“Will Barca be able to do it?” was the question revolving in the mind of cules who saw their captain being a victim to an injury in the last match, leaving the onus to defeat the next team on the rest of the squad. And yes, “they did it!”, and comfortably so, would be the answer to that.
Valverde decided to go out with a midfield centric strategy yesterday, including Rafinha instead of Dembele to the usual lineup. His objective was to keep control of the game and he had the right men for that job in the squad. Absence of Messi meant that all the players would have to work very hard to make up for the skills of the ‘Master of all trades’. And undoubtedly, they did all that was expected.
Barca dominated right from the start, enjoyed huge share of possession (thanks to the midfield) and gave a share of time on the ball to the opponents, which was nothing more than pittance. Inter’s strategy to sit back in their own halves is also culpable for the meagre amount of possession they held.
The first half was stale and we did not see many chances being created except for the goal scored by the ex-Inter player himself in the 32nd minute, but in the blaugrana colors this time. Yes, Rafinha, the new piece in the starting eleven made the difference against his previous employers.
It was a sequence initiated by Rafinha himself when he passed the ball to Suarez on the right, who played an exquisite pass back to the Brazilian who stormed into the box to latch on to it and produce a first time finish. Inter Milan’s played a poor first half and emphasized it when they allowed Suarez, who had no right to make that assist to Rafinha, do so and make things worse for themselves.
In the second half inter pushed high up the pitch to play aggressively but failed to create an impact. Barca were certainly missing their magician in the match because Coutinho, who is the next best creative player after Leo in the squad could not produce anything special from all his toil on the pitch. Arthur, Busquets, Roberto, Suarez and Rakitic all were industrious throughout. Defensively we saw Pique and Lenglet exuding enormous determination and confidence to repel the threats approaching our goal. Ter Stegen again prevented a goal and showed why he’s among one of the world’s best.
It was late in the game but Alba also decided to add his name to the score sheet. Arturo Vidal who was brought on in the game combined with Rakitic. The Croatian passed forward to Alba who was running towards Inter’s box, who’s one touch and movement was enough to hold off Skriniar, and then produced a striker’s finish to send the ball in the bottom right corner.
Now, it’s time to talk about the new signings, all of who were impressive in this game.
The way this player has performed in the matches since the day he arrived, makes one wonder if he’s been playing with the club since years. He seems to have cemented his position in the starting eleven and is likely to feature again in the El Clasico from the first minute. He’s played only two UCL matches and put up a great show on such a big stage both the times. He completed 83 out of 87 passes yesterday and was instrumental in keeping possession, regaining the same when lost and advancing the play. Also, his dance around the opponents and the twists and turns are reminiscent of the legendary Xavi. Fortunate, will be all of us who thought we might not see his like again, if Arthur does morph into the player we want him to be in the coming years.
A makeshift for Umtiti currently but who knows, he might be the heir to Gerard Pique one day. Lenglet played a big role in defence yesterday along with the Spaniard. Lenglet provided an important block in the game and came very close to score a goal from a corner but wasn’t lucky enough. He did not take any step wrong yesterday and is aiming to score his first goal against Real in the clasico.
He came in as a sub for Arthur and performed his duties well on the pitch. He made some good interceptions, some good recoveries and was highly involed in the build up leading to the final goal. Although he got little time on field yesterday he has proved why he is a reliable option to bet on when the stakes are high. After this display Valverde should feel more confident to use him often and we can also hope that Vidal stops venting his frustration out on instagram posts via angry emojis.
The team faces Real Madrid on Sunday and we hope to beat another opponent comfortably to show that Barcelona are self reliant and do not always need King Leo to help them, for he’s not going to be here forever.