Barcelona continued its momentum after El Clásico in a huge way, destroying Roma at home to clinch both a spot in the UEFA Champions League knockout stage and the Group E first place with one matchday to go, the perfect ending to the defending champions' group stage run. It was a really fun night with a lot of goals and missed penalties (hold that thought), and here's three takeaways from what we saw on Tuesday night in Spain.
1. Luis Enrique continues to coach smart
Lucho is awesome, and he was great again at Camp Nou. He fielded a slightly different lineup from the one in Madrid with a slight rotation of the squad thanks to a healthier group of players, and he played the cards perfectly. He sent ‘MSN' out and asked them to do the usual "CREATE HELL" things, and that got him a game-ending first half lead. Then he preserved Sergio Busquets by subbing him out at halftime and took Gerard Piqué out after Shakiro scored a goal, mainly to avoid a dumb red card since Piqué was already booked. He also gave an entire half to Sergi Samper, which is important for the kid's confidence. Enrique did his job well again, and has survived the early season madness to bring the team back to what we saw in the first six months of 2015. Keep being you, Lucho.
2. Barça might still have a penalty-kick problem
Yep, it looked to be over, maybe it still is, because I'd rather not overreact to one miss, but it's kind of alarming. Neymar changed his stance and it got him great results, which apparently made him the official penalty-kicker even with Messi back in the lineup. That new approach to the spot, where he takes one step back, waits for the keeper to make one small move and commit to one side, and just calmly drops the ball to the opposite corner was having great results, but I was always thinking to myself: "What if the keeper just stands there, doesn't move and gambles on letting Neymar decide first and then chases the ball?". Szczesny did exactly that, and it worked, mainly because Ney didn't put any pace or strength behind the shot, which did happen also on the ones he made with this new stance. I'm sure he practiced to perfection and just had a bad miss last night, but... come on Ney, put some force on that sumbitch!
3. Possession football is back, and it looks amazing
For a while, especially during the insanity of the season's start, Barça went away from its identity and relied too much on the counter-attacking force it had become under Enrique. But the fast break is not and can't always be the trademark of your offense because it exposes the defense, and that's one of the reasons why the team conceded so much then. That was understandable with the injuries and tight schedule with few training sessions, but it was starting to become worrying. But now, Barça is playing beautiful possession football again, keeping the ball and using associated plays to find spaces. At least three of Tuesday's six goals happened that way, and this should be the trend. It was against Madrid, and also against Roma. If it continues, then the defense is safer, and the talent shines on offense. Let's continue with that, please.