Barcelona ended their journey in the UEFA Champions League for this season with a 4-2 triumph over Viktoria Plzen away from home on Tuesday night.
Having already crashed out of the competition, the game had little consequence for both teams. It saw Xavi Hernandez making several changes to his lineup, handing starts to players who have not had a lot of game-time.
And those players took their chances as Ferran Torres grabbed a brace while Pablo Torre also scored a goal after Marcos Alonso had given the visitors the lead. The game also saw two La Masia graduates Inaki Pena and Marc Casado make their first-team debuts as well.
Torres, who was named the player of the match for his double, spoke after the game and gave an insight into the team’s mindset heading into the encounter.
“The aim was to continue competing, to get three points, and to get minutes and confidence for those of us who played less. It was a good victory.”
On the match itself, he added: “We knew that they would press us up front, they wanted to bid farewell to the Champions League on a good note, like us. It was a closely contested match.”
Torres started in the No. 9 role on Tuesday as Xavi had rested Robert Lewandowski. Talking about his favoured position, the Spaniard insisted that he was comfortable playing anywhere in attack.
“I feel comfortable in all three positions. It was a good game to gain confidence,” he said.
Finally, Torres admitted that the victory left a bittersweet taste as he felt Barcelona should have advanced to the next round of the Champions League. But he insisted that the team will continue to fight for the Europa League and La Liga.
“This victory is bittersweet, we are Barça and we should be in the round of 16, but as the coach said, now we go for the Europa League. We have to go for it and also for La Liga, where we are one point away from the leaders. We have to keep working and competing.”
As iterated earlier, it was a special occasion for youngsters Pena and Casado, who made their senior debuts against Viktoria Plzen. The duo spoke to the media after the contest and reflected on the match.
Starting off, Casado said: “I am happy to make my debut with the first team. The dream I had since I was little has come true. Also, we won. It was not easy to win here. Now, let’s continue.”
A versatile operator who can play as a defensive midfielder and right-back, the youngster said that he followed Xavi and Sergio Busquets as models, saying:
“When I was little I looked at Xavi, at his movements. Now I look at Busquets, at the things he does and how he does them because he’s a brutal player.”
On his game on Tuesday, Casado insisted that he felt comfortable because of Xavi, as he said: “Xavi gave me confidence. He told me to be intense defensively and to be focused on what I had to do.”
Meanwhile, Pena opened up on his feelings after making his debut for Barcelona, saying: “It’s my first match with my dream club and it’s a privilege for me and I’m really happy with the match.”
The 23-year-old admitted to having nerves, but settled down quickly once the game began.
“I feel so much happiness and so much joy today, because of the efforts I made since I was young to get here today. I was a little nervous when I was told I was going to play but when the match started it all went away,” he said.
Pena also admitted that he had learned a lot from Barça’s first-choice goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, saying: “I learn from ter Stegen, I trained with him for years, he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world and he is an example for me.”
Finally, the Spaniard, who is said to be negotiating a new contract with the club, acknowledged that the situation was far from ideal given the exit from the Champions League, but vowed to compete in other competitions.
“Yes, this is not the best situation for us, but we have to compete and win all competitions. We will go for the Europa League, La Liga and the other competitions that we are in with all our strength.”