FC Barcelona suffered their first loss of the competitive season, as El Blaugrana were defeated by Paris Saint-Germain 3-2 in Paris in their UEFA Champions League Group F stage game.
David Luiz got the scoring started in the 10th minute as a set piece led to Luiz finding the ball at his feet and scoring. It was the first goal conceded by Luis Enrique's squad this season—639 minutes of football. But just 90 seconds later, Lionel Messi equalized with a golazo. Messi grabbed his 402nd goal of his career.
PSG went up 2-1 thanks to a 5'5" tall Marco Verratti header (really). In the second half, PSG went up 3-1, as a lovely play by the Parisians set up Blaise Matuidi for the golazo. Just two minutes later, Neymar got Barcelona back within one as he grabbed the second Barça goal. Luis Enrique's squad played much better for the rest of the second half, but they were unable to find the equalizer as PSG grabbed the three points and handed Barcelona its first loss of the competitive season.
Here are my thoughts on the game.
No excuses: PSG were better on the night
I'm not going to make any excuses for FC Barcelona. They looked poor, most of the players were off, and deserved to lose. The Barça players needed to do better, and they didn't. I don't want to hear about "being tired" or "rotations" any other reason. It felt like the only ones that brought their game was Messi and Neymar. Javier Mascherano had good moments as well. Credit to PSG for taking it to the Barcelona defense, which looked like last season's defense. Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a mistake in the Verratti goal, but I don't fault him for the other goals. Xavi was needed earlier in the game as well, as Barcelona played better when El Maestro was on the pitch. Overall, a poor Barça.
Pedro's gotta go...to the bench
Earlier this week, I predicted that Pedro would start against PSG due to the fact that he has more experience in CL games, unlike the other option, Munir El Haddadi. Not that I personally wanted to see Pedro start, but I figured Lucho would go with the experience factor.
Well, that turned out terribly.
Pedro has been poor all season long and continued his poor form against PSG. There were even a few moments when Andres Iniesta and Neymar didn't pass the ball to Pedro because...well...you know why they didn't want to pass it to him. Pedro has not been the same since 2011-12, and Luis Suarez's ban cannot end soon enough for this team.
If Luis Enrique wants to shake things up more, which he needs to do soon, he needs to bench Pedro on a more permanent basis. I'd rather have more faith in Sandro and Munir than with Pedro. Once Rafinha gets back to 100% health, I'd start him at RW over Pedro, even though RW is not Rafinha's natural position. At least I'd know I am getting a more intelligent player with a midfielder's vision.
As I said on Twitter:
MISSING: Pedro Rodriguez's skills. BEEN MISSING SINCE: 2011-12 REWARD: A free Barça highlighter kit IF FOUND: Call Zubi to sell him ASAP— Xoel Càrdenas (@XoelCardenas) September 30, 2014
Marquinhos gets the last laugh (or scream)
FC Barcelona weas desperate to get Marquinhos in the summer, reportedly offering PSG €40 million for the Brazilian CB. Unfortunately for Barça, PSG were not interested in selling. On Tuesday, Marquinhos had a solid game against the team that wanted to buy him. The play of the match might have been the stop Marquinhos had on Jordi Alba's shot late in the match. Grande Marcos!
That block and celebration from Marquinhos. http://t.co/qmzCPGWLaw— Football Vines (@FootballVines) September 30, 2014
BTW: Marquinhos, I still haven't forgotten that you favorited my "Come to Barcelona, Marcos" tweet this past summer. Too bad you couldn't join.
Gerard Pique not starting?
I must admit I was a bit surprised that Luis Enrique did not start Gerard Pique against PSG. I can understand the argument that since Zlatan Ibrahimovic was out, Lucho did not have to go with the taller Pique at CB to go along with Jeremy Mathieu. But with David Luiz, Marquinhos, and Edinson Cavani all decent-to-very good at set piece opportunities, having the tall Pique in the match would have been good to see. I'm not saying Javier Mascherano was poor, I just thought Pique's height would be good in a match like this. That is all.
Time for Lucho to rethink his decisions, learn AND change things up
As much as we can talk about the player's poor performances, the responsibility on a poor performance has to go to the manager as well. Luis Enrique has now had two poor performances from his team in two Champions League matches, despite the 1-0 Barcelona win over APOEL a few weeks ago. Barcelona has now had two poor performances in the past week (Málaga last Wednesday, PSG).
To his credit, Lucho took responsibility after the game when asked about the decisions to start Ter Stegen and the CBs.
"Centre backs and Ter Stegen? When you lose, it's about the team, and the final responsibility is for the coach" (via @barcastuff).
It's early in the season, but Lucho is going through his first real test as manager at FC Barcelona. The team has looked flat as of late, minus the Granada game.
Could it be time to change the formation? The 4-3-3 is the staple, but is it time to change things up for the betterment of the team? Some critics think so. Many have talked about using the double pivot with Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano. Others say if a formation changes happens, it should happen after Luis Suarez joins the squad.
I agree with the latter. Once Luisito joins, then a formation change will help the squad on offense.
A 4-3-1-2 with Messi dropping back and Neymar and Suarez up front could be useful for some games. The 4-3-3 will always be the first option, but with two dynamic players in Suarez and Neymar up front and Leo supplying them, a 4-3-1-2 could do wonders when needed.
Lastly, let me say that I am a bit disappointed that Lucho has not started Marc Bartra and Martin Montoya more. Both deserve more time. Personally, I think there are games Montoya should be in the starting XI and not Dani Alves.
Xavi: Mr. Champions League
Congratulations to Xavi Hernandez, aka, "Mr. Champions League", as he is now the record holder for all-time Champions League appearances.
Woman of the match
The Woman of the Match goes to the lovely and talented Beyoncé, who attended the PSG vs. FCB game with her husband, Jay Z. Hov was busy chatting with David Beckham.
Next match: at Rayo Vallecano
FC Barcelona looks to bounce back from their first loss of the competitive season when they travel to Madrid to face Rayo Vallecano in Liga action on Saturday. Gerard Pique is expected to start, as is Munir. Hopefully, Thomas Vermaelen will be available to get some playing time. Rafinha is recovering from injury, and is looking to be fit by then.
Xoel's Final Word
It was an entertaining game in Paris, as PSG grabbed a 3-2 win over FC Barcelona. The Parisians move to one-point ahead over Barça in the Group F standings. Barcelona will be able to get revenge against PSG on December 10th at the Camp Nou.
For now, it's time to analyze the loss, learn from it, improve, and move on. The Champions League is a long road, and Barça will be OK in the long run. Just gotta keep improving—both the players and the manager.
Xoel, The Voice of Els Culés and host of "This Week in FC Barcelona" every Monday on SB Nation.