FC Barcelona came away with an emphatic 2-0 win over U.D Almeria that sees them temporarily regain the top spot back in La Liga Santander, at least until Real Madrid face Rayo Vallecano in the 13th round of La Liga.
In a game that had just one rightful winner destined to take all the spoils, Barcelona played according to their pedigree and showcased the differences between them and this newly promoted Almeria side.
The Catalans proved throughout the game and particularly in the first half that with the right intensity and game plan this team is more than capable of pulling apart even deeper defensive blocks, albeit it has to be remembered Almeria possess arguably one of the weakest defensive records in La Liga this season in terms of concession of goals.
Throughout the first 45 minutes, La Blaugrana ensured that they had complete control of the proceedings. Despite scoring both goals in the second half, Barcelona arguably played their best football in the first half. Generating an XG of 2.31 in the initial 45 minutes, as well as constantly keeping Almeria from causing any goal threat themselves, something La Blaugrana can credit to the great work done by both the midfield’s intensity tonight as well as a great display of defending by the retiring Gerard Pique.
However, a critical moment that may have left a sour memory in the minds of some would be the penalty awarded to Barcelona in that half, as initially it was thought to be taken by Gerard Pique himself who instead unselfishly passed the opportunity to Robert Lewandowski. The Pole ended up missing the Catalan’s first penalty of the season, and many would have liked to have seen Pique take the spot kick for himself.
A particular negative from the first half was possibly the hesitancy the Barcelona players still seem to possess when faced with a goal-scoring opportunity, as they seem more comfortable to pass and nudge the ball around rather than taking an effort at the goal themselves. While this unselfish mindset isn’t necessarily always a bad thing, it does end up making the team feel very blunt and toothless in terms of offensive prowess at times.
Particularly the case with Pedri, despite all the wonders he produces on the field regularly, he may just need to add a more confident goal-scoring habit to his already long list of noteworthy traits. Moreover, particular players like Dembele and Ferran Torres also need to improve on their finishing on a consistent basis, as the irregularity over the dependency of their final product creates massive problems.
Going into the second half, La Blaugrana knew they had been missing that final product despite all the chances they crafted for themselves, and they made amends accordingly. Both Dembele and Frenkie De Jong ended up being the players that would ensure Barcelona would come out of this match as temporary league leaders.
The Frenchman, in particular, showcased a glimpse of his peculiar ability to disbalance defenders with ease thanks to his plethora of options when dribbling, and this in turn allowed him to have one of his shots finally converted in what culminated a spectacular play.
Alas, the night’s main highlight was undoubtedly the farewell Camp Nou has given to the retiring Gerard Pique on his final game for FC Barcelona in their home stadium. The captain did not just receive a standing ovation from the 92,000 fans in attendance, he also gave a very solid display on the field while he played on top of that.
Gerard Pique: “I never wanted to be a footballer. I wanted to be a Barca player.” These words echoed across the hearts of all the Cules in attendance and those not so as well, as they bid farewell to a legend of the Garnet and the Blue.