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Xoel Cardenas: Barcelona win, Neymar still Messi-esque, Rakitic back

In this column, Xoel Càrdenas gives you his take on FC Barcelona's 2-0 win over FC BATE on Tuesday night. Xoel talks about Neymar being Messi-esque and Ivan Rakitic back to being his old self.

Via Twitter: @ivanrakitic
Via Twitter: @ivanrakitic
Ivan Rakitic

BARYSAW — FC Barcelona is atop Group E as we reach the halfway point of the group stage in the UEFA Champions League, as the Catalans defeated FC BATE Borisov 2-0 in Belarus on Tuesday night.

Neymar had the first shot at goal in the 4th minute, as the Brazilian's shot went straight into the hands of BATE goalkeeper Syarhey Chernik. Luis Suarez had a great header towards net in the 10th minute, but Chernik was there to make the save. Just a minute later, Chernik made two great saves from a Barça corner.

Sergi Roberto had to be taken out of the match, as the kid limped off the pitch and was replaced by Ivan Rakitic. Sergio Busquets nearly had the opening goal in the 30th minute, but his shot crossed the goal line and there were no Barça players there to tap the ball in. Late in the first half, it looked like Rakitic was taken down just inside the penalty box, but no call was made.

Rakitic got Barcelona on the board in the 48th minute thanks to a great setup play by Neymar, who got the attention of four BATE players, which left the Croatian open and Ivan slammed in a golazo. Once again, Neymar playing the "Messi role" and creating chances.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="es" dir="ltr">Golazoo de Rakitic!! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/genius?src=hash">#genius</a> <a href="https://t.co/bD8T3YIRxL">pic.twitter.com/bD8T3YIRxL</a></p>&mdash; FCB (@Emenderk) <a href="https://twitter.com/Emenderk/status/656558179698868224">October 20, 2015</a></blockquote>

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RAC1 later confirmed that Sergi Roberto's injury was only discomfort and that it shouldn't be something too serious. Rakitic got his brace in the 65th minute, as once again, Neymar set up Ivan, who was open near the far post, and Neymar's smooth pass found Rakitic who scooped in his 10th goal as a Barcelona player.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="es" dir="ltr">Otra vez! pase de Neymar y doblete de Rakitic <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/genius?src=hash">#genius</a> <a href="https://t.co/z471osY7Pf">pic.twitter.com/z471osY7Pf</a></p>&mdash; FCB (@Emenderk) <a href="https://twitter.com/Emenderk/status/656562163188830208">October 20, 2015</a></blockquote>

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Marc-Andre ter Stegen had a slow night, as he didn't have to make a save until the 77th minute.  Busquets displayed his skills late in the match.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="es" dir="ltr">Brutal lo de Busquets. <a href="https://t.co/RUkNtHHy9E">https://t.co/RUkNtHHy9E</a></p>&mdash; Humor Para Culés (@memesbarcelona) <a href="https://twitter.com/memesbarcelona/status/656568029417861120">October 20, 2015</a></blockquote>

Barcelona won 2-0, as Luis Enrique's team gets its first clean sheet since August. With AS Roma and Bayer Leverkusen getting the 4-4 draw, the Catalans open up a three-point lead in Group E.

Xoel's Take

Once again, Barcelona showed that they can win despite suffering from being unable to finish.

Yes, we should all be happy for the win, but the lack of finishing is starting to get very worrisome. There was a stat that said Barcelona failed to score a first-half goal in 7 of their 14 games this season. Not only is this unacceptable for FC Barcelona, it's unacceptable for any major club in Europe. It's not that Barcelona doesn't have firepower; it's just that the finishing is still not there.

Is there one simple way to cure this lack of finishing disease? Of course not. But things need to change soon, or as we saw against Sevilla a few weeks ago, it can/will cost Barcelona points.

In my previous column and podcast, I criticized Ivan Rakitic for not performing at the same level he did last season. But on Tuesday night, Rakitic looked like his normal self on the pitch. The finishing — which I criticized Rakitic on — was there and hopefully, this is a turning point for Ivan. With the midfield as thin as it is, Barcelona need Rakitic to be on par nearly every match. He doesn't have to score in every match nor does anyone expect Ivan to be great in every match, but Barça need a consistently very good Rakitic. Until Andrés Iniesta is fully fit and Arda Turan debuts in January, Ivan Rakitic will bear a good part of the responsibility on the success of Barcelona for the rest of the calendar year.

Neymar continues to shine and step up for Barcelona while Lionel Messi is recovering from his injury. The Brazilian showed more of his playmaking ability against BATE, as he set up Rakitic for both Barcelona goals. As previously mentioned, Neymar was able to (figuratively) drag opponents toward his presence while opening things up for his teammates. We'll see if opponents try to adjust their defense to try and contain Neymar, and if so, how will Neymar and his teammates adjust.

While Neymar continues to be on fire, Luis Suarez is still off. Against BATE, the Uruguayan wasn't at his best. At times, he looked frustrated. Eventually, the goals will come. But for now, we have to call it how it is and say Luis Suarez needs to step it up.

If Sergi Roberto is out for any length of time, there should be no more excuses for Luis Enrique to not call up Sergi Samper. Then again, Lucho tends to surprise us all at times.

Neymar keeps being Messi, Rakitic back to being himself, and El Blaugrana in control of its group in the Champions League.

A nice little Tuesday for FC Barcelona.

And congratulations to Ivan Rakitic and his wife, Raquel, as they are expecting another child. Felicitats!

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