As FC Barcelona prepare to player their second game in a run that sees them play three matches in six days, the Blaugrana will be looking to draw from the positives from their their 4-1 win over Levante on the weekend.
Luis Enrique made five changes to the squad that traveled to Rome, leading to a first half that was not up to the standards that the Catalans have set in recent years. Enrique had also changed the traditional 4-3-3 formation that FC Barcelona usually deploy, to a 4-2-3-1 with Lionel Messi given the free role in behind forward Sandro.
We look at three positives to emerge from the Levante win for the Cules.
1 – Squad strength
With a host of first-team player out injured, suspended or rested due to the trip to Rome and the run of games ahead, FC Barcelona’s squad was tested to the limit. While Luis Suarez, Jordi Alba, Andres Iniesta and Sergi Roberto were rested, manager Luis Enrique had drafted in Munir El Haddadi, Sandro Ramirez, Adriano in the squad.
In order to compensate for the creativity that Iniesta brings in the FC Barcelona XI, Messi was given the role to come deep and build the play. It all went well, with the Catalans managing to win the game without breaking too much sweat, even though the first half performance must have led to unease among the Blaugrana faithful. Manager Jose Enrique remarked that he was happy with the performance, and given the host of changes made to the squad, the result is indeed reassuring.
The question mark over the squad following the sale of Martin Montoya and Pedro, compounded by inability to register Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal is surely not as intense as it was before the beginning of the week.
2 – Marc Bartra
FC Barcelona have played three central defenders along side Javier Mascherano already, this season. Gerard Pique, Jeremy Mathieu and Thomas Vermaelen all have had their chances to show what they can offer. It was Marc Bartra’s turn last night and he has given another selection headache to manager Luis Enrique with his tremendous showing last night.
Not only did he score a goal and provide an assist, Bartra was dominant in the air, winning the most headed duels in the game (4). Making his first start to the season, Bartra looked ever so comfortable in the position that it seemed he was never out.
Luis Enrique certainly has one more headache to deal with. Given the question-mark being raised over Barcelona’s squad strength prior to this game, the central defence is certainly one area where no one can point any fingers upon.
3 – A peek into the future Lionel Messi
In the absence of Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi was not only given his captain’s armband, but also the Spanish maestro’s play-making role. While he may have, rather funnily, forgotten to carry out captain’s duty of shaking hands of his opposite number, the Argentine sensation certainly ensured that the Blaugrana faithfuls had no reason to miss Iniesta.
Messi took to the role like a duck to the water, dropping deep, picking up the ball and creating chances for his team-mates. And if you believe that, that would have stopped him from scoring goals, he added two to his kitty and also grabbed an assist. The deeper role did not hamper him one bit, neither his motivation, nor performance, nor goal-scoring as the player adapted to his news position by intelligently making runs in the box and also troubling the opponents with his incredible acceleration.
Indeed, this is the kind of role that he plays with his national team. While it does curtail his ability to score goals, the more he ages, the more likely is he to go back to this role given his vision and passing is as good as some of the best players in world football, today.