Barcelona’s December has been hectic, to say the least. The Catalans dropped many points in the final month of the year and even managed to lose top spot in their Champions League group.
In their six December La Liga fixtures, Barcelona only won three games. They also lost 3-0 at home to Juventus in the Champions League earlier in the month. However, the 26-time La Liga champions are unbeaten in their last five games.
From their eight fixtures in December, a few players stood out. Frenkie de Jong, Ronald Araujo, Lionel Messi, and Pedri continued to impress despite a disappointing run of fixtures. Pedri, however, stood out more than the others.
Pedri, who turned 18 on the 25th of November, has become one of the most indispensable components of the Blaugrana side against all odds. From a month of mixed results, Pedri is one of the few satisfactions and is Barça Universal’s Player of the Month for December.
Cadiz 2-1 Barcelona
Pedri could not change Barça’s fortunes
The first game of the month came away to Ferencvaros on the 2nd of December. Pedri did not feature in the thumping win for fitness reasons. Against Cadiz, Ronald Koeman did not pick Pedri either but got he did get some time off the bench.
Barça could not get through the promoted side’s backline. Having Pedri and Ousmane Dembélé on the bench was an amateur decision by Koeman, even criticised by Alvaro Cervera, the Cadiz coach. At half-time, both the players came on, replacing Oscar Mingueza and Philippe Coutinho respectively.
Pedri slotted in the double pivot with Frenkie de Jong deputising at centre-back. Despite it not playing in his favourite position, the youngster still had a bit of an impact. In the end, it turned out to be too little too late as Barcelona fell to a 2-1 defeat against Cadiz.
Barcelona 0-3 Juventus
Old Lady too strong for young Pedri
Barça lost 3-0 to Juventus at the start of the month in what was the last game of the UEFA Champions League group stage. Barcelona needed to hold out Juventus to a 2 goal deficit at best to finish top, but alas. That game meant that the Italians would top the group and Barcelona ended up being paired with Paris Saint-Germain in the Round of 16.
In that game, no Blaugrana outfit shone above anyone else. The best player for the locals was Messi, and even he spent the night shooting straight at Gianluigi Buffon. Pedri started on the left side and was ineffective.
This game was one of Pedri’s most underwhelming ones, yet. The Canarian midfielder was out of his depth as Juve ran riot at Camp Nou. Admittedly, Andrea Pirlo might have studied Pedri’s game in the reverse fixture where he was the Man of the Match. At 18, having an off-game is normal., but Pedri upped his game in the next fixtures.
Barcelona 1-0 Levante
An uneventful cameo
Pedri would start on the bench against Levante, which is key to balance the management of such a young player. Barcelona had a dull game, perhaps one of the dullest from Barça at the Camp Nou as Aitor Fernandez continued to come up clutch in the six-yard box.
The 18-year-old came in for half an hour and did not have the best cameo ever. Apart from a few passes, and runs, Pedri did not change the game, and Mesi salvaged a win for the home team.
Barcelona 2-1 Real Sociedad
Pedri came, saw and conquered
After three games spent on the bench, Pedri would return to the lineup against one of the league’s best sides. Real Sociedad came to the Camp Nou as league leaders with the same number of points as Atlético but lost the game narrowly.
It would be Pedri’s best display of the whole term. The new signing was everywhere. He created three chances, including a sublime through ball to Martin Braithwaite who skied it.
However, his best moment came in the 74th minute. Alexander Isak broke through the defence and was through on goal. The Swedish striker opened his body to shoot, but Pedri came in sprinting and made the perfect tackle to save Barcelona. The young star then hit his ribs on the goalpost and Koeman subbed him off. Pedri was a hero at Camp Nou and won the game for his side, without assisting or scoring a goal.
Barcelona 2-2 Valencia
Pedri shines in an unconventional lineup
Three days later, Barça would host Valencia. Frenkie de Jong had some discomfort and started on the bench. The coach decided to trade Dutch midfielder for Coutinho and used Pedri as an attacking midfielder in what looked like a 4-1-4-1.
Pedri showed that he could compete with the big boys in this top-heavy lineup. He dropped deep when needed, got the ball forward as quickly as possible, and ran the show in the first half.
A few minutes after going 1-0 down, Pedri took the ball from the middle of the park and ran at full speed to reach the final-third, before passing it to Antoine Griezmann in a good position. Pedri might have overhit the pass, but he was the only one looking to overturn the deficit. In the second half, he created many more chances, ending the game with two key passes.
A less heroic display from Pedri, but an impressive one nonetheless.
Real Valladolid 0-3 Barcelona
The Pedri-Messi connection on display
Then came Real Valladolid. Koeman went for a three-at-the-back formation, and it worked a charm. Culés worldwide enjoyed the display with Pedri putting in a man of the match worthy shift.
This game showed what Barcelona might have in store for the future, as Messi and Pedri slit through Real Valladolid’s defence. The two stars were on a different planet. Passing the ball to each other as if they had been playing together for the past 17 years. Seeing them laugh together on the pitch was the most cheerful sight. Pedri was Barcelona’s Christmas present.
His assist to Messi was a joy to behold. After a smooth passing sequence, the teenager found himself in front of the defence. In a matter of seconds, he spotted the Argentine’s run and weighed his backheel pass perfectly. It was a historic goal for the club-captain, who broke Pele’s record. A goal which had Pedri’s name all over it.
Barcelona 1-1 Eibar
Pedri started in the same formation that took on Valladolid on the left-of-centre slot with Antoine Griezmann replacing Messi.
Barça did not create much in the absence of Messi and often looked to Pedri to get the ball behind the defence. Well, ask, and you shall receive. Pedri was at the heart of the main chances for the Catalan giants. In the first half, everyone was too static, but Dembélé’s entry in the second helped Pedri a lot.
Even though there was not much movement in the first part of the game, Pedri still managed to be decisive. The midfielder managed to squeeze through a sublime pass to Junior Firpo, who set up Martin Braithwaite for a goal, but it was not to be as VAR called it off.
After Dembélé’s entry, the runs in behind multiplied. The Frenchman was the most dangerous Blaugrana player and showed it just before Eibar’s opener. Pedri picked the winger from the left side of the pitch.
Pedri was Moses, and the Eibar defence became the Red Sea. His ball found Dembélé in the perfect position, but the World Cup winner scuffed his shot, denying Pedri a sensational assist. Pedri was the Man of the Match without being rewarded on the pitch for his efforts.
This game summed up a defining month for Pedri. The young signing became indispensable in this Barça side, and his influence could not be summed up with stats. If Barça nurture him well, it seems like they have a player who can take over the mantle from the last of the golden generation.
The Rewind: Barcelona 8-1 Huesca, 2014/15
While the 8-2 victory from the 2018/19 season is fresher within the minds of Barça’s supporters, the Catalans obtained an equally memorable result in the second leg of their last 32 Copa Del Rey tie. The Garnet and Blue had already ripped the Aragonés in stunning style away from home in the reverse fixture, a game that saw them win 4-0, and were looking to complete the demolition derby at home in a half-packed Camp Nou.
The second tier Azulgranas endured one of the worst halves to a game in their history, as their defence, porous as a sponge, conceded a “manita” by halftime. Pedro, filling in for Neymar in his favoured left-wing scored a first-half hat trick, as goals from Andres Iniesta, Adriano Correia, Adama Traoré, Sergi Roberto, Sandro Ramirez led Huesca to a damning 8-1 loss on away soil.
Montoya · Mascherano · Bartra · Adriano
Roberto · Samper · Iniesta
Rafinha · Munir · Pedro
Antonio · David · Gaspar · Scardina
Manola · Lucas · Sosa · Bernal
Cabezas · Esnaider
Despite the flabbergasting scoreline, Barcelona nearly found themselves on the back-foot early on in the game. As soon as the fifth minute, Chus Sosa played in a sumptuous cross from the touchline into Juan Esnaider’s path. The Spaniard directed the subsequent header towards Jordi Masip’s goal, however to his utter discontent, his effort bounced off the frame of the post and out for a goal-kick.
Having awoken the beast, Barça wreaked havoc on Huesca’s brittle defence, with Pedro opening the scoring. Munir el Haddadi beat his opponent’s offside trap with a perfectly timed run into the half-empty pitch. Once at the edge of the box, he played an outswinger with the outside of his left foot, finding Pedro in the 18-yard area, who scored the subsequent header.
He doubled his tally soon after, as following yet another botched attempt at keeping Barça at bay, the men in white let Pedro of the hook for a fraction of a second, and he punished them accordingly with a smashing effort past Dani Jiménez.
Deputising for Dani Alves, Martin Montoya played one of the Brazilian’s trademark crosses, finding Sergi Roberto right near the penalty spot. The La Masia graduate made the most delicate touch as his chipped effort proved too good a strike for the Huesca shot-stopper even to fathom touching.
Barça were fully in their stride as with a 7-0 aggregate lead, the tie was well and truly finished. With this in mind, they delicately carved Huesca open with pristine passing synonymous with the Barcelona of old. Come the end of the move, Roberto found Iniesta who, with the most fluid of controls for rid of his marker and subsequently tapped the ball past the advancing Jiménez and into the net to make it 4-0.
Barça’s job was just halfway complete, and Pedro added the icing to what was turning out to be a cake adorned with goals of all kinds. Pedro completed his hat trick with a goal almost identical to that of Mohamed Salah’s Puskas winning goal from 2018. It was the perfect strike to cap off what had been a perfect evening.
Half Time: Barcelona 5-0 Huesca
As the momentum was still on, Barcelona kept up the onslaught and ridiculed Huesca even further. Sandro unlocked their defence with the most delicate of through balls, finding Adriano positioned in the opposite flank. With the keeper completely out of his favoured position, the Brazilian took a strike from outside the penalty area, scoring splendidly to take the lead to a whopping ten on aggregate.
With 13 minutes left to play, substitute Adama Traoré, a man of much different physicality then, added further gloss to the scoreline. Just as he does now, he used his quick feet and instinctive reactions to skip post his markers till he ultimately found himself one on one with Dani Jiménez, who was truly helpless to stop the goal going in.
Towards the end of the tie, Javier Mascherano chipped the ball over the entirety of the Huesca backline, finding an on-rushing Sandro in the penalty box. With all the time in the world, he controlled the ball, picked his spot and let out a fierce strike past the keeper to finish the scoring for the Blaugrana.
Huesca got a consolation goal via a Carlos David header, however, it was worth next to nothing, as they were ruthlessly eliminated from the king’s cup by 12 goals to two.
Full Time: Barcelona 8-2 Huesca