Barcelona’s start to the new season has been one filled with hiccups. The defending champions opened their account with a hard-fought draw against Getafe, and their second game was not much easier.
Cadiz made Xavi Hernandez’s men work hard for the three points last weekend. Pedri and Ferran Torres netted late goals to take the team over the line, but there is no doubt that the Catalans have a lot to improve on.
From Ronald Araujo’s injury in defence to Robert Lewandowski’s poor form in front of goal, Xavi has problems in all three parts of the field.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of the Blaugranas’ game against Villarreal on matchday 3.
Pedri – an unfortunate cocktail of talent and injuries
With every passing year, the concern around Pedri continues to rise.
Indeed, the Canary Islander is one of Barcelona’s finest young talents in a long time. He is nothing short of a magician on the ball and has deservedly attracted comparisons with the great Andres Iniesta.
However, his injury-prone nature is becoming a concern for the club. His body has proven to be fragile since the very beginning, and the club announced his latest setback earlier this week.
Pedri has been training with a special focus on his muscle mass so as to reduce the incidence of such setbacks. However, the player is now expected to be out for the foreseeable future through a similar injury to last time.
Since joining Barcelona, the 20-year-old has found himself injured across five different spells. Of the aforementioned five, four have involved his hamstring muscles.
Pedri was injured from mid-February to mid-April this year through a muscular setback, missing 11 games. He once again returned to the sidelines in May and missed the remainder of Barcelona’s campaign.
For him to suffer his third spell injured in the same calendar year is a concerning matter, especially given his tender age and importance on the field. Xavi will count on Ilkay Gundogan, Gavi, and Frenkie de Jong in advanced midfield, but not having Pedri will be a massive blow.
A 16-year-old X factor
When one saw Lamine Yamal weave his magic for Barcelona in pre-season, it was clear that he would have a role under Xavi Hernandez this season.
Yet, at 16 years of age, it appeared clear that the Catalans would not throw him into the deep end directly. A few minutes off the bench and a couple of glorious cameos were expected to highlight the youth player’s contributions to the first team.
Two games into the season, it already appears difficult to think of Barcelona without Yamal. Xavi trusted the youngster to replace Raphinha against Cadiz, and he delivered a performance that rattled La Liga.
There is not a speck of doubt that Yamal is the team’s best winger by a distance. His creative vision, agility, and trickery on the wing make him a defender’s worst nightmare.
Yet, one cannot help but wonder if it is healthy for a team to be dependent on a 16-year-old boy to create their chances.
With Raphinha suspended, Yamal is likely to start against Villarreal on Friday once again. Barcelona will need him to be at his best if they are to walk home with three points at Estadio de La Ceramica.
Focus on the defensive line
Xavi opted for a makeshift defensive setup against Cadiz last weekend. Frenkie de Jong joined Andreas Christensen at centre-back in the starting lineup, with Jules Kounde and Alejandro Balde manning the full-back positions.
The formation worked out well considering that Barcelona dominated possession by a heavy margin and did not face much threat on the counter. Against Villarreal, the manager will have to tweak his setup.
It will be vital for Barcelona to have their two best defenders placed centrally against the Yellow Sumarines’ attack. Jules Kounde and Andreas Christensen thus must man the central unit, with Sergi Roberto likely coming in at right-back.
Despite having an injury scare, Balde will be available tomorrow as confirmed by the manager in his press conference. He will be critical at left-back, for Juan Foyth and Gerard Moreno accounts for much of Villarreal’s attacking threat.