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Three questions and three answers from Barcelona 1-0 Las Palmas

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Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images

A fourth straight win across all competitions was on the cards when Barcelona took on Las Palmas last night in Montjuic. The Catalans brushed past their opponents with relative ease, never really struggling at any point in the game.

The match-winning goal arrived for Xavi’s side after a long period of bonafide dominance through a well-worked Raphinha header. Truth be told, however, the goal was created purely out of Joao Felix’s brilliance.

The win takes Barcelona to 67 points on the league standings and within five points of Real Madrid. Los Blancos take on Athletic Club later this evening, thus giving the Catalans a chance of cutting the deficit.

Barça Universal brings you three questions and three answers from Barcelona 1-0 Las Palmas.

Three answers

Would Xavi rotate his squad?

As club football returned after a two-week hiatus, many were of the opinion that Xavi would look to balance the minutes of the players who were overworked during the international break.

The upcoming UEFA Champions League clash and the rhythm required for the same, however, appears to have coerced Xavi against opting for rotations. After all, the manager all but utilised his strongest XI last night.

The absences of Frenkie de Jong and Pedri in midfield forced Xavi into starting Ilkay Gundogan once more, giving the German captain no respite after the international break. He was joined by Fermin Lopez and Sergi Roberto, both of whom started against Atletico Madrid.

Xavi is not considering rotations at the moment (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images)

The situation in the final third was the same as the manager opted to start Lamine Yamal and Robert Lewandowski despite both players being overworked.

Could Barcelona keep the momentum going?

After a seemingly endless run of narrow wins and draws, Barcelona were freed from their shackles against Napoli in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16.

The Catalans showed visible improvement on the night, dominating the first half and quickly going 2-0 up. However, they did struggle a tad bit in the middle of the game before Sergi Roberto’s magic engineered a Lewandowski goal to seal the game.

The 3-1 scoreline looked pretty on Barcelona’s result sheet, and the momentum carried forward to the game against Atletico Madrid where the Catalans pulled off a stunning 3-0 result.

It was thus a matter of interest to see if the team can keep up the positive momentum after a hiatus of two weeks, and indeed they did.

The scoreline may not boast of a dominant performance, but Barcelona’s performance against Las Palmas was worthy of a larger margin. After all, they created three big chances, hit the woodwork twice and had a goal wrongly disallowed.

How would the two defensive absences affect Barcelona?

The absence of Ronald Araujo and Andreas Christensen was expected to have a direct bearing on Barcelona’s result against Garcia Pimienta’s side. After all, the Uruguayan and Danish international serve as first choice centre-back and pivot respectively.

Inigo Martinez and Ilkay Gundogan stepped into their roles respectively, and it is safe to say that the game was one of Barcelona’s safest defensive performances.

Pau Cubarsi, yet again, pulled off a masterclass at the back with nine defensive actions, a key pass and 96% pass accuracy. Martinez, meanwhile completed a stunning 110 touches and completed five long balls.

The on-song centre-backs were only helped by Jules Kounde’s masterful performance on the right which included three key passes, 98 passes and six defensive actions.

All in all, the visitors created no big chances and recorded an xG of merely 0.29 over the two halves with no shot on target.

Three questions

Why can’t Joao Felix play at the same level consistently?

Despite their dominance on the night, Barcelona largely struggled to find the back of the net against Las Palmas owing to deficiencies in the final third.

Joao Felix was the difference maker vs Las Palmas (Photo by Pau Barrena / AFP) (Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)

The X-factor to the team’s imposing second half, in many ways, was Joao Felix.

The Portuguese starlet came on in the 56th minute and was unplayable from his very first touch. He required just three minutes to provide a stunning assist for the team’s opener and his influence on the game only grew as time passed.

In addition to his assist, Felix hit the woodwork once, missed one big chance, provided one key pass and completed a dribble in just 34 minutes. He was, in fact, millimetres away from scoring the team’s second and was hard done by the woodwork.

Every once in a while, the youngster comes up with a power-packed performance that demands more minutes. The question that thus plagues fans is, why can’t he keep up his high quality with consistency?

When will Ilkay Gundogan get his deserved rest?

Of all of the cogs Xavi considers essential in his setup, Ilkay Gundogan and Robert Lewandowski are arguably the two who are in most dire need of rest.

The German and Polish combination have featured in nearly every game for Barcelona this season and it is high time the manager opts to rotate them, for they could well be treading a fine line on the fitness front.

Gundogan deserves a breather ahead of a crucial period (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Both players, once again, will feature against Paris Saint-Germain on April 10. Lewandowski will be rested in Barcelona’s clash against Cadiz as he missed the game through suspension, leaving fans with one question – When will Gundogan’s turn arrive?

Barcelona face PSG immediately after Cadiz and then steps foot into El Clasico. If Xavi does not manage the German’s minutes effectively in the coming weeks, he could have a lot left to regret.

Can Barcelona pull off the heist in Paris?

Going by the Blaugranas’ last three games, the fight in Paris suddenly appears more level-grounded.

The Parisiens, largely carried by Kylian Mbappe, were considered favourites to come out on top against Barcelona given the poor form Xavi’s side was suffering from.

The story now, however, is far different. With the momentum back on their side, tangible improvement in defence, a solid plan in place to tackle Mbappe and a dynamic unit in the final third, Barcelona do have a good chance of making a strong impression in Paris.

The return of Pedri and de Jong will only further their chances of qualifying and securing their place in a desirable semifinal.

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