Barcelona's season debut was a successful one, as the Blaugrana went to the historically tough Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán and left with a 2-0 first leg victory against Sevilla, which puts the kings of Spain in prime position to win the Spanish Super Cup at Camp Nou. Here's a few takeaways from a key victory from the Catalan giants.
1 - Counter-attacking Barça is so much fun
Ideally, I would want Barça to have 80% possession and play beautiful football all the time, but sometimes that isn't possible. Jorge Sampaoli wanted Sevilla to keep the ball and dominate the game, so Luis Enrique said "okay, we'll hit you on the counter, then!". It took some time (the entire first half, actually) for the team to get it going, but the second half was a counter-attacking exhibition. Messi and Suárez continued to run at the Sevilla defenders with very little trouble, and plenty of chances were created. Leo was incredible as a midfielder, setting up his teammates for goals and constantly finding his full-backs on overlapping runs on the wings. Sampaoli's defense was broken and exhausted, and Barça could have scored a couple more goals had the finishing been a little better.
Still, it was a great victory that validated Lucho's gameplan. Remember, he's the guy that added the counter-attacking into the possession game as an alternative, because he saw that he had the players to execute it when necessary. It became necessary on Sunday, and it worked great.
2 - Lucas Digne is the real deal
I talked about Digne after the Sampdoria game, but he was so great that he deserves another mention here. Lucho's stupid starting XI idea was corrected when Mathieu got injured and Lucas came on. Perhaps Enrique thought that Mathieu was better suited as a defensive full-back to try and stop Sevilla's Mariano, and I understand the strategy. But it became very clear for the minutes Jérémy was on the pitch that he couldn't be the starter. Then he was hurt, Digne came in and was a fantastic improvement on the left-back position. Lucas was spectacular on defense, and his awareness and positioning stood out, as well his perfectly timed tackles. On offense, he was patient and picked the right moments to overlap and offer himself as an option while Leo Messi ran the attack, without leaving too much space in behind him for Mariano to exploit.
Digne looks very good. It's too early in the season to draw any definitive conclusions, but Jordi Alba really needs to worry about his untouchable status as starter.
3 - Denis Suarez can be a central midfielder
Much like Arda Turan last season, Denis has been moved from the wing to a central spot in midfield, and while this didn't work with the Turkish — who once again played well on the left wing —, Suarez has had much more promising performances in the middle. It will take time for him to adapt since playing in central midfield at Barcelona is so different than any other team, but Denis showed composure, patience and was good on defense, covering spaces and keeping his position. On offense, he kept the ball moving and was a key part of the first goal, finding Turan in the box with a great pass. Unlike Arda, Denis looks comfortable trying to play a different position, and has done some good things already. And remember, he was asked to replace one of the greatest midfielders in history on Sunday. No pressure.