It wasn't pretty, but I'll take it.
FC Barcelona won their first title of the 2013-14 season as Tata Martino's men survived a tough Atletico Madrid team as the teams ended the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup in a 0-0 draw. Barcelona took the title via the away goal scored last week.
This game was one of the most odd Supercopa games in recent memory, as bad no-calls, hard fouls, and inconsistent play plagued the game.
Perhaps the most bizarre stat of the night: FC Barcelona had only one shot on goal. One! And they still won! My goodness.
I know I should be happy, but I am still disappointed in the team's performance. While this title will help the team members long-term, I can't help but think this team is still a long way away from doing serious damage in UEFA Champions League competition.
Let's take a quick look at the Good, Bad, and Ugly of the game.
The Good/Great: Victor Valdes and the Barça Defense
Victor Valdes was phenomenal against Atletico Madrid. His saves keep Atleti out of the scoreboard and his team with the title. Valdes' save on Arda Turan in the 42nd minute was perhaps his best save this competitive season.
But let's also give credit to the Barcelona centre-backs....wait, what?!
Yes, the CBs played well.
Javier Mascherano continued his strong play he's shown so far this season with another solid performance in this game. But the more impressive performance belonged to Gerard Pique. Shakira's baby daddy looked like the Guardiola-era Pique we all loved as he looked confident, took timely risks when sliding for the ball, and was excellent overall. A few days ago, I ripped Pique on his performance against Malaga. My hope was this: "My hope is that Martino and his staff continue to work with Pique to bring the best out of him once again."
I don't know if Tata and his staff worked with Gerard these past few days, but Pique gave his team a great performance on Wednesday. Now, we just need to see that consistently. Waka waka!
The Bad: The Inconsistency of the Barça Offense
It's odd to be writing this. Saying that the Barcelona offense was the bad and the defense was the good. But I call it as I see it. I'm not saying that Barcelona didn't show signs of greatness, but the scoreboard tells us it was bad. One shot on goal bad!
Xavi looked tired to not much surprise. He has played three straight games in which he played all 90 minutes. At 33, Xavi is not old, but his legs need extra rest. Lionel Messi was off in his first game back following his injury setback last week. His final touch was not there. It's like Pablo Picasso having a bad paintbrush. It's still a work of art, but it's not a masterpiece. Messi hitting the crossbar in the penalty kick. Alexis Sanchez was not in sync. Pedro brought good energy when he came into the game. And Neymar wasn't bad, but he wasn't great either.
I'm realistic and I realize it can't always be great, but to be playing at home and have only one shot on goal in a title game is worrisome. I know it's early, but I was expecting more out of this offense for this game. My hope is that Tata will continue to teach and work tirelessly to make this offense tick-regardless of who's on the starting XI.
The Ugly: The fouls, no-calls, and the ref.
I don't have much to say on this other than Altetico Madrid was fouling and fouling hard Barça players. Yes, there were hard fouls by Barcelona players, but Atletico were going rough and tough on El Blaugrana. But you know what, it almost worked for them. As far as the ref, David Fernández Borbalán, was simply awful. Then again, he's pretty much always awful, so at least he's consistent.
What We Learned?: The Barça offense is still not yet a well-oiled machine, obviously.
Barcelona have been known for grinding out games over these past few years, but this game reminded us that the offense is still a work in progress. We are yet to see Sergi Roberto get a start or play more than a few minutes in competitive play. With Xavi needing a bit more rest, it may be time for Tata to through in Sergi soon. Cesc Fabregas has played many minutes this season as well. I honestly do believe Sergi will play an important part of this offense this season, and I expect Tata to step up minutes for Sergi Roberto-maybe even Jonathan Dos Santos. Cristian Tello will get more minutes to give Neymar and Alexis some rest. Neymar and Messi's final touches will get better as the season goes.
As I previously mentioned, I know it's early, and I'm not saying it's been all bad, but I just want to acknowledge that this offense still has some tweaking to do. The Messi-Neymar combination will grow chemistry-wise. It will all come together eventually.
What's Next?: Sunday at Valencia
Barcelona will take their Supercopa-winning team to the Mestalla versus Valencia CF on Sunday. Xavi should not start this game as he's now played four straight games in which he played all 90 minutes. Cristian Tello may get a start as Tata may select to go with fresh legs to start the game, while keeping Neymar on the bench for a second-half entrance. Will we see either Marc Bartra or Martin Montoya start the game or even enter the game? It can't always be the regular starters. We'll see.
Xoel's Final Thought
Tata Martino has won his first title as FC Barcelona manager, and I'm sure he'll work to vastly improve his team's performances-the offense, in particular.
The Spanish Super Cup is obviously not a major title, but a title is still a title. While the Super Cup second leg will not go down as a game for the ages, it could be a building block for a special season.
The most special part of this title: Tata Martino and the team dedicated the title to former manager Tito Vilanova. We miss you, Tito! Get better soon. We'll see you again soon.
FC Barcelona: 2013 Spanish Super Cup Champions!
One title down this season, hopefully many more to go.
Time to take the title-winning momentum to Valencia, and go into the international break on a roll.
Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona.