With a barrage of games looming as La Liga is set to resume on June 11, perhaps resting the Barça goalkeepers every now and then could reap significant rewards.
As confirmed by the La Liga officials, the league is set to return on the 11th of June. Barcelona will resume their campaign with a trip to Mallorca on the 13th. After a significant period of time away from action, the players have gotten plenty of rest. However, the lack of competition will have definitely taken the edge off the players. The process of easing all the players back into competition will be crucial. And that, of course, includes the goalkeepers.
At Barcelona, the keepers, aside from guarding the sticks, also play a crucial role in the first phase of the build-up play. Good distribution and composure on the ball is vital. Nevertheless, this raises a couple of questions.
Can Barça afford to rest Ter Stegen?
Marc-André ter Stegen has been immovable from the Barcelona goal in recent years. Ever since taking over the post of number one following Claudio Bravo’s departure, he has continued to shatter ceiling after ceiling. Undoubtedly one of the finest keepers in world football right now, the German is a key cog in this blaugrana machine.
While the difference between Ter Stegen and Neto is big, rotating Marc for a few games should not impact results much | Photo by Alex Caparros via Getty Images
Not only is he great with his feet as all Barça goalkeepers always need to be, he might be arguably the finest shot-stopper in the club’s history. He has established himself as one of the most vital members of the team. Ter Stegen has bailed the team out on multiple occasions with miraculous saves and this season, assists as well! Which begs the question, if fit, does he need rest? Can the Catalans afford to rest him?
The simple answer is yes. And more importantly, they should. Of course, keepers generally tend to stay fitter and suffer from lesser injuries than outfield players. Notwithstanding, fitness levels and injuries are not the only concerns in these unprecedented times. For Barcelona specifically, the squad list is exceptionally thin at the moment. Every player must be fully prepared in case they are suddenly called into action.
Neto: A more than capable deputy
Neto Murara came to Barcelona from Valencia well aware that he was going to be Ter Stegen’s back-up, keeping up with the theme of Barça signing keepers who are almost too good to be merely deputies – case in point: Jasper Cillessen. Neto is also a brilliant shot-stopper and he is more than capable of stepping in every now and then to relieve Ter Stegen.
Another key factor is that if an unfortunate injury were to somehow occur, Neto should have some match experience under his belt after returning so that he remains sharp in case he has to play. Granted, Neto is not as good as Ter Stegen with his feet, but he can definitely get the job done. The Brazilian should get the opportunity to show just why Barcelona signed him.
Opening the door for Iñaki Peña?
The young Barcelona B keeper Iñaki Peña has surely been unfortunate. For a keeper with his exceptional ability, he has to be very patient considering Ter Stegen’s immense success. Peña is great on the ball and a fantastic shot stopper too. But despite his agility and sharp reflexes he may yet need to wait for his chance at first team glory.
But there is a silver lining. If Quique Setién does indeed decide to rest the keepers from time to time, Iñaki Peña may well get a shot to prove that he deserves to be promoted to the first team next season.
❛ Normally I make no distinctions between the goalkeeper of La Liga and of the Copa del Rey. Both [Ter Stegen and Neto] can play in all three competitions ❜
Realistically speaking though, it seems unlikely that Ter Stegen will get any respite unless absolutely necessary. Barça are neck and neck with Real Madrid in a title race that does not have any room for error. But perhaps a bit more faith in all the goalkeepers could do a lot of good.
Messi looks far from his best but continues to break records
Lionel Messi continues to break records despite coming close to the twilight of his career, making fans jump in the match against Ferencvaros. Every football fan knows that for the Argentine, team performance is more pivotal than personal acclamation. However, lately, Barcelona’s talisman was struggling a lot in the new system. Just when the fans were about to believe that the alien magic might never happen as part of Ronald Koeman’s Barca – it happened.
The abysmal start of this season showed a lack of thrill in Barcelona’s captain under Barcelona’s new boss. The speculations had already begun that the relatively cold Messi-Koeman relationship will affect both the captain and the overall team’s performance. These conjectures got more hype when Messi magic failed in La Liga’s four matches so far.
Slow start of the season
While struggling in a new role, Lionel Messi was able to score only one goal, which too was from a penalty. It is needless to say that the key caveat behind this was Argentine staying at Camp Nou against his will.
His performance in the league raised questions over his passion, and his keenness to be a part of the team anymore. Fans predicted that Messi would not be able to blossom under the new coach’s tactics. It was not about physical and technical challenges the talisman was mentally struggling too.
Messi looked to struggle initially. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)
During this chaos, things got worse when the forward failed to save Barcelona from Getafe as they fell 1-0 to the Madrid outfit in La Liga on Saturday. This defeat was the final nail in the coffin full of opinions that the best ever is not dedicated enough to save the Catalans anymore.
When the Blaugrana’s savior is constantly struggling in new positions and the overall team’s atmosphere is woeful, it is natural to lose hope. However, whenever the world doubted the king, he has proven it wrong. Thus, the talisman’s loyalists kept praying for the miracle.
Tuesday night came with that long-awaited miracle. Barcelona’s superstar continues to break records, stealing the headlines. He once again managed to prove the world wrong in a 5-1 victory game against Ferencvaros in the Champions League.
3 Records in 90 minutes
Lionel Messi had the fans and the opposition both left in eye-gazing awe, as he broke three records in a single game against Ferencvaros.
Barcelona’s captain opened the scoring from a penalty while leading the team on the four other occasions. Back in 2005, at the age of 18, Messi scored his first goal in the Champions League, and as now equalled Ryan Giggs’ record for scoringi in 16 seasons straight.
Messi also further pushed his own record of scoring the most goals in the Champions League group stages by scoring his 69th goal yesterday, pushing him six ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, who is second in this list.
Additionally, with his goal, Ferencvaros became Messi’s 36th victim team in Champions League. He was previously the record holder at 35 games, which makes it even more bizarre.
Three records down in one game – just Leo Messi things. (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)
Barca boss admitted before the game that their superstar is struggling and could do better. However, Koeman’s prediction came true when he was full of praise for the Argentine after the game.
All these records add to the impressive Champions League collection of Lionel Messi. Putting the records aside, his performance during this match was pleasing to see. This game came as a signal that the curse has been broken and good things are on their way. Now, this can be further strengthened against Real Madrid this weekend.