Barca vs Celta Vigo: 3 goals and 3 points, enough to mask the rather pitiful performance; Barcelona were a long haul from dominating the game thoroughly, with an experimental first half, a shaky second half, and an all-round eventful outing.
With Busquets suspended and midfielders missing through injury, Xavi opted for a 3-4-3 system as Gavi and Frenkie de Jong occupied the double pivot, while Alba and Alves inverted considerably utilizing their increased freedom in midfield.
Starting Memphis, Ferran, Aubameyang, and Dembele all together induced spells of carnage on the break, yet dreary defending persisted. Celta Vigo capitalized habitually on Barca’s narrow defensive structure, holding possession for significantly longer and testing Ter Stegen out on a couple of occasions. In the absence of Busquets and Pedri, pausa and control ceased to exist.
However, fielding an offensive front-line, which appeared to surprisingly have developed efficiency in front of goal meant that Barca merely needed a few chances to put their noses in front. Despite being uninvolved for the first half-hour, Dembele waltzed through the Sky Blues’ defense with some nifty footwork, eventually cutting it back to Memphis, who exhibited his proficient ball-striking ability.
As the Catalans took the lead, spaces began to enlarge in the visitors’ defense, and exactly 10 minutes later, Aubameyang scored the loose ball which fell in his direction. Once again, Memphis appeared to be in his element with Auba to feed off.
Entering the second half, Xavi reverted to the 4-3-3 system, which instantly introduced greater tranquility. Riqui Puig replaced Ferran Torres and Frenkie de Jong situated himself as the lone pivot, where he continued to perform comfortably.
3 minutes into the half is all it took for Aubameyang to bag his brace, with his partner in crime, Dembele, earning another assist. A well-timed strike that curved into the bottom left corner brought the Gabonese’s tally to 10 league goals. Preordained by the fickle finger of fate, though, Iago Aspas inevitably asserted himself into the game in the 50th minute following a huge error from Ter Stegen and a static response.
Barcelona’s ailing fortunes were reversed when Jeison Murillo picked up a red card in the 58th minute for a professional last foul, reducing the visitors to 10 men. Despite going a man down, Barca never truly enforced themselves in the game with possession arriving merely in patches.
However, the moment that had Cules spring up from their seats came around the hour mark as Araujo and Gavi sustained a head collision. The Uruguayan went down 20 seconds after the clash, with immediate medical attention required. Escorted in an ambulance, reports have now clarified he suffered a concussion with the player thankfully responding positively.
The last 30 minutes saw little action, but the introduction of Ansu Fati and Luuk de Jong nearly engendered a greater lead. Fati’s positional IQ as he seemed far more fit.
added a breath of fresh air. Although he failed to find the back of the net, his sheer crispness on the ball and nonchalant attitude while sneaking into pockets of space were delightful to watch.
While Barcelona once again fell victim to lack of control and excessive verticality, positive individual performances certainly existed. Frenkie de Jong had an impactful outing and Eric Garcia looked sharp at the heart of the defense. Puig’s cameo after the break deserves credit too, Memphis, on his favored left flank, and Dembele blitzing from the right created danger.
With the season’s imminent conclusion approaching, Barcelona aim to retain their second spot and will soon face Getafe with many absences.