As Barcelona beat Mallorca on Saturday by 0–4, which are the five positive signs that can be taken from such win?
FC Barcelona is back in business. In their first game since the lockdown, the Catalans went on to score four goals to overcome a strong competition at the recently renamed Visit Mallorca Estadi. In spite of being away from the sport for so long, the men in blue and clarinet put on a good show with a lot of good signs. But which were the five main positives from Barça in their 0–4 victory over Mallorca?
1. A Win to start well
Just as the case is with any task, beginning well was very important for Barcelona. Their lead at the top of the table was a mere two points going into this match. Any mistake therefore could have cost them in the battle for the title, not to mention the pressure that would mount as a result. As it turned out, Barça put up a good performance and began with a solid win, thereby putting pressure on Real Madrid, who are restarting their own campaign today. There is no doubt that this performance will be a boost for the blaugranes.
2. Messi, back with a bang
Call him the “medicine man” as Ray Hudson would, or Messiah as most fans would, there is no denying that an in-form Lionel Messi is vital to Barcelona. While his presence on the pitch alone has been known to boost the squad, they need him at his best as they approach the business end of the season. Things, however, looked a little worrying as it was reported that the number 10 had an injury setback in training a few days ago. All these worries were put to rest by the Barça captain yesterday, though, as he assisted his teammates for two goals before completing the scoresheet himself.
3. Different names on the scoresheet
Barça has been over-reliant on the scoring prowess of Messi for far too long. Yesterday however, there were different names on the score-sheet. While Arturo Vidal opened the scoring for the azulgranas, Martin Braithwaite scored his first goal for the team to double the lead and Jordi Alba the third. There is no doubt that manager Quique Setién would have been elated to find so many of his players on the board – especially as games are coming in quick succession henceforth and he might have to rest Messi at some point or the other.
❛ I think we controlled the game well. The first goal gave us a confidence boost and it made things easy ❜
4. Ronald Araújo’s first start
There were concerns about the defensive side of the team during the whole season. These were compounded yesterday by the fact that Clément Lenglet, Gerard Piqué’s partner in crime, was out with a suspension. With Samuel Umtiti just making his way back from the injury, Setién decided to put his faith on young Ronald Araújo, a promising talent from Barça B. It wasn’t Araújo’s first outing for the senior side, as he did make one appearance before. Nonetheless, that had lasted less than a quarter of an hour as he was given a contentious red card against Sevilla.
In spite of some dangerous plays from Take Kubo, Barça managed to minimise Mallorca’s offensive output | Photo by Jaime Reina / AFP via Getty Images
Despite the one versus Mallorca being his first start for the team, Araújo was quite composed in his positioning and on the ball. Admittedly, he was outplayed by Real Madrid loanee Take Kubo a few times. On the whole, however, Araujo managed well and complimented Gerard Piqué quite smoothly, thereby helping his team maintain a clean sheet. The performance would be a great confidence booster for the youngster and a sigh of relief for his manager.
5. An away win with a clean sheet
Barça’s away blues had become something of a curse this season with a win percent of a measly 38.4% away from the Camp Nou as they approached this match. The total number of goals they scored away from home was shockingly less than those conceded till yesterday: 18 and 19, respectively.
This was definitely not a good sign; mostly considering the fact that out of the eleven games that remained, seven were going to be away from home. A solid display and a win was therefore absolute necessity for Barcelona to get their record straight. And that is exactly what they did. Scoring four goals and keeping a clean sheet would come as a much needed breather for the league leaders.
Predicted Barcelona lineup against UE Cornella
The restructuring of the Copa del Rey has been a mighty blow to all three Spanish Giants’ faces, namely Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid. With all rounds reduced to single-legged ties with the lower division side getting home privileges, the Cup has become an inconvenience.
Last season, none of Barcelona or the giant Madrid outfits find a place in the semi-final. If that wasn’t enough of a jaw-dropper, this season’s story is a doozy. Atletico Madrid fell to UE Cornella as early as the first round of the tournament. Real Madrid bowed out with heads drooping last night after Alcoyano saw them off in the second round.
All eyes now rest on Barcelona. Could history be made with all three frontrunners going out in the first two rounds of the Spanish cup? Or will Ronald Koeman’s side find a blistering response to their humbling in the Supercup and see off the same side that sent Diego Simeone’s side packing? Here is how Barcelona can lineup against Cornella.
One expects heavy rotations on the night, starting right from the figure in between the posts. Marc-Andre ter Stegen could be given a deserved rest as Neto could feature in the Cup game.
In central defence, one could expect Samuel Umtiti and Clement Lenglet start the game with young Araujo given a break. While this is understandably crucial for Umtiti’s confidence, much can be said of Lenglet’s recent lack of rhythm. Such a game will provide him with the pedestal to deliver a confidence-boosting effort.
Ronald Koeman confirmed to the press that Sergino Dest will miss the coming clash through muscular troubles. This will put the onus on young Oscar Mingueza to cover at right-back and stay solid to stop a potential counter.
With Jordi Alba having a forgettable game in the Super Cup final and keeping in mind the tight schedule, Junior Firpo could indeed start on Thursday night. It will be a crucial game for the youngster, and probably one of his last chances to impress any potential suitors in the transfer market.
After seeing a lot of action from the benches in recent games, Miralem Pjanic will likely start the game at defensive midfield. It is a role that the Bosnian is adept at. Pjanic will relish the chance to prove his worth in a homely position as the orchestrator.
With the recent increase in minutes for Riqui Puig, it would not be wrong to expect him to start for the rotated team on Thursday. The youngster does indeed possess an X factor about him and has the ability to decide games with his accurate yet silky passes.
The midfield could be rounded off by Ilaix Moriba who has been on the bench for the last couple of games. The Barcelona B youngster is touted for great things to come, and this could be the start of hopefully, what is a long and successful career at the Blaugrana club.
The biggest news in the forward department is the suspension of Lionel Messi which will see him suspended for the coming game. This room put more pressure on the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele, both of whom now have a golden chance to prove their worth.
With this being one of Barcelona’s most realistic title hopes for the season, Koeman cannot take it lightly. Konrad de la Fuente could start on the left-wing, getting the chance he has been longing for so long. It will be the perfect night for him to go after the Cornella defenders and grab a goal or two.
Martin Braithwaite will likely start as the centre-forward on the night. While he has seen less of action off late, circumstances now demand for the Dane to start. It will be absolutely crucial for him to get his runs and off the ball movement perfectly timed if Barcelona breaks Cornella’s defence.
The lineup will be completed by Fransisco Trincao on the right-wing. Nevertheless, with Lionel Messi absent, this is the chance for the Portuguese to impress. He will have complete authority over the position he calls home as he looks to take on more responsibility.
Konrad · Braithwaite · Trincao
Puig · Pjanic · Ilaix
Firpo · Umtiti · Lenglet · Mingueza
Alex Collado is an option on the right-wing and possesses the ability to turn the game around. It would not be a surprise to see him come on for Konrad or Trincao during the game
Konrad, on the other hand, is a perfect deputy for Ousmane Dembele, and consequentially could see the Frenchman return to his favoured spot in the lineup if push comes to shove.
While the rotated squad will likely start the game, circumstances might force Koeman to bring in bigger names if the side need a goal. Therefore Frenkie de Jong, Pedri and Jordi Alba too might see minutes towards the end of the game