Barça go top of the league temporarily, with another clean sheet and another league win on the road. However, as the 1-0 scorecard would suggest, this was by no means a walk in the park for Xavi’s men; Mallorca mustered an impressive performance after proceedings and unsurprisingly had a higher xG than the Blaugranas.
Games following international breaks very rarely serve this team well and the cohesion that defined Barcelona a few weeks ago ceased to exist. Barça had a few bright displays individually, but looked lethargic as a whole and were easily exploited in transition.
Nonetheless, it’s improbable to demand domination in every league game, and taking into consideration the fairly rotated team Xavi fielded, there’s little reason to panic – grinding out these kind of wins exemplifies the signs of an elite squad.
By no means are such victories sustainable, yet Barcelona have struggled to claw their way out of chaotic situations like today in recent years, which are necessary to fight for titles.
Performances like these showcase Barça’s newfound individual quality and improved confidence as Lewandowski’s moment of brilliance grabbed the lead out of absolutely nothing, while Ter Stegen’s iron fist, along with reliable displays from the center-backs, saved Barça from an underperformance.
One of the major disputes leading up to the game was Barça’s lineup conundrum considering the outrageously unfortunate injuries that came about during the recently concluded international break. With no presence of an established right back, Xavi opted to start Balde on the right, while Alba was slotted into his typical left back position. Alongside that, Xavi opted for a few rotations as he decided to give Garcia, Raphinha, and Pedri a rest.
20 minutes into the second half and all those who were tuned in were witness to the genius of Robert Lewandowski’s craftsmanship as he initiated the goalscoring in an utterly exquisite manner: running with the ball towards the box, cutting in on his stronger right foot, and releasing a rocket of a curler into the bottom far corner. A strike of the highest quality to take the Polish International’s La Liga goals tally to a league high 9.
Taking a deeper look at Barça’s shortcomings though, the Los Pirates effectively closed down spaces centrally, forcing Barça out wide where they looked wasteful and devoid of ideas. Busquets and Gavi were sources of penetration centrally, but Mallorca managed to neutralize the limited service with robust defending.
Once custody of the ball was lost, Barcelona’s press looked to be awfully out of sync and disorder prevailed, which led to Mallorca forcing directness frequently. Had Xavi’s backline not held out, things could have looked ugly.
Barça’s best performers were arguably Lewandowski, Christensen, Piqué, Gavi, Busquets, and Ter Stegen, while Dembélé, Kessie, and Alba were rather off today. The subs struggled to have a notable impact too.
Not the prettiest performance, but the big game against Inter up next will draw the most valid conclusions. Forca Barça!