Barcelona squared off against Atletico Madrid this weekend in what was the most-watched game of La Liga so far this season. Both teams were level on points, the latter having a game in hand, though.
The blaugranes lined up with Joao Cancelo at left-back after his stellar performance against Porto, where he had a goal and an assist to his name. Joao Felix and Frenkie de Jong played ahead of him as the left-winger, and left central midfielder, respectively.
While Cancelo did not manage to get himself on the scoresheet this time, his performance was nothing short of impressive. He was solid defensively, and creative going forward, and deservedly played the entire 90.
However, this meant leaving out Alejandro Balde off the lineup. The Spaniard was expected to come on in the second half, but Xavi persisted with Cancelo on the left, eventually coming off with all three points.
Later, it was reported that Balde was furious after the game, and headed straight to the dressing room after the full-time whistle.
SPORT not report that the reason for his anger was that Xavi had him warm up throughout the second half on multiple occasions, but eventually did not end up subbing him in.
In fact, Xavi made use of just three substitutes during the game, bringing on Ferran Torres for Joao Felix, Lamine Yamal for Raphinha, and Fermin Lopez for Pedri towards the very end of the proceedings.
Cancelo defended Balde
While Cancelo is currently in much better form than Balde, who is having a rather underwhelming season, especially offensively, the Portuguese defended his teammate after the Porto game.
“I’m fine in all positions. I always try to help the team. Balde also deserves to play because he is a great player. We have a bunch of great players,” he said about the Spaniard.
It now remains to be seen who Xavi chooses to start as the left-back this Sunday as Barcelona host Girona at the Olympic Saint Montjuic.