FC Barcelona returned to winning ways against FC Porto in their latest Champions League clash. The Catalan giants also ensured that they rewarded their fans with a real fighting spirit attached. Ultimately, Barcelona did not only take three points, they also managed to play an exciting brand of football.
This way of playing is what has had many fans and experts critical of Xavi’s Barça in recent times. However, FC Barcelona managed to showcase that they still have some bite left to them. Building on this performance will be important, and so will certain players.
As highlighted by SPORT, one player who deserves more praise for his performance is Jules Kounde. The Frenchman appeared to be a bit sluggish at the start of the game, but as soon as he began to come into it, the tides turned quite positively for Barça.
Kounde’s ability to bypass opposition lines and structures through key passes is often overlooked. In fact, the opening goal for Barcelona came through an initial play by the Frenchman. This, in turn, allowed Barcelona to truly kick off their comeback against their Portuguese opponents.
For this reason, Xavi continues to have faith in the French defender regardless of certain less-than-ideal performances. Even when the Frenchman wished to stop playing as a right-back, Xavi obliged.
Understanding that his main strengths would be much more useful playing as a central defender, Xavi swapped his usual position with that of Ronald Araujo.
The Uruguayan’s more physically dominant traits allow Barcelona to have more cover on the flanks, while Kounde’s ball-playing allows Barcelona to exploit the gaps that their opponents leave.
However, it is not always smooth when the Frenchman is involved. His tendency to take risks often also allows opponents to find more spaces to attack. Even against Porto, certain mishaps from the Frenchman led to some quite promising situations for the Portuguese opponents.
For this reason, Ronald Araujo’s presence makes life a lot easier for Kounde. With the Uruguayan often covering his tracks, the 25-year-old French defender finds more room to venture forward and make that final pass.
Xavi, for one, continues to believe that these risks are worth the reward. To play his brand of football, risky passers like Kounde and Inigo Martinez are key. The game against Porto was a great example, but Kounde will need to continue working to regain his defensive consistency from last season.