73 hard-fought and evenly-matched minutes had passed at the Ciutat de Valencia last night before FC Barcelona head coach Gerardo Martino looked to his bench in a bid to change the game; there was just one problem. There wasn't a single player capable of improving the team. So, when Cesc Fabregas departed the field for Sergio Roberto, eyebrows were raised across the globe, presumably while fans of both Real and Atletico Madrid rubbed their hands together in anticipation of a draw.
It's not that Sergio Roberto is bad per se, just that he is woefully ill-equipped to replace Cesc Fabregas in a situation of this magnitude. Roberto certainly isn't as talented, nor is he as creative or even as clinical; Roberto is just another midfielder. Cesc Fabregas is *the* midfielder.
No single player has created more La Liga goals this season that Cesc Fabregas. But in fairness to Martino, Fabregas didn't create a goal last night. The substitution itself wasn't a bad idea, the only thing missing was the right individual: an Andres Iniesta, a Deco...
Or perhaps a Thiago Alcantara...
Last night, Barcelona needed creativity, they needed a little flair; some arrogance even to take what should have been rightfully their's. And Thiago could have provided that spark, that injection of confidence to turn the game on it's head.
Or maybe Barcelona needed a clinical striker, someone who could have buried those few chances that fell our way. Messi was excellent, but somewhat less decisive from his withdrawn role. Is it a stretch to suggest that the Blaugrana missed David Villa?
A summer of change at the Camp Nou saw both Thiago and Villa depart without much coming in the opposite direction and squad depth undeniably played a factor in last night's draw. The question is: will it come back to haunt the Blaugrana in May?