Before Luis Enrique’s post-match press conference announcement became the center of media attention, his side smashed six goals past Sporting Gijon with ease and took a temporary lead at the summit of the La Liga.
Barcelona swept aside Joan Francesc Ferrer Sicilia’s relegation threatened Sporting Gijon side 6-1, with goals from six different scorers, including two of their own. Juan Rodriguez’s own goal after Lionel Messi’s opener was the beginning of the end, for Tavi Castro’s consolation strike will likely be consoling no one.
Luis Suarez also got in on the action, getting his name on the scoresheet before being subbed off. Neymar scored a tremendous free-kick, while substitutes Paco Alcacer and Ivan Rakitic managed to get themselves a piece of the action as well.
We take a look at some of the major talking points and things we learnt from this match week 25 tie at the Nou Camp.
This match allowed Enrique to provide some rare starts to the likes of Denis Suarez and Rafinha, while also getting the likes of Alcacer, Mascherano, Gomes and Rakitic some valuable minutes and the fact that they all could contribute to a huge victory, should do well for their confidence.
Apart from customary goals from Luis Suarez and Messi, it happened to be one of the rare occasions when Alcacer and Rakitic got on the scoresheet, while Neymar continued his steady return to form with a stunning free-kick into the top right corner.
Needless to say, a victory of such margins will do wonders for their confidence and the morale of some of the fringe players. It was their second largest victory in the Spanish top flight this season, only behind their 6-0 victory against Alaves.
Joan Francesc Ferrer Sicilia’s men were quite comprehensively smashed at the Nou Camp, and they look destined for the drop. But nevertheless, a victory is a victory and getting three points in that fashion is always a good thing for the fans, the dressing room atmosphere and the highlight reels.
Back 3 For PSG?
After shifting to the 3-4-3 system during their 2-1 victory against Atletico Madrid, Luis Enrique decided to start with the same formation tonight. Mascherano, Umtiti and Jordi Alba made up the center back trio, whilst Denis Suarez and Rafinha were deployed on either flank.
Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets were deployed in the center of midfield and the ‘MSN’ took their place upfront. It was the perfect match to test how the team would gel with this new formation, and they didn’t even need a full strength side to dismantle the visiting Rojiblancos.
Some might say this experiment was to only allow some more attack minded players such as Denis Suarez and Rafinha get some game time, but it is likely that Enrique may be thinking of using this formation against Paris Saint-Germain in their Round of 16 second leg tie next week.
With the 3-4-3 formation, it would allow for Enrique to use all three of Messi, Neymar and Suarez while also using the wingbacks to counter the threat of PSG’s wingers namely Angel di Maria, Julian Draxler and Lucas Moura, with the left and right center backs as cover.
Another important aspect of this formation is that it can allow the wingbacks to bombard forward on the counter and support the front three, with both the central midfielders joining in both attack and defence and providing some solidity in the middle of the park.
While most of the time it seemed as if Gijon never even tried to put up a fight after their first goal, Barcelona will need some more time to get used to this formation and we can likely expect that Luis Enrique will use the same formation against Celta Vigo, albeit with some rotation.
Enrique Deserves To Leave On A High
Luis Enrique put an end to all the speculation surrounding his future at the end of the season, by announcing that would be stepping down as Barcelona manager at the end of the season. He would be resigning after having won everything there was to win, with a chance to add 2 more trophies.
While the ramifications of this early announcement on the players are yet to be seen, one thing is for certain, that the Asturian, who has come under fire for his side’s erratic form this term, will be keen on leaving the Nou Camp with his reputation enhanced, if not at the very least intact.
Because of Real Madrid’s inability to get a result against Las Palmas, Barcelona have a 1 point lead at the top of the table over Los Blancos, who have a game in hand. They also have the Copa del Rey final to be played against Alaves, however, there is little hope for their European title charge.
After their 4-0 hammering at the hands of PSG 2 weeks ago, news had broke out of the players’ lack of faith in the 46-year-old and that he had lost the dressing room. Even if that is the case, the dressing room should have enough respect for the man who led them to numerous titles over the past 2 seasons and ensures that he leaves his glorious legacy at the club on a high note.
Neymar’s Return To Form
This current campaign has by no means been the best for the Brazilian. Plagued by some uncharacteristically erratic form for most of the campaign, the Brazilian looked like a shadow of the player who alongside Messi and Neymar, wreaked havoc across the Spanish top flight.
However, since the start of the year we have begun to see a slow, but steady resurgence in Neymar’s form. He only scored 6 goals in the first half of the season across all competitions, but since the start of the calendar year, he has scored already 5 goals and registered 5 assists in 14 games.
These contributions would certainly do wonders for his confidence, going into the final few games of the season. The title race has been blown wide open and Barcelona have the chance to finish the campaign with 2 pieces of silverware to their name, and there can be no stopping them, if Neymar starts contributing more in the bigger games.