Barcelona were on one of their most peculiar starts to a season ever. On opening night, the Catalans lost to Athletic Club Bilbao thanks to an iconic last-minute acrobatic effort from the legendary Aritz Aduriz. They followed this up with a morale-boosting 5-2 victory over Real Betis in the Camp Nou which should have sparked the return to their usual selves, but it was not to be.
In Pamplona, against newly-promoted Osasuna, Ernesto Valverde’s men dropped points again and headed into their game against Valencia with just four points from a possible nine. Despite being marred with injury in the front line, the Blaugrana swept Los Che aside on Albert Celdades’ managerial debut. This was a clash many saw as the return to the Barça way of playing, and the rebirth of Valverde into the manager, the supporters, had always wanted him to be.
Semedo · Pique · Lenglet · Alba
de Jong · Busquets · Arthur
Perez · Griezmann · Fati
Wass · Gabriel · Garay · Gaya
Torres · Parejo · Coquelin · Guedes
Rodrigo · Gameiro
Following his goal on his full league debut against Los Rojillos a weekend prior to this tie, Ansu Fati got a well-deserved start in El Txingurri’s starting eleven, and he rewarded him by opening the scoring just two minutes into the game.
Having carved Valencia’s defence open through some vintage passing reminiscent of the Barcelona of old, Sergio Busquets found Frenkie de Jong on the edge of the box. The Dutchman lifted his head, spotted Ansu, and played the decisive pass into the penalty box. Frail as he seemed at the time, the sixteen-year-old unleashed a thunderbolt of a strike that went past an utterly defenceless Jasper Cillessen on his return to the Camp Nou to make it 1-0.
The fans at Camp Nou were ecstatic to have seen another gem rise through the academy, then he would take their breaths away once again just five minutes later. Like a swarm of bats, Los Murciélagos crowded around Ansu in the penalty box. He manoeuvered his way through them and played a cutback into de Jong, whose one-time effort found the back of the net for his first Barcelona goal.
Fati had just become the youngest footballer to both score and assist in the same La Liga game, and with his newfound confidence, he sought after an unlikely first-half brace. He nearly put the game to bed in just the 20th minute, however, his curling strike was just inches away from rattling Cillessen’s net.
Completely against the run of play, Valencia got back into the game. Following some sensational one-touch passing, Francis Coquelin found Rodrigo Moreno a few yards from the “D”. He lacerated the Barça defence with a through ball to Kevin Gameiro, and the French international tucked it home to halve the deficit.
First Half: Barcelona 2-1 Valencia
No sooner had the second half begun than Barcelona extended their lead. Having scored two in the rout against Betis, Antoine Griezmann nearly got his third for Barça six minutes into the second period. He unleashed a fierce effort into the bottom right corner, but Cillessen made a mess of it, deflecting it onto the goal only for Gerard Piqué, of all people, to pounce on the loose ball to make it 3-1.
Nelson Semedo had a go from the edge of the box, but to his dismay, his wonder-strike hit the frame of the bar and was erratically cleared by Daniel Wass.
With an hour gone, Ansu Fati went off the pitch and was graced with a standing ovation from the appreciative home crowd. His performance on the night had won the hearts of many, and on his exit, the fans were equally supportive of the return of Luis Suárez, who missed the previous two games with an injury.
With his first touch of the game, the Uruguayan extended Barça’s lead. Arthur Melo left the ball at Suárez’s feet at the edge of the box. Oddly enough, not a single Valencia player challenged him and left with all the time and space in the world, El Pistolero first feinted a shot then followed it up with a curling effort that bounced off the frame of the bar and into the net to make it 4-1. There were shades of Ronaldinho’s golazo against Chelsea from 2005 written all over that wondrous strike.
With the game essentially done and dusted, Suárez doubled his tally in the 82nd minute. Following Iván Rakitić’s deflected strike from the edge of the box, the ball fell at Griezmann’s feet. The Frenchman laid the ball on a plate for Suárez, and without hesitation, he hammered the ball into the net to put the final nail in the coffin.
Denis Cheryshev played a cross into Maxi Gomez who scored in stoppage time, but his effort was worth nothing more than a consolation goal. Revenge for the Copa Del Rey final loss was more than exacted, as Barcelona hammered Valencia by five goals to two.
Full Time: Barcelona 5-2 Valencia
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