From The Mind of Xoel: Barça Starts 2014 with a Bang!
FC Barcelona started their 2014 with a win as El Blaugrana defeated Elche 4-0 at the Camp Nou on Sunday afternoon.
Alexis Sanchez got the scoring started in the seventh minute as a great cross from Jordi Alba got past the Elche back line and found Sanchez who put it into the back of the net for his ninth goal of the Liga season. Pedro doubled the lead in the 16th minute as a brilliant pass by Cesc Fabregas found Pedro who stayed onside and beat Elche goalkeeper Toño for Pedrito's 11th goal of the Liga season for him. Cesc grabbed his 9th assist of the Liga campaign, now leading the league in the category.
In the second half, a foul on Fabregas inside the box was called. Xavi stepped up to take the penalty, but his shot went wide right. Alexis grabbed a brace in the 65th minute as Andres Iniesta sent a great through ball to Pedro who then gave it to Alexis and the Chilean put it in the back of net for his tenth goal. Alexis got his hat trick in the 69th minute as he sent a beauty of a free kick past Toño for his first hat trick as a FC Barcelona player.
Let's get to the Best, Worst, and What We Learned from this game.
The Best: Pedro, Alexis Sanchez, and Cesc Fabregas
Pedro had a solid game against Elche. The Canarian got a goal, but could have had more. But hey, I'm not complaining. Alexis Sanchez was the star of the show on Sunday. He was creating plays, making good passes, and of course scoring goals. And Cesc Fabregas continues to show he has been and is the most important midfielder on FC Barcelona and all of La Liga, as he leads the league in assists. So where are those people that said buying Cesc back in 2011 was an unnecessary buy?
Worst Improved: Tata Martino looking good in a suit and vest.
Hey, Tata looked stylish in his new vest and suit. Someone must have pulled him to the side, told him he's not following the Pep Guardiola/Tito Vilanova style guide, and told Tata to go more GQ for 2014. I like it!
What We Learned: It's great to see the friendly competition between Pedro and Alexis.
As I tweeted out during my live tweeting of the game: "I love it how Pedro and Alexis are friendly competing with each other to be the RW by scoring goals after goals after goals. Love it!"
When Neymar was signed last summer, many fans were wondering who would be the RW in the Neymar-Messi-RW front line. As we've seen this season, both Pedro and Alexis have been superb this season, thus it doesn't matter who is the main RW for Barcelona. Both Pedro and Alexis have 11 goals, and are two of the main reasons why Barcelona have been able to maintain the lead in La Liga, in particular, when Lionel Messi got hurt. We all knew it couldn't be all Neymar, and both Pedro and Alexis have stepped up.
Right now, it doesn't matter who starts alongside Leo and Ney; I'm confident in both RWs. Let's not get into a discussion and/or argument about whether it should be Pedro or Alexis as the RW in the starting XI. Tata Martino is confident in both Pedro and Alexis, but more importantly, the players themselves are playing at a level that doubt or lack of confidence in their game is not an issue. And please, let's not ask or let the media ask, "How long can they coexist?" They can and are coexisting just fine. Alexis and Pedro are not those kind of teammates. They like and respect each other. Maybe that sort of teammate dislike happens on other big clubs in Spain (if you know what I mean), but not with this FC Barcelona team.
Are Alexis Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez competing with each other, to an extent, for more playing time in the starting XI? Of course. But it's a friendly competition between Pedro and Alexis, and there are absolutely no losers in this competition, only winners. And the team is (obviously) the biggest winner.
What's Next?: Wednesday vs. Getafe (Copa del Rey)
Barcelona will look to continue their winning ways when they host Getafe in Copa del Rey action on Wednesday night. Lionel Messi is expected to get some minutes, as Tata Martino will want to get Leo some playing time to be 100% ready game shape-wise for Barça's big match-up against Atletico Madrid next weekend. Sergio Busquets is expected to start against Getafe, as well as Neymar.
Xoel's Final Word
It was a good start to the new year as Barcelona beat Elche 4-0 on Sunday. No time to rest. Two important games are coming this week. While many will begin to look ahead to the match-up against Atletico Madrid, let's not forget about the game against Getafe in Copa action.
2014 is here, and FC Barcelona continues to shine. New year, more goals and more wins.
Some things just stay the same, and for FC Barcelona, that's not a bad thing at all.
Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona