Five points to talk from Barcelona 2-3 Real Madrid
Barcelona may have lost to Real Madrid, suffering a fifth consecutive loss in El Clasico in the process, but Wednesday’s match between the two rivals showed that the difference between the two is undoubtedly close.
Los Blancos started the game 17 points behind their Catalan counterpart in the league, but this was not the case on the field. Barcelona finished the match with 20 shots (Real Madrid scored 14) and also topped the possession stats with 53%.
This was, and don’t forget, a Barcelona squad full of players who have just come back from injury, (hand surgery in Araujo’s case) and Covid-19 and have only worked under new coach Xavi for two months. It will take some time but the early signs are still positive.
Nothing new here but Barcelona finished Badri, 19, Fati, 19, Nico, 20, Araujo, 22, Gutgla, 22. After Jaffe, 17, Ebde, 20, and Torres, 21. Eight players 22 or younger. Not any old match against Real Madrid.
– Tom Allnutt (@TomAllnuttAFP) January 12 2022
Xavi described the gap with Real Madrid as “bad” before Christmas, but he won’t feel that way now, especially after seeing Barcelona’s young team more than facing the La Liga leaders.
There has been a lot of upbeat talk from President Joan Laporta recently about Barcelona’s comeback after a really difficult time. They may not be completely Again, but they are definitely on their way and this game, despite the outcome, should offer youngsters some much-needed faith.
Wednesday’s match saw the new Ferran Torres make his Barcelona debut after his January move from Manchester City. He was the striker at the start, along with Luc de Jong and Ousmane Dembele in attack.
Memphis Depay and Ansu Fati were also off the bench highlighting the ultimate attacking options at Xavi’s disposal now that the players are back from injury and Covid-19 layoffs.
In truth, it was a quiet debut from Torres who looked understandably rusty. The Spain international hasn’t played since October, and he has shown that, but he now has a week to work with his new teammates before the next Barcelona game.
Xavi clearly has no doubts about his new signing and spoke after the match about how Ferran, Pedri and Ansu will play a big role between now and the end of the season.
“These three will help us a lot,” he said. “Pedre and Veran need minutes and the rhythm of matches after the time is up, but Ansu came right back with a goal. All of them will contribute greatly this season.”
One of the highlights of Wednesday’s match was Pedri’s return. The 19-year-old was involved in the second half, but was probably the least surprised of anyone when he ended up playing in overtime as well. This is the 12th time he has played overtime in the past 12 months.
Pedri has been forced to watch from the sidelines this season, with Nico and Jaffe demanding regular performances and looking hungry to make up for lost time, almost scoring with his first contribution.
Indeed, he once again showed how important he is to Barcelona going forward, and Xavi’s side looked a much better team in the second half with the youngster on the pitch.
Xavi now has a big problem when it comes to choosing his midfield as the three youngsters are fighting hard for a place. Could we see Frenkie de Jong heading to the bench now? Could Xavi consider leaving Sergio Busquets? We’re about to find out.
Xavi also made Ansu Fati’s comeback against Real Madrid and the striker duly scored his fifth goal of the season after less than 20 minutes on the field with a header that sent the game into overtime.
The perfect comeback was from Ansu, who has not played since the beginning of November when a hamstring injury forced him out of a 3-3 draw at Celta Vigo. His comeback took some time with Barcelona seemingly very cautious to avoid further injury setbacks for the rest of the season.
The hope is that Ansu can now go on an injury-free run into the second half of the season and that goal should give him a huge boost. Goals have been a problem for Barcelona this season, but it should be less of a problem now with Ansu and Torres back in the squad.
Ansu’s latest goal means he has now scored in each of his last three games for Barcelona, has five goals in just 368 minutes this season, and has now scored twice against Real Madrid in his career. He is still only 19 years old.
Speaking of goals, there is also the option of Luc de Jong who retained his place in the starting line-up after scoring against Real Mallorca and Granada and netting for the third match in a row to make the score 1-1.
In fact, De Jong could have scored before making it 1-1. The Dutchman had two good header chances but was unable to beat Thibaut Courtois in the Real Madrid goal.
The striker actually looked like a different player in 2022. There were three goals, a bicycle kick that hit the crossbar and even a scorpion kick that went past Granada.
3 – Since his arrival in Spain, Luc de Jong has scored in three consecutive games in all competitions for the first time and is one of five LaLiga players to score the most goals in 2022 in all formations (three). trust. pic.twitter.com/KMqzfFXJmw
– OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 12 2022
Xavi continues to support the Dutchman, despite the exit rumors, and even said after the match that he would continue to play if he continued to score.
“I’ve already said that Luke is part of the team,” he said. “No one will play for the name except for their performance, because they deserve it. Luke scores goals and makes the difference. If he keeps performing he will keep playing.”
Circumstances gave De Jong a chance at Barcelona, when it looked almost certain he would leave, and despite all the criticism the 31-year-old is currently exploiting.