Barcelona are back! Not even two months since that fateful night in London, and the Blaugrana were back in action against Hajduk Split, in their first friendly of the season. Only two of the starting XI from that night started here today (Villa and Valdes) but the style of play was always going to be the same. Possession, possession, possession, with Barcelona claiming 71& of it from the first half!
Starting with six first team players, and five B team players, Barcelona picked up where they left off, dominating possession against their opposition. It only took two minutes for the Blaugrana to register their first shot, but it was a tame effort, after a free-kick by Jonathan Dos Santos was only partly cleared.
Apart from the odd mistake here and there from the younger players, I could have sworn that this was the regular season, such was the seamless transition from training games, to the real thing. The first real chance fell to Barcelona too, as Villa struck the post from a full 20 yards out after great work on the right hand side of the attack.
However, it was not all plain sailing as Hajduk were threatening, but still lacking that killer pass, unlike Barcelona, who nearly scored, after a fizzing cross by Afellay should have been turned in, but for the lack of attackers.
Speaking of the Dutchman, he was causing Hajduk all sorts of problems, as he cut inside two defenders on the left, before firing a shot straight at the goalkeeper.
Just as Barca were settling into their stride, they could have just as easily been behind, but Tomasov missed two gilt-edged chances, the first a one-on-one with Valdes, and the second a volley after a brilliant cross from Vukusic.
Barca finished the stronger, hitting the side netting with Villa, and forcing a fine save after a stinging shot by Thiago, but the half-time score was 0-0.
Would we see the likes of Iniesta, Busquets and Jeffren in the second half?
The answer was yes, as Guardiola chose to make 11 changes, possibly in lieu of the Audi Cup matches to come on Tuesday and Wednesday. Whatever the case, the players were still hungry, and desperate to show what they could do.
Jeffren drilled a shot just past the Hajduk post early on, but Pinto was forced to acrobatically tip a deflected free-kick soon after. Hadjuk were not going to just lie down, that much was certain.
However, they would not create too much, instead dedicating their time, and attention to stopping Barcelona from doing what they are good at. It was not great to watch, but rest assured, this is what awaits the Blaugrana in every one of their matches next season.
Cuenca pulled a shot wide, Soriano and Iniesta had shots blocked, but ultimately, Barca could not break down this well-organised defense, and credit to coach Balakov for his work.
Overall, this was a good performance, and one in which Barcelona could have won, had the goal have been a few inches wider.
My man of the match is the aforementioned David Villa, who always threatened, and looks to be in top form, despite the off-season break. He hit the post, and the side-netting, so the sign are looking good.
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