Barcelona suffered a shock defeat at the hands of newly promoted side Deportivo Alaves at the Nou Camp on Saturday.
It was billed as a David vs Goliath encounter as defending La Liga champions Barcelona hosted newly promoted side Deportivo Alaves on the third matchday of the 2016-17 season.
In a shocking result, Alaves’ defensive masterclass meant that Barcelona were unable to break them down for the majority of the 90 minutes and fell to a 2-1 defeat. Deyverson and Ibai Gomes scored for Alaves, while Jeremy Mathieu managed one for Barcelona. TheHardTackle looks at a five talking points from the Catalan giants’ defeat.
1. Former player Kiko Femenia finally exacts his revenge
Kiko Femenia was bought by Barcelona in July 2011 from Hercules, but the player departed from the club in 2013 to join rivals Real Madrid while launching a scathing attack on Barca, claiming that the club ’emotionally ruined’ him.
More than three years have passed since and Femenia seems to have moved from midfield to right-back. He provided a perfectly floated cross in the first half to set Deyverson up for Alaves’ first goal, while his defensive contribution was vital in securing an unlikely but more than deserved victory over the defending champions.
2. Poor debuts for Cillessen and Paco Alcacer
Barcelona’s new signings Jasper Cillessen and Paco Alcacer made their debut for the club, but failed to give a decent account of their abilities in front of the home crowd. While Cillessen did not commit a mistake, the keeper would feel he could have done more to stop both of Alaves’ goals.
Although Paco Alcacer’s failure to score could partially be attributed to Alaves’ excellent defensive effort and the lack of chances created by the Barcelona midfield, the former Valencia striker could have surely done better.
3. Luis Enrique must address the issue of a fragile Blaugrana defence
As mentioned above, Cillessen did not making any glaring errors in the game and the Alaves goals were largely due to the inability of his defenders to do their tasks perfectly.
While the first goal could be chalked down to a moment of brilliance from Kiko Femenia with his beautiful cross, the second goal was all Javier Mascherano’s fault. Luis Enrique must look to iron out defensive mistakes if Barcelona are to defend their Liga crown successfully.
4. 5-4-1 the answer against Barcelona?
Mauricio Pellegrino is the manager who gained promotion to the top flight with Alaves and while the Argentine is not as talked about as his more renowned compatriots Diego Simeone and Mauricio Pochettino, Saturday’s game showed he may not be too far away from the duo in terms of tactics.
He deployed a 5-4-1 formation against Barcelona and while Luis Enrique’s side were poor, a case could be made that it was the away side’s formation that led to such a disappointing display by the Catalans’ midfield and attack.
The 5-4-1 meant that Alaves’ half had no space for Barcelona’s creative players to carve out chances for their teammates. With this formation, Alaves were able to withstand the mounting pressure from their more illustrious opponents, especially in the last 30 minutes after Messi and Luis Suarez were brought on by Luis Enrique in an attempt to restore parity.
5. Squad rotation the reason for the loss?
Luis Enrique’s decision to name the trio of Andres Iniesta, Messi and Luis Suarez on the bench backfired on Saturday. Perhaps the Spaniard was confident of his squad depth and the ability of his other players, but it seemed like Enrique under-estimated his opponents’ quality and chances of securing a win at the Nou Camp.
The result may have stayed the same even if the trio had started, particularly given Barcelona were unable to score in the last 30 minutes when they were brought on, but Luis Enrique must be wary of rotating his squad to this extent in games like these. The Spaniard cannot afford to rest many key players at the same time and might just take a lesson or two from the game and rotate with more caution in the future.