in the dying minutes of the Supercopa Femenina saved Barcelona from going out in regular time against Atletico Madrid. At the end of the month, she drew first blood in the second-ever Clasico, imposing herself against Los Blancos with relative ease. Aside from her goalscoring, she once again had multiple dominant performances in terms of her assisting, passing, and attacking play. Once again, Alexia Putellas is deservedly our player of the month for January.
Primera Iberdrola – RCD Espanyol Femeni (Camp Nou) (6/1/2021): 5-0
• Minutes: 90
• 1 Goal
January 6th marked a historic day for Barcelona as they entered the Camp Nou pitch for the first time after 50 years. The Blaugranas started the game on a bright note with Alexia dictating the play. At the 4th minute of the game, Alexia had a tame shot at the goal following a cut-back from Melanie Serrano. As the shots racked up in the beginning minutes, it looked like Barca would follow this season’s pattern of scoring an early goal. However, Barca were devoid of any clear cut chances after that, and Espanyol started to grow defensively as time went on.
The second big chance fell to Alexia Putellas in the 43rd minute after a cutback this time from Patri following a beautiful couple of moves inside the box. Again, Alexia’s shot was too weak with her right foot and it found the hands of the goalkeeper. However, Alexia made up for her misses when the turning point of the game came in the 45th minute. During a stoppage-time corner, Alexia raced past the marker to head the ball into the far corner of the net, giving Barca some much-needed breathing room going into the half-time. Barca cruised to victory in the second half with a scoreline of 5-0 after goals from Melanie Serrano, Marta Torrejon, Lieke Martens, and Ana Maria Crnogocevic, which ended any hopes of a comeback for the local rivals.
Spanish Supercopa Femenino: Semi Finals – Atletico Madrid Femenino (A) (13/1/2021): 1-1 ( 3-1 PT)
• Minutes: 120
• Goals: 1
Barca played Atléti in the Spanish Supercup semifinal on January 13th. Both the teams were going into the game after Spain’s freak snowstorm, “Filomena,” canceled all the league’s Madrid-based weekend matches. Atlético Madrid announced the re-hiring of manager Dani Gonzalez on the eve of the matchday, sparking a lot of excitement going into the game. The game followed a similar pattern to that of the one played in August when Barça defeated Las Colchoneras to clinch a spot in the UWCL semifinals. As expected, Atleti defended with 9 women at the back and played long balls to Ludmila whenever they had a chance to counter.
Even though Barcelona dominated the game, they failed to score and paid for their lack of effectiveness when Atléti were awarded a penalty in the 66th minute. Merel van Dongen then converted it to give Madrid the advantage. It looked like everything was lost until the 90th minute when Alexia was brought down at the edge of the box. Although it looked like Barcelona was going to lose in regular time, the midfielder had other ideas and took matters into her own hands. Alexia scored a sublime free-kick past a diving Hedvig Lindahl who, until then, was keeping Barca at bay for 90 excellent minutes. In the end, it was not enough for Barca as they paid the price for not converting their chances, also being kept down by some harsh refereeing decisions not going their way. The Catalans ended up losing to Atléti on penalty kicks and were knocked out of the tournament, thereby missing their first possible title of the year.
Primera Iberdrola – Rayo Vallecano (H) (20/1/2021): 7-0
• Minutes: 72
• Goals: 2
FCB Femeni came into the game after their tough semifinal loss to Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Supercup, hoping to get back into their rhythm. Barça scored an early goal inside 5 minutes after Alexia’s header was parried into the feet of Jennifer Hermoso. After the first goal, it was one-way traffic for the home side as they punctured Rayo’s defense with another 3 goals- Alexia being the catalyst of each of them.
Alexia scored her first goal of the game following Melanie’s cross. She stayed in position and gracefully chipped over the keeper’s head to double Barca’s lead. She remained a key part of the midfield in tracking back and dictating the entirety of the half and scored her second goal following a well-worked team move. In the 40th minute of the game, Asisat Oshoala was sent through by Jennifer Hermoso, and Asisat teed up Caroline Graham-Hansen to score from close range. However, Hansen’s shot was blocked and the ball fell into the path of Alexia for an easy tap-in. Barça easily swept past mid-table Rayo to remain top of the table after the matchday.
Primera Iberdrola – Real Madrid (H) (31/1/2021): 4-1
• Minutes: 87
• Goals: 1
• Second Assists:1
Barça faced their new league rival Real Madrid Femenino in the last game of the month, 11 days after their match against Rayo due to multiple match cancellations. This was expected to be a totally different game compared to their first encounter, as Los Blancos have grown into the league and were occupying the second-place position at the time. All the match previews indicated that Real Madrid were in great form, recording only 3 losses in 15 games, with a much more balanced and cohesive team than their first game against the Blaugranas. Additionally, if the team from Spain’s capital won at the Estadi Johan Cruyff, they would’ve gone to the top of the league.
The match started with Real Madrid and Barcelona both going on the offense and trying to assert themselves. Despite Madrid entering the match bravely and attacking well, Barcelona scored first just 14 minutes into the match. Once again, it was the captain, Alexia Putellas, who kicked it off for the Catalan team. Alexia was intuitive in collecting the ball at the edge of the box and scoring a blistering strike to the top left of the net that Misa Rodriguez struggled to get a hand on. From then, it was a similar pattern as the first Clásico, and Barça advanced to a 3 goal lead by the end of the first half. The match proved that Madrid’s women have improved a lot, but they were never a match to the 2019-20 champions as Barca ran out winners 4-1 at the end of full-time.
When Alexia is fit and firing, there isn’t a way to stop her from creating chances and scoring goals. After her breakout out season last year, she’s continued her form and is having yet another world-class season. Alexia only continues to get better and better, and with a lot of important competitions in the next few months, her performances will be integral to the success of the club.