Having conquered La Liga last season, Barcelona’s objectives unsurprisingly take a step forward for the ongoing campaign. The UEFA Champions League, on that front, has emerged as their prime target.
The European competition has harboured many unpleasant memories for the Blaugranas in recent seasons. In the last two seasons, they suffered humiliating exits in the group stage.
Xavi Hernandez’s men hope to go deep into the UCL this time around, and their campaign could not have got off to a better start.
Barcelona continued their good run of form last night against Royal Antwerp in the first game of the UCL campaign. Barça Universal brings you three talking points from the game at Estadi Olimpic de Lluis Companys.
It’s five again
Barcelona last season were known for their conservative football that boiled down to tight 1-0 wins. While there is nothing wrong with the approach, it is not the style of football one would associate with Barcelona.
The Catalans made a similar shaky start to the 2023-24 campaign but broke loose from the shackles at the weekend against Real Betis.
Xavi’s men put a staggering five goals past Los Verdiblancos on the night in what was, in theory, their toughest fixture in the league to that point. More than the number of goals, the quality of buildup and the finesse in front of goal made it a special performance.
Last night, Barcelona hit five for the second consecutive time. It was a no-show from Royal Antwerp, for the Belgians never really got going at Montjuic.
The hosts blitzed three quick goals past Jean Butez on the night, practically sealing the result in the first half. However, it could have been far worse for the Belgians as Barcelona let at least three more goalscoring chances slip away from them.
Having scored ten goals in two games, it is safe to say that the Barça attack is finally on song. The brand of football displayed has been a treat to the eyes, and one hopes such performances continue to roll in.
Felix living the dream
Joao Felix was lucky to get the start for Barcelona against Real Betis last weekend. After all, Xavi was fixated on the four-man midfield setup and opted for the Portuguese youngster only because he wished to rest Ilkay Gundogan.
Felix took his chance with both hands, scoring a goal and creating Robert Lewandowski’s second on the night. His start against Royal Antwerp was the reward for a man-of-the-match display in his first start.
For the second time in as many games, Felix was instrumental in Barcelona’s play last night. He orchestrated the attack with ease and enabled the Catalans to open up Royal Antwerp’s defence time and time again.
The 23-year-old scored Barcelona’s opener on the night with a neat, calm, and composed finish. He relaxedly took the ball past the last defender before curling it past the reach of the goalkeeper.
Less than ten minutes later, the Portuguese phenom pulled off a marvelous ball over the top to eliminate the opposition defense and set up Lewandowski for a simple finish.
Felix’s dream night did not end there. The youngster once again got into the scoresheet in the second half, this time through a well-worked header past the goalkeeper.
With three goals and virtually two assists in just two starts for the club of his dreams, Felix is enjoying a fairytale start to life at Barcelona. At this point, dropping him would appear absurd.
The Lewandowski Barcelona missed
After a blistering start to the 2022/23 campaign for Barcelona, Lewandowski’s form took a steep fall. He still walked away with the Pichichi award, but it is clear that he was no longer the same lethal threat in the final third.
The Pole’s struggles continued into the start of the 2023-24 season as he appeared a ghost of his former self in Barcelona’s opening fixtures.
However, something interesting happened against Real Betis.
With Joao Felix to provide an additional body and skillset in attack, Lewandowski got into goalscoring positions far more easily. He scored one goal and provided two assists against Manuel Pellegrini’s men, giving fans hopes of his revival of form.
Against Royal Antwerp last night, he was once again a constant threat in the box. On another night, the former Bayern Munich superstar could have netted a hat-trick with the same performance.
He scored Barcelona’s second goal of the night with a simple, yet well-timed volley. Further, he also got the assist for Gavi’s goal, albeit luckily.
If the Polish star can keep up his daunting form in the final third, Barcelona can aim to reach places this season. After all, it is clear that the Felix-Lewandowski combination can create something special.