Last night Barcelona saw off the challenge of an ultra-defensive Real Zaragoza thanks to a goal by Seydou Keita after great work by Lionel Messi.
Barcelona vs Real Zaragoza 1-0 - All Goals & Full Highlights - 5/3/2011 (via EuropeanGoalsHQ)
Well, that was easier than expected. Important players rested, Milito playing, it could have been a difficult night for the Blaugrana. The 1-0 score line doesn't tell the whole story in a game Barcelona dominated.
Zaragoza may have set out to defend but ended up giving up so many chances to the changed trio of Bojan, Pedro and Messi. 23 shots were mustered and Barcelona finished 82% of possession, but truth be told, not much happened in this game.
Surprisingly, Zaragoza had the first chance, thanks to the, frankly static even when running, Gabriel Milito, but Pique came in with a great saving challenge to stop Zaragoza getting a shot.
After that Guardiola who returned somewhat unexpectedly, and his men dominated. Pedro had a half volley from a corner saved and Xavi also had a shot beaten away. Bojan had a shot deflected which looped over the bar, Mascherano who was excellent tried a shot but the outcome was always the same.
The one man wall Toni Doblas kept the ball out. Zaragoza had set out to defend but weren't doing it well as the Blaugrana were carving them apart at will. Keita had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside but couldn't be kept out forever.
Messi drove into space and somehow got a ball across which Zaragoza failed to deal with and Keita duly dispatched it. 1-0 and you'd think Zaragoza would try and attack. Oh no, they sat back more (if possible) and tried albeit successfully to keep out a second.
All the stuff Mourinho was complaining about was in evidence at the Camp Nou, but did Barca complain? Of course not. They just continued to play at 2nd gear and still create chances. Bojan who played quite well and could have got a goal on another day was replaced by Villa who had an instant impact.
His first touch was a chip that Doblas dealt with comfortably, but the intent was there. He made runs that Bojan did not, and was probably the only Barca player to try and up the tempo at every opportunity.
Abidal and Iniesta were also given a match pace warm up for the Arsenal game, and the last chance came in added on time.
Messi who won the free kick by being scythed down, tried to place the ball in the top corner, and was only inches away from doing just that.
All in all an easy game, and one that showed the team creating a lot of chances that had they have needed to, would probably have been dispatched.
Bring on Tuesday and bring on the Arsenal!