Barcelona defeated Premier League champions Leicester City 4-2 in their International Champions Cup clash on Wednesday, with the Catalan giants’ academy youngster Munir El Haddadi scoring a brace.
The Spanish side began the game on the front foot and kept pressing Leicester high up the field for most parts of it. Munir El Haddadi starred for Barcelona as he scored a first-half brace to help his side to a 3-0 lead at the break.
However, Ahmed Musa’s substitution at half-time turned the tide of the game in favour of Leicester, as the 22-year-old grabbed two quick goals to reduce his side’s deficit. But the Foxes could not find the equaliser and Barca youngster Rafael Mujica scored late on to win his side the International Champions Cup.
Here are TheHardTackle’s three takeaways from the contest:
Munir’s pre-seaon proficiency may stop Luis Enrique’s search for a quality attacker
Munir El Haddadi burst onto the scene in 2014 when he made his La Liga debut for the Catalans against Elche. He was named as a starter by manager Luis Enrique and scored the second goal in his side’s 3-0 victory. However, after this breakout performance, the Spanish striker has done very little to prove his mettle for Barcelona.
However, this pre-season Munir has proved many a critic wrong with his spirited performances in the International Champions Cup. It seemed that Barca would miss the services of their Brazilian attacker Neymar — who is away on international duty — but Munir has stepped in and filled the void of the 22-year-old to perfection. Even in comparison to Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi, the 20-year-old Spanish striker has looked the most threatening in front of goal and has found the back of the net on three occasions in the last couple of games.
Against Leicester, Munir looked to be on a different level. Playing on the left side of a front three, the Spaniard was constantly troubling Danny Simpson and Robert Huth by making runs in and around the 18-yard area. Seeing his performances, Enrique may stop his search for a backup to the front trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar. Names like Paulo Dybala, Carlos Bacca and Luciano Vietto have been linked with big-money moves to the Camp Nou, but Munir’s showing in pre-season has greatly strenghtened his case.
Barca nearly paid the price for their high press
Despite being a phenomenal attacking force against Leicester, Barcelona almost paid the price for being slack defensively. Their two full-backs Aleix Vidal and Juan Camara played further up the field and centre-backs Mathieu and Santos were stationed just behind the half-way line for most of the game.
Leicester’s long-ranged passes often saw the Barcelona defenders out of position, which meant that Enrique’s side look a tad shaky at the back. The first goal they conceded came against the run of play as Ahmed Musa made a spirited run from the half-way line to finish a beautiful solo effort. Even for the second goal, most of the Barca players were out of position as Leicester hit them on the counter-attack to narrow the advantage to just one goal.
This performance was a wake-up call for Luis Enrique, who is in dire need of improving his defence before the season commences next weekend.
Take a bow, Ahmed Musa!
The game ended with Leicester falling short by two goals, but the fans had found their new hero in the form of striker Ahmed Musa. The Nigerian moved to the King Power stadium this summer for a club-record fee of £16.6 million and has already set the world alight with his dazzling performance against one of the best sides in the world.
After a disastrous first half, manager Claudio Ranieri threw in his new signing in place of Demarai Gray, and the substitution worked immediate wonders for the Italian. Musa scored his first just a couple of minutes after coming on. He made a dazzling solo run from his half, beat three Barcelona players en-route to the goal, and calmly slotted the ball past reserve keeper Jordi Masip.
The second one came due to a defensive error by Barcelona full-back Camara. The youngster needlessly gave the ball to Jeffrey Schlupp, leaving the entire back line exposed. Schlupp then ran a few metres with the ball before he passed it to Musa, who scored his second of the night.
Ranieri is a manager who favours a system with a two-man attack and Ahmed Musa may just be the right man to partner Jamie Vardy for Leicester City.