Three talking points from Girona 0-1 Barcelona
Barcelona picked up a narrow 1-0 victory for the third consecutive game when they beat local rivals Girona on Matchday 19. The Blaugrana have seen better and more dominant days on the field, but the three points at the end of the day are worth diamonds by weight.
Nothing separated the two teams at half-time, for the hosts’ resilient defence gave Barcelona no chance to really go ahead. Barring a couple of skewed passes by the Girona defence, the first 45 minutes saw balanced and end-to-end football.
However, it was Pedri was made the difference by scoring in the 61st minute. From there on, the focus switched to the defence who were put to a tough test by Cristhian Stuani & co. But Xavi’s men held onto their slender lead and returned home with another win in the bag.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points from Girona 0-1 Barcelona.
1. The Jordi Alba effect
Xavi is one of the few managers in the world who can claim to have three top left-backs. Alejandro Balde may have stolen the limelight from his veteran counterparts this season, but that does not go to say that Jordi Alba and Marcos Alonso are in any way inferior.
With rotation at the back of his mind ahead of the Girona clash, the manager opted to start Alonso at left-back. For 45 minutes, the Spaniard looked rusty and struggled to influence the game in any way.
He was reliable on the ball and did not make any careless passes. However, the full-back had no contribution apart from a blocked shot and could not create threats in the final third.
Enter Jordi Alba. Coming on at half-time to replace his compatriot, Alba turned the game on its head. All of a sudden, the Catalan left-wing sprung to life and the team began cranking open Girona’s defence from a new angle.
In his 45 minutes on the field, the Spaniard recorded four crosses and a key pass, created one big chance and made five defensive actions. His most important contribution, nonetheless, was the assist to Pedri’s goal.
Through a good buildup involving Pedri and Gavi, Barcelona moved the ball to the left flank where Ansu Fati seized it. The youngster released Alba into space in front of the Girona defence and the full-back did well to spot Pedri’s run. His cross to the midfielder was pin-point accurate and helped the Blaugrana score their only goal of the evening.
Balde may still be ahead of the veteran in the pecking order, but one cannot deny that Alba made a strong case to be a regular starter through his performance last night.
2. Dembele’s doomsday
The Copa del Rey tie against Real Sociedad was one of, if not the best performance Ousmance Dembele has dropped in a Barcelona shirt. The Frenchman was flawless against the Basque side and was at the centre of every Blaugrana attack that night at Spotify Camp Nou.
Ideally, Xavi would have liked to rest the player ahead of a tight schedule but was forced to start him against Girona given the lack of options in the forward department. The Frenchman thus started on the left wing yesterday, only for the day to end in heartbreak.
In the 25th minute, Dembele attempted to outpace Girona’s Arnau Martinez on the wing with a sudden burst of pace. After his second touch, however, he uncharacteristically slowed down and it was clear that something was not right.
As the Frenchman clutched his thigh muscle, a veil of worry overshadowed Xavi’s face. Dembele immediately asked to be replaced and came off for Pedri, the eventual goalscorer.
Early updates from the club suggest that he has an injury on his left Rectus Femoris muscle and it could sideline him for 3-4 weeks. Needless to say, this comes as a big blow to the player who was rediscovering his best form and was on a streak of 14 months without an injury for the first time in his Barcelona career.
Nevertheless, one knows that Dembele is in safe medical care. The Barcelona medical team have completely turned around his fitness record in the past year and will work hard to ensure he is fit and raring at the earliest.
3. Xavi’s sigh of relief
Barcelona were faced with a big challenge in the last three games as Robert Lewandowski was forced to serve his suspension for misconduct against Osasuna. The Pole was not only the team’s highest goalscorer but also one of the leaders on the field and his absence was seen as a severely weakening factor.
Yet, Xavi’a side have come out of the storm unscathed. Despite not having any natural replacement in front of the goal, Barcelona found ways to score in all three games and did not drop a single point against Atletico Madrid, Getafe or Girona.
All three games ended in 1-0 wins, but scrappy victories for a team missing their first-choice striker are not necessarily worrying. In fact, the Azulgranas’ ability to churn out wins irrespective of the situation speaks volumes about their mentality and morale.
When Barcelona face Real Betis midweek, Lewandowski will return to the starting lineup. Further, Ferran Torres will be back as an option for the manager too after serving his two-game ban. Dembele’s injury is indeed concerning, but Barcelona do have the required resources to cope.