F.C. Barcelona tonight recorded a 2-0 win against Deportivo la Coruña, a result that leaves them further ahead of their league rivals before they have had a chance to play and with the peace of mind now to think about the task ahead against AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday evening at the Camp Nou.
The result will remain 2-0 in the history books, but the match itself has left many thinking that the team on the Camp Nou turf’s mind was elsewhere. For large periods of the game it looked as if Barça were playing a pre-season match. A lot of touches, but no desire to strike. Every now and again a move would develop that reminded us of the Barça of old.
The Blaugrana started with a lot of first team regulars on the bench. Piqué, Alba, Iniesta and Busquets all looking on from the dugout. The biggest shock in the lineup announced before the match was that four time Ballon D’Or winner Lionel Messi was also watching from the sidelines. Xavi wasn’t in the squad along with the suspended Victor Valdés. So many players were rested ahead of Tuesday’s titanic tussle against Milan, letting everyone around the world know where the club’s priority lay.
Even the most loyal supporters groups had left a section of the stadium empty as a protest against the board’s actions in relenting on an agreement to form a supporter’s area behind a section of the southern goal, a strike that will be broken only for Tuesday’s match against AC Milan. The groups have been vilified by the current board and the Catalan national police (Mossos d’Esquadra) due to an isolated incident that occurred during the Copa del Rey clash against Real Madrid.
In spite of this and a lethargic Barça performance at times, the Camp Nou crowd got behind their team and lifted a side that looked unmotivated, once again. The defence appeared improved and after a slow start Tiago took control of the midfield and looked every part the blaugrana midfielder. It was a controlled performance, but, once again it was the forward line that failed to inspire. Of the front three of Tello, Alexis and Villa it was only the young Catalan forward that may bother Vilanova and Roura’s thoughts for the upcoming game.
Villa looked nervous and apprehensive in front of goal, especially in a one on one chance with Aranzubia, something not usually levelled at the top scorer in La Roja’s history. Alexis, other than his goal, was little better.
It took the introduction of Busquests, Iniesta and Messi to finally settle the game. The Argentinian netting his 40th league goal of the season and further extending another record by scoring in his 17th league match in a row.
Having missed so many first team regulars, tonight’s performance could be deceptive, but the Blaugrana have only a couple of days to rediscover their magic. It will take a team effort to overcome Milan and the idea of “Messidependence” will have to be eradicated for Barça to progress.