As the summer winds down and the squads prepare for the season ahead, the friendlies have become fewer (for most teams, at least) as the managers try to make sure the players are healthy enough to start the season. In Barca B's case though, the opposite is true. They have a new manager in Eusebio Sacristan and while the system might remain the same, the unusually high number of player turnover (Thiago Alcantara, Jonathan Soriano, Andreu Fontas among those leaving) would make friendlies quite helpful to see who Eusebio trusts, what tweaks to the system he might do, and how he would deploy players in positions where they can succeed.
Enter the Copa Catalunya. An annual preseason cup competition among Catalan clubs (and Andorra), Barcelona B has won the competition six times since it officially started in 1989. As city rivals RCD Espanyol does, Barcelona is liable to send their B team to the competition, as they did this year. And after beating FC Girona 2-1 in the semifinal, they faced off against their city rivals in the final at the Nou Estadi in Tarragona.
FC Barcelona: Oier; Rosell, Sergi Gómez, Armando, Grimaldo; Gustavo, Espinosa, Rafinha; Saúl, Cuenca, Deulofeu
RCD Espanyol: Casilla, Galán, Canal, Zou, Clerc, Luís García, Javi López, Cristian Alfonso, Thievy, Cristian Gómez, Pirulo
Now, this is unofficially (or officially, to recordkeepers) an FC Barcelona 1st team match, but we all know otherwise. To tell the truth, this was the 2nd team of Barcelona B. A number of starters were missing for two main reasons, Marc Muniesa and Martin Montoya to injuries and Sergi Roberto, Kiko Femenia, Bartra, Planas and Tello to the FIFA U-20 World Cup. The youngsters promoted from the Barcelona Juvenil squad filled in the gaps along with a Cadete player (Grimaldo, making his "first team" debut at 15). Espanyol surprisingly deployed senior squad players Luis Garcia and Javi Lopez among their youngsters.
To everyone's surprise, the first half was very wide open, half-chances going from end to end. To no one's surprise though, some of the play was very disjointed. Barcelona in particular, had difficulty stringing passes and maintaining possession. Gerard Deulofeu was among the bright spots for Barcelona, going on dazzling runs only for those runs to peter out because he had no support in attack. Rafinha had shown some nice touches as well and Grimaldo had been excellent at left back. A very lively first half ended 0-0.
Before the start of the second half, Eusebio made some changes, bringing in Jonathan Dos Santos, Balliu and Carmona, hoping to bring some semblance of order to Barcelona. The changes certainly paid off- for Espanyol. Four minutes after the restart, a ball was lifted right onto Thievy's path and with some Grade D (as in doo doo) defending from captain Armando, Thievy bundled the ball past a stranded Oier. 1-0 to Espanyol. Four minutes later, it got worse for Barcelona. It was Thievy again, finishing on the edge of the six yard box. 2-0 and the match was almost certainly decided. To their credit, Barcelona turned up the pressure. Deulofeu in particular had a couple of moments where he looked like he might unlock Los Periquitos' defense. A lack of cutting edge in the final third doomed Barcelona though, and in the end it was Espanyol who scored a third, thanks to some persistent work by Thievy. 3-0 to Espanyol it ended.
In the end, Espanyol fully deserved the win, they had controlled the play, especially in the second half. For the kids though, it was a gutsy showing, and some of the kids smelled like roses when it ended. Deulofeu was clearly Barcelona's best player, the only real threat Espanyol had to deal with. Rafinha had some nice moments, though he didn't push forward enough. And Grimaldo got exposed a little in the second half, but definitely a very good debut for a 15 year old.
Barcelona B begins their Liga Adelante season on the 21st at SD Huesca.
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