BARCELONA, Sept 12: When Barcelona faced Espanyol last week, it had something positive in its mind. Playing a local rival infront of your home crowd is always a serious job, but, when all the players play in their preferred positions and follow the instructions they are given, it’s always a good performance on board, let alone a convincing result.
Barcelona won 5-0 in that game with a hattrick from Lionel Messi and a goal each from off-form Luis Suarez and Gerard Pique. The pick of the night was, of course, Messi’s delightful performance but, new signing Ousmane Dembele brought from Borussia Dortmund for a fee of 105 million euros (96.86 million pounds) with bonuses was something that made every Barca fans happy. He came in the pitch in the 67th minute and provided an assist to Suarez in the 90th. Well, the game was already over and Barca took four points lead at the top against Real Madrid, but, what impressed the fans was the positive performance from all the players including the new guy in the town.
This time it’s Juventus, a team that reached the final, only to lose 4-1 against Real Madrid. Juventus were almost perfect until the final and well, until they were level 1-1 with the Spanish giant, of course. But, Juventus, who defeated Barcelona in the Quarterfinals 3-0 in the aggregate, are not the same team. Juventus welcomed Ferdinando Del Sole, Benedikt Howedes, Blaise Matuidi, Dario del Fabro, Federico Bernardeschi, Mattia De Sciglio, Wojciech Szczesny, Douglas Costa, Juan Cuadrado and Mehdi Benatia but, having sold Leonardo Bonucci and Dani Alves with one of the best centerbacks in world football, Giorgio Chiellini out with a calf injury, Sami Khedira with a knee injury and is expected to be out till the Mid-September, attackers Mario Madzukic and Marko Pjaca also injured and Cuadrado suspended is a very big blow to the Italian giants.
But, until now, Barcelona hasn’t still played against a big side. Three back-to-back wins against Real Betis, Alaves and Espanyol will give them a momentum but, Juve is a very different approach and the last year’s comprehensive defeat is still fresh in the Catalan’s mind. Barcelona want to start with a winning start and get three points immediately after having a frustrating season with Luis Enrique, who departed at the end of the season after winning just a Copa del Rey title with Barcelona. While, Juve, on the other hand, landed yet another Serie A with a Copa Italia.
The players to look forward will be the new trio of Suarez, Messi and Dembele after Neymar left for Paris Saint Germain (PSG) for a world record fee of 222 million euros. On the other hand, Barcelona has also bought an exciting young rightback Nelson Semedo from Benfica with Gerard Deulofeu back to his childhood club from AC Milan. Barcelona fans were quite upset when the club landed Brazilian Paulinho and things have changed after the quarterfinal with Enrique gone, Ernesto Valverde in the charge and things looking pretty sharp for the new manager. Paco Alcácer is out with a sickness but Sergi Roberto is back in the squad after recovering from a minor knee injury. Denis Suarez also comes into the squad to boost Valverde’s midfield options, but the team shouldn’t look too different from the Espanyol win.
Barcelona were unstoppable last week with short passing, triangles play all over the pitch and constant movement of the attacking pieces to find and create spaces inside tight defences. Lionel Messi has seen his role changed with the Argentine star playing as a false nine and Suarez playing wide in the left. The midfield of Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets are getting a lot involved in the play and the full backs getting the authority to go forward and also come back for their defensive duties. Jordi Alba had a blockbuster performance with two assists in the board against Espanyol with the runs that can threaten any side.
Last, but not the least, Barcelona and Juventus both have a win in their sights but things shouldn’t just look good in the paper. A tactical approach from both the sides with some individual brilliance sure to take a toll in this game. Both the team would want to continue the perfect start but losing some players of injuries and suspensions would see Juventus take a step back from what they were but, they are not estimated in just that. A good tactical approach and new signings getting effective for either side can judge this game.